Because of the lull in Sporting KC's season that is a bye week, I've had time to catch up on my US Men's National Team writing and so I figured we'd get into it before the qualifiers sneak up on us. I've written a bunch on the team's tactics and such but now I want to get into who fits best at the moment and in the future at each position. As of course I have yet to be proven omnipotent, feel free to add or adjust anything I say here with some fine comments below.
I will go through each position, perhaps not in Klinsmann's exact order of numbering, and so we will start with the goalkeepers. For each position, I will list a top five (or more if I'm feeling pedantic or maybe we are that deep?) and then give a couple of sleepers from overseas and here in the MLS. This is by far the easiest position to pick a number one and perhaps the hardest to pick the rest. Simply, if Tim Howard goes down, I have faith in US goalkeeping, but I have no idea who his replacement is. For each player, I will list his name, age, team, and then his age in 2014 to split the two up. I feel both are important in analyzing a player's role with the team, but sometimes neither will matter much as in this case.
1. Tim Howard, 33, Everton (EPL), 35
There is a substantial gap between Howard and the rest of the field. I would argue that he isn't even the best American goalkeeper playing in the EPL, but if Brad Friedel puts on the US jersey again, we just lost our top five goalies to injuries all at once and age has to be a factor for him at some point, doesn't it? Getting back to Howard, he is great as a stopper in the sense of a hockey goalie with quick reactions. His leadership, while a tad melodramatic, is also a fine quality to have behind an ever revolving defense. The only complaint I'll ever issue about him is that he tends to judge poorly on breakaways, and either doesn't come out quick enough or fails to cut off the easiest shot to the near post. Small complaint as he's a world class keeper.
2. Brad Guzan, 27, Aston Villa (EPL), 29
Theoretically, he is still our future keeper. Theoretically, he is our second best keeper. In reality, who knows? Aston Villa brought in a replacement (Shay Given), he was hurt, Guzan slightly outplayed him, Guzan and his smaller salary returned to the bench, and AV is still awful. The skills and the quality are there. Yet he lacks some of Howard's authority, because simply he hasn't been on a field enough to exert any type of authority. I am confident in him as a backup and depending on our defense's evolution in the next couple of years, perhaps starting as well.
3. Nick Rimando, 32, Real Salt Lake (MLS), 34
Please, no. I like him in the way I like Hartman in Dallas. They are great MLS keepers though to look at them you wouldn't think it. They make the easy saves look troubling, and the troubling saves look fantastic, but they don't err as much as the men who are behind him on the depth chart.
4A. Bill Hamid, 21, D.C. United (MLS), 23
4B. Sean Johnson, 22, Chicago Fire (MLS), 24
These next two entries can be flip-flopped and perhaps even the words as well so here is one. I didn't write about the U-23 qualifying tournament for two reasons. One because I was in some shock, they did just dismantle the tournament's winners a month before. Second, because no one in their angry state wants to hear me tell them how little that tournament or the Olympics matter to me. For any team but the Senior team, it's about development and learning; winning is just gravy. Unfortunately, both our goalies took a step back and made major mistakes that cost the US a place in London this summer.
There are many keepers overseas at the moment plying their trade as backup keepers. When one of them sees minutes, then they can be considered for the National Team. The most notable of the group is David Yelldell, another one of the half-german American players, who is the sometimes backup mostly, number three for Bayer Leverkusen. When your most intriguing prospect is thirty and most often not in the 18, you may have a problem, but as you can see there are younger guys above him anyways.
Dan Kennedy, 29, Chivas USA, 31
Kennedy may be a little old to fall into a sleeper role. It is perhaps his destiny to become the Nick Rimando of the future. However, I tend to ignore the goalkeepers age until he is Brad Friedel and then I just stare in wonderment at the ageless wonder. However, Kennedy has been the best goalkeeper in MLS since he took over last summer for Chivas USA. I thought he just loved making me feel bad, but apparently he hates anyone who likes MLS scoring and that is while playing for Chivas USA.
Despite the struggles of the U-23 team, there is no reason that by the time Tim Howard no longer is our full time keeper there will be no replacement. Goalies typically have longer careers and even peak later than outfield players, so expect both Howard to stay for a while and Guzan to remain his successor. After those two, we should be into Hamid and Johnson's primes and their replacements should be starting to get their feet wet. I never understood why countries couldn't find one decent goalie (looking at you England) or at least one they could trust not to screw up colossally. I don't fear for our future here.