The United States men’s national team flamed out of World Cup qualifying with a humiliating loss to Trinidad and Tobago’s B Team, and won’t be participating in Russia this summer.
Every Mexico, Costa Rica, or Panama match will have us imagining the USMNT in their spots a summer after we were spared endless posts about which American player’s form was either costing them a place in Russia or lifting them into the discussion.
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But what if it didn’t? What if, like so 32 other nations, we were about to learn the names of the 23 men set to hit the World Cup pitch?
Spoiler alert: It’s difficult, especially because we’ve conditioned ourselves to the new reality of aiming for 2022.
Keeping in mind, of course, that Bruce Arena might’ve given DNA tests to see which U.S. players bled the truest American blood in some sort of modern day Bill the Butcher moment, and that the players would’ve responded differently to knowing Russia was an option, we go to a place of fair evaluation now (This isn’t saying it’s the side I’d choose, but the one I figure would be chosen by your typical U.S. manager).
The manager would opt to stay with the crew that got him to Russia, but bring Steffen over Bill Hamid and Ethan Horvath due to regular playing time.
Geoff Cameron, Stoke City
John Brooks, Wolfsburg
Matt Miazga, Vitesse (on loan from Chelsea)
DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United
Tim Ream, Fulham
Eric Lichaj, Nottingham Forest
Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt
Antonee Robinson, Bolton (on loan from Everton)
The first five are easy peasy, but it’s all questions after that. Young fullbacks Robinson and Shaq Moore (Levante) seem worth the shout, but veterans Graham Zusi or Matt Besler might get a shout. Our guess is someone out wide, with a youngster getting the call over Zusi.
Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund
Weston McKennie, Schalke
Michael Bradley, Toronto FC
Kenny Saief, Anderlecht
Paul Arriola, DC United
Tyler Adams, New York Red Bulls
Darlington Nagbe, Atlanta United
Ale Bedoya, Philadelphia Union
Injuries keep Danny Williams and Kellyn Acosta from claiming spots in Russia, while the Red Bulls’ Sean Davis is a victim of the numbers game.
Given the option of bringing PSG’s Tim Weah or Telstar’s Andriya Novakovich, the manager brings Clint Dempsey for experience and Zardes on form. Weah also could’ve claimed Adams’, Robinson’s or Bedoya’s place. Aron Johannsson might’ve made the club had Dempsey been out of the picture. Hard to know.