Yesterday, the USMNT announced the thirty-man squad for their January Camp in California, leading up to their friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina on January 28th.
With the United States Men’s National Team having failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, in a dark day for the nation, it seems to be that there is a new dawn. Just three of the thirty players in the squad were born before 1990.
Here is the squad that will train together in Carson over the next three weeks or so:
Goalkeepers: Alex Bono, Cody Cropper, Bill Hamid, Zack Steffen
Defenders: Danilo Acosta, Justen Glad, Nick Lima, Justin Morrow, Ike Opara, Tim Parker, Matt Polster, Brandon Vincent, Walker Zimmerman.
Midfielders: Tyler Adams, Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, Marky Delgado, Marlon Hairston, Brooks Lennon, Cristian Roldan, Kelyn Rowe, Wil Trapp.
Forwards: Juan Agudelo, Dom Dwyer, Jordan Morris, Christian Ramirez, Rubio Rubin, CJ Sapong, Gyasi Zardes.
Ten of those selections have received their first call-ups to the national senior side. Danilo Acosta, Russell Canouse, Marky Delgado, Justen Glad, Marlon Hairston, Ian Harkes, Brooks Lennon, Nick Lima, Ike Opara and Christian Ramirez are the ten players to join the USMNT for the first time.
Is this the right idea from the selectors though?
Well, if we look back to the failed World Cup Qualification campaign, which ended in a shock defeat in Trinidad & Tobago, we see some issues. Compared to this new, youthful squad, that squad that faced T&T only had seven players born in 1990 or more recently. Paul Arriola and Juan Agudelo were two of those, the only two men to be in both squads.
Christian Pulisic (Dortmund, 19yo), Bobby Wood (Hamburg, 25) and DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle, 24) are also not in the training camp squad. However, this is because they are not currently in the country, and the USMNT do not want to take them away from their club responsibilities. The only other two players born in the 1990s in that squad were Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta) and Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas). Neither of these two are in the thirty-deep side, but will surely play a part in the future of this United States team.
The Old Guard
When the time comes for the USMNT to start their next qualification campaign, there will still be some of the older faces in the squad. It has to be remembered that this side won the Gold Cup in July, beating Jamaica in the final.
Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley all rank in the top ten for most caps with the USMNT, all with 110 or more. Clint Dempsey needs just one goal to become the USMNT’s all-time record goal-scorer. If he does, he will take it away from USA legend, Landon Donovan. The issue with some of these greats, though, is age.
Tim Howard is approaching 40 years of age, and will not go on for much longer, and his long-time understudy, Brad Guzan, got his chance in the Copa America Centenario. Guzan is 33, and could be seen as the option in the next few years.
Clint Dempsey is 35 this March, and there have been questions around his fitness, especially after returning from a heart problem this year. He spent six months out in 2016, only to return to help Seattle to the MLS Cup Final in 2017.
But then there are Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, two of Toronto FC’s treble-winning team in 2017. Bradley, the USMNT captain, is only 30, with Altidore aged only 28. This pair will most definitely go on to break records, with Bradley only needing 25 more caps to become the all-time appearance record holder for the United States. Altidore has 41 goals for the national side, currently needing 17 to break Donovan and Dempsey’s tied record at 57.
There are other huge names that have missed out on the January camp, that surely still have a role to play with the USMNT. Geoff Cameron (Stoke), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Michael Orozco (Tijuana) and Tim Ream (Fulham) have all been capped more than 25 times. Once again, playing outside of the United States means that these defenders were not eligible to be picked for the January camp.
Elsewhere, Alejandro Bedoya (Union), Matt Besler (SKC), Benny Feilhaber (SKC), Chris Wondolowski (SJ) and Graham Zusi (SKC) have all not been selected. Again, this could be just a sign that the selectors want to bring an influx of youth into the side to see how it will cope. But all these players could end up being replaced by the names in the camp in Carson this month.
Paul Arriola was also in that squad against Trinidad & Tobago, as were Gyasi Zardes, Jordan Morris, Bill Hamid, Justin Morrow and Juan Agudelo. Those six are in this training camp, to show that there was youth then, and there will be youth now. Arriola, Agudelo, Zardes and Morris are the only four men in the squad of thirty, this month, to have double figures in appearances for the States. In fact, they are the only players to have more than four caps for the USMNT.
This shows how inexperienced the thirty-man squad is, but that is a good thing for the future of the USMNT. All of these players will get their shots in the next few years, especially as some of the elder statesmen on the group bow out from international football.
But, what about each position? And how strong are they going forward into the future for the United States?
As was said earlier, several of this squad are uncapped, and most of those are tasting the national side for the first time in their careers.
With Brad Guzan expected to be first choice for the USMNT as Howard reaches 40 years of age, there are four goalkeepers in this squad.
Between the four goalkeepers, there are four international caps. However, all of those come from Bill Hamid, and they have been sporadic, to say the least. His first cap came in 2012, with another in 2014, and finally two more appearances last year. However, Hamid does have two Gold Cup winners medals, after being in both the 2013 and 2017 squads. The one issue that Hamid could have moving forward, is that he no longer plays in the MLS. After leaving DC United this offseason, he has signed for Danish Superliga side, Midtjylland.
Alex Bono comes in to the squad, fresh from keeping a clean sheet in the MLS Cup Final. He was part of the treble-winning Toronto FC side in 2017. Though uncapped, he has proven himself over the last few years in MLS.
So had Cody Cropper, the New England Revolution ‘keeper. After starting his career in England, with Southampton and then MK Dons, he moved back to the USA, with the Revs. He got the starting job in 2017, and narrowly missed out on making the playoffs with the team, finishing 7th in the Eastern Conference.
The final goalkeeper in the squad is Zack Steffen. He became the Crew’s number one shot-stopper at the start of last season, and went on to help them beat Atlanta United in the MLS Playoffs thanks to two penalty kick saves in a shootout. He has been called up to a USMNT camp before, back in May 2016, but Steffen is still awaiting his first cap for the national side.
There are eight defenders in the thirty-man squad, and the majority are uncapped. All bar two of the defenders in the final World Cup Qualification squad play outside of the USA, and are therefore ineligible for the camp. However, Damarcus Beasley (35yo) and Matt Besler (30) have not been selected for this squad.
Danilo Acosta is just 20-years-old, but did play for the USA U20 side 23 times over the course of the last couple of seasons. The Real Salt Lake defender became a bigger part of their team in 2017, but is yet to play for the senior USA side. His teammate, Justen Glad, has played for the U17, U18 and U20 sides for the USA. Glad is yet to make his senior debut. He has been part of the Real Salt Lake setup since 2012, and was named their Defender of the Year in 2016.
Nick Lima played four years in college for the California Golden Bears, before joining San Jose for the start of the 2017 season. He made 2 appearances in MLS last year, scoring twice. He was nominated for two awards in his first season, MLS Defender of the Year, and MLS Rookie of the Year.
Justin Morrow, the Toronto left-back, is the oldest member of the thirty-man squad, at 30 years of age. He has three caps for the USMNT, and won the treble with Toronto this season. Morrow has played nearly 200 games in MLS, and is continuing to grow as a full-back for the MLS Cup Champions.
Tim Parker. The 24-year-old centre-back has been a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps since 2015, and has made 76 appearances in his first three seasons with the team. He received his first call-up to the national side last January, but did not feature, meaning he is still awaiting his first cap.
Ike Opara, the SKC defender, has scored nine times in MLS since making his move to Kansas City in 2013. In 2017, he was awarded the MLS Defender of the Year for his standout performances. Having played for both the U20 and U23 national sides, he will surely soon get his first cap for the senior side.
Chicago boast two defenders from the nine, with both Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent amongst the thirty men selected. Polster has been in MLS for three seasons, racking up 79 league appearances and three goals. Like Tim Parker, Polster was also called up at the same time last year, but also did not make an appearance. His teammate, Brandon Vincent, has been with the Fire for the past two seasons, and made his international debut in February 2016, against Canada. To date, that is the defender’s only cap for the USMNT.
The final defender on the list is Walker Zimmerman. He played 89 times over a five-year spell for FC Dallas, but begins a new challenge with the expansion side, Los Angeles FC, in 2018. Zimmerman has also earned just the single cap, which came against Jamaica in February 2017.
In the thirty-man squad for this training camp, there are ten midfielders. One of those has become a permanent member of the USMNT, with DC United’s Paul Arriola having already made fifteen appearances for the national side. The other nine have all been fringe players so far, and will be hoping to make an impact in Carson this month.
Arriola’s teammates, Russell Canouse and Ian Harkes have both made the squad from the capital. Canouse moved to Europe as a teenager to pursue his professional dream, signing for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. He only made a single appearance for their first team, before moving on loan to Bochum. From there, Canouse made the move back to the MLS, signing for DC at the start of 2017. He only made ten appearances last year, but at just 22, he has a future ahead of him. Teammate Ian Harkes was born in Derby, England, before moving to the USA at a young age. Also just 22, he made his MLS debut for DC United last season. He scored twice in 25 appearances for the capital’s side, and he has history with the USMNT. His father, John Harkes, captained the national side during the 1990s.
Tyler Adams is the youngest member of the squad at just 18. However, he has become a prominent figure in the Red Bulls’ midfield over the past two seasons, thanks to his ability to also play full-back on either side. He has been part of the Bulls set-up since he was 12, and has played for every team. He also played for both the U17 and U20 national sides, before making his senior debut in the USMNT’s most recent fixture, a 1-1 draw with Portugal in November.
