USA World Cup Snubs: Johnson, Ream, Agudelo, Feilhaber among those who miss out
Jurgen Klinsmann's 30-man preliminary roster for the World Cup is out, and while there are a number of players whose inclusions are notable, perhaps the most noteworthy item is who is not on it.
Eddie Johnson's omission took plenty by surprise, given how valuable a player he has been to the U.S. during World Cup qualifying and how productive he had been in the last two years in MLS. He's not the only one with World Cup aspirations who was left out of camp in California, though.
Here is an XI of U.S. players, including Johnson, who didn't make the first cut and won't be able to contend for one of Klinsmann's 23 tickets to Brazil over the coming weeks:
Eddie Johnson, F, D.C. United
Johnson's omission is the most glaring by far. His recent production in his first season with D.C. United has not been World Cup-worthy, but his two seasons in Seattle, in which he scored 23 goals in league play, put him back on the map, and his versatility as an aerial threat and wing option (at least on the international level) had kept him in the U.S. picture. What if Johnson's apparent goal against Mexico last month, which was waved off but would have given the USA a 3-2 win, had counted? Would that have changed his outlook? No sense in contemplating: EJ's hopes at going to a second World Cup (he was on the 2006 roster) are over.
Brek Shea, M, Stoke City
Considering Shea has hardly played on the club level -- received playing time on loan with Barnsley, but that loan was cut short and he has been an afterthought since arriving at Stoke -- his exclusion shouldn't be all that surprising. That hadn't stopped Klinsmann from calling him in before, though, and he always seemed to be a player that was the exception to Klinsmann's rule. Under the same circumstances, Shea was called in for the Gold Cup, and he wound up scoring the trophy-winning goal. Shea's size and skill set always made him a unique option off the bench and the object of Klinsmann's apparent infatuation, but ultimately, his lack of form and regular minutes cut his World Cup dream short.
Tim Ream, D, Bolton
Ream won Bolton's Player of the Year honors and displayed versatility across the back line. Given his growth and his ability to pass out of the back, it wasn't unrealistic to think that Ream was emerging at the perfect time, especially given the USA's defensive troubles. He withdrew from the USA's March friendly against Ukraine -- a chance for his first cap since 2011 -- to reportedly be with his wife for the birth of their first child, which cost him a chance to audition in a U.S. shirt. No one can begrudge Ream for making that call, but one has to wonder if a strong showing in that match would have put him over the top.
Sacha Kljestan, MF, Anderlecht
Kljestan had a career-high in goals this season with Anderlecht, tallying nine times (and once in the Champions League), but he hardly played down the stretch and found himself locked in a brutal midfield battle with a horde of other deserving candidates. Kljestan pondered aloud on Twitter "Are you even watching???" way back during the World Cup cycle, something that was assumed to be directed at Klinsmann. Kljestan had his chances, playing in five World Cup qualifiers and a handful of friendlies. In the end, it wasn't enough.
Benny Feilhaber, MF, Sporting Kansas City
Feilhaber, who was a sparkplug off the bench in South Africa four years ago, is arguably in the finest form of his career, but he has never really been able to gain a foothold with the U.S. under Klinsmann. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that he's out considering his lack of favor with the manager, but based on his on-field exploits, it's hard to imagine 30 Americans more deserving of a place in camp. That he plays in central midfield, where some of the top-tier U.S. talent resides, does not help him when it comes to a numbers game.
Juan Agudelo, F, FC Utrecht
When Agudelo scored on his U.S. debut as a 17-year-old in a November 2010 friendly in South Africa, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he'd develop into a consistent striker ready to take the international stage by storm four years later. While Agudelo has paved a path to Europe on the club level, his big emergence has yet to happen, and he happens to be part of a forward player pool that is as deep as it's been in some time. Still just 21, Agudelo's time may very well come. Just not now.
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sheffield Wednesday
Onyewu didn't have a great final audition in a U.S. jersey in the Americans' 2-0 loss to Ukraine in March, and even though he emerged as a regular starter for Sheffield Wednesday, he ultimately couldn't unseat any of the U.S. center backs in front of him. His experience (2006 and 2010 World Cups) was one his of strongest attributes, and his absence ensures that Tim Howard will have an entirely different back line in front of him that he did in South Africa (Carlos Bocanegra, Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Steve Cherundolo and Jonathan Bornstein were starters).
Herculez Gomez, F, Tijuana
Gomez, who was once a mainstay in Klinsmann's starting lineup, hardly produced for Tijuana (just three CONCACAF Champions League goals, no league goals), so his absence is less of a surprise than most (that, and his social media posts that he was headed for Europe this week kind of relayed the message that his time this cycle was up). Gomez, 32, offers a work rate second to none and the knack for being a streaky scorer, but he joins the list of 2010 World Cup veterans who won't be adding 2014 to their resumes.
Edgar Castillo, D, Tijuana
Castillo's mixed performances in a U.S. shirt never instilled complete confidence (in Klinsmann, more so in fans), and even though he offers athleticism in a thin position on the depth chart, the Mexican-American left back couldn't take a stranglehold on a roster spot after a multi-year battle.
Jose Torres, MF, Tigres
Torres didn't make what would have been his second straight World Cup squad, and it never seemed like he really fit in to Klinsmann's tactics. Klinsmann played him at left back and left midfield during the qualifying cycle, but that didn't suit Torres' strengths. Going up against a stacked central midfield hurt his cause, and even though he came on strong with some solid goals for Tigres UANL, it appeared as if his time under Klinsmann had long run out.
Michael Orozco, D, PueblaKlinsmann, in his comments to the media in a conference call following the roster release, referred to Orozco as a player whose recent injury hampered his chances, suggesting that he was closer to making the cut than some may have expected. Forever etched in U.S. lore as the player who scored the game-winning goal in the USA's first win at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, he won't get the chance to add a World Cup moment to his highlight reel this time around.