It’s funny how wild different results can swing a discussion.
Before last week, many United States soccer supporters would’ve gladly accepted four of six points from the qualifiers with Guatemala, knowing those results would’ve cleared its path to the Hex.
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The Yanks, instead, gave Guatemala three in match No. 1 before taking a trio of their own on Tuesday. The U.S. is now in good position to advance, but no one’s doing backflips after this week.
That said, that first loss opened the door for several players to improve their World Cup stock. Naturally, several others will have found their chances significantly damaged by it.
Steve Birnbaum — Kind of surprising Birnbaum didn’t get a look ahead of Michael Orozco in the first match, but the latter’s implosion in Guatemala City allowed “Birdbomb” to get a home start on Tuesday. One of the stars of the Yanks’ winter wins over Iceland and Canada, Birnbaum moved up the depth chart a peg this break.
Geoff Cameron — This “stock up” is more in public perception than Jurgen Klinsmann’s mind, we think, because Cameron is a top-flight defender and has been for some time. He was dynamite against Guatemala in Columbus, and one of the only effective USMNT players in Guatemala City.
As the only full-time American field player in the Premier League before DeAndre Yedlin broke through on loan with Sunderland, Cameron can also adequately play defensive mid and right back. On a team without Michael Bradley, he just may be the captain.
Every player who wasn’t called up or was hurt — Life without John Brooks and Fabian Johnson wasn’t dandelions, let alone roses. Given the poor displays almost across the board on Friday, it’s not absurd to think players like Matt Hedges, Eric Lichaj, and Tim Ream are all looking a bit more attractive to Jurgen Klinsmann.
Mix Diskerud — It’s hard to imagine what’s become of Diskerud in a year. The midfielder came to New York City FC and has since struggled to play well for the national team. After scoring three goals for the U.S. in 2014, he’s since nabbed just a lone tally for the Stars and Stripes. Yes he was played out of position, but the jury remains out on Mix after seeing his first season’s production at NYC fail to meet his last season in Norway.
Michael Orozco — With plenty of respect to a veteran Liga MX defender and the fact that he shouldn’t have even been on the pitch for the USMNT after going months without first team football, Orozco had a terrible game alongside Omar Gonzalez in Guatemala City. At 30 and with Matt Miazga, Tim Parker and Cameron Carter-Vickers waiting in the wings, Orozco has probably done his last cap dance.
Gyasi Zardes — At 24, Zardes is unquestionably a remarkable talent when ‘on’. But at what point do we cross the line from “He’s inexperienced at a high level” to “He should really have a better first touch by now.” Zardes has a good head for positioning and works his tail off, and has three goals in his first 22 caps (just one since July). Given his playing time, shouldn’t it click soon? At least for the Galaxy? Still he was an integral part of two goals in the 4-0 win over Guatemala, and an international goal is an international goal almost regardless of where it’s scored.
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Bonus stock ups and downs — U.S. U-23s
Tim Parker — Up until his stamp in leg 2, Parker was the best player on the side.
Ethan Horvath — The front-runner to be a long-term USMNT goalkeeper
Jordan Morris — His slow start to life in MLS moved onto the U-23 pitch
Kellyn Acosta — Was played out of position, but that doesn’t excuse everything.
Wil Trapp — Also a bit out-of-position, yet had little influence.