Armchair Analyst: It's two months until the Gold Cup starts – so what does the roster look like?
Two weeks ago, Jurgen Klinsmann was explicit: The guys who will be playing for the US national team in the upcoming friendlies and World Cup qualifiers (end of May through mid-June) won't be taking part in the Gold Cup (early July until either some happy or ignominious endpoint).
And guys based in Europe or Mexico who aren't in season will, by and large, be left out. It'll be MLS and Scandinavia that fill out most of the roster.
PODCAST: Gold Cup roster and more
It's going to be a US "B Team," in other words. The guys in the A Team will need a rest, and if you're choosing between the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers, it's no choice. World Cup qualifiers win out over everything – weddings, funerals, births, elections ... nothing is as important.
But while it's a B Team, it's still a B Team with a purpose, since: 1) as always, there's regional pride at stake, and 2) the winner of this Gold Cup qualifies for the play-in round against the winner of the 2015 Gold Cup. And the winner of that play-in round – please tell me you're still following – qualifies for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
Thus, those are stakes. Back in 2009, the stakes were lower and Bob Bradley mostly used the Gold Cup as a culling process for veterans on the fringe of the US roster, or a blooding process for youngsters who hadn't quite pushed their way into the picture yet. And it all went fairly well – as in "Stuart Holden sure is good!" – until that lamentable second half in Giants Stadium when Carlos Vela briefly turned into Alfredo di Stéfano.
There is another purpose to keep in mind, however. One that's perhaps appropriate to mention on the day that Giuseppi Rossi makes his return to competitive soccer after a year rehabbing a shredded knee: cap-tying dual nationals.
A number of Yanks, including guys who've already worn the colors, have played in youth competitions or friendlies, but never in FIFA-sanctioned full internationals. This is Klinsmann's chance to get those guys to go full-on "Where's Waldo?" and keep the likes of Mexico, Norway and Iceland (yes, Iceland) out of the picture for good.
Here's the projected roster, and it breaks down into two groups: Youngsters who may push themselves into contention and veterans who are on the fringes of the roster. Scattered among them are players who need to be cap-tied.
GK: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Steve Clark (Hønefoss)
D: Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes), Seth Sinovic (Sporting KC), George John (FC Dallas), John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Amobi Okugo (Philadelphia Union), Jeff Parke (Philadelphia Union), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas)
M: Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Alejandro Bedoya (Helsingborgs), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls)
F: Aron Jóhannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy), Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Josh Gatt (Molde)
EDIT: Yeah, I forgot to includ Holden, who Klinsmann already said is going. Thanks to some astute commentors and twitterati for immediately picking up on my error:
@mls_analyst Looks like you're missing Stuart Holden, who Klinsmann already said is going. Very interesting group though.
— Thomas Floyd (@thomasfloyd10) May 8, 2013
(That means one of the above midfielders is out, but I'll let you all sort that out in the comments section. Now... back to the column)
Here are the guys who still need to be cap-tied, along with the other country(ies) in the running: John (Greece), Brooks (Germany), Okugo (Nigeria), Diskerud (Norway), Morales (Germany, Peru), Jóhannsson (Iceland), Villarreal (Mexico).
Obviously a few of them (Jóhannsson, Brooks and Morales) will be out of season, and don't fit Klinsmann's criteria of being MLS- or Scandinavia-based. But three spots out of 23 isn't bad, especially with guys who are possessed of obvious talent. Brooks and Morales are starters for a team that's just won promotion to the Bundesliga, and Johannsson led Denmark in scoring before moving to AZ Alkmaar, where he's got three goals in four league appearances. He's legit.
Diskerud, meanwhile, is openly flirting with changing allegiance back to Norway. I hate that, and I don't think he'll ever be a crucial part of the US set-up – he just doesn't do enough defensive work, and often can't impose himself on the game in possession – but he's played well in the colors before, and does so at a position of need.
John has already flirted with Greece, but probably would have been a part of the US team long ago if injuries (and West Ham) hadn't derailed him. Okugo and Villarreal I'm not really worried about, but those kids are good. It may be a little early for Villarreal in particular (this is pretty much assuming he tears it up at the U-20 World Cup, by the way), but this is a veteran-heavy squad and he's both older and more experienced than Agudelo was when he made his US debut.
And that's one of the keys for running a national team program: Making sure you strike the right mix of veterans who know how it should be done (Rimando, Parke, Beckerman, Davis) and young, hungry guys who see their entire career ahead of them. If he gets that blend right, Klinsmann not only continues to put his stamp on the program, but he'll get a trophy to hoist as well.