With the U.S. national team currently in Miami in camp ahead of their first two 2018 World Cup qualifiers, Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad will has a very mixed look to it.
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Veteran forward Clint Dempsey has been left out so Klinsmann can give his young forwards a chance to shine, while other more experienced players such as Alejandro Bedoya, Danny Williams, Nick Rimando and Aron Johansson are all missing for one reason or another.
Coming off the back of a disappointing few months with the fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the CONCACAF Cup defeat to Mexico and plenty of talk about Klinsmann’s position as head coach, it’s a big international break for plenty of these players.
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Here’s a look at those who have the most to gain and lose over the next 10 days of World Cup qualifiers.
EVERYTHING TO GAIN
Brek Shea – After an injury-hit first season back in MLS with expansion side Orlando City, these two games represent a big chance for Shea to lock down that left back spot once and for all. He has plenty of attacking flair (remember that free kick against Switzerland last year?) and he’s still just 26.
Bill Hamid – With Rimando out through injury, the D.C. United goalkeeper has a chance to stake his claim as a serious challenge for the No. 1 jersey. Yes, he will have to bide his time, but with Tim Howard not getting any younger and some questioning his performances for Everton, plus Brad Guzan criticized by some during the Gold Cup, maybe Hamid gets a look in the opening qualifier. His form for D.C. this season has been sublime.
Matt Miazga – An obvious couple of guys coming up, but the first of the two uncapped players on this roster has everything in his locker to succeed. Miazga is only 20 but both Klinsmann and his trusted assistant, Andi Herzog, rate him highly. Herzog told me so on a recent trip to England as the New York Red Bulls center back has made a rapid ascension through the U.S. national team setup. Let’s see how he handles the step up but he’s calm on the ball and a move to Europe beckons.
Darlington Nagbe – Another newbie, Nagbe, 25, finally has that U.S. citizenship and Klinsmann couldn’t wait to call him up. Here’s a guy the U.S. has been screaming out for. Able to get on the ball and create in midfield and in the final third, Liberian-born Nagbe is itching for the chance to represent the USMNT. His chance has arrived and it’s safe to say he will be around for quite some time.
ON THE EDGE
Miguel Ibarra – Okay, so Ibarra is obviously talented but we haven’t seen his pace and trickery in his brief outings for the U.S. Now is the time to step up. The former Minnesota United forward has only played 126 minutes this season for new side Club Leon in Liga MX. It’s now or never for the 25-year-old.
Kyle Beckerman – It’s easy to pick on one of the veterans but it was genuinely quite a surprise to see Beckerman called back up for the U.S. I love his feel of the game and ability to slow things down and dictate the tempo. However, he is 33 and time seems to be catching up with him. Between Beckerman and Jermaine Jones coming towards the end of their careers, the USA’s midfield will have a very different look in the months ahead.
Mix Diskerud – Look, I like Mix and what he brings to the party but with Nagbe coming in as a creator, you have to think there is pressure on Mix. The Norwegian-American midfielder had a so-so first season in MLS with New York City FC (3 goals in 22 appearances) and despite scoring six times in 36 games for the USA, you wonder when he will get the chance to become a regular starter.
Ventura Alvarado – The Mexican-American defender has come under plenty of criticism after the Gold Cup and after losing his starting spot in central defense to Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron, he’s another player who could be looking from the outside in upcoming squads. Especially given the emergence of Miazga and Tim Ream making his way back into the national team setup. Only 23, Klinsmann sees something there but Alvarado has to show he’s learning from some of the rough defeats he’s been a part of recently.