Armchair Analyst: Matt Doyle

Armchair Analyst: Predicting the next USMNT roster for World Cup qualifiers

Despite a draw here and a loss there, the USMNT have mostly taken care of business in this round of World Cup qualifiers. They still have to take care of the not-so-insignificant task of officially sealing the deal. But with home games against Trinidad & Tobago, and a road game at non-giants St. Vincent & the Grenadines, it would take quite literally the two worst results in program history to avoid punching a ticket to the Hexagonal.

To be sure, we've seen some catastrophic results over the last two years. But I think US fans should be pretty confident about the next 180 minutes.

And I think Jurgen Klinsmann should be as well. That should free him up to experiment at least a little bit with the forthcoming US roster -- one that is, at least nominally, in his wheelhouse.

He's in his fifth year in charge and has his pick of youngsters testing themselves all over Europe. He has his veteran core that he's hand-picked and weeded out over the years. He also has a surfeit of dual-nationals that he's recruited into the program, a la Nick Saban or John Calipari.

This has been Klinsmann's team for a while. But this particular bunch is unmistakably the type of team Klinsmann has always said he wanted.

So with no more wasted words, here's my prediction of the 23-man roster he'll call for next week's games. Just note that I'll be breaking down the roster both by position and where they fit in the national team pool -- i.e., Old Favorites, Returning Heroes and New Faces.

Old Favorites

GK: Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough), Tim Howard (Colorado)

Guzan already has as many EPL wins this year as he had all of last year, and Howard hasn't missed a beat since returning to MLS with the Rapids. These two are easy to pick.

CB: John Brooks (Hertha BSC), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United)

Brooks is the first name on the team sheet. Given his performance this summer and his age, it really is that easy.

Cameron hasn't been starting for Stoke thus far in the EPL season -- perhaps it has something to do with chemtrails, or the vaccine industry -- but I think he's earned enough equity to be in the lineup until he's been obviously passed by one of the up-and-coming CBs, which includes Birnbaum.

And yes... Birnbaum officially occupies the No. 3 spot on the depth chart right now given Matt Besler's injuries, Michael Orozco's ineffectiveness, and the fact that the next generation (guys like Matt Miazga, Justen Glad and Cameron Carter-Vickers) still need time cooking.

LB: Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

The the most proven midfield attacker in the bunch! Johnson traded in his defensive struggles at left back from 2014 and 2015 for a more-than-solid performance on that side of the ball at this summer's Copa America. But it came at the expense of any sort of sustained offensive contribution. Since Johnson is the best chance creator on the roster, I'm going to continue to believe that's an issue worth solving.

RB: DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Yedlin just secured a relatively big-money move to Newcastle United, who didn't spend $6.6 million to sit him on the bench or play him out of position on the wing. This doesn't gloss over the fact that he struggled a little bit defensively for the US this summer, but Chandler's struggled defensively for the US in literally every significant match he's ever played in the colors, so there's no way to justify him taking the starting job.

Keegan Rosenberry should eventually figure into this math, but my guess is he'll get his first look in January.

DM:Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Perry Kitchen (Hearts)

Bradley's suspended for the first game, which means Kitchen will get his first real chance to show what's up at St. V&G. The Scottish Premier League is markedly inferior to MLS -- just ask Kris Boyd, right? -- but Klinsmann rewarded Kitchen's willingness to move with a spot on the Copa roster this summer, preferring him to Danny Williams.

He didn't prefer him to Kyle Beckerman, and I'm maybe stretching my legs a little bit too much here in omitting the RSL veteran/Klinsmann security blanket from this roster. But the time has come for the generation shift.

Kitchen is only a borderline "Old Favorite," and could arguably be a "New Face." But this is my column and I get to make the rules, and if that pushes you outside your comfort zone, so be it.

CM:Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia), Jermaine Jones (Colorado)

Bedoya has been very good since coming to the Union, playing a crucial role in central midfield. Klinsmann has sometimes used him there, and sometimes on the wing, and sometimes at d-mid.... Just throw a dart, really. But given how the US played a 4-4-2 down the stretch this summer, I think he's most likely to be used as a center mid to start off, pairing with Kitchen in the first game.

Or maybe Jones will be back. He's missed most of the summer, as has become habit, but who's going to bet against him roaring back onto the pitch and looking like he hasn't skipped a single training session?

RW:Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Darlington Nagbe (Portland)

Zardes is so, so productive as a center forward, but for some reason has stumbled into a career that's seen him most often deployed on the wing for both club and country. That will certainly be the case here.

