Welcome to the Wednesday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being the USMNT's 40-man Copa América preliminary roster, which will be released on Sunday – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.
Jurgen Klinsmann has called this summer's upcoming Copa América Centenario "the biggest men's soccer tournament in the US since the 1994 World Cup." For once, Jurgen and I have found common ground.
This is the real deal, quite literally a once-in-a-century opportunity. The US can use a great performance, as in 1995's trip to the Copa, to launch into a new era of competitiveness on the global stage, building an identity and blooding a new group of stars. A bad performance, however, would solidify the downward trend of Klinsmann's years -- a program getting lapped by Mexico in CONCACAF, being passed by Costa Rica and caught by the likes of Jamaica and Honduras; and a program that's not competitive globally outside of friendlies.
A team that fails to make it to the final of the Gold Cup, and doesn't qualify for the Confederations Cup despite multiple chances. A team that loses winnable games at home. A team that plays like minnows -- something the US haven't been since 1990.
So there is a lot riding on this summer's performance, especially in light of the Olympic and Confeds Cup failures.
Here is Part 1 of a three-part series predicting Klinsmann's 40-man preliminary roster (these aren't my picks -- these are the guys I think Jurgen will go with).
We'll start with the goalkeepers and defenders, move to the midfielders tomorrow and the forwards on Friday.
- Alternates: William Yarbrough, Nick Rimando
Howard and Guzan are still Nos. 1 & 2 in some order. Bingham took advantage of the opportunity he earned this winter in Bill Hamid's absence, and he's strengthened his situation with a strong start to the season for San Jose. Horvath, a 20-year-old who starts for Molde in Norway and already has Champions League experience, gets the final spot for this camp.
Yes, that leaves Rimando on the outside looking in. I'm not going to stake my life on this decision, and I think he can still play at the international level. But he's caught up in the numbers game here, and the potential/production combo of Bingham & Horvath pushes him out of the mix.
Can we finally list DeAndre Yedlin as a fullback now? Or will Klinsmann insist upon deploying him primarily as a winger? Given his play for Sunderland, this shouldn't even be a question... yet it is.
You can see that while Yedlin is the obvious answer at right back, there are more questions at left back. Castillo got the most recent starts, but he's been inconsistent-to-poor for the US; Chandler is a Jurgen favorite, but he also regularly haunts the inconsistent-to-poor spectrum (and is a natural RB anyway); Shea is still learning the position; Ream is more of a center back; Acosta is definitely not a fullback of any stripe despite the insistence of the US U-20 and U-23 coaches to the contrary.
I think those guys all get the call, as does Vincent. Klinsmann hasn't really shown any interest in Villafana despite his form over the last 12 months -- ¯\(ツ)/¯ -- and Beasley seems retired for real this time. Vincent's previous camps, then, give him the leg up and into the mix, even if he's adjusted quite slowly to MLS thus far.
This should be easy. Cameron's a proven commodity for club and country who's in the prime of his career; the same can be said for Brooks. Besler and Gonzalez are there as well, and Birnbaum has been effective in his brief USMNT run so far.
That leaves two spots for Miazga, who's the most promising young defender in the pool, and Orozco, who's been a security blanket for Klinsmann since Day 1. Given reports that Alvarado didn't train well at the last camp and the fact that both Parker and Redding still need more experience, those three cuts are pretty easy to make.
I think, anyway. It's Klinsmann, after all -- he may go in an entirely different direction on a whim.
Ok folks, thanks for keeping me company! See you all again next week.