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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Timmy Chandler Saga and Klinsmann's new crew

Photo credit: US Soccer

Many hardcore US National team fans know this dance: Timmy Chandler, German-born with an American father, eligible to play for the US, excellent outside defender and an option at midfield, plays friendlies with Team USA but does not follow through with actual FIFA competition matches. That was the story under Bob Bradley. Chandler was brought in, impressed, assumed a starting position but dropped out of the Gold Cup competition. Yesterday's announcement of the first 16 players selected by Klinsmann for upcoming friendlies and the first World Cup Qualifiers lacked one player: Timmy Chandler.

So yes, the saga continues. Is he holding back to be called by the German national team? Does he not plan to ever play for the US? Is he really that tired and deserving a break? Those were the explanations given by Klinsmann at the press conference where he announced the call-ups. The player has the last word. Klinsmann says the door will remain open but they will move on without him. Is that settled then? Was this saga worth it? Or are we making too much of this situation? Americans love drama, so we'll leave it at that.

Along with the usual suspects Dempsey, Bradley, Edu, Howard, some non-traditional inclusions include Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), and Joe Corona (Club Tijuana). Fabian Johnson and Danny Williams will be there, however, so at least part of the German connection is alive and well. As for Castillo's inclusion, it may be due to his increased playing time and performance for the Xolos. His natural left back position warrants further inspection to see his progress. The US has always lacked depth in this part of the field, and his addition along with Morales, Johnson and Williams can expand the possible scenarios.

The inclusion of Joe Corona is a welcome one, although Mixx Diskerud would have been an attractive option at midfield as well--and he may yet be called with the second round (as many as 13 additions). In any case, Corona is a different kind of midfield player, faster and stronger in the middle of the pitch and with a nose for goal. It is a good variant for the more stationary Jose Torres or more defensive players like Bradley, Beckermann and Edu.

Who would we want to see from the remaining 13? Eric Lichaj comes to mind, as does Brek Shea, Herculez Gomez, Tim Ream and maybe even Josh Gatt. Agudelo, Kenny Cooper and Wondolowski should be top targets as well. Terrence Boyd's imminent inclusion is a bit of a stretch since he's not actively a part of first team Borussia Dortmund, but Klinsmann might be seeing something interesting in this lad. Indeed, he was a bright spot in the U-23s ill-fated match versus El Salvador in Olympic qualifying.

It will be a stretch of 5 games: Scotland, Brazil and Canada as warm-ups for qualifiers against Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala. Should be fun to see variations in lineups and tactics.

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