With the U.S. men’s national team ending their January camp with two narrow friendly wins over Iceland and Canada, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff will now be sitting back and thinking: “What did we learn? Who impressed? Who struggled?”
Or something like that.
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Each year the January camp provides domestic based players — mostly from Major League Soccer but a sprinkling of other guys too — with the chance to impress Klinsmann and his staff in close quarters for multiple weeks in California. Many current U.S. regulars earned their stripes in January’s gone by and have established themselves ever since.
This January was no different as the experienced core of players — Michael Bradley, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore among them — showed their class and several promising players worked hard to get minutes in the friendlies.
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However, despite some glimmers of hope from youngsters such as Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter, what we learned about the USMNT heading into the two CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March is that the established players remain the best hope for success. Sure, the likes of John Brooks is impressing in the Bundesliga, Matt Miazga sealed a move to Chelsea and Lee Nguyen took his chance in January camp, but the old guard should remain in place through this next batch of World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala home and away on Mar. 25 and 29 and the Copa America Centenario this summer.
Question marks remain regarding some veterans, which could keep the situation a little more fluid than it should be.
One of those is Tim Howard with speculation of him moving away from Everton mounting plus a straight-up battle between Howard and Brad Guzan for the starting spot, while Clint Dempsey‘s status with the national team still seems to be somewhat clouded. Overall, though, the settled core of players who played together at the World Cup — plus or minus a few who have performed consistently over the last 18 months — should be kept together by Klinsmann. During last summer’s Gold Cup disappointment there was plenty of experimenting, especially in defense, but now is the time to settle things down and realize the following guys are the players you should count on going forward.
Below is my selection — feel free to select your own in the comments section — for the best XI available to Klinsmann, plus seven subs, assuming everyone is fit and available.
USMNT’s Best XI as of Feb. 9, 2016
—– Howard —–
— F. Johnson — Cameron — Besler — Ream —
—- Bradley —- Williams —-
—- Bedoya —- Dempsey —- Zardes —-
—– Altidore —–
Subs: Guzan, Brooks, Jones, Yedlin, Nagbe, Morris, Johannsson