Given his lack of minutes at the Copa, I'm not sure Nagbe qualifiers as an "Old Favorite," but he's been to every camp since gaining citizenship and that doesn't look like it's changing even as his form varies between "exhilarating" and "is he even on the field?"

LW: Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)

When there are legitimately sourced rumors about EPL teams bidding $22 million on you, you should be part of the camp, and should probably play at least a little bit.

FW: Bobby Wood (Hamburger SV), Clint Dempsey (Seattle)

The preferred forward pairing, especially now that Deuce is scoring for the Sounders again.

Returning Heroes

GK:Bill Hamid

If he stays healthy, he could play his way into the No. 1 kit. Hamid is the best shot-stopper in the pool and has improved immensely in terms of controlling his box and distributing the ball. Nobody's going to mistake him for Nick Rimando when it comes to foot skills, but he's not been a liability, either.

CB: Omar Gonzalez

Omar hasn't been as dominant for Pachuca in the Apertura as he was in the Clausura, but a) they're still champions, and Bb) they're in second place. It's not like he, or they, are struggling.

And more to the point is this: Omar, last winter, took the kind of career risk into which Klinsmann has always said he wants his players to push themselves. I think it's weird that he wasn't rewarded for it with a spot on this past summer's roster. I'll also think it's an adjective or two beyond "weird" if he's ignored yet again, since you could plausibly make the argument that he's been the best center back in Liga MX since his arrival.

To ignore him would be, on Klinsmann's part, to undermine every single thing he's preached since 2011. But the point I'll make here is that Jurgen hasn't always been great about meaning what he says.

FW:Jozy Altidore

Jozy's been the best No. 9 in the league since returning from injury, and picked up his fifth goal in six games last night. He's done it at home and on the road, on grass and on turf, in the heat and in the... well, in the other heat. It's still August.

As I wrote earlier this week, he's in the best form of his career, particularly with his hold-up play, passing and defensive work. Wood should be the starter entering this camp, but if Jozy keeps playing as he has been, don't be surprised if Wood's the back-up by the time it's done.

Either way, there's an unprecedented amount of depth in the center forward pool currently. One of the things Klinsmann should use this camp for is to suss out whether the Altidore/Wood combo can work together in the future.

New Faces

LB:Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas)

Acosta's a veteran of the U-20 World Cup and the failed Olympic qualifying run, and at age 21 has been one of the league's best two-way midfielders. He's a presence both defensively and when pushing into the attack, and his ability to receive the ball intelligently in traffic is vastly underrated. In many ways he reminds me of Bradley at the same age.

That makes him a natural fit at left back for Klinsmann.

CM: Lynden Gooch (Sunderland)

I kind of made fun of the "cap him now!" instinct among the US fan base, but Gooch is 20 years old, not 17 or 18, and is starting in the EPL. He was his team's Man of the Match last week, and he's even a box-to-box or deep-lying midfielder being played out of position as a No. 10 -- that should appeal to Jurgen in a big way.

Add in the fact that Gooch is a dual national (he represented Ireland at the youth level, and could still get a cap for them if they call and he accepts), and I'm thinking this siren song is too much for Klinsmann to pass up. He should call Gooch in and cap tie him.

If he doesn't, it means one of two things. Either Gooch has decided to cast his lot in with Ireland, or Klinsmann has decided to avoid even the risk of ticking off Sunderland manager David Moyes. Showing deference to club managers who are guiding the career of a kid who looks like he's about to nail down a first-team spot for good is somewhere in Klinsmann's job description. The long play is more important than the short play at this point, provided you're sure where Gooch's allegiances lie.

FW: Rubio Rubin (FC Utrecht)

I might be overplaying my hand here, since Klinsmann has previously had no problem ignoring strikers who were playing in the Eredivisie. Rubin, however, has been a key part of every youth national team cohort of which he's been a part, and has started each of his team's first three games.

Notable Omissions:

  • GK: Ethan Horvath (Molde)
  • CB: Besler (Sporting KC), Miazga (Chelsea... for now), Carter-Vickers (Tottenham)
  • DM: Beckerman (RSL), Williams (Reading)
  • CM: Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt 04), Emerson Hyndman (Bournemouth)
  • RW/LW:Graham Zusi (Sporting KC), Fafa Picault (FC St. Pauli), Ethan Finlay (Columbus), Paul Arriola (Tijuana), Tommy McNamara (NYCFC)
  • FW:Jordan Morris (Seattle), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen), Julian Green (Bayern Munich)