Bruce Arena released his 32-man roster for this January’s USMNT camp, a group which will provide the lineups for friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica.
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There are a lot of names which won’t surprise thanks to either regular inclusion or Arena’s awesome Facebook Live sessions and media conference calls where he was wide open about prospects like Keegan Rosenberry or Sebastian Lletget.
He’s here?!? And he isn’t?!?
The heading may lead you to believe the exclamation points are made in anger, but that’s in no way the case; Seeing a new coach’s roster release — especially for an MLS-only January camp — is a fascinating exercise not unlike popping out to the Christmas tree on the morning of Dec. 25.
Santa Bruce Arena.
We’ll get to the omissions — at least perceived ones — in a bit, but let’s start with the names that leapt boldest off the page. Kekuta Manneh is a thrilling prospect, one who would be a household names were it not for injury and his status in the Vancouver market (which is fun to watch for diehards but rarely gets national TV time). Both Manneh (The Gambia) and goalkeeper call-up Stefan Frei (Switzerland) have not yet been cleared to represent the United States.
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There’s also DC United right back Taylor Kemp, who hasn’t had a chance to rep his nation since a 2008 turn with the U.S. U-20 side. Chris Pontius has also battled injury, but DC and now Philadelphia fans will understand why there’s a group which has long-clamored to see him wear red, white, and blue.
Tommy McNamara seems to be getting the most buzz amongst omissions, and others will mention NYCFC teammate and once-future-Landon-Donovan (we kid) Mix Diskerud.
But what about Justin Morrow? From Notre Dame to Toronto FC, the intrepid fullback has succeeded every time he’s asked to raise his game. It’s a crowded midfield, but New England’s Kelyn Rowe is a name that could’ve easily got a look.
Again, some of these names may be dealing with undisclosed injuries, so they may not be true omissions.
It’s different now (in reality and the media)
At the risk of looking like high-level subtweeting, there’s a respected-enough soccer mind in social media who has already begun showcasing the difference in respect between Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann.
Arena called up Graham Zusi as a right back for the United States national team’s January camp, a move that doesn’t normally need to be justified. National team coaches have needs that cannot be fixed in a transfer market, and the U.S. has a number of unavailable right backs in Europe right now (Eric Lichaj, DeAndre Yedlin, Jonathan Spector among them).
Again, this is totally cool.
Yet if you’re of the mind to say it’s cool because Zusi played a handful of games at right back last season, then you better not have raged when Klinsmann defenders pointed out that left wing Fabian Johnson spent a decent-enough portion of his career at left back.
Yes, a serious tournament is much different than a January camp that should see the Yanks succeed against Jamaica (and probably versus a much-weakened Serbia, too). And it’s good to have a reminder that a legendary acumen in United States soccer history allows more leeway with fans than a guy who scored a ton of goals in Europe.
No need to name names, let’s be old school and proper, but suffice to say this: we’re in a new era and we clearly all want it to work. Maybe it’s simply a honeymoon stage, but it will be interesting to monitor how quickly it might sour.
And, oh, the super vets
Arena would want to strike a balance between new blood and totally eschewing players who became fixtures under Klinsmann, especially on the MLS side, but it’s still a bit surprising to see Chris Wondolowski and Nick Rimando.
Both are still among the best at their positions in Major League Soccer, and there can be few qualms with their inclusions aside from younger names missing out. There also needs to be a batch of players to show new guys the ropes, yes, even under a new boss.
With Jones and DaMarcus Beasley, there’s little question they still offer something at a higher class than what’s being left off the roster.
The call-ups of Wondolowski, Rimando, and Chad Marshall show that Arena’s focus is much more short-term, and that’s a hole dug by Klinsmann’s 0-2 start to World Cup qualifying. If the Yanks were 2-0, or had claimed four points from the first two matches, maybe we see Khiry Shelton, Tim Parker, or Bobby Shuttleworth instead.
Plus, the delicious irony and borderline sardonicism of a late rescue goal from Wondolowski in March is too much to pass up.