Despite the odds of the US Men’s National Team face in advancing out of Group G, it is safe to say the Major League Soccer heavy squad has the talent to reach the knock round. In the run up to the World Cup the scrutiny of the ten MLS players on the USMNT has been vast and plentiful… see my take on the 23-man post announcement.
One known future and eleven current MLS players will be representing their countries in Brazil. Not surprisingly the largest contingent (outside the USMNT) hail from two Central American CONCACAF nations, Costa Rica and Honduras. But MLS players are neither limited to merely also-rans countries nor the 20th man off the bench.
- Brazilian starting goalkeeper Júlio César, desperate for playing time, came on loan to Toronto FC to play under former Queen Park Rangers teammate Ryan Nelsen. César, who won the 2004 Copa América, was not made full-time first choice until 2007, since then he has won the last two Confederations Cups. His time with TFC may be shorter than expected as the newly promoted QPR recalled him for the upcoming EPL season.
- David Villa’s spot in the history of La Roja is clear even if his place on the current squad is not. Villa can create as the off striker on the left wing or score as a poacher, but in the top leagues he has never been the focus of an attack. Regardless, Villa is essential in a deep run for Spain whether he starts or as comes in late as a super sub. Villa came through the ranks of Spanish soccer the hard way proving he is a professional winner. That’s why City Football Group made him the first signing of their new MLS franchise NYCFC… another shameless self-promotion: David Villa Global Footballer
- Currently Tim Cahill is captain for neither club, New York Red Bulls, nor country, Australia, but he plays like the unquestioned leader on the pitch. If anyone accuses the former Everton man of making the move to a retirement league, simply watch him and all doubt will be removed. With the Red Bulls his position is as a box-to-box midfield winning 50-50s in the center and making late runs in the box. For Australian his role is as an off-drawn striker or playmaking center forward, depending on the formation. Don’t tell Cahill Australia has no hope to get out of the group, he’s likely to take a pound of flesh for every two he leaves on the field.
- Jerry Bengtson scored 9 goals during CONCACAF qualifying, including 4 in the Hexagonal against Costa Rico, Mexico (2) and the United States. Unfortunately for the New England Revolution, he scored as many goals for club in 34 appearance as he did in the 10-game Hex. At the international-level Bengtson is a poacher with a touch of magic. New England is hoping that magic comes out in Brazil so they can move their underperforming DP.
- It is difficult to call Marvin Chávez an inverted winger as the speedy Honduran can play on both sides with both feet. The six-year MLS veteran and current Chivas USA midfielder runs at defenders, cuts in near the top of the box and looks for space to shoot long distance. It is likely he will see action opposite former Sporting Kansas City wingback turned wide midfielder Roger Espinoza.
- Another probable Honduran starter is the San Jose Earthquake center back and 2012 Best XI and Defender of the Year runner-up Víctor Bernárdez. Bernárdez didn’t start the Israel game where they conceded 4, but he started the game where 10-man Honduras drew 0-0 with England.
- Boniek Garcia is, perhaps, the most well-known among the MLS playing Hondurans, however, if the warm ups are any indication, Boniek is on the outside. It is unclear if the midfielder that started 9 out of 10 games in the Hex is still suffering from a hamstring strain. If healthy, Boniek should be an option for his willingness to track back and ability to create.
- Prior to the friendly against Ireland, Columbus Crew center back Giancarlo Gonzalez had a high possibility to start for Costa Rica. Unable to deal with Wolverhampton striker Kevin Doyle, Gonzalez resorted to repeatedly elbowing eventually striking blood, during a friendly!, resulting in him being sent off just before half. This season is Gonzalez’s first in MLS, arriving by way of Norwegian top division side Vålerenga. Curious to see if this incident, IN A FRIENDLY!, earns him a reputation both in Brazil and MLS.
- The Red Bulls’ Roy Miller is a utility man on the Costa Rican backline. With New York he is a true left wingback, who may have finally reach his potential as one of the league’s best overlapping threats in the early season. With Costa Rica he has been deployed as a left wingback in their 5 defender formation as well as a sweeper.
- Joining Gonzalez from the Columbus Crew is their left back Waylon Francis. Ticos need defensive depth with their 5-3-2 formation. Francis only had one cap for Costa Rica before his call up. At 23 years-old, he is the youngest of the 9-man deep defensive crew. Francis’ inclusion seems to be one for the future.
- Steven Beitashour got a call up to the USMNT for a friendly against Mexico in 2012, but Jurgen Klinsmann never sealed the deal. The long-time Quakes right back and current starter for the Vancouver Whitecaps is the son of Iranian parents. The 2012 All-Star received a call up from Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, who similar to Klinsmann, pursued players with eligibility outside of Iran. As one of the better right backs in the league it is not clear if he will get on the field during the World Cup, as he only appeared in one warm up at left back and in 6 matches total.
- Chivas USA midfielder Oswaldo Minda made the Ecuadorian team just under the wire. A member of the 30-man provisional roster, he was added onto the 23-man after an injury to Segundo Castillo. Not included in the training camp or friendlies before the World Cup means the Chivas USA defensive midfielder likely won’t see the pitch. Chivas and MLS maybe hoping he can bring them back a few WC teammates instead of a top shirt and a key chain.
This Week’s Throw-In
- Just when we’re ready to throw dirt on the Red Bulls, they have the most improbable win of the season. Without starters Jamison Olave, Thierry Henry, Cahill, Miller, and Dax McCarty, recently injured, the team got it is first win in Gillette Stadium in 13 years. Luis Robles, who made some poor mistakes early in the 4-match winless streak, shut me and a few others up after a 10 save performance… In my defense I only called for an open competition for all positions during the break (hater material? Some on twitter thought so). Also need to give credit to Eric Alexander after have his second straight solid game in central mid. On the NE Revolution side, after the second straight poor result some fans are wondering if that seven-game unbeaten streak was fool’s gold.
- While everyone is watching the Seattle Sounders ride Obafemi Martins into first place, the Whitecaps have only lost twice all season and are currently on a seven-match unbeatable run. If you want to throw away your All-Star vote on someone well-deserving, but with little hope to make the team, Pedro Morales is your man.
- It was announced Tuesday that Chivas USA will be keeping the 21-year old goal poaching-robot-dancing Erick “Cubo” Torres for the rest of the season. He’s third in the league’s Golden Boot race with 9, and been the best thing for the goats since he arrived. Well second best for a short period, there was Thomas McNamara’s mullet.