It’s crunch time for the U.S. Men’s National Team and the rest of CONCACAF as the federation’s six best teams prepare to face off for the chance to head to 2018 World Cup in Russia.
While the USMNT’s upcoming opponents — Cuba and New Zealand — aren’t the biggest threats on paper, many of the selections in Jurgen Klinsmann’s current group have one final impression they can leave on the manager ahead of the team’s November 11 date with Mexico.
Let’s take a look at three players that can greatly improve or hurt their stock heading into the Hexagonal.
The New York Red Bulls midfielder is having a historic season for the current Eastern Conference leaders. With 17 assists to go along with his six goals this season, Kljestan has proven to be a dual-threat for Jesse Marsch’s side. His play with the USMNT back in September further his case that he should be given a spot in the team, but this is his last chance to show Klinsmann that he is a perfect fit.
One area that U.S. has been lacking at for quite some time is in the attacking midfield. While players like Clint Dempsey have filled the role over recent years, Kljestan fits the perfectly and understands the nuisances of it. His play against both Saint Vincent and Trinidad & Tobago provided a glimpse of what the USMNT can be moving forward, particularly with his link-up play alongside Christian Pulisic.
If anyone has already replaced Landon Donovan and Dempsey as the future of U.S. Soccer it’s undoubtedly Pulisic. His talent speaks for itself, while his potential cannot truly be measured solely because the USMNT has never seen a player of his capabilities come through the ranks. From the outside, Pulisic is on pace to become the best American player of all-time simply because of what team he plays on.
Coming into the 2016/17 season, the biggest question surrounding the Borussia Dortmund attacker was in regards to how much playing time Pulisic would receive. Despite several high-profile additions, manager Thomas Tuchel has had no reservations in consistently playing and even starting the 18-year-old.
Pulisic really can’t hurt his stock because we already know that barring something catastrophic he is going to be a bright force for both club and country for years to come. However, a strong showing in the upcoming matches could push Klinsmann towards starting Pulisic in the Hex and possibly in 2018, if the U.S. qualifies.
The 20-year-old has quietly gone about his business this season in the Premier League, but there’s a reason that Gooch has already earned four starts for Sunderland. It’s very true that the Black Cats may not be the ideal situation for a young player because of the team’s struggles, however, Gooch has already proven that he can make an impact as a two-way player.
Gooch certainly isn’t as far along in his development as someone like Pulisic but he’ll have his opportunity in front of Klinsmann to show that he can make an impact moving forward. Even if he isn’t starting 90 minutes against Mexico next month, Klinsmann and the U.S. do need reliable options to fall back on off the bench. Gooch absolutely has the capabilities to be that type of player while he continues his ascent to stardom.Follow @MattReedFutbol