U.S. players with most to gain in Portugal

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Attaching significant weight to the first friendly after a generation-punching defeat is a bit tricky, but the United States men’s national team Tuesday friendly against Portugal is an opportunity to bring some light to a dour fan base.

Not to mention the federation could use a fine “all’s not lost” 90 minutes or so following the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

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For some players, it’s a last chance to make an improved impression on not Big Sam, not Big Sam, not Big Sam whoever might be thinking of leading this team in the future. For others, it’s an opportunity to state their claims to spot in the future while also getting some rare run in Europe, where scouts will certainly be checking out the brightest young Portuguese prospects as well.

Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town) — The 28-year-old center mid is getting regular run in the Premier League, and was criminally overlooked by Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann. While we can debate the merits of each staff’s wedding to Michael Bradley in the center of the park, there won’t be too much room for veterans in the young and promising center midfield pack moving forward.

And, in case you forgot, he’s not just a nasty tackling man:

The goalkeeper(s) — Bill Hamid (27 later this month) is the oldest of the bunch, but whoever earns the start for Dave Sarachan’s men has a chance and the opponent to demand a place in the team moving forward. While this could be the trio for some time aside from a Tim Howard testimonial or Brad Guzan renaissance, here’s a first chance to lay claim to the top spot.

Kelyn Rowe — Rowe had an outstanding Gold Cup, and Arena rewarded him by keeping him nowhere near the squad for the rest of his second tenure as USMNT bench boss. It’s not apple to apple, Rowe gets a look over Nagbe here, and has proven over time to be better at crossing and is dispossessed less. The diminutive 25-year-old is also one of the good guys off the field, and worthy of the chance.

Juan Agudelo — Rowe’s New England teammate is still just 24, but has wasted so many chances to become a big part of the USMNT. Sixteen of his 26 caps came before he turned 20. Here’s his timeline with the USMNT:

Nov. 2010 – Oct. 2011 — 16 caps, 2 goals, assist
Nov. 2011 – Oct. 2012 — No caps
Nov. 2012 – Jan. 2013 – 2 caps, 53 minutes, assist
Feb. 2013 – March 2015 – 1 cap, five minutes
April 2015 – June 2015 – 2 caps, assist
July 2015 – Oct. 2016 – No caps
Oct. 2016 – Feb. 2017 – 3 caps
March 2017 – June 2017 – No caps
July 2017 – Sept. 2017 – 3 caps
Sept. 2017 – present – No caps

At some point, the caps stop coming.