U.S. Hot List: Altidore and Bedoya trending upward
Jurgen Klinsmann has been known to contradict himself at times -- sometimes in the same sentence -- during his almost three years at the helm of the U.S. men’s national team.
Just last week, the Yanks' boss was at it again.
In his weekly interview with U.S. Soccer’s official website, Klinsmann noted that it’s "huge" for a striker to be scoring for his club team consistently on the eve of a World Cup, then immediately said it wasn't actually that important at all.
"I don’t think so -- at this point no," Klinsmann said when asked if not scoring at club level could cost a player his spot on the plane to Brazil. "You make the call based on what you saw in the past and over the last weeks, but also over the last two-and-a-half years."
In fairness, Klinsmann is right on both counts. Of course a forward on a struggling team in an elite league -- someone like, say, Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore -- has to be judged differently than a player who is finding the net at a lower level.
That’s the case again this week, as a pair of American strikers -- Altidore and Austria-based Terrence Boyd -- boosted their respective stocks in dissimilar ways. The one who scored, Boyd, is just hoping to crack Klinsmann's preliminary roster, while the coach made clear this week that the much-maligned Altidore, who has two goals in all competitions, compared to Boyd’s 16, remains "a very important part of our team going into this summer’s World Cup."
For several other important players, the past seven days were also encouraging. As always, though, the news wasn’t all good, with injuries taking on an added importance now that the beginning of the team's pre-Cup camp at Stanford University is less than a month away. Here's who helped or hurt themselves the most this week: Warming up Jozy Altidore, F, Sunderland (England) Why he’s here: After failing to make the Black Cats’ bench on more than one occasion this year, including earlier this month, Altidore drew the penalty that could keep Sunderland in the Premier League in Saturday’s unlikely upset at Chelsea. What this means: Klinsmann had backed Altidore even before the match, while urging the 24-year-old to “fight his way through right now, stay positive, and prove [Sunderland’s coaching staff] wrong.” No, he still didn’t score. But Altidore’s timely contribution should at least keep him in the mix for minutes over the club’s final four games, and that’s a good thing for the U.S. Alejandro Bedoya, M, Nantes (France) Why he’s here: Bedoya made his fourth consecutive start for Les Canaris on Sunday, scoring his second goal in as many weeks. What this means: The 26-year-old’s spot on the final 23 is secure; now Bedoya is pushing for a starting job in Brazil -- and one could be available on the wing if Klinsmann opts to use veteran Landon Donovan off the bench this summer. Terrence Boyd, F, Rapid Vienna (Austria) Why he’s here: Another player who could be finding his form at the right time, Boyd scored twice on Sunday, his first goals since early March. What this means: Klinsmann often talks about the importance of team chemistry at the World Cup, and Boyd is among the most popular players on the squad. But the German-American, 23, is still looking for his first international goal. It if comes May 27 in a friendly match against Azerbaijan, Boyd could make the manager’s decision difficult -- especially if Eddie Johnson continues to struggle. Fabian Johnson, RB, Hoffenheim (Germany) Why he’s here: The versatile Johnson has been a model of consistency all season. On Saturday, he played his 11th straight game at right back in a 3-1 defeat to Werder Bremen, Hoffenheim’s first loss in six matches. What this means: Where Johnson ends up in June remains a mystery. In the end, it could come down to the fitness of full-backs Brad Evans (who just missed a month with a calf issue), DaMarcus Beasley (more on him below) and midfielder Donovan. Cooling down DaMarcus Beasley, LB, Puebla (Mexico) Why he’s here: Beasley hobbled off the field just 11 minutes into Puebla’s 2-1 win over Pachuca on Saturday with an (as yet) undisclosed ailment. What this means: Call it the Klinsi Jinx: "You’re hoping that everybody stays healthy," Klinsmann said last week. "That’s the biggest fear in the back of your mind." The coach will now be knocking on wood hoping that Beasley -- a potential starter in Brazil -- isn’t seriously hurt. Michael Orozco, CB, Puebla (Mexico) Why he’s here: The injured Orozco, a consistent call-up for most of Klinsmann’s tenure, missed his second straight Liga MX match on Saturday. What this means: If he stays sidelined, the 28-year-old’s absence could allow youngster John Brooks -- who made just his fourth Bundesliga start of 2014 for Hertha Berlin on Saturday -- to snag the last center back spot on the extended camp roster.