In less than a year, millions will watch Joseph S. Blatter and Pelé announce the names of 32 nations that will partake in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final. The World Cup Draw is nervously approaching, and for the United States Men’s National Team the upcoming months will decide the fate of 2014.
Currently in week two of January camp, the national team continues to be integrated into Jurgen Klinsmann’s managerial style. “Cupcake Camp”, as it is so gracefully nicknamed, is an opportunity for young U.S. internationals to make a spot into the first team rotation. And since World Cup Qualifiers begin in June, this will be their last shot to make a run for the squad that travels to Brazil in 2014.
Of the 23 players on the camp roster, only three do not play for an MLS team. But that doesn’t mean the players training is for ill, there are some positions that need to be filled even before summer begins.
Defense continues to be a roller coaster of an issue for Klinsmann and he still lacks a consistent back four. MLS Champion and L.A. Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez has the hype, but will he be able to impress enough on an international level to gain a spot? Connor Lade from New York Red Bulls is also another potential defender to make a late run at a first team spot.
Klinsmann’s crucial promise before beginning his tenure for the stars and stripes was a high paced style of offense that provided goals. So where are they? In 2012 the U.S. only had four games with more than two goals and only one of those happened in World Cup Qualifying.
January’s camp has MLSers—including 2012 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski—whom have shown they can score on a consistent basis. Unfortunately the consistency has not carried over to a national level. Klinsmann needs more goals. If Altidore doesn’t continue to start, the German coach will have to rely on the MLS talent present in January camp.
Last year presented its fair share of highs and lows. Victories versus Italy, Scotland and Mexico made fans believe contention for a World Cup Final was possible. While performances during World Cup Qualifying almost made earning a spot in the tournament a dream.
2013 is a year that will define this generation of U.S. internationals, but also the value of Klinsmann’s work. Has the team taken steps back? Or does it have to get worse before it gets better? In a few short months the ongoing questions will hopefully begin to be answered, otherwise the U.S. Men’s National Team could be watching the 2014 World Cup on their couches.
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” —Tom Paine
On to the hexagonal…
January 29th US vs Canada 8 p.m. CT ESPN2
February 6th (WC Qualifier) US vs Honduras 3 p.m. CT beIN Sport
March 22nd (WC Qualifier) US vs Costa Rica 8 p.m. MT ESPN
March 26th (WC Qualifier) US vs Mexico 10:30 p.m. ET