Through 11 previous incarnations of this Brazil Board, not once has our projected U.S. lineup for the 2014 World Cup remained the same.
That’s not that the case this time around, following Wednesday’s hard-to-watch loss to Ukraine in Cyprus. The match was billed as a golden opportunity for the Yanks’ many European-based bubble players to make one final push for a spot on Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23-man tournament roster. Instead, the under-strength Americans were thoroughly outclassed during a 2-0 defeat, with few players raising their stock.
It’s hard to see defenders John Brooks, Edgar Castillo or Oguchi Onyewu making the plane to Brazil after struggling so profoundly on Wednesday. Those three were long shots to begin with, of course, even if Onyewu made January’s list as a backup. Then, the hope was that a healthy Onyewu -- a two-time World Cup vet who was finally playing regularly after battling injuries for much of the last four years -- would lend valuable experience to a mostly untested back line. Now, it looks as if Geoff Cameron, who on Wednesday lined up at right back once again, will be called on to provide cover in the event still-green central defenders Matt Besler or Omar Gonzalez aren’t quite up to the task in Brazil.
Midfielder Sacha Kljestan also failed to take advantage of what was probably his last chance, while youngsters Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd and Danny Williams barely got enough time off the bench to make a compelling case.
Still, several players helped -- or at least didn’t hurt -- their chances.
Brek Shea remains in contention for a reserve role on the left wing after another active performance off the bench. Alejandro Bedoya, with a spirited display, kept the pressure on MLS-based right wing Graham Zusi. And surefire starters Tim Howard and Jermaine Jones showed why Klinsmann will rely so heavily on them this summer.
As always, though, there’s room for a wild card in this space, which is why 18-year-old Bayern Munich striker Julian Green fills a bench role for us here after training with the U.S. in Frankfurt. No, the Florida-born German youth international isn’t eligible to play for the Yanks until he petitions FIFA for a one-time switch of international allegiance, but it sure appeared that he fit in with the squad's other German-Americans during his first camp. Klinsmann has been recruiting Green hard, and with a contract that runs through 2018, the coach could be tempted to take the prodigy to Brazil if that ties him to the U.S. for good.
Besides, in a World Cup year, things usually don’t stay the same way for long.
Here is the latest projected USMNT lineup (4-2-3-1) and roster for the 2014 World Cup: