Jurgen Klinsmann welcomes Nagbe, Miazga into US national team fold after years on radar

ST. LOUIS – They're the newest recruits on a US national team squad built with transition in mind as the 2018 World Cup cycle begins.

But the arrival of Darlington Nagbe and Matt Miazga is merely the final step in a grooming process that dates back years, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told reporters on Thursday at Busch Stadium – an ascension capped by their strong displays in MLS this season.

“A player like Darlington or like Matt Miazga or other ones that came in over the past year, they're coming in because of their very, very good performances in their club environment. And because of a lot of conversations with their club coaches,” said Klinsmann in his pregame press conference one day before the USMNT open their qualifying campaign vs. St. Vincent & the Grenadines in front of a packed crowd of 45,000-plus at the celebrated home of baseball's Cardinals (6:30 pm ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN/UniMás/UDN)

But will they play in this month's games?

Klinsmann typically eases newcomers into his program, calling them up for multiple camps before granting significant playing time, and he explained his reasoning for that on Thursday. But many are wondering if that rule of thumb still applies with this duo. Nagbe is already 26 and in red-hot form for the MLS Cup-chasing Portland Timbers, while much the same can be said for Miazga – now a well-established US youth international – and his Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls.

“We try to figure out when is a good time for their introduction. Obviously Darlington is a special case, because we needed to wait for his [citizenship] eligibility with the US,” said Klinsmann. “I'm talking about him with [Portland coach] Caleb Porter since