The United States didn't turn in a terrific performance in the Gold Cup group stage, but got the job done, avoiding defeat in all three matches and clinching first place in their group. They now await their opponent, likely to be El Salvador or Guatemala, and they can make six changes to their squad before that quarterfinal.
Unfortunately, the six players they call up need to be from their Gold Cup preliminary squad, which isn't the fittest group. All of Bill Hamid, Brek Shea, Brad Davis and Jordan Morris have suffered recent injuries that will probably keep them from getting added to the team. What's left is pretty slim pickings.
Still, a handful of U.S. players have struggled enough that it's time to make changes. Here are five, with bonus sixth thrown in, just in case Klinsmann really does feel the need to swap out everyone. They're listed in order of necessity.
Out: Ventura Alvarado. In: Matt Besler.
It's pretty mean and definitely unnecessary to pick out a worst player at the Gold Cup ... but come on, you all know who it is. Whatever Ventura Alvarado has done in a Club America shirt to convince Jurgen Klinsmann to give him starts, he's not shown it. He'd be best served playing a preseason game or two with his club and getting ready for the Liga MX season. If he has a good one, we can try this again in the spring.
Matt Besler was pretty poor for Sporting Kansas City post-World Cup, but he's been in much better form lately. Even with his occasional lapses in concentration, he's almost certainly better than Alvarado right now. This is the move that would improve the team that most.
Out: Jozy Altidore. In: Juan Agudelo.
The departure of Jozy Altidore is already all but confirmed, but who will replace him isn't clear. It would be nice to have Morris, but he's recovering from surgery on a fractured leg.
Altidore did a lot of standing around in his appearances, which he's prone to do. A mobile Altidore is a great asset to the United States, but that doesn't always happen, and it cripples the team. Juan Agudelo, despite any flaws he might have, does not have this problem. He's very mobile and he's in good form for the New England Revolution.
Out: Alfredo Morales. In: Perry Kitchen.
After 45 minutes of action on Monday, Morales was yanked, and apparently that was all the information Klinsmann needed. He's hinted that he's on his way home. The player who probably should replace him is Perry Kitchen, who has been the best player on the team with the best record in MLS, D.C. United.
Kitchen has spent most of his career as a pure defensive midfielder and might make for a better pure Kyle Beckerman than Morales replacement because of that, but he's done a bit more getting forward this season. He can do plenty of running, is a decent passer and even has a couple of goals.
Out: Mix Diskerud. In: Lee Nguyen.
Do you remember when Klinsmann came in and preached about creativity? Keeping the ball on the ground? Playing stylish soccer? Then he weirdly started leaving all of the creative players out of his teams and filling them with guys who run a lot? It's been really strange. The good news is that, if he wants to inject some flair into this team, he does have a decent option in the preliminary squad.
Lee Nguyen is a playmaker unlike anyone currently in the U.S. squad, and should get called in for that reason alone. Diskerud hasn't played well for the USMNT in quite some time and isn't having a great year for NYCFC, so it's time to send him back and hope he can find his old form.
Out: Chris Wondolowski. In: Alan Gordon.
Yes, Wondo haters, the best option in the preliminary squad to replace him is 33-year-old MLS journeyman Alan Gordon. Like Nguyen, he should be brought into the team simply because he gives them something they don't have right now.
CONCACAF teams like to pack 11 men behind the ball and beat the living hell out of their opponents to protect leads, and CONCACAF refs always let them get away with it. Why not bring in someone who knows how to play that game? He shouldn't ever be considered a starting option, but Gordon's more of an aerial threat than Wondolowski, and he's much better at elbowing people in the face.
If we have to -- Out: Timothy Chandler. In: DaMarcus Beasley
It's been a really, really rough Gold Cup for Chandler, but there's not another right back in the preliminary squad. If Klinsmann just wants to get the best players on the pitch, he could call in Beasley and re-introduce him as the left back, then move Fabian Johnson over to the right side. It's not ideal, but it might be better than playing Chandler for another match.
Update: They made some different changes.
#USMNT @J_Klinsmann makes three changes to the #GoldCup2015 roster: http://t.co/Zk9x7iNJD3 pic.twitter.com/WxRQFs3yLn— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) July 14, 2015