Hours after his side’s 6-0 thrashing of Honduras to resuscitate dreams of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Bruce Arena announced on Saturday five changes to the U.S. national team roster ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Panama.
John Brooks (sinus infection), Sebastian Lletget (foot), Jordan Morris (knee) and Michael Orozco (knee) were all released back to their club teams, while Club Tijuana midfielder Paul Arriola was added to the squad.
Brooks dealt with the sinus infection throughout USMNT camp this past week, as Morris did his knee injury which he picked up last weekend. Lletget left Friday’s win over Honduras in the 18th minute and will undergo further tests to determine the severity of his injury; he was seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a walking boot.
The USMNT’s roster for Tuesday’s qualifier in Panama City, Panama, now stands at 23 players, and reads as follows:
Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (LA Galaxy), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Timmy Chandler — The Eintracht Frankfurt has struggled at nearly every turn for the USMNT, but should still get a look from Arena given that he’s playing week-in, week-out for a top half Bundesliga team and Klinsmann was using him slightly out of position. Then again, Arena could turn on any given USMNT match that featured Chandler and say, “No way.”
Michael Orozco (right) — At center back, Arena knows he has better options all over Major League Soccer (Tim Hedges, Walker Zimmerman, etc.). At fullback, same.
William Yarbrough and Ethan Horvath — I think Horvath is a possible long-term USMNT starter, but we bet Arena is going down the list of MLS keepers with glee (See “Stock up” for who).
Young guys — Unless you’re Christian Pulisic or some other exceptionally gifted young player already operating at a high level, this isn’t a good sign. Arena had a reputation for taking a while to break younger guys into the fold. This could also be something that changes. Arena said Tuesday that the player pool is better than ever before, and guys like Cameron Carter-Vickers (Spurs) and Julian Green (Bayern Munich) are an injury away from featuring regularly for top clubs. That matters (we think).
Eric Lichajand Jonathan Spector — Mainstays for their Championship clubs, the pair never got love from Jurgen Klinsmann (and we heard his displeasure with DeAndre Yedlin moving to England’s second tier with Newcastle). Lichaj has played nearly everywhere for Nottingham Forest, and Spector’s been a Birmingham City mainstay. Both could, and should, get looks.
Landon Donovan (but, really, all Galaxy players) — Who knows who Arena really trusts, but if he’s looking to plug a hole who better to ring than someone he’s worked with on a day-to-day basis for ages? We saw this with Michail Antonio during Sam Allardyce‘s short stay at West Ham.
We’re sure there are several Galaxy players who didn’t receive call-ups under Klinsmann, much to the chagrin of Arena. Maybe he adores Daniel Steres, or Sebastian Lletget (speaking of West Ham). You can count on Gyasi Zardes. Now, about Alan Gordon…
As for Donovan, he’s undecided on whether he’ll continue his “unretirement” into 2017. But if he does, we’ve seen what veteran guys like Carlos Ruiz and Christian Bolanos can mean in CONCACAF qualifying.
Bill Hamid, Luis Robles, David Bingham — When it comes to sitting behind and perhaps challenging Brad Guzan and Tim Howard, we expect Arena is going to take his domestic looks first. And several of these names, including the veteran Robles, will have a January camp devoid of European competition to impress Arena.
Benny Feilhaber — This one’s obvious, as he was mentioned in conference call and Klinsmann had no interest in the Sporting KC midfielder. Yes he’s older and probably not going to overtake Sacha Kljestan, but getting even a moment’s consideration is stock up from the Klinsmann era.
Dax McCarty (right) — We doubt Arena is ready to pull the plug on Michael Bradley and even Jermaine Jones, but McCarty has long deserved a return to the fold, if only for a look-see.
Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman — Arena watched FC Dallas’ center back duo help shutout his Galaxy over 180 minutes of October ball. And Zimmerman scored the lone goal in one of the matches.
Dom Dwyer — He can apply for U.S. citizenship in 2017, and has had a bit of luck against Arena’s Galaxy. The coach has praised Dwyer as a scorer in the past.
Some other MLS-based names who have had some success against Arena’s Galaxy this year: Keegan Rosenberry, Fatai Alashe, Jordan Morris, Lamar Neagle, Kelyn Rowe.
The reality check was a stiff one for those who believe the United States of America should compete on the same level with the world’s best, and overshadowed what was a goal-meeting, encouraging run into the Final Four of a legendary and difficult tournament.
For those who see the USMNT as a project, it was still tough to swallow. A semifinal is a terrific result, but could tactics have helped against Argentina? Were these our best players? Should we have expected more from Jurgen Klinsmann?
And what about the players? That’s the question we’ll answer today, as we evaluate the USMNT’s 23 men from a memorable tournament.
