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Happy Kickback Thursday!

Tonight will see soccer juggernaut Bayern Munich battle Chivas Guadalajara in Red Bull Arena in New Jersey for a friendly as part of a mini United States tour for the German champions. While several of their key players are MIA after deep runs in Brazil (including World Cup glory for a few), there will undoubtedly be talent on the pitch this evening.

How do I know?

Well, I looked at the roster (which includes superstar in-the-making Julian Green) and because Bayern Munich’s coach is Pep Guardiola. Pep is a tactical maestro. Need proof? Recall that he was the architect of Barcelona’s recent historic run and the fact that he was two victories away in the Champions League from sweeping all titles during his freshman year (2013-2014) in Munich.

Since today is Thursday, it’s time for a throwback to the past. And today’s featured player is Pep Guardiola the player.

He had a pretty decent shot, wouldn’t you say?

By some strike of very good fortune/parents, I will be in Red Bull Arena cheering, “Go Bayern Munich!

Picking a Lineup of 23

Jürgen Klinsmann, head coach of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT), has named his 30-man preliminary roster for the 2014 World Cup this summer. The final print-out of tickets to Brazil will be handed-out June 2nd for 23 lucky gentlemen men who will receive the honor to don the Red, White & Blue on the biggest soccer/footballing stage in the world.

The list is a dynamic collection of past World Cup stand-outs, familiar MLS veterans and a small group of European-based youngsters who will surely guide the USMNT the next several years. Here is the breakdown of the roster, courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (11): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders)

MIDFIELDERS (10):
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (6):
Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

There are an infinite number of variables that will play out in Brazil with an infinite number of potential results, actions and reactions. Is this roster perfect? Depends on who is answering. Were there a couple players I wished were given a shot at training with the USMNT for the past couple years? Yes, but it’s too late now.

At this point, the most critical question that should be asked is whether there is a combination of 11-16 players who will start and/or serve as super-subs for those moments when playing Ghana, Portugal and Germany when the U.S will have their backs against the wall with multiple goals needed in a 22-minute span after going down 2-nil in the 68′. Or maybe a star player will go down with a surprise injury. Can someone make a name for himself and for the team in a situation of desperation? Fortunately for American fans, Coach Klinsmann has shown his proficiency and an expertise for “the super-sub” during several games the past couple years with surprisingly fast, fantastic results.

But how will these super-subs fare against super competition?

Without knowing the final 23-man roster, it’s difficult to begin examining on-field formations. There will a post with this analysis after the final roster is named in early June.

For now, it’s appropriate to analyze this roster. First off, was it a good idea to leave off Eddie Johnson? Yes. And yes again. In fact, thank you Jürgen Klinsmann.

Looking at the names above, it’s a legitimate inquiry to wonder what kind of team Klinsmann wants in Brazil. Filled with predictable, safe and known entities? Open and unpredictable with a bevy of next-generation USMNT leaders? Or a combination in-between? He’s got a few World Cup freshman in Mix Diskerud (23), Aron Johannsson (23), Terrence Boyd (23) and Julian Green (18) who could really shake the USMNT’s cherry tree of founding principles with dynamic, fearless play. Are either of them in or near their prime? No. But there is something about talented freshman, regardless of sport, where they play just because they want to have fun without backing down to anybody. They’ll try things. They’ll experiment with a move here and there, a clever combination play here and there or with shots that get past the goalkeeper here and there.

When you’re competing against world-class talent and world-class coaching, the element of surprise cannot be underestimated.

Even if you don’t see it coming.

A 2-2 Tie Just Doesn’t Sound Right

(Important Disclosure: Since yesterday was not a FIFA-sanctioned day of friendlies, USMNT head coach Jürgen Klinsmann may not have been able to call-up a couple European-based players from their clubs)

A plain golf shirt. Human bomb pops. An MLS-based American team. An international-based American team.

What do you get when you add all these together?

A trip to Brazil this June without a clear travel itinerary or cool clothes to wear.

Last night’s United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) soccer friendly with arch-rival Mexico in front of a pro-U.S. crowd (in Arizona?) fittingly ended in a clouded 2-2 tie. They were up 2-nil at halftime, but conceded two second half goals to a more energized and fluid Mexican squad.

Quick fact: It’s only Dos-a-Cero in Columbus, Ohio. True story.

It was a prototypical tale of two halves and a mixed result that could have used the energetic and offensively dynamic Mix Diskerud (23) of Norway’s Rosenborg BK managing the middle of the pitch with likely Brazil 2014 partner Michael Bradley. Why wasn’t this the case? Because there are, apparently, two U.S. teams. One consists of players based in Europe and elsewhere around the world and the other team includes the best talent of Major League Soccer (MLS). Yesterday’s American lineup versus Mexico was made up of the best MLS players (except for newly American certified Julian Green).

It’s one thing to experiment with such an open tryout during off-peak years, but two months from the biggest soccer tournament in the world?

At this point, words like continuity and confidence should emanate from Jürgen Klinsmann’s USMNT. Yet, words like scattered and phrases like lack of chemistry and static creativity are defining a team that is producing juxtaposing results month-to-month, half-to-half and position-to-position.

Here is a quote from Jürgen Klinsmann after the 2-2 draw regarding the coveted spots in the starting lineup, as reported by Andrew Wiebe on MLS Soccer online.

“Naturally, it’s open,” Klinsmann said. “How much it’s difficult to say.”

A valid question to ask and ponder in April 2014 is this: why isn’t there one cohesive USMNT (a combination of the best players of MLS and abroad) with a select number of players vying for starting spots instead of an open tryout for seemingly every position? Or, more realistically, competing for a nod on the bench as a super sub?

Julian Green (18) did well last night as a substitute, demonstrating his raw speed, energy and his anxiousness to impress.

But what about Aron Jóhannsson (23), who has a relentless attacking mindset? Why isn’t he, who is a forward that could provide much needed excitement and creativity up front, getting more consistent time and experience?

Teams like Germany may use young players or undefined players at the national team level for a friendly, like they did versus the United States in 2013. However, Germany’s A-squad has been all but set for quite some time with only variable changes here and there. And the best (or right) players get their minutes because they are viewed as valuable assets.

As a glass half-full believer, it’s quite possible that Klinsmann’s strategy will pay-off tremendous dividends in ways that have not yet been revealed or imagined on the pitch.

Still, the World Cup is played on a pitch…in 2 months.