The tide is slowly turning in the States when it comes to discussing the U.S. men’s soccer team. Following the initial shock of Landon Donovan’s exclusion from the 2014 World Cup roster, the spotlight is about to shine on the players that the U.S. actually does have on its roster as the big tournament in Brazil quickly approaches.
The U.S. seems to be ditching its conservative approach in favor of an attacking style that will feature backs Fabian Johnson, DaMarcus Beasley and Timmy Chandler. Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler will also be key in front of goaltender Tim Howard.
Players to watch:
Jozy Altidore – Striker
The U.S. will rely heavily on Altidore to find the net in Brazil. The issue? The striker hasn’t scored a goal in over 180 days and took a great deal of heat for scoring just once in league play with Sunderland in the English Premier League.
“Everybody is so worried about my confidence,” Altidore said after going scoreless in the United States’ 2-1 exhibition victory over Turkey last Sunday. “My confidence is fine. It’s not going to change whether I score a hat trick or don’t score at all. I’m fine.”
Tim Howard – Goalkeeper
The 35-year-old is the U.S. team’s elder statesman and has been the man in net for the Red, White and Blue for the past seven years. His top game in net for the Americans came in the 2010 World Cup when he held England to just one goal as the U.S. settled for a draw. He currently plays for Everton in the English Premier League. Howard was second in the Premier League in shutouts this season with 15 in 37 games. In 2012, the North Brunswick, New Jersey native set a new Premier League record for consecutive appearances with one club with 184.
Clint Dempsey – Striker
Dempsey, the U.S. National Team captain, will be another key man up front with Altidore. The Seattle Sounders striker scored from point-blank range in last Sunday’s U.S. win over Turkey. His history as a goal-scorer is outstanding, owning the record for most goals scored by an American in the English Premier League (57). He began his career with the New England Revolution in MLS, winning the league’s Rookie of the Year award in 2004. The Nacogdoches, Texas native is currently the team leader in goals with the Sounders as he has eight in just nine games played this season.
Fabian Johnson – Left back, right back
Johnson, a German-born defender with an American father, will give U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann plenty of versatility on the defensive end. He can play left back and right back and will likely get the daunting assignment of attempting to blanket Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo when the two teams meet on June 22. Johnson scored his first goal in a U.S. jersey this past Sunday against Turkey when he took a pretty feed from midfielder Michael Bradley.
Here is the full roster, via USsoccer.com:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Follow Metro Boston sports editor Matt Burke on Twitter: @BurkeMetroBOS