The message Eddie Johnson's omission sent couldn't have been clearer: As far as U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is concerned, what happened during last year's World Cup qualifying campaign doesn't matter at all. Not anymore.
Now, it's only about how much a particular player can help when the main event kicks off next month in Brazil.
The move to leave Johnson, who last September scored the goal that clinched the Americans' Cup berth, off the Yanks' 30-name preliminary roster immediately puts the ones who did make it on notice. To a lesser extent, so did the inclusion of youngsters Terrence Boyd, Timmy Chandler and Julian Green.
The three German-Americans are vying for spots on the final 23-man squad Klinsmann will select after the U.S. plays its second pre-tourney tune-up against Turkey on June 1, and if any of them survive the cut, it will undoubtedly be at the expense of a more established veteran.
Take Brad Evans, for example. Evans was Klinsmann's starting right back when it mattered most last year. On our last Brazil Board, he was penciled in there, too. But Chandler's re-emergence for the first time since early 2013 could put a dent in the Seattle Sounder's chances. Chandler is coming off a strong season as a right back in one of the world's elite leagues. Unlike Evans, who is a midfielder in MLS, he also can provide cover on the left. So can the experienced Michael Parkhurst, another natural defender who is making a late push based on his play with the Columbus Crew. If only two of the three make the final squad, as seems likely, Evans could be the odd man out.
Landon Donovan is another intriguing topic.
"I don't see Landon as a midfielder coming in, I see him clearly as a striker," the coach said on conference call Monday, moments after the roster was announced. On the surface, those eyebrow-raising comments could mean the Yanks' all-time everything will fill a supporting role off the bench in Brazil. But the formation Klinsmann uses also will help determine where he ends up. Donovan can play a second forward in a 4-4-2, the scheme the U.S. used against Mexico last month, but it's hard to see the Klinsmann staying away from the more conservative 4-2-3-1 he's used most often considering the stiff competition the U.S. will face next month. So we're going to go out on a limb (and against popular wisdom) and keep Donovan in the lineup -- as midfielder -- for now. That could change after the U.S. meets Azerbaijan May 27 in San Francisco, especially if Klinsmann experiments with Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya or even Green on the left. But really, how the final 23 (and more specifically, the lineup against Ghana) shakes out will largely be determined during the training camp that begins Wednesday at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
"Going into Stanford now there will be more 50-50 situations: Center backs, fullbacks, two or three midfielders, and strikers that will compete for spots," Klinsmann said Monday. "The good thing about the next three weeks before we have to name [the roster] on June 2 is that we can see them compete with each other day-in and day-out. We'll play our scrimmages and we'll get a feel for the chemistry, which is very important for the spirit of the team.
"I think the only people at the end of the day that are able to bring all the little pieces into the whole bucket and make that call are us coaches."
The only certainty at this point is that there are still a few key calls to be made.