As the 2014 FIFA World Cup approaches, and U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann insists that it’s simply not realistic for the U.S. squad to win the cup, it seems pertinent to take a closer look at the U.S. roster; specifically, from a Chicago point of view.
While none of the 21 (22, if you include David Villa, who just signed with the New York City football club) MLS players hail from the Chicago Fire, the U.S. national team certainly has ties with the city of Chicago.
DaMarcus Beasley was once the face of Chicago Fire soccer. Though he was signed to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 1999, he was traded to the Fire before playing any games. During his tenure in Chicago, which spanned four and a half seasons, Beasley tallied 14 goals and 20 assists while being named to the league’s Best XI in 2003. After his contract with the Fire expired, he played for several notable international clubs such as Manchester City, for whom he made 18 appearances.
Despite playing internationally, Beasley has retained ties to the U.S. national team since his 2001 debut with the team. After receiving the nod to join the 2014 roster, Beasley joins Kasey Keller and Claudio Reyna as the only American players to be on four World Cup teams. If he sees playing time, he’ll be the first American to play in four World Cups.
Brad Guzan, a native of Evergreen Park, Illinois, has a Chicago career that began well before his time with the Fire. Early in his childhood, Guzan played youth soccer at the Chicago Magic Soccer Club, and for the varsity team at Providence Catholic High School. Following high school, he played two seasons for the South Carolina Gamecocks, where, during his sophomore year he was a second-team All-American. Guzan only briefly featured on the Chicago Fire reserve team, from which he was able to catapult on to an MLS roster in Chivas USA. Since 2006, he has been the backup keeper of the U.S. national squad, earning playing time when starter Tim Howard has been sidelined due to injury or ejection.
Perhaps the most promising member of the Fire with World Cup ties is keeper Sean Johnson. Chicago drafted Johnson 51st overall in the 2010 MLS draft. Shortly thereafter, Johnson beat out Andrew Dykstra and made his MLS debut on August 1st, 2010, earning a 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy. Since then, Johnson has remained the starter with the Fire and was named 2011 Defender of the Year for the team.
Johnson has international experience with the U.S. under-20 and under-23 teams, in addition to making a spot start for the U.S. in the 2013 Gold Cup, during which he recorded a clean sheet.
While he ultimately did not make either the preliminary 30-man or final 23-man roster, his international experience and young age (his 25th birthday was on May 31st) make him a prime candidate for making a legacy on the U.S. national squad.
“Obviously I wanted to be a part of that roster, but I’m just happy to have been a part of the group that helped get the team where they are,” Johnson said to Chicago-Fire.com. “Not being a part of the 30-man roster doesn’t mean you didn’t help the team get to the World Cup.”
Johnson maintains that he’s focused on his time here in Chicago, though he clearly is focusing on the future to a certain extent. “I’m proud of what I’ve done so far in my career,” he said. “If I keep grinding away and keep the same mentality, opportunities will come and one day I’ll be at a World Cup.”