USMNT interim coach Dave Sarachan’s January camp roster was unveiled Monday, approximately coinciding with the news that prized 18-year-old center midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez is choosing the Mexican NT over the US. Gonzalez, born in 1999, was a year-long starter for Liga MX regular season champions Monterrey and was named to the league best XI.
Reports of miscommunication as well as the reality that Mexico is in the World Cup and the United States wasn’t were potential factors. Losing him is a massive failure and a blow to the future of our national team, even if it may have been inevitable.
Despite Gonzalez, there is some positivity (a rare thing in US Soccer these days!) to be found in this January camp roster. It features almost entirely MLS players due to the lack of an international window, thus why players like DeAndre Yedlin, Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie were not included. But Sarachan called in plenty of promising young players that could feature prominently in the 2022 cycle.
The most important storylines and players from the roster:
Ramirez joins open competition at forward
After years of extremely productive goalscoring in the NASL and, in 2017, in MLS over the past four years, Minnesota United striker Christian Ramirez finally cracked a US roster. At age 26, he’s a late bloomer, but he puts the ball in the net, and for a team without obvious heirs to the Jozy Altidore-Clint Dempsey throne, he can be valuable.
Ramirez is one of six forwards on the roster. Dom Dwyer and Jordan Morris, MLS starters who have been stalwart fringe players for months, highlight the striker pool, alongside Philadelphia Union breakout CJ Sapong (who played well in Portugal two months ago) and Juan Agudelo, a talented 25-year-old who needs a defined role in New England for the Revs.
The wild-card is Rubio Rubin, an unattached 21-year-old that went to Europe in 2014 and has, uh, not had a good time.
Good wingers? Maybe?
Of the 11 midfielders called to this camp, about four or five are decidedly outside midfielders. This has been a weak spot for the USMNT for a while now.
Paul Arriola is good, and Brooks Lennon, 20, received playing time for Real Salt Lake last year, giving us a couple of talented wingers to hopefully develop into solid Pulisic counterparts. 26-year-old Gyasi Zardes is probably not that, though, after he had about as bad a season as a soccer player can have in 2017, and Colorado Rapids speedster Marlon Hairston arguably projects better as a full back.
I hope, and I don’t think I’m alone here, that Kelyn Rowe starts as a No. 10 in the January 28 friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
These players will make you forget about Gonzalez
Okay, maybe not. But there are a lot of good center mids on this roster!
Tyler Adams can play a number of positions (he projects as either a No. 6 or No. 8). He is joined by Columbus captain and d-mid Wil Trapp, D.C. United 6/8s Russell Canouse and Ian Harkes, Toronto FC No. 8 Marky Delgado, and Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan.
Trapp, a possession No. 6 who is smart on the ball and can facilitate distribution, had a great 2017, as did Delgado, a key cog next to Michael Bradley on the best team in MLS. Roldan continues to grow, and at 22, he emerged as one of the most important players on a very good Sounders team.
Canouse and especially Harkes have room to improve, but they clearly have talent. And when you consider the guys who had to be left off the roster (notably McKennie and Kellyn Acosta, who isn’t here because FC Dallas didn’t release their players), it should give you hope.
The new full back generation is here
DeAndre Yedlin has the right back spot locked up for the indefinite future, but actually having other good full backs has not been a thing since DaMarcus Beasley got old. The crew of five on this roster aims to change that, as will 21-year-old Levante right back Shaq Moore, who played 90 minutes away at Barcelona over the weekend.
Chicago Fire duo Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster join TFC wing-back Justin Morrow, San Jose 23-year-old Nick Lima and RSL Youth Movement member Danilo Acosta. This is good news.
Americans are still good at goalie
Jesse Gonzalez, the FC Dallas star, won’t be there, but three of the four keepers in southern California for this camp are potential long-term solutions. Bill Hamid, who recently joined FC Midtjylland from D.C. United, is arguably the best in the pool, and MLS Cup winner Alex Bono (I’m still not all that high on him, but he played well for TFC) is capable. Zack Steffen — you’ll remember him from when he went off in the postseason for Columbus — will be interesting to watch on the international level.
Cody Cropper of New England also made it there. He has a long way to go to make it to the level of the three above.