Kyle Beckerman Tournament dossier: 4 matches, 1 start, 90 mins total He’s served the States well in the past, but his days being useful against dangerous attacking teams seem behind him. Woeful in a tough spot against Argentina (Rating: 4.5)
Alejandro Bedoya Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 399 mins 3 shots, 2 yellow cards, 10 fouls committed, 2 fouls suffered An integral part of the team and a big reason the Argentina match was lopsided, Bedoya nonetheless did not have the impact we’ve come to expect from the Nantes man (Rating: 6)
Matt Besler Tournament dossier: 2 matches, 2 starts, 180 mins Did a job under tough circumstances, and could be a left back option for the 2018 World Cup if no one steps forward (Rating: 6)
Steve Birnbaum Tournament dossier: 2 matches, 31 mins Limited appearances, and one big mistake. Happy to go with letters here for a promising player (Rating: N/A)
John Brooks Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 450 mins It’s too early to say he’s come into his own, but Brooks belonged on the all-tournament team after showing a lot more wisdom in positions and decisions. (Rating: 9)
Michael Bradley Tournament dossier: 6 matches, 6 starts, 529 mins 2 shots His 12 crosses were almost unrivaled on the team, with DeAndre Yedlin the only other player with more than four (eight). The motor was still going for one of the country’s all-time players, but at times he was surprisingly bewildered. The giveaways were alarming, and perhaps there’s an argument for using him further up the pitch. Offensive production was limited. (Rating: 5)
Geoff Cameron Tournament dossier: Played every minute Versatile and at times dominant, Cameron showed us he could’ve been the difference in last summer’s Gold Cup. (Rating: 8)
Clint Dempsey Tournament dossier: 6 matches, 6 starts, 460 mins
3 goals, 2 assists, 19 shots, 7 on goal
Does this guy live for the summer or what? The ex-Fulham and Spurs man buried big shot after big shot one year after scoring a career best nine international goals. Consider these numbers:
Before Klinsmann: 22 goals in 75 caps
After Klinsmann: 30 goals in 55 caps (Rating: 9)
Brad Guzan Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 450 mins, 18 saves Led the tournament in saves and starred in several matches, including the stirring win over Paraguay, but had a couple rough matches along the way. Overall, he was strong enough to suit the side’s needs. (Rating: 6.5)
Tim Howard Tournament dossier: 1 match, 1 start, 90 mins Only got to play one game as the younger Guzan gets every chance to show he can be a World Cup starter. Was dynamite (Rating: 8)
Fabian Johnson Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 450 mins, four shots Some fits and starts for the left back, which is understandable considering how often he plays left wing for his club. That said, as we’ve seen with David Alaba at Austria, as a star and versatile player you have to fill the biggest need for your national team. Johnson did fine with that (Rating: 7)
Jermaine Jones Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 388 mins, 1 goal, 1 assist, 5 shots, two yellow cards, red card Loses a point for his red card, which looks worse and worse upon review. Still, he’s shown an ageless quality in athleticism, his guile is emblematic of the team, and he’s going to make the World Cup roster unless the USMNT fails to make the tourney or he suffers a major injury (Rating: 7)
Darlington Nagbe Tournament dossier: 3 matches, 47 mins Has the misfortune of being behind a well-function three-man midfield, and has done well enough for us to ask whether he’ll get a look over or next to Bradley in the next friendly.
Michael Orozco Tournament dossier: 2 matches, 1 start, 129 mins, two yellow cards While we still would’ve liked to see Eric Lichaj or another full back who could hold his own over Orozco, he didn’t kill anything. Yes, even with his silly red card against Colombia (Rating: 5).
Christian Pulisic Tournament dossier: 3 matches, 85 mins Looked dangerous, promising, lovely… and 17. Will be a force one day, and the experience will help him (Rating: 6)
Chris Wondolowski Tournament dossier: 2 matches, 1 start, 57 mins His form in MLS hinted that he might be able to do a job for the Yanks, but he was statuesque at times and unfit as a hold-up player at the Copa America Centenario level. We don’t want to beat down one of the all-time good stories in USMNT, so let’s move onto this —
Please get well soon: Aron Johannsson, Terrence Boyd or Jozy Altidore.
See you soon: Jordan Morris, Jerome Kiesewetter
Improve: Julian Green, Fafa Picault
Please write letters to Jurgen: C.J. Sapong, Mike Grella, maybe even Will Bruin (Rating: 3.5)
Bobby Wood Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 399 mins, 1 goal, 5 shots, 13 fouls suffered, 11 committed If Wood’s finish was on point, he would’ve potted 4-5 goals and been the breakout start of the tournament. That aside, he was borderline dominant and the embodiment of what U.S. fans want to see in their strikers (You know, aside from the goals) (Rating: 8).
DeAndre Yedlin Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 5 starts, 408 mins red card, nine fouls committed He’s much, much improved and still has a long way to go. The motor is fine, and the speed is wonderful. You can tell he gained savvy in defense under Sam Allardyce at Sunderland, but still has to learn tricks of the trade like when a player like Carlos Bacca is going to give that little tug that pushes him to a razor-thin goal (Rating: 6.5)
Graham Zusi Tournament dossier: 5 matches, 1 start, 138 mins 1 goal, 1 shot on goal Not going to be the first name on the team sheet any time soon, but could prove to be one of the unsung heroes of a dicey time in USMNT history. His work in the big win over Guatemala kickstarted a rebirth of sorts that prove Klinsmann knows he has an asset in Zusi (Rating: 6).
