2014: What will the USA look like for the 20th World Cup?

Seeing as how everyone wants to predict lineups for 2014, I thought I’d throw my hat in that ring. Here goes nothing…

Goalkeepers (3): Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Bill Hamid

Reasons: Not hard to figure out here. Tim is #1, Brad is an eternal #2, Hamid is the future.

Other Possibilities: Samir Badr, Chris Seitz

Defenders (7): Oguchi Onyewu, Ike Opara, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Kevin Alston, Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj

Reasons: I think Gooch should be on his last legs, but he’ll still be an aerial force. Opara and Gonzalez are very, very promising though, so I could see them challenging for starting spots in the middle. Personally, I think Spector will be playing full-time at center back for us alongside Gooch by 2014, which is his most natural spot. Ream and Spector provide versatility along the back, Alston and Lichaj provide outside play.

Other Possibilities: Jonathan Bornstein, Edgar Castillo, Marvell Wynne, Chad Marshall, Geoff Cameron, Sean Franklin

Midfielders (9): Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Jose Torres, Benny Feilhaber, Stu Holden, Alejandro Bedoya, Freddy Adu, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan

Reasons: Pretty much nothing new here. Dempsey and Donovan could go as forwards too, which could open up spots. Bradley and Edu should be our best 2 central players going forward and I love the potential of Ale Bedoya on the left side.

Other Possibilities: Mikkel “Mix” Diskerud, Sebastian Lletget, Robbie Rogers, Eddie Gaven, Tony Tchani, Jermaine Jones, Rico Clark

Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, Tristan Bowen, Danny Mwanga

Reasons: This will be the hardest group to predict. I mean, 4 years ago who would have predicted Findley and Buddle? I think Tracy, if he can stay healthy, is a solid option. Tristan Bowen should be an excellent bench striker by 2014. He’s looked great in his appearances for LA this year. Mwanga looks fantastic, but we have to hope for him to become a US citizen and “choose” the US.

Other Possibilities: Tony Taylor, Marcus Tracy, Kenny Cooper, Eddie Johnson, Robbie Findley, Brek Shea

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Löw and behöld….

After watching the German blitzkrieg on hapless Argentina, the gears in my brain started churning.

What if the US could get Joachim Löw.

Better yet, what if we could get Joachim Löw and Jurgen Klinsmann?

So let’s think about a few things.

First off, who are we as a soccer nation? Do we have an identity on the field?

The Spanish have their passing, the Brazilians their Joga Bonito. The Portuguese have individual flair, the Italians their penchant for…defense. (Ok, maybe not, but you’re getting the idea.)

Interestingly, Germany is a major country that doesn’t have much of a defined identity. Yes, their defense has always been stout. But who saw this majestic, juggernaut of an offense coming into 2010? When did Germany become the home of creative attackers like Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, and Marko Marin?

Joachim Löw has done a masterful job of mixing and matching identities. He took the long-standing German defensive philosophy (tall, imposing centerbacks; quick, skillful wingbacks) and married it with an offense designed to attack. Instead of waiting to counter and absorbing pressure, the Germans have relentlessly pressed forward with the likes of Podolski and Ozil. Schweinsteiger and Khedira have held the ball as little as possible in order to push the ball forward.

Beautiful, isn’t it? A defensively gifted team that constantly looks forward. There’s very little backpassing, very little negative play.

The Germans play with intelligence and power, with the occasional bit of flair. In fact, they personify their coach on the field. Jogi Löw is cool and calculated, and his players show that.

So, what does that have to do with the USA?

Well, if the USSF had any vision for the future, it would throw a blank checkbook at Löw and his old buddy Jurgen Klinsmann and have them overhaul the USSF system from the bottom up.

Why Löw and Klinsmann?

For the reasons above: identity. Right now, the US entirely lacks one.

However, the US also has the potential to mirror the German setup as a team. Much like ourselves as a nation, our soccer team is a melting pot of influences. Our players have learned and trained far and wide, from the fledgling MLS to the stoic German Bundesliga to the frenetic Mexican Clausura and Apertura. We have players from all forms of soccer influence – Benny Feilhaber gets his flair from Brazil, Jose Torres his passing from Mexico, Jozy Altidore his athleticism and power in New York.

We will likely never be a nation that develops a defined identity for its national soccer team.

But that shouldn’t stop us from combining a myriad of influences into a team.

Löw has proven to be an elite coach with his decisions regarding this German team. He has infused offense and creativity into a team known for it’s collective play and defensive stoicism.

That is exactly what I want to see from the USMNT. I want to see our diversity embraced. I want to see Torres’ passing utilized alongside Benny Feilhaber’s flair. I want to see the US begin producing teams that attack relentlessly. I want to see our defense play with poise and skill in the back, rather than raw athleticism and panic.

Personally, I think we need an overhaul as a system, not just as a team. We need a national program that is entirely on the same page – on tactics, player development, personnel decisions, etc.

I also think we can’t do something like this in one world cup cycle. It’ll take more than two.

So my proposal is this, USSF: Let’s put a long-term plan in place.

Make an offer to Löw and Klinsmann as a team. Give them 12 years (3 cycles) to overhaul the USSF system. 2022 looks to be our year for hosting the World Cup, so let’s have that year in mind to be putting forth our most competitive team ever. Give that duo free reign to implement training, development, coaching, and anything they deem necessary to the development of us as a soccer nation.

Keep the pressure off of the next 2 World Cups, but demand improvement. Not just results, but style and development.

More importantly, lay the foundations for the United States to continue and grow into a soccer power. Put us on track for long-term success.

Have some vision and some creativity, like Germany.