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Ranking the USMNT roster by position

Two vets hold down top spots at goalkeeper and forward, while a pair of youngsters lead defenders and midfielders.

Soccer: 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying-Trinidad & Tobago at USA Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

The United States Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named a 26-man roster ahead of the upcoming Hex World Cup Qualifiers against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday, Nov. 11, and Costa Rica in the capital San Jose on Tuesday, Nov. 15.


Goalkeepers (4): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough; 11/0), Ethan Horvath (Molde; 0/0), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids; 32/0), William Yarbrough (Club Leon; 0/0)

Defenders (9): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 8/1), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United; 2/0), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin; 0/0), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur; 0/0), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt; 1/0), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca; 10/0), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach; 13/1), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana; 5/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United; 4/0)

Midfielders (9): Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 6/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 29/5), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland; 0/0), Julian Green (Bayern Munich; 0/0), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids; 14/0), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls; 17/2), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund; 3/2), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz; 1/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 14/3)

Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC; 31/16), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen; 3/1), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 3/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg; 6/2)

The roster is mostly experienced with 15 players who have been on World Cup Rosters and 20 players who have played in WC Qualifying.

Here is a power ranking of players by position on Klinsmann’s roster with an eye on Friday’s rivalry match as a guiding factor.


1. Tim Howard

After Howard’s self-imposed break from international soccer and rough times at Everton, the so-called Secretary of Defense has regained his perch at the top of the pecking order. Klinsmann has already named Howard as the starter for Friday. The 37-year-old has regained his form at the Colorado Rapids and helped shutout the Los Angeles Galaxy in the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinal, in addition to making a crucial save in the penalty shootout. Howard remains reliable as ever, but his shot-stopping involves less of the awe-inspiring magic of years past.

2. Brad Guzan

Guzan seemed to cement his hold on the starting role heading into the fall of 2016, especially after his move from Aston Villa to Middlesbrough ensured he would be playing Premier League football. That hasn’t been the case for the 32-year-old stopper who has been frozen out of the No. 1 spot at Boro, behind former Barcelona star Victor Valdes. Guzan hasn’t seen the field since Aug. 28 against West Brom, and it’s no surprise that he’s now second choice to Howard. Klinsmann’s starter against Costa Rica will be telling for Guzan — the German either still trusts him, or he needs to find first-team football and fast.

3. Ethan Horvath

Klinsmann can only dress 23 players for either qualifier, and a legitimate question is who will be the third goalkeeper in the squad behind Guzan and Howard. Horvath, who plays for FC Molde in Norway, probably has a slight edge on Yarbrough, at least heading into the week. Horvath has made five starts in the Tippeligaen with three shutouts and also collected a shutout against Cuba in a USMNT friendly in October. In addition, Horvath was the third ‘keeper on the roster in the Copa America Centenario this summer.

4. William Yarbrough

Yarbrough is a talented young ‘keeper who has made waves in Mexico playing with defending champions Leon. He led Liga MX in saves and clean sheets and has a bright future at the US ‘keeper spot. For now, it is unlikely that he dresses against Mexico, especially after his subpar display for the USMNT in the 1-1 draw against New Zealand in an October friendly.


1. John Brooks

The Hertha Berlin center back’s meteoric rise from unheralded hero against Ghana in 2014 to first-choice center back for this qualifier shows how talented the 23-year-old is. Brooks is the most reliable defender in the squad and will be the leader against Mexico with his imposing physicality. He must work this week to develop chemistry with whoever Klinsmann names as his center-back partner in the absence of Geoff Cameron.

2. Fabian Johnson

Johnson is one of two UEFA Champions League players in the squad, and is as dependable of a left back as they come. Despite Borussia Monchengladbach’s haphazard form in the Bundesliga, Johnson is still Klinsmann’s best option, and his rapport with Brooks should help form at least a strong half of the US starting backline.

3. Omar Gonzalez

Geoff Cameron’s knee injury meant he was left out of the squad, and opened up a starting role for the Pachuca center back. Gonzalez is more than capable and has major experience in the US backline. Pachuca has been one of the best teams in Liga MX this season, and Gonzalez is a major reason why. He and Brooks will need to be on point against an exceptional Mexican attack.

4. Timmy Chandler

The starting right back spot is up for grabs between Timmy Chandler and DeAndre Yedlin. Klinsmann is a big supporter of Yedlin and loves his pace, but Chandler offers a much more well-rounded game. Chandler has been in excellent form for Eintracht Frankfurt and helped them tie Dortmund on points in the Bundesliga. While the German connection with Brooks and Johnson seems arbitrary, every bit of chemistry matters ahead of a massive clash against Mexico.

5. DeAndre Yedlin

As noted, Yedlin is vying with Chandler for the starting right back spot. If Yedlin doesn’t start, he is a prime candidate as a super-sub because of his pace. He’s had regular playing time in the English Championship for Newcastle and has helped the Magpies to nine straight wins. He always remains an intriguing option, and his quality could begin to come through on an international stage soon.

