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USMNT: Klinsmann Calls 25 for January Camp

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For the second straight year, recently acquired Union centerback Jeff Parke will be spending January with the US Men’s national team.  The defender was one of twenty five players, all either from MLS or Scandinavian leagues, called in by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for three weeks of conditioning and training in Carson, California prior to a friendly against Canada.  While the annually Camp Strudel, nee Cupcake, usually serves as an introduction to the national team for younger and more liminal players, this year’s edition could turn out to be much more.  An unsettled back line within the senior team and the need to build a full “B” side to compete in this summer’s Gold Cup could mean substantial minutes in 2013 for players who shine over the next month.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)

A year ago Bill Hamid & Sean Johnson were the bright future of the US goalkeeping pool.  They each backstopped their first national team win in the 2012 edition of this camp, Hamid against Venezuela, Johnson against Panama, both shutouts.  Now they return to Carson a year older and more experienced, but with their stars tarnished by the disastrous Olympic Qualifying debacle, erratic form (Johnson) and temper issues (Hamid.)  Both have the physical tools to establish themselves as the heir apparent to Tim Howard, but neither has managed to take the next step.  This year, beginning with this camp, will be huge for their development.  Oh and Tally Hall is here too.

DEFENDERS (9): Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes), Jeff Parke (Philadelphia Union)

If there’s one player US fans are excited to see in camp it has to be Omar Gonzalez.  The LA centerback, fresh off his MVP performance in the MLS Cup Final, is already being talked about as a potential starter for the senior team in the Hex, despite not yet even being cap-tied.  Now fully healed from the knee injury that cost him most of the 2012 MLS season, as well as a year of USMNT duty, he’ll have a steep learning curve to master if he hopes to be in the 18 at San Pedro Sula in February.

Equally interesting  will be the race to partner with Gonzalez against Canada.  MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler may have the inside track both on the basis of form and in terms of recent callups; he was in the 18 against Mexico this past fall but did not see the field.  Jeff Parke last wore the stars and stripes at last year’s camp, but didn’t get a sniff from the USSF for the remainder of the year.  His call-up gives the Union their first active national teamer in the club’s short history.

Two of the most surprising names on the list also man the back line.  Alfredo Morales will be making the flight from Germany to California despite not seeing regular time for his club, 2. Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin.  His call-up is likely based on his versatility, as he can play wing positions in both defense and midfield and to reassure the triple-national of the US’ continuing interest.  NYRB smurf-like outside back Connor Lade is widely regarded as a waste of a camp slot, being too young, too small and too slow to compete at the international level.

Justin Morrow, Steven Beitashour, Tony Beltran & AJ De La Garza are all solid MLS defenders, but will have to prove they are capable of making the jump to international play.

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (out of contract), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Joshua Gatt (Molde), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

The midfield group called in by Klinsmann is as an exciting and creative one as US fans have ever seen, with only a single defensive midfielder (Beckerman) on the list.  Graham Zusi, who ably deputized to the gone-walkabout Landon Donovan in the closing qualifiers of 2012 is the only regular starter in the group, and will likely be Klinsmann’s midfield Rommel.  He’ll be joined by his new SKC teammate Benny Feilhaber, a surprising inclusion given his reported friction with Klinsmann last year.  Alejandro Bedoya returns to the national team after an almost 18 month absence, perhaps penance for accepting a transfer to Rangers.  Mix Diskerud, the Norwegian American center mid who scored the last minute equalizer against Russia in November and was one of the few bright spots in the Olympic qualifiers, will cut short his tour of America’s Taco Bells to head out to Carson, as will speedy winger Josh Gatt.  Seattle’s Brad Evans was also called in, though no one seems to know why, except perhaps the injury to Chris Pontius that kept him from accepting a spot.

FORWARDS (5): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Edson Buddle (Colorado Rapids), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

It says a lot about the ever-increasing depth of the US forward pool that less than three years on from winning MLS’ Golden Boot and making a World Cup team, the inclusion of Edson Buddle on a Camp Strudel roster is inexplicable.  To generate a list of strikers that make more sense to call in to this camp, all one has to do is generate a list of US-eligible forwards and strike Buddle’s name from it.  That said, his style of play is similar to several of the strikers the US will face in the Hex, and he may provide a suitable training dummy for the US centerbacks.

The rest of the list is solid, with qualifying-savior Eddie Johnson joined by MLS co-season record holder Chris Wondolowski, Chivas USA man Juan Aguedelo and perhaps most intriguingly Will Bruin, seeing his first national team action.

The team will begin reporting to the Home Depot Center today for a week of conditioning before full camp begins on the 14th.

Stick with Philly Sports Live for full analysis of Camp Strudel and all your USMNT News.

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