World Cup Team Profile - United States
Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
Captain: Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders)
Full United States Roster
The Road to Rio: The Americans stumbled early on despite a bye through to the third round in CONCACAF qualifying. They won their third round opener against Antigua and Barbuda but were able to manage just a point from their next two rod tests in Guatemala and Jamaica. The Americans were left with needing a result against Guatemala on the final day of qualifying, which they did, taking the match 3-1 in KC.
Things didn’t get any easier for the Americans in the fourth round, as they were forced to open in the hostile confines of Honduras’ Estadio Olimpico. They would drop that match before getting on the board in absolutely surreal fashion.
Their next qualifier against Costa Rica was the kind of match that got the attention of even the soccer-unfriendly American sports media. Under a blizzard in Colorado, the Americans managed to squeak out a 1-0 win. The conditions were so terrible that Costa Rica protested the result, but it stood.
The Americans were not out of the woods yet, though, as the Mexicans would hold them to a scoreless draw at the Azteca a week later and needing stoppage to avoid another winless result in Jamaica. The Americans found form upon returning home, though, going 5-1 the rest of the way, losing only the return date with Costa Rica. Two stoppage time goals in Panama would put the U.S. atop the Hex and book their trip to Brazil.
Last World Cup appearance: South Africa 2010 (Round of 16)
First World Cup appearance: Uruguay 1930 (Semifinals)
Previous World Cup appearances: 9
Best World Cup finish: Semifinals (Uruguay 1930)
It was certainly an interesting strategy, to say the least, for manager Klinsmann to declare to the New York Times, "We cannot win this World Cup" only a scant few days before the tournament kicks off. Was the former German star being brutally honest? Probably, but negative re-enforcement rarely has the desired effect and this is a team that could use a bode of confidence ahead of venturing into this year's Group of Death.
The biggest question facing Klinsmann is his desired formation. Captain Dempsey might be the best pure poacher at Klinsmann's disposal, but if the team were to go with a 4-5-1 to beef up the midfield, probably the USMNT's biggest strength, then Sunderland's Jozy Altidore would likely get the call as the lone forward with Dempsey retreating into a deeper role. Considerably less experienced than Dempsey, especially at the international stage, Altidore might be better at creating something out of nothing in a way that could be necessary if all alone up front. If a 4-4-2 is to be utilized, then you can expect Altidore to partner with Dempsey. Obviously, Landon Donovan would have been an obvious choice here, but we all know how that went.
In the centre of the park, Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) is the USMNT's key man. A dominant box-to-box midfielder whose industry is hard to match, Bradley has also be counted on as of late for an offensive touch. The ball is going to go through Bradley, so he's going to need some support. That will likely come from Jermaine Jones (Besiktas) and Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), two players capable of bringing grit and workrate into the midfield. Promising youngsters Julian Green (Bayern Munich) and Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg) should see a run-out at some point when offence is needed.
If overall experience is an issue for the USMNT, it's magnified at the back. Only DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla) has any World Cup experience. Look for a central defensive pairing of Geoff Cameron (Stoke City) and Matt Besler (Sporting KC), who will look to further solidify a chemistry that has been somewhat lacking over the course of qualification. Borussia Monchengladbach's Fabian Johnson's pace is enough for him to get the nod on the right side as counterpart to Beasley.
On paper, the USMNT might be the weakest of the four sides in Group G from a talent perspective alone. That said, there are few teams who seem to have the level of camaraderie that this side possesses. Whether that alone is enough to secure a spot in the Round of 16 against the world-class opposition ahead of them in Brazil remains to be seen. Still, if the likes of Germany, Portugal or Ghana is expecting a soft touch lining up against the US, they're in for a very rude awakening.