Captain and star striker David Villa accepted honors on Tuesday as the Landon Donovan MLS MVP after notching 23 goals and four assists for the Eastern Conference, but outside of the Spaniard the team will have several noticeable holes that need plugging prior to next season.
NYCFC manager Patrick Vieira proved to be a strong hire in his first season with the club, but his potential success moving forward will be dictated by how he and technical director Claudio Reyna fill out the rest of the roster.
Key pieces such as Frank Lampard and Andoni Iraola have since left the club after providing stability in the midfield this past season, while Jason Hernandez, Claudio Bravo and Steven Mendoza were among the other roster casualties following the team’s first playoff appearance in 2016.
While Vieira admits losing players like Lampard certainly presents a challenge, the Frenchman believes that NYCFC can just as easily recruit more talented members in the buildup to next season.
“Of course we lost Frank [Lampard],” Vieira said. “We lose some other players as well. We have to bring some new players. Something that is very important to us is that we have to be better and we have to bring players that can match our targets and we have different options on the table.
“You would not believe how many players would love to play for New York City FC. We will have some difficult decisions to make and it’s important for us to bring the right people, like David, because it’s important to bring people who want to come, people who want to work hard, prepare to sacrifice themselves for the football club because we have to do well next year.”
As it stands, NYCFC currently has 18 players under contract ahead of the 2017 season, including two Designated Players (Villa and Andrea Pirlo).
One name that certainly jumps out on the list of 18 though is U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Mix Diskerud, who has seen more downs than ups in his two seasons in the Bronx. After making 27 appearances for NYCFC in the team’s inaugural season, Diskerud’s playing time was dwindled down significantly in 2016 under Vieira to just nine starts in 12 overall appearances.
The 26-year-old was the fourth-highest paid player on NYCFC in 2016 — making $761,250 — however, he scored just one goal and added two assists. The club is still looking to figure out the best way to handle the Diskerud situation though, according to Vieira.
“He’s looking for playing time,” Vieira said. “We’re having discussions with him and trying to find the best way to satisfy both Mix and ourselves.”
The Yanks, instead, gave Guatemala three in match No. 1 before taking a trio of their own on Tuesday. The U.S. is now in good position to advance, but no one’s doing backflips after this week.
That said, that first loss opened the door for several players to improve their World Cup stock. Naturally, several others will have found their chances significantly damaged by it.
Steve Birnbaum — Kind of surprising Birnbaum didn’t get a look ahead of Michael Orozco in the first match, but the latter’s implosion in Guatemala City allowed “Birdbomb” to get a home start on Tuesday. One of the stars of the Yanks’ winter wins over Iceland and Canada, Birnbaum moved up the depth chart a peg this break.
Geoff Cameron — This “stock up” is more in public perception than Jurgen Klinsmann’s mind, we think, because Cameron is a top-flight defender and has been for some time. He was dynamite against Guatemala in Columbus, and one of the only effective USMNT players in Guatemala City.
As the only full-time American field player in the Premier League before DeAndre Yedlin broke through on loan with Sunderland, Cameron can also adequately play defensive mid and right back. On a team without Michael Bradley, he just may be the captain.
Every player who wasn’t called up or was hurt — Life without John Brooks and Fabian Johnson wasn’t dandelions, let alone roses. Given the poor displays almost across the board on Friday, it’s not absurd to think players like Matt Hedges, Eric Lichaj, and Tim Ream are all looking a bit more attractive to Jurgen Klinsmann.
Mix Diskerud — It’s hard to imagine what’s become of Diskerud in a year. The midfielder came to New York City FC and has since struggled to play well for the national team. After scoring three goals for the U.S. in 2014, he’s since nabbed just a lone tally for the Stars and Stripes. Yes he was played out of position, but the jury remains out on Mix after seeing his first season’s production at NYC fail to meet his last season in Norway.
Michael Orozco — With plenty of respect to a veteran Liga MX defender and the fact that he shouldn’t have even been on the pitch for the USMNT after going months without first team football, Orozco had a terrible game alongside Omar Gonzalez in Guatemala City. At 30 and with Matt Miazga, Tim Parker and Cameron Carter-Vickers waiting in the wings, Orozco has probably done his last cap dance.
Gyasi Zardes — At 24, Zardes is unquestionably a remarkable talent when ‘on’. But at what point do we cross the line from “He’s inexperienced at a high level” to “He should really have a better first touch by now.” Zardes has a good head for positioning and works his tail off, and has three goals in his first 22 caps (just one since July). Given his playing time, shouldn’t it click soon? At least for the Galaxy? Still he was an integral part of two goals in the 4-0 win over Guatemala, and an international goal is an international goal almost regardless of where it’s scored.
