Let's start on the fringes instead of in the middle. The fringe is where we're going to find the best reasons to grief over this latest US roster, the 40-man preliminary squad from which Jurgen Klinsmann will draw his Copa America team.
And in US soccer fandom, there's nothing more fringe than left back. The two names that keep popping up in my Twitter mentions and on the Facebook Q&A (above) are Brek Shea and Jorge Villafana. There's a movement afoot on behalf of both of them, and it's understandable. Shea is basically a five-tool player, while Villafana's performance down the stretch for Portland last year, followed by a mostly solid debut Clausura with Santos in LigaMX seems to speak to the type of career development that warrants national team attention.
I agree. However, neither should be starting for the US over Edgar Castillo, who now seems like the incumbent after a strong show in the recent qualifier, and an eye-opening season with LigaMX-leading Monterrey. Castillo has been mistake-free and relentless, and now at the age of 29 appears to have developed the type of positional savvy that was lacking in his younger years.
And it's not like Klinsmann didn't bring back-ups for Castillo. Tim Ream is there, as is Eric Lichaj. Both of those guys primarily play other spots, but both have also played literally thousands of professional minutes at left back. Same goes for Timmy Chandler, who makes his triumphant (heh) return to the US fold.
Each one of these guys has weaknesses, and you could make a case that any of them -- including Castillo -- should be omitted based upon past performances. Same, however, goes for Shea. And while Villafana's never gotten a shot, no serious observer of LigaMX could argue that he's in "must call!" form.
Elsewhere, Wil Trapp didn't quite make it, which is also fine. DeAndre Yedlin is listed as a defender, which is great. There are three true d-mids (Kyle Beckerman, Danny Williams and Perry Kitchen) on the roster in addition to Michael Bradley, who continues to excel at that spot for Toronto FC. Fabian Johnson is listed as a midfielder, which is correct.
Klinsmann even brought a pair of truly creative central midfielders in Lee Nguyen and Darlington Nagbe, and in Jermaine Jones has a third guy who plays No. 10 for his club. This midfield corps is balanced and makes sense, and if you're bummed that Mix Diskerud made it over Sacha Kljestan, I feel you. I really do. But the difference between Diskerud and Kljestan isn't large enough to justify crushing this roster entirely.
And yes, that goes for the forwards, too. Every guy who is listed absolutely belongs there, including Christian Pulisic.
So the roster's not perfect. Just be happy that it's sane. Be happy that there are back-ups at every relevant spot, that only one guy (Kellyn Acosta, who is not a fullback) is listed at the wrong position, and that there's finally some kind of recognition that skilled individualists have a role to play.
This feels like a philosophical step forward for Klinsmann.
Perhaps it's destined to be followed by two steps back when the 23-man roster is released. That's when we'll get to the core of the group, and when we'll have real, meaty stuff to argue about.
But not today. Today, save for life on the fringe, things look good with the USMNT. This is pretty close to the roster we should all have wanted, and next month we'll get to see if Klinsmann is able to blend it into something more functional than the misery of last year's Gold Cup squad.