They won’t play a competitive match until the Gold Cup in 2019 and are currently under an interim manager in Dave Sarachan, whom no one believes is a long-term candidate for the job. The next coach shouldn’t be hired until after the 2018 World Cup, which will also be after the suddenly hotly-contested race for the U.S. Soccer presidency.
But though it’s possible most fans might still be in too much shock to care, there’s a friendly next Tuesday in Portugal. Plenty of people were waiting to see just how the USMNT would look, given the relative pointlessness of the affair as well as its timing, falling right in the middle of the MLS postseason. There were calls for an influx of young talent, players who are more likely to still be a part of the next version of the national team that matters in a few years.
Those fans were likely happy with some of the names on the roster, released today by U.S. Soccer:
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 3/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 1/0)
DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 32/3), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sheffield United/ENG; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 13/1), Matt Miazga (Vitesse/NED; 3/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 26/1), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 14/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 48/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 16/1), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 65/2), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG; 2/0), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 0/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town/ENG; 22/2)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 26/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 3/2), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 2/0), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher; 0/0)
That’s an admirably young mix of players, with a few veterans thrown in. Still, it does feature a few players the team probably could have used throughout the Hex, had Bruce Arena not decided to lean on a heavy veteran mix that failed to get the job done.
A Few Interesting Names By Position:
With Brad Guzan and Tim Howard likely finished playing meaningful matches, this position is as up for grabs as it’s been in, well, 25 years? (Howard should definitely be done, no offense to the legend, and though Guzan could still be playing come 2019/2020, he should probably be done too.) Going back to Tony Meola in 1994, the goalkeeper position has always had a lock starter (or a few lock starter candidates), along with heirs apparent backing them up. Meola/Keller/Friedel/Keller/Howard, essentially.
That time is over, however, and the next contender needs to emerge, yet who that candidate is will probably have to wait until the next full-time manager is hired. This group gets the first shot to impress, though, and whoever ends up in goal might have a lot of work to do against Portugal, even though Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be playing.
The defense has the most experienced group of players called in, while still being a relatively youthful bunch. That’s thanks to the presence of John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin, two players who, at 24, should still be key cogs throughout the next five years. There’s still a decent amount of youth, though, especially with centerbacks Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga, two of the team’s brightest prospects. In fact, along with Brooks, it might make sense for the USMNT to consider going with three at the back, although that kind of formation experimentation will be more the purview of the eventual full-time manager.
Christian Pulisic didn’t get called in here, and that makes sense. Frankly, Pulisic should probably get an extended break from the national team. Minimizing wear and tear and helping ensure he remains a fixture at Dortmund (or even a bigger club, should he move) is more important than playing meaningless friendlies. The names people will focus on: Weston McKennie, the other 19-year-old American midfielder making regular starts in the Bundesliga, and Tyler Adams, the 18-year-old New York Red Bulls midfielder who shined during the U-20 World Cup before regularly playing well in MLS.
Kelyn Rowe impressed during the Gold Cup, and could be a creative presence for this particular roster. Danny Williams is also, finally, rewarded for putting in decent performances for surprsie Premier League darling Huddersfield Town.
Aside from 24-year-old Bobby Wood, it’s hard to see the forwards who made up most of the failed qualifying run making much of an impact going forward. Clint Dempsey is clearly too old to make more than a cameo farewell, Chris Wondolowski is both not good enough and too old, and at this point, would anyone be upset if Jozy Altidore never played for the national team again?
That sounds like a ridiculous statement, and Altidore did just turn 28, but what does he really bring the team in friendlies for two years? Veteran leadership like he displayed this weekend when he was booted from an MLS playoff game for a tunnel altercation? That’s probably an overreaction, and if Toronto FC had been elminated he might very well have been on this roster. But his place shouldn’t be assured.
Instead, the United States called in an interesting mix of players. The headliner is probably Josh Sargent, the 17-year-old striker who already has a deal to join Werder Bremen when he turns 18. Sargent played in both the U-20 and U-17 World Cups this year, becoming the youngest player to ever score at the U-20 edition. Dom Dwyer just turned 27, and is therefore pushing the upper end of players who might still be around in 2022, but there are a few tournaments between now and then, and as we just saw, the team has to qualify for the damn thing.
C.J. Sapong has actually been the best American goalscorer this season in MLS, and though like Altidore he’s 28, there’s a dearth of striker candidates and Sapong has earned at least a look. He probably should have been given nods over Wondo for most of this cycle, as resident MLS goalscorer, but Wondo is apparently the most beloved locker-room presence of all time.
And hey, Juan Agudelo is here, and still just 24! That’s nice!
Overall, it’s an admirable pivot to young players for the USMNT, including some names for whom fans have been clamoring. Rightly so, in some cases.
— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) November 7, 2017
A few people have been annoyed by the inclusion of veteran players like Bedoya, Ream, Lichaj, etc. But at a certain point, you have to call in a few veteran players. The United States isn’t quite deep enough to build an entire roster out of young competitive players, and throwing an entirely uncompetitive team out there isn’t the best way for young players to get anything out of a match, which is the entire point of the friendly.
A friendly also features six subs, meaning we’ll probably see quite a bit of roster change throughout the match. And it’s a great sign that some of these players are coming through at their ages. For a long time, U.S. Soccer has lagged when it came to prospects on the aging curve. Where other nations had players breaking into first teams at 18 and 19, the United States had players breaking in at 22 and 23. That’s not a recipe for sustained international success.
Pulisic’s development is a success story, but it doesn’t mean that much if no one follows him down that path. Based on this roster, we might get to see some of the top candidates sooner rather than later. That’s not quite a replacement for a trip to the World Cup, but it’s better than nothing.