UP Tim Parker — Up until his stamp in leg 2, Parker was the best player on the side. Ethan Horvath — The front-runner to be a long-term USMNT goalkeeper
DOWN Jordan Morris — His slow start to life in MLS moved onto the U-23 pitch Kellyn Acosta — Was played out of position, but that doesn’t excuse everything. Wil Trapp — Also a bit out-of-position, yet had little influence.
For one game, the USMNT will be without Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, the squad’s two most recent captains. The veteran duo will join up with the USMNT following their Major League Soccer games this weekend, which means a few extra minutes for a select few fringe players, most notably Danny Williams, Mix Diskerud, Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson.
Between Bradley’s late arrival and Kyle Beckerman’s absence from the squad, Williams figures to see major minutes alongside and/or replacing Jermaine Jones, who returns to the USMNT after three months out with a groin injury. Klinsmann says Jones will play against Peru, but is nowhere near 90-minutes fit.
GUZAN REMAINS NO. 1, HOWARD BACK AS NO. 2
Klinsmann confirmed this week that Brad Guzan will retain the no. 1 goalkeeper spot despite the return of longtime no. 1 Tim Howard following a year-long sabbatical post-2014 World Cup. Guzan, who assumed the no. 1 shirt in Howard’s absence and played every minute of the USMNT’s fourth-place finish at the Gold Cup, has been chosen to start in goal through the game against Mexico.
Welcome back, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez! Oh, how USMNT have missed you guys (Gonzalez was on the 2015 Gold Cup roster, but played sparingly). After watching John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado struggle to forge a reliable partnership over the Gold Cup’s three-plus weeks — and looking progressively worse in failing to do so — the return of battle-tested center backs like Besler and Cameron will have USMNT fans hoping a return to the bench is in short order for the early-20s duo for the future.
Hilariously enough, now that Cameron has won a starting center back job at Stoke City — something Klinsmann insisted necessary to be considered for the position with the USMNT — the 30-year-old will probably end up back at right back, at least in the short term, with Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler on the injured list. Cameron, of course, was Stoke’s regular starter at right back when he was told to win at job at center back.
The United States men’s national team is riding high after European soil wins over Netherlands and Germany, and supporters of the Yanks are looking forward to some “easier” matches ahead.
Looking at the States’ provisional roster for the Gold Cup, it’s clear that competition for places in a match day will be fierce. Some of that is due to Jurgen Klinsmann’s stubborn belief in certain players, while other players have nudged his hand with strong performances (We say nudged because we’re not sure Klinsmann’s hand is ever forced).
While most of the starters’ jobs aren’t up for debate when it comes to the tournament, which players stand to gain or lose the most come July, from a friendly against Guatemala on July 3 to the group stage versus Honduras, Haiti and Panama, and beyond?
1. Timmy Chandler
Look, Klinsmann obviously wants to give the Eintracht Frankfurt man every chance to be a starting back, but Chandler commits a minimum of one horrific gaffe a game. Sure, he’s capable of sublime crosses and also does at least one brilliant thing per match, but the U.S. manager isn’t a fool; There’s very little chance he’s been even half-pleased with Chandler.
2. Mix Diskerud
It’s not so much whether New York City’s rambunctious creative force can play a role for the States, but can he take the next step. Diskerud has taken a calculated risk in returning to Major League Soccer and is a prime candidate for a high-profile loan once the domestic season ends. He’s scored plenty for Klinsmann, but can he become “the man” to partner with Michael Bradley for a long time? Can he be the player who allows Klinsmann to slide Bradley a bit deeper in the formation?
3. Perry Kitchen
It’s easy to forget Kitchen is just 23, and his agent says he’s garnering interest from the Bundesliga amongst other clubs. While DC United fans won’t like to hear that, he seems destined for a shot at a “bigger” European opportunity should he cement himself in the U.S. lineup. Kyle Beckerman has looked ageless and defiant in the midfield, but Kitchen likely needs to unseat Beckerman in order to open the eyes of American supporters. Of the three, Kitchen is the only one who might not make the jump from 35-man provisional roster to the final 23, though we’re hopeful.
At some point soon, we need to have a discussion about Omar Gonzalez and John Anthony Brooks, too, but that’s a bit different than the topic of this post.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
Defenders: Ventura Alvarado (Club America), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Perry Kitchen (D.C. United), Alfredo Morales (FC Ingolstadt), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Jordan Morris (Stanford University), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Following last Friday’s thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Netherlands, Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT has a great deal of confidence ahead of this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup (July 7-26).
