The World Cup is approaching quickly, and there aren’t many chances for USMNT players to lay claim to roster spots. One of the remaining two games before Brazil happens this coming week on March 5 against the Ukrainian national team. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann has called 24 players for a training camp before the friendly.
The match was originally set to be played in Kharkiv, Ukraine, but current political conditions in the country caused the location to be changed to Larnaca, Cypres.
The majority of the players are from European club teams. Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron, and goalies Brad Guzan and Tim Howard will take a break from English Premier League action, while forwards Aron Johannsson and Juan Agudelo come from the Eredivisie.
Klinsmann seems to consider the match’s location. The recent friendly against South Korea was played in Los Angeles, and Klinsmann’s roster selection consisted of mostly MLS players. For this upcoming match, Klinsmann only called up three North American based players: Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley, Tijuana’s Edgar Castillo, and Seattle’s Clint Dempsey, although Dempsey is currently on loan with the EPL’s Fulham, so he’s pretty much a England-based player right now.
The U.S. roster still has positions that aren’t completely settled, but the spine of the team is very much set. “So you want to have a very strong team against Ukraine, and as I often mention our team is defined in its spine,” said Klinsmann, “The core group of the team is Tim Howard and then Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones in midfield, Clint Dempsey in front of them and then Jozy Altidore up front. These five players build our spine.”
Technically, these players may not play in the friendly, because this call was for training camp. Klinsmann will make his final roster decision some time in the coming week, probably Monday or Tuesday.
Above all, don’t take the Ukrainian team for granted. They only barely missed qualification for the World Cup after a 1-and-1 one with France. The FIFA World Rankings currently have Ukraine ranked 18nd, which is ironically tied with France. Odd. (USMNT is ranked 13th.)
The game kicks off at 2 PM Eastern time on ESPN2. It’s an unofficial opening for American soccer, as MLS play begins the following Saturday.
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), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers)
MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Barnsley), Danny Williams (Reading)
FORWARDS: Juan Agudelo (Utrecht), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar)