And so it begins. These agonizing thoughts of how this young group of players, preferred by Klinsmann way before the roster submission deadline of June 2nd, might perform in a few weeks time. These thoughts will eventually be torturous in coming days.
While fans praised the selection of certain youngsters to compete against the best, the first sign of distress came in the form of exclusion of Landon Donovan from the team, who surely was hoping to make it to his fourth straight World Cup.
Donovan, whose experience in the game would have given Americans much needed hope of moving past the group stage, accepted the decision wishing the boys – the best of all lucks.
The Americans had always been considered as a team that did not belong at the World Cup considering the only other team that would provide any sort of competition in their confederation would be Mexico. Much like Australia did in 2006 and 2010 before they moved to Asia. And each time, they have had to prove themselves among their global peers.
The US team which made it to the inaugural 1930 World Cup finals in Uruguay were given the nickname of the shot-putters for their powerfully built and hefty nature, however through positive performances, they were able to make it to the semi-finals losing out to Argentina. Having gone through a quite period between 1950’s and 1990’s, the team then qualified for each and every World Cup ever since, lingering between the group stages and the Round of 16, having made it to the Quarterfinals in 2002.
The Americans had a worrying start to their final round of qualifying, losing out to Honduras in the first game. The result had many questioning Klinsmann approach and strategy. That sentiment promptly softened, as the German guided the Stars and Stripes to a first-place finish in the six-team Hexagonal.
Klinsmann’s talent to experiment with players in different positions, introduction of young uncapped players, courage to freely change formations in general, created a new environment. An environment filled with confidence and a strong sense of camaraderie among teammates. If the trajectory continues for Klinsmann’s rampaging side, the sky might just be the limit in Brazil.
Of course, the highlight of this roster is the inclusion of 31-year-old Chris Wondolowski, who probably is the only play of Native American descent who has adorned the colors of red, white and blue. To see him chase a long-held and nearly discarded dream of representing his country at the World Cup is somewhat of a Cinderella story.
Which begs the question: Just who among the 23, Klinsmann plans to start the game with? Speculation gives rise to various permutations among the players, however one will never know until the line-up sheet is provided to the officials on match day.
Beyond that, all bets are off. Then there are those who predict a complete sea change, including the return of Landon Donovan. The splendor of the uber-popular striker had always marched to the tunes of the fans, so it would be no great surprise to see him make a return to the national team as a reserve striker.
There is no doubt the Americans will put up a good showing against Germany, Ghana and Portugal in the group stage, even predictably causing an upset or two. However, the question that remains to be answered is whether this group will miss out on the experience of players like Parkhurst, Evans, Edu and Donovan. How well this squad manages to mesh under the current circumstances with ~705 caps between them, still remains to be seen. A certain fact that even a seasoned sportsman of Klinsmann’s caliber cannot deny is that experience will always play a significant role at the World Cup.