6. Michael Orozco

Orozco is a versatile defender and could start if Klinsmann doesn’t want to use Gonzalez. The Tijuana man is a solid option in the back and could appear if any injuries strike.

7. Steve Birnbaum

Birnbaum has been an excellent center back for D.C. United all season in the MLS and helped the team to a playoff appearance. He is unlucky to be the fourth-choice center back, but fans should know that he provides decent depth in case of an emergency.

8. Matt Besler

Besler is in a similar boat as Birnbaum and again provides valuable depth at the center back spot. Besler was strong in the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with New Zealand and like Birnbaum, lost in the first round of the MLS playoffs.

9. Cameron Carter-Vickers

The young Tottenham center-back has earned praise from manager Mauricio Pochettino who said he has first team quality. He is a relatively unknown quality and a longshot to dress against Mexico but he played for the US in the U-20 World Cup last season.


1. Christian Pulisic

It might seem shocking that the 18-year-old is the best option in the midfield for the US, but the Dortmund starlet is just that good. He has been a key contributor for an elite European side and recently scored a dramatic last-gasp equalizer against Ingolstadt in the Bundesliga. Pulisic was one of the best Americans on the field against Cuba in October, despite the scrappy quality of the game on a poor field.

2. Michael Bradley

The beating heart of the squad, Michael Bradley is the USA talisman. He isn’t number one because of Pulisic’s ability to create something special, but Bradley’s performance dictates how the USA will play. A guaranteed starter and seasoned veteran of this fixture, Bradley will have to pull the strings on Friday.

3. Alejandro Bedoya

The Philadelphia Union midfielder is one of Klinsmann’s most trusted lieutenants in the field, even if he hasn’t quite hit full stride since joining the MLS. He has been deployed slightly out of position for the Union and is at his best in a central role. He will likely start against Mexico and put in a hardworking shift.

4. Jermaine Jones

One of the best players to don the USA kit in recent years, Jones has been recovering from injury that kept him out of the MLS until late October. He played on Decision Day and made a start in the postseason. Jones has the potential to turn the tide of the match singlehandedly, and without Kyle Beckerman in the squad, he represents the American’s most destructive player in breaking up play. Jones might not start on Friday, but if touches the pitch, his presence will be felt.

5. Sacha Kljestan

The New York Red Bulls’ midfielder has played his way into this call up after an outstanding 2016, and a strong showing in both sets of US fall friendlies. He recorded a ridiculous 20 assists in 32 matches and showcasing his especially strong creativity and dead-ball deliveries. He is an outside chance to start, and could come on to chase the game if need be.

6. Julian Green

The Bayern Munich youngster finally broke through into the Bavarian senior team and is an ideal super-sub for Klinsmann who has delivered before in big moments. He scored in both October friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand and forms a nice winger tandem with Pulisic when both are in the game.

7. Graham Zusi

Zusi is another hard-working American midfielder with strong crossing and dead-ball delivery. He would be a conservative choice in Columbus for Klinsmann after a quiet year by his standards with Sporting KC in which he scored two goals and notched four assists. Zusi has 32 caps to his name, and should make an impact in some way over the next two matches.

8. Lynden Gooch

Gooch has impressed many in England by breaking into the first team at Sunderland under David Moyes at age 20. Gooch got his first cap against New Zealand in October and probably won’t see the field in the early rounds of the Hex. He will probably make the 23-man roster that dresses, and is another young American playing abroad to watch out for.

9. Caleb Stanko

Stanko plays for FC Vaduz, a Lichtensteiner club that plays in the Swiss Super League, and earned his first call-up to the team. The biggest unknown in the squad, Stanko is an unlikely candidate to make the 23-man roster. He earned his first cap against Trinidad and Tobago in September, and is certainly someone that Klinsmann has his eye on.


1. Jozy Altidore

Altidore has been in form most of the season with Toronto FC, and is almost certain to start up top for the Stars and Stripes. He scored in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Semifinal against NYCFC and will look to continue his form against El Tri on Friday. He has struggled sometimes as a lone striker, and without Clint Dempsey in the fold, Altidore will need to turn in one of his best performances or get help from elsewhere.

2. Bobby Wood

Another roster battle in camp is that of the second striker position, either in a two-forward formation in a role off the bench. Wood has more experience against top-flight competition but has been relatively quiet this season for Hamburg, with only four goals since the start of August. Wood started against Cuba in October and is more likely to start if Klinsmann uses two up top.

3. Jordan Morris

Morris has had a strong season with the Seattle Sounders, netting 12 goals, but has often looked just short of being the truly imposing striker he has the potential to be. He runs hard the entire game and makes sense as a sub for the second striker. He lacks the talent to play as a lone striker in a match of this magnitude.

4. Aron Johannsson

Being called up is a success in itself for Johannsson, who hasn’t played for the USMNT since September of 2015. A nerve issue kept him out of most of last season, but he has been strong in his matches this season with Werder Bremen. Another long shot to make the 23 this time, he has the potential to contribute in important matches later in the Hex.