Get to Know the U.S. Men’s National Team — World Cup 2014
The 2014 World Cup is less than two months away, and if you’re not a big soccer fan you might not know much about the team the United States is sending to Brazil. I’ll go ahead and introduce you to the guys that will be wearing the red, white and blue in the group of death. The final squad hasn’t been chosen by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but there are many who are no-brainers as we go into the final tune-up games.
Goalkeeper: Tim Howard
Howard has been the first-choice keeper since 2007, and also plays for Everton FC of the English Premier League. Howard is the fiery figurehead of the United States Men’s National Team, and started every game of the 2010 World Cup as well as being named Man of the Match for his performance against England in his first World Cup game. As a sixth grader, Howard was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, but has managed it well throughout his career. Howard was once one of the most heralded young keepers in the world, and was bought by Manchester United for a $4 million transfer fee in the middle of the 2003 MLS season. This will likely be his last World Cup.
Striker: Jozy Altidore
This big forward already had 67 appearances for the United States at the age of 24, scoring his first goal for his country in 2008 at the age of 19. Altidore started 3 of the 4 matches the U.S. played in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but did not score. The striker currently plays for Sunderland in the English Premier League, but has struggled in his first season in Tyneside. Altidore had his best professional season last year while playing for AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch league, scoring 31 goals in 41 total matches.
Attacking Midfielder: Clint Dempsey
Nicknamed “Deuce,” Dempsey is just about everyone’s favorite U.S. player. Dempsey has a brash attitude on the field that will rub opponents the wrong way, and has very good dribbling skills. His scoring prowess isn’t very good from outside the box, but he’s one of the best finishers near the goal. The native-Texan currently plays for the Seattle Sounders after spells with Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League. Dempsey featured in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. Here’s Dempsey mocking a Jamaican player during a World Cup qualifier.
Midfielder: Michael Bradley
Bradley, who picked up nicknames like “Il Generale” (the general) and “Lex Luthor” while playing in Italy, is the heart and soul that powers the U.S. team. Once seen as a benefactor of nepotism because of his father being the national team coach, Bradley has continually gotten better and is now one of the first names on the team sheet. Bradley is an expert passer, and can strike from long range (like this goal against Scotland last year). The 26-year old was sold by Roma to Toronto FC in January for $10 million, and he is now the second-highest paid player in MLS behind Dempsey.
Midfielder: Graham Zusi
Zusi is a relative newcomer to the national team, but has racked up 20 caps since his debut in 2012 against Venezuela. Zusi is an advanced midfielder who can move the ball well and doesn’t have any glaring flaws in his game. Unlike many professional players, Zusi played college soccer for four years before turning pro. The Florida-native currently players for Sporting Kansas City, and is known by fans of the Mexico national team as “San Zusi” after his late goal against Panama handed Mexico the final spot in the 2014 World Cup.
Defender: Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Spector, DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron
There really aren’t any big-time, stand-out defenders on this team. Gonzalez and Cameron are both solid center backs, but Klinsmann likes to rotate the defense throughout tournaments so we aren’t quite sure who will be in the starting XI from game to game. Spector was the heir apparent at right back — even being signed by Manchester United at the age of 17 – but has had some troubles with injuries in his career. Beasley is the most seasoned veteran on the back line, having first appeared in a 2001 friendly against China. Beasley played in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
Klinsmann took over the post in July 2011 after Bob Bradley was fired, and has seen success after a rocky start. Since being appointed, the United States beat Italy for the first time ever as well as winning in the Estadio Azteca over Mexico for the first time in 22 attempts. Klinsmann coached the U.S. to victory in the 2013 Gold Cup, beating Panama 1-0 in the final. The German had an illustrious playing career that included stops at Inter, Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich. Klinsmann also played a key role in West Germany’s 1990 World Cup win and scored at least three goals in three consecutive World Cups.