Last Modified: Thursday, May 29, 2014 12:44 PM
By Troy LaFleur / American Press
One game down and two to go until the 2014 FIFA World cup gets officially underway for the United States men’s national team and there are only a couple of starting positions left up for grabs.
And that begs the question, not of whom will be starting—particulary along the backline—but who will be coming off of the bench to make an impact for The Yanks.
If Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Azerbaijan was any indication, the USMNT will need a spark in the latter stages of the game, particularly when they face Portugal and Germany. Prior to that victory many people likely didn’t expect Brad Davis or Mix Diskerud to be legitimate options, but now the debate gets underway as we look at the three substitution battles.
Chris Wondolowski vs. Aron Johannsson
Jurgen Klinsmann has made it pretty clear that Wondolowski is his preferred option at striker off of the bench after inserting him into the starting lineup after American captain Clint Dempsey was pulled minutes before the start of the Azerbaijan match.
Wondo has been a major goal scoring force in Major League Soccer for the past four years and his uncanny ability to always manage to be in the right place at the right time has turned him into World Cup player. He showed flashes of that ability in the last match, getting wide open for two headers on target.
Unfortunately for him neither of those headers managed to find the back of the net, but Aron Johnannsson’s did.
Johannsson came on as a substitute in the Azerbaijan match, and while he didn’t make much noise, he did manage to score the Americans’ second goal on his only shot of the night. Scoring goals is something that the “Iceman” has done extremely well for the year with his pro team in the Netherlands, producing twenty-six goals this season.
Wondolowski will likely still be Klinsmann’s first choice up top off of the bench, but don’t be shocked if Johannsson is able to take that spot before the team flies to Brazil.
Mix Diskerud vs. Julian Green vs. Brad Davis
Originally this was just supposed to be Green vs. Davis with Green having the huge advantage, but things got much more interesting on Tuesday.
Green is the Bayern Munich phenom that Klinsmann and others have raved about for months, but hasn’t gotten the opportunity to shine for the USMNT. He possesses tons of speed and creativity, but could be hindered by his inexperience.
Davis was brought along as likely the third option on the left wing behind Alejandro Bedoya and Green, but decided to have the best game of his international career against Azerbaijan to spice things up a bit. Davis does not possess the speed and ability with the ball at his feet that Green does, but he does have the most accurate left foot of any American. It was so accurate that it provided set-piece assists on both American goals Tuesday night.
The final member of this conversation is Diskerud who scored the winning goal for the USMNT on Tuesday. He is traditionally an attacking mid who plays centrally, but behind Michael Bradley he will be hard pressed to see the field. Klinsmann, however, brought him in on the right wing Tuesday. He played more pinched in with the fullback pressing forward hard, but it showed his versatility to play on the wing.
At this point Diskerud has to be the favorite—if only slightly—due to his proven ability. If Davis can put together two more strong outings or Green can show his true potential that could change rather quickly.
Timmy Chandler vs. DeAndre Yedlin
This may be the most lopsided competition, but one to watch nonetheless.
Chandler is actually in contention to start, but is currently the odd man out of a three man race at fullback. He was one of the better right backs in the Bundesliga this year despite missing two months with a torn meniscus. He is obviously the first choice off the bench if DaMarcus Beasley or Fabian Johnson goes down or the latter gets bumped up to the wing as he has done on occasion in the past.
Yedlin, the 20-year-old from Seattle, was the most surprising selection to the 23-man roster, but has shown tons of promise as an attacking fullback. Word out of camp is that Klinsmann has considered using him on the wing so that says something about what he thinks of him. The one advantage that Yedlin holds over Chandler is his speed, he is the fastest American on the team and likely one of the fastest at the entire World Cup.