The hot topic around Twitter this week? Not the yellow-card filled late loss to Real Salt Lake. It was Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision to leave Sporting KC defender Matt Besler off the 23-man roster for the Gold Cup. (He did select Graham Zusi.)
Besler was thought by many (including me) to be a sure thing for the Gold Cup roster. Instead, he’ll sit out at least the group stage — Klinsmann is allowed to make a few changes if/when the U.S. qualifies for the knockout stages.
Obviously, there were questions. Let’s answer some of them.
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First things first: This is a great development for Kansas City. Peter Vermes will have his captain and best defender not only this weekend against Colorado, but for the Open Cup match against FC Dallas next Wednesday and the road trip to Vancouver on July 12.
Actually, with Soni Mustivar and Roger Espinoza declining invites for Haiti and Honduras respectively and Klinsmann forgetting Benny Feilhaber exists, this is actually disaster mostly averted for Kansas City. If all of them had been selected (and Besler), KC would’ve been without a left back (Marcel De Jong), captain/center back, three starting midfielders and a key playmaker (Zusi) for the whole month of July.
Now, KC just has to make do without Zusi/De Jong. Both are big losses, but with Seth Sinovic returning soon and Connor Hallisey playing well, it’s not selection Armageddon.
Now, about your question. I don’t really have any news as to why he wasn’t selected, as with many Klinsmann decisions, there wasn’t a whole lot by way of explanation given — and lots of analysts struggle to make sense of things like Brad Davis. He makes odd calls, which seem to often workout. (Don’t forget, at the time he earned his first cap, Besler was an odd call by Klinsmann.)
I think you can see it a few ways.
You could view it as Klinsmann doing KC a solid by not taking away a pivotal defender from a team beleaguered by injuries along the defensive line. (A solid he refuses to give to Sigi Schmid and the Seattle Sounders for what it’s worth.)
The U.S. doesn’t have an easy group — Honduras and Panama will be tough outs, Haiti probably not so much — but Klinsmann probably wants to see if youngsters Ventura Alvarado (Club America) and/or John Brooks (Hertha Berlin) handle the pressure of the group stage.
As for the other way to see it…
I don’t know if he’s out of favor, but I would hope it has nothing to do with his post-January camp comments about fitness — that whole flap was overblown by a certain ubiquitous sports conglomerate who took out-of-context quotes and threw a misleading headline on them (not that I’m bitter).
Klinsmann obviously has been known to make interesting decisions regarding call-ups (Feilhaber anyone?), but he’s also never been shy about calling out players (Landon Donovan anyone?).
I think it’s probably a mixture of doing SKC a solid and…
Using the 2013 Gold Cup as a baseline — Matt was left out of the three group stage matches, called in for the knockout stages and played in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals — I think it’s a about 90 percent he gets that call.
When the competition gets tough, Klinsmann will need a few more hands on deck to help get to the finals. Besler and Los Angeles’ battering-ram Alan Gordon would fit that bill pretty well.
In a knockout situation, the two best CBs right now would be Omar Gonzalez and Besler. (Though, I think both might get supplanted by Brooks/Alvarado during the next World Cup qualifying cycle.)
Moving out of the specific Besler talk, I love this question.
There are a few teams that are going to be hit pretty hard during July (Toronto FC without Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, FC Dallas without five players for various national teams, and Seattle without Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey). Those teams are going to have an uphill fight to stay afloat. However, these are the five teams that could gain a little (or a lot of) ground.
5. D.C. United. The current Supporters’ Shield leaders won’t lose anyone in the rotation during the Gold Cup and Fabian Espindola is rounding into form. However, since they are already at the top and only have three games in July, they probably won’t move too much.
4. Vancouver Whitecaps. Darren Mattocks (Jamaica) and Russell Teibert (Canada) are important players, but they aren’t exactly irreplaceable either. The ‘Caps have four Western Conference matchups (including a home date with Sporting KC on July 12) and could put some space between them and Seattle at the top of the West should the Sounders’ slide continues.
3. San Jose Earthquakes. I’m not just going to pick teams near the top. The Quakes are fresh off a pretty decent 2-0 win over Seattle last weekend. They will be without Chris Wondolowski for the Gold Cup and have a really tough schedule (with massive games against Los Angeles and Vancouver). However… if they can make it out of July with 6-7 points (doable on the form they showed in Seattle), they can feel pretty good about putting pressure on Dallas and Real Salt Lake.
2. Columbus Crew. After a May swoon, the Crew could start climbing back in the Eastern Conference with five games in July (two against Chicago, one against short-handed Toronto), the eventual (hopefully?) return of Wil Trapp and none of their big-name players missing for Gold Cup duty. I think the Crew are the best team in the East — they just need to tighten up on defense.
1. Los Angeles Galaxy. I know they are losing Gyasi Zardes (U.S.) and Jaime Penedo (Panama). But, they just hung 10 goals combined on Philly and Portland. And they will be adding Steven Gerrard soon. Look out.
I think it’s probably Chance Myers (RB), Jalil Anibaba (CB), Matt Besler (CB) and De Jong (LB). That’s not a terrible backline really. Of course, getting Myers fully fit and Anibaba shifted over (and De Jong back) will take some time.
I don’t know if all three open spots will come open, but if they do, I’d rank them by needs as such:
1. Wide attacker. I’ve said it a lot in this space, but you really can’t have too many forwards for a 4-3-3 (though, KC almost did last year). I think KC could use another versatile option (maybe some that comes in to back-up Krisztian Nemeth/Graham Zusi/whatever is left of Bernardo Anor) out wide. Another body in that position would allow Nemeth to back-up Dom Dwyer without a significant drop off.
2. Central defender. Vermes has gotten a lot out of Kevin Ellis and Anibaba, but I think another body still could be useful for the playoff push. The injury scare for Ellis last weekend underlined how thin KC really is back there.
3. Third-string goalkeeper. In an ideal world, Jon Kempin would be in the USL or NASL earning minutes and getting actual game experience — not as Tim Melia’s understudy and training ‘keeper.
The key is that, whomever KC does bring in, that player (or players) either fits in seamlessly to the team’s plans (it hasn’t happened a lot with KC) or is a project for the future (a la Uri Rosell). Bringing in another Nikos Kounenakis or Federico Bessone (two summer transfers who didn’t pan out) won’t help KC much on the field.
Honestly, I don’t know. Robb is fairly vague with these sort of tweets. There’s an entire world of soccer players available. I doubt it’s Rafael Van Der Vaart. But...
We haven’t seen the 4-2-3-1 since the opening game of the season and, with Mustivar playing very well right now, it would be hard for Vermes to drop him in place of another attacking player. But, when the rumors were swirling around Van Der Vaart, I suspected that experimenting with a 4-2-3-1 would be ideal to fit him into the lineup. So… maybe?
As always, thanks again everyone for the great questions this week. Have a good weekend and enjoy yourself.