Jurgen Klinsmann has had to do some roster shuffling ahead of the final FIFA international fixture date prior to his World Cup roster decision.
Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud and Tim Ream have all withdrawn from the USA's roster for Wednesday's friendly against Ukraine in Cyprus, while Jonathan Spector is a late addition, U.S. Soccer announced over the weekend. Bradley and Diskerud are recovering from minor injuries. U.S. Soccer stated that Bradley has an unspecified issue for which he is receiving treatment so he can be ready for the start of the 2014 MLS season. while Diskerud is working his way back to fitness after a suffering a hip injury 10 days ago. Ream, meanwhile, "was excused for personal reasons," according to a U.S. Soccer release, which puts a dent into his already slim World Cup hopes.
Initially, U.S. Soccer stated that no replacements would be called in, but that changed Sunday evening, with Spector earning a late invitation. He hasn't played for the U.S. since a friendly against Italy more than two years ago, but he is a 2010 World Cup veteran and a versatile one at that, with the ability to play fullback, center back and central midfield. He joins fellow Birmingham teammate Will Packwood in camp.
In light of the last-minute personnel changes, what is one lineup Klinsmann could trot out vs. Ukraine? How about this XI:
Despite Altidore's struggles to find a rhythm with Sunderland (being left out altogether from the club's roster for Sunday's League Cup final loss to Manchester City is hardly encouraging), Klinsmann needs him and Clint Dempsey to get as many reps as possible together in the build-up to Brazil. The two remain fixtures in the XI no matter their form.
With Bradley out of the midfield picture, it opens up a chance for Danny Williams, who has enjoyed a solid run of form with Reading, to re-stake a claim in the center next to Jermaine Jones. Sacha Kljestan would also vie for a role in the center. The wing options are pretty thin, with just Brek Shea, Fabian Johnson and Alejandro Bedoya the options (unless Klinsmann wanted to fit Aron Johannsson into a starting role and slot him out wide). Look for Johnson, a strong candidate to be a starter in the World Cup as long as he is healthy, and Bedoya, who is in the midst of a strong season at Nantes, to get the looks, and Shea to remain in his role as a change-of-pace substitute.
Across the back, Edgar Castillo is the only true left back option (Johnson is listed as a midfielder on the U.S. roster, and Klinsmann has shown an affinity for him as a winger, but he could easily play a defensive role if called upon), and Geoff Cameron makes the most sense at right back, especially considering his season for Stoke City. That leaves the center up to a longtime veteran and a potential-filled youngster. Oguchi Onyewu is vying hard for a place at a third World Cup, and he's earned this audition with his play at Sheffield Wednesday since his winter transfer. John Brooks, who remains eligible for both Germany and the USA, has struggled for minutes at Hertha Berlin after missing time with an injury, but he could be a future anchor in the back, and Ukraine provides a sound challenge defensively for Klinsmann to judge how far along Brooks truly is.
As for goalkeeper, no need to mess around: Tim Howard is the No. 1, Brad Guzan his supremely capable backup, and youngster Cody Cropper along for the ride.
The revamped 22-man roster looks as follows:
GOALKEEPERS: Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS: John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Oguchi Onyewu (Sheffield Wednesday), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Barnsley), Danny Williams (Reading)FORWARDS