Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure as United States manager has been rocky thus far. Through five matches he has just one win despite playing some poor competition and getting four of those matches on U.S. soil. As concerning is how impotent the team has looked, gaining more possession than they did before Klinsmann took over, but creating far fewer chances and showing little in the way of tactics or idea of how they want to go forward. Those can be attributed to growing pains though as he changes the team's style. The specific players he's decided to call in though, well, that's a whole other problem.
The first five matches and now the team called in for matches six and seven against France and Slovenia have been plagued with squad choices that could charitably be called odd or harshly called insane. Michael Orozco Fiscal, Robbie Rogers and Edson Buddle continue to get call ups despite poor play for club and country, while those like Sacha Kljestan, Mikkel Diskerud, Geoff Cameron and Herculez Gomez continue to wait by their phones for a call that feels like it will never come.
It is still early in Klinsmann's tenure, but his insistance on calling in several aging players like Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Jermaine Jones while other younger options can't get a sniff is perplexing. Juan Agudelo, Brek Shea, Jozy Altidore, Bill Hamid, Alfredo Morales, Timothy Chandler and Danny Williams get call ups, but youth and inexperience is a strike against Diskerud and other players who are older than some of those called in and more experienced than others.
Criticism was heaped upon Bob Bradley for playing favorites and calling up players he liked, namely Jonathan Bornstein, but that pales in comparison to what Klinsmann is doing. Whether it is because he likes players personally, is infatuated by a player's potential or is intent on fitting a lesser player whose style fits with what he wants, Klinsmann most certainly has "his guys."
So if a player isn't one of Klinsmann's guys? What is he to do? You can take Gomez's route, classy as can be and just be happy with what you have. You can do what Kljestan did and wonder out loud if anyone is watching you have the best season of any American midfielder in Europe. There is also another option though.
Klinsmann's got his squad, so why not put together a second U.S. team (besides the whole FIFA, rules and logistical issues)? Let's take all the guys who Klinsmann apparently has no use for no matter how well they play for their respective clubs and make a team. With all the guys the German has been giving the stink eye, there's plenty of quality to choose from. We can even take a page out of The Little Giants and put together a game between Jurgen's team and the team of exiles for the right to represent the U.S.
First things first, a manager needs to be chosen. The nod goes to Marcello Lippi, the legendary Italian who beat out Carlos Albero Parreira, Dunga, Jose Pekerman, Marco van Basten and Rafa Benitez for the post (coincidentally, all of them were unemployed and in search of work when Klinsmann was hired by the U.S.)
Lippi will give the team some strength in defense, where they could use some help, and will not hamper the team's desire to get forward. While Italian football does not have the reputation for being beautiful and gorgeous, Lippi did lead a Juventus team with Zinedine Zidane to a UEFA Champions League title and won five Serie A titles while playing some attractive football. Additionally, he picked up a World Cup title and led an Italy team that scored more than its fair share of goals. Yeah, I think he'll do just fine.
His 18-man team has its problems and is clearly not quite the team many Americans imagine as being "their team" with a distinct lack of stars, but there is plenty of quality here.
Goalkeepers: Sean Johnson, Nick Rimando
Defenders: Geoff Cameron, Todd Dunivant, Sean Franklin, Josh Gatt, Omar Gonzalez, George John, Heath Pearce
Forwards: Teal Bunbury, Herculez Gomez
There are obvious holes in this team. Both fullback positions are problems, but left back is a problem for any team that represents the U.S., whether they're first choice, second choice or 20th choice. The right back hole shows just how bad a job the country has done producing fullbacks though as only the German-born Timothy Chandler is a competent right back playing semi-regularly for his club beyond the rapidly aging Cherundolo.
The center of defense could be a force though. Any two of Gonzalez, Cameron and John could rival whoever Jurgen chooses to go with and if Michael Orozco Fiscal steps onto the field it would be hard not to say that the second choice team has an edge in the center of defense.
As far as defensive midfield options go, there aren't many, but Clark is more than capable. He is not ideal and his giveaway against Ghana in the World Cup still haunts U.S. fans, but he did prove capable of playing internationally at times. Meanwhile, there is certainly more creativity and inventiveness in Kljestan, Feilhaber and Diskerud than Klinsmann's adored pairing of Kyle Beckerman and Maurice Edu, the man who has been asked to be the creative force in the attacking midfield spot.
Kljestan is in the middle of an incredible season for Belgium's top team and after getting a short look from Klinsmann, he hasn't been called in since despite only playing better for Anderlecht, while Diskerud has been a fixture for a Stabaek team that is regularly in continental competition. The 21-year-old is more skillful than anyone on the first team besides Clint Dempsey and offers that ability to create the moment of brilliance out of nothing that people have longed to see from an American. Feilhaber is an option both centrally and tucking in from the left and Bedoya is a workhorse on the right, plus there's the deadly left foot of Davis (Klinsmann didn't choose a healthy Davis so we get a healthy Davis) and the Adu who was a Gold Cup revelation.
Arguably the strongest point for this team is at forward, which is a surprise considering the issues the U.S. has had at forward, but in a first team vs. second team match, is Gomez not the best striker on the field? Meanwhile, Bunbury has been called in by Klinsmann before, but until Klinsmann actually lets him dress for a match, let alone play him, he's on the outs and taking his ability to play both as a lone striker or with a partner to the second team.
Goalkeepers have never been an issue for the U.S. and isn't for their second team. Again, Rimando has been called in, but hasn't seen the field so he's a second teamer and proving why he's the best MLS has to offer. In an effort to replicate Klinsmann's decision to bring along a young 'keeper as a back-up, the best young American goalkeeper gets the nod.
Taking leftovers isn't easy, but Klinsmann hasn't been very hungry and has been kind enough to leave us more than the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel. There's real talent in this team and right down the spine in the center of defense, midfield and forward it wouldn't be hard to argue that the second team is better off than the first team. Add in tactical intelligence and the guile of a World Cup winning manager like Lippi and maybe those who Klinsmann has sent into exile can top the first choice players to become America's team?