Gyasi Zardes Tournament dossier: 6 matches, 6 starts, 539 mins
1 goal, 1 assist, 6 shots, 11 fouls suffered The most difficult player to judge in American soccer history? Klinsmann keeps trotting the big man out there despite matches where his body never catches up to his brain. It’s clear he has a great understanding of the game and is improving in wonderful ways. If only his first touch — which is not being criticized too harshly, could improve a bit — he’d be a 1-2 punch with Zardes that would overwhelm most back lines in CONCACAF. (Rating: 6)
The side will have an injection of talent and first-choice players for this week’s Copa America Centenario preparation matches against Bolivia and Ecuador, and those will deserve some real inspection. But for today, three things will do.
Bobby Wood up to plenty of good
It’s been so long since we saw an in-form club striker bring that confidence to the United States set up. Even if the opponent was Puerto Rico, it was refreshing to watch Bobby Wood put in more than an hour of “Nope. You’re not stopping me” up top.
The new Hamburg forward sounded like a veteran after scoring his fifth international goal, a bullish run through the box complete with a calm finish in the face of chaos.
“We’re just looking forward to gradually growing as a team. We’re going to take it step by step and hopefully reach our peak by the Copa.”
If he’s not at his peak already, we’re in for something special.
Good day for debutants
Both Paul Arriola and substitute Fafa Picault made their international debuts, and both did plenty to impress.
Arriola was especially solid. The diminutive Club Tijuana winger worked well with Wood, showed a nose for where the ball was going, and even tapped in a goal to go with his assist.
As for Picault, we only got a limited sample size of the St. Pauli man, but he showed good speed and plenty of unpredictability. Given the opponent and a longer stint, a goal would’ve felt inevitable.
Defense/goalkeeper in fits and starts
Michael Orozco wasn’t an absolute nightmare this go-round, but he didn’t inspire a lot of faith that he could be an answer if Geoff Cameron or John Brooks pick up a knock during next month’s tournament. DeAndre Yedlin had a good turn at right back, and has definitely scooped up confidence from his time at Sunderland. Tim Ream scored a goal, but the Fulham man didn’t have his best days on the outside. Eric Lichaj showed us what we’re missing at left back, but Klinsmann didn’t include either in his Copa roster.
We know Brad Guzan is a pretty good ‘keeper in his own right, and he also has experience playing behind leaky back lines (Cough. Aston Villa. Cough), but he was way off his line on Puerto Rico’s goal. Still, we want to see a strong performance against either Ecuador or Bolivia, because right now there’s not confidence oozing from the big veteran. Tim Howard wasn’t really tested as the No. 2.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s 23-man roster for next month’s Copa America Centenario was destined to raise some eyebrows, and the USMNT boss did not disappoint with the 17 names removed by his winnowing fan.
Jordan Morris, Danny Williams and Matt Miazga all didn’t make the roster. Chris Wondolowski, Michael Orozco and Timmy Chandler did, as U.S. fans will have plenty to discuss while a very different “transitional” roster faces Puerto Rico at Noon today.
Let’s being with Morris, not because the 21-year-old is the most important omission but because it raised the most eyebrows. While the Seattle Sounders striker has started scoring lately, picking up his first four professional goals, Klinsmann opted for Major League Soccer’s second leading scorer in Wondolowski.
Klinsmann cited experience, and certainly “Wondo’s” 10 goals in 31 caps are superior to Morris’ one in nine. While Morris is one for the future, Klinsmann feels the need to win now, and how’s this for a nagging little thought of pure speculation: Could this have anything to do with Morris choosing his Sounders deal over a contract offer from Werder Bremen?
Orozco’s inclusion does come with actual playing time for his club team. His last call-up came despite no action in months for Club Tijuana, but he’s played 90 minutes in his last three matches — two of them clean sheets — at right, center and left back. Chandler’s mercurial form for club and country somehow makes his inclusion riskier than Orozco.
It’s very surprising that either would make the club over Edgar Castillo, who helped shore up the Yanks’ left back position in the important win over Guatemala. Frankly, the area is a massive concern for the USMNT, which is probably while Klinsmann is opting to include Fabian Johnson as a defender. With both Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin on the flanks, there’s a lot of attacking potential.
Now should we make anything of Klinsmann’s listing of the midfielders and forwards in one group? Normally I’d think there’s something to it, and perhaps the coach is thinking “false nine” in the absence of Jozy Altidore. This could mean one last big shout for Clint Dempsey.
Here’s two early guesses at a lineup Klinsmann could test in friendlies against Bolivia and Ecuador.