Without any further ado, player ratings for the USMNT’s 2-1 victory over the world champs…
GK — Brad Guzan: 7/10 — His save of Mario Gotze in the 31st minute kept the early deficit at one, allowing the late comeback to take place. A couple more strong saves shortly before the equalizer seemed to spread confidence throughout the team. Good luck winning “your job” back, Tim Howard.
LB — Fabian Johnson: 5.5/10 — The best of the four defenders in the first half, which isn’t saying a whole lot. The German goal began in Johnson’s part of the field, but his lack of closing down was hardly the most egregious error on the play.
CB — John Brooks: 5/10 — Wednesday was better from Brooks, but his tendency to fall asleep and leave massive areas of space wide open with some of the world’s best attackers (Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on Friday and Mario Gotze on Wednesday) has already and will continue to cost the U.S. at the highest level.
CB — Ventura Alvarado: 5/10 — Showed once again that he’s not yet ready to face the world’s top teams, but this week will be a very good learning experience for the 22-year-old in the end.
RB — Timothy Chandler: 3/10 — Speaking of the most egregious error on the German goal, what in the world is Chandler doing/where does he think he’s going? That’s inexcusable, and if we’re being honest, a sign that he isn’t fully committed to the team when he steps out on the field and/or simply not good enough for this level.
CM — Danny Williams: 5/10 — Came off at halftime following a subpar first half in which he was forced to run around like a chicken with his head cut off, thanks to the defensively failures of those in front of him. Somehow didn’t misplace a single pass in his 45 minutes on the field.
CM — Mix Diskerud: 6/10 — Scored the equalizer, but an unmitigated disaster defensively in the first half. Was pulled out wide to create massive passing lanes far too easily, which kept Williams, Johnson and Brooks under constant pressure. It could should have been 2-0 or 3-0 early, and Diskerud was a key cog in the breakdowns.
RM — Gyasi Zardes: 5.5/10 — The first half was a huge test for Zardes — whether or not he could figure out the narrower-sitting midfield position in the 4-4-2 diamond. It didn’t go so well, but looked better in the second half after moving up and using his size and strength in hold-up play very well.
CM — Michael Bradley: 7.5/10 — He’s not a No. 10, but on Wednesday you sure wouldn’t have known that based on his man-of-the-match performance. The ball over the top to Diskerud for the equalizer was poetry in motion, and not only does he manage to work himself out of trouble on numerous occasions every game, but he does the same for others around him as well.
FW — Juan Agudelo: 5/10 — The U.S. had so little of the ball in the first half that Agudelo had very little chance to affect the game in his limited action (came off at halftime). He still has to figure into the USMNT going forward (exceptional talent and all that), but this was his chance to stake a claim to a starting spot, and it just didn’t happen.
FW — Aron Johannsson: 5.5/10 — Johannsson was better than his nightmare against the Dutch, but showed once again why he’s also probably a better off the bench, thanks to his tendency to disappear for prolonged periods.
RM — DeAndre Yedlin: 6/10 — Not nearly the impact he had upon entering the game against the Dutch, but still brought more in terms of wing play than Chandler, the first-half right back, did on overlapping runs. In a way Yedlin gets credit for Chandler’s poor performance.
CM — Kyle Beckerman: 6.5/10 — Steady as ever (just three misplaced passes in 45 minutes, one of which was a 50-yard diagonal ball) and showed once again the difference between himself and any other defensive midfielder in the entire player pool. He’s an absolute lock for the Gold Cup, and a borderline guaranteed starter.
RB — Brad Evans: 6.5/10 — It was Evans’ pacy through ball that found Bobby Wood for the game-winner. Much like Yedlin, Evans is made to look better in the second half by Chandler’s struggles in the first 45.
CM — Alfredo Morales: 5/10 — Asked to serve as the left-sided shuttler upon entering the game in the 74th minute, Morales struggled to find his rhythm and connect passes. It’s pretty clear there’s only one position in which he’s serviceable, and unfortunately for him, Beckerman is currently holding onto that starting spot for dear life.
FW — Bobby Wood: 7/10 — I’m not really sure what else to say. There are certainly aspects of Wood’s game that make him an interesting prospect (he’s still only 22?!), but his finishing has long left much to be desired. His strike for the winner, a curled blast from nearly 25 yards, was pure perfection. Klinsmann has repeatedly called the kid in despite struggles for his club teams, yet Wood’s name is somewhat surprisingly absent from the Gold Cup roster.
FW — Jordan Morris: 6.5 — Jordan Morris comes off the bench for the U.S., and the kid changes games. That’s just what he does. Barely 20 seconds after entering the game on Wednesday, he went inches from scoring a winner of his own. He’s fearless, he’s ferocious and he’s confident. He runs at defenders, he turns defenders and he’s a better technician than most other (professional) forwards in the player pool. At this point, he almost has to be on the Gold Cup roster.