Another member of Toronto’s treble-winning side is Marky Delgado. He is yet to play for the senior national side, but has played for the U17, U18 and U20 sides for the USA. Delgado played for Chivas USA before they fled at the end of the 2014 season, where he was taken by Toronto in the 2014 MLS Dispersal Draft. Since then, he has played 74 times for the MLS Cup Champions, scoring eight times.
The only member of the thirty to come from Colorado is midfielder Marlon Hairston. He has come on in his four seasons with the Rapids, becoming a key figure in 2017. He has now played 80 times in Colorado, but Hairston has only made a single appearance for the U23 national team, and is yet to make his full debut for the senior side.
Brooks Lennon is just 20-years-old, but the winger was a prominent figure in RSL’s 2017 campaign. He was on loan from Liverpool, where he had been since 2015. He joined the Premier League side during his teenage years, and was a member of the side that won the 2017 CONCACAF U20 Championship with the USA. He is another that is still awaiting his senior debut.
Seattle’s Cristian Roldan was a Generation Adidas member, when he was drafted by the Sounders in 2015. Roldan has made a single appearance for the USMNT, playing against Martinique in the 2017 Gold Cup. He has also helped Seattle to the last two MLS Cup Finals, including becoming Champions in 2016, with 88 appearances and ten goals in his time there.
Kelyn Rowe has played three times for the USMNT, scoring once, but he is best known for his six years with the New England Revolution. He was drafted 3rd overall in 2012, and has gone on to make 179 MLS appearances for the Revs, scoring 28 goals in that time.
Finally, Wil Trapp made his debut for the USMNT back in 2015, but has gone on to only make one more appearance for the senior side. However, he has been a big contributor to Columbus Crew. He has made 127 appearances in his five years there, as they went all the way to the MLS Cup Final back in 2015.
There are seven forwards in the squad, but three have made several appearances for the senior side. Juan Agudelo has played 27 times, scoring three goals, while Jordan Morris has five goals in 24 appearances. Finally, Gyasi Zardes has 37 caps for the national side, scoring six goals. Other than that, the four forwards in the squad have just eleven caps between them.
Dom Dwyer has been an influential player in MLS for a few years now, and was traded to Orlando City in the summer of 2017. He only became an American citizen in March of last year, having been raised in the south of England, and he was part of Norwich City’s youth setup for six years. He signed for Sporting KC to start his MLS journey, and scored 57 goals in 120 games for the side, before his move last year. He has two goals in his first four caps for the national side.
Another striker with four caps for the USMNT is Rubio Rubin, However, his career has been disjointed, and has been around Europe. Rubin has played for FC Utrecht (NED), Silkeborg IF (DEN) and Stabaek (NOR) over the year and a half, and was eligible to play for Guatemala or Mexico as well. However, he chose the USA and earned his first cap back in 2014.
CJ Sapong has also played for the national side, making three appearances. He has been part of the under-performing Philadelphia Union side for the past three years, scoring 32 goals in 91 games. Previous to that, the 29-year-old spent four years with SKC, scoring 20 in 110.
The final member of the forward line is the uncapped Christian Ramirez. The 26-year-old had a breakout year for Minnesota United in their expansion season last year. He scored 14 goals in 30 games for the side, as they finished 9th in the West. The call-up to this January camp is his first for the senior side.
Lack Of Coach
So, the prospects are there for the USMNT over the next ten-fifteen years, but there is one slight issue. Yes, the likes of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey can intertwine with the young stars in Paul Arriola and Matt Polster, to name a couple, but who will lead them to possible glory?
Since Bruce Arena left his position as manager of the USMNT in October, no-one has been brought in to replace him. Big names Laurent Blanc and Sam Allardyce have been mentioned, but the former England manager opted to take charge of Everton instead.
Tab Ramos seems to be the man people are looking towards. He has been the coach of the U20s for a while, and therefore will know the players coming through and into the senior side. If the USA chooses to go this way, it would be much like England choosing Gareth Southgate after his influence in their younger age groups.
There are other names in the hat as well, including Peter Vermes and Michael O’Neill. Both are in roles at the moment, but both like the idea of the challenge. Vermes currently manages Sporting KC, and played 66 times for the national side between 1988 and 1997, and is a popular choice for the job. Meanwhile, Michael O’Neill, the Northern Ireland manager, is also interested in the high-profile challenge of the job.
Whoever takes over, it will be a serious challenge to firstly, pick the squad up from their disappointing exit from World Cup Qualification. Then, it will be down to business, finding the right formula of young and old to take this squad forward to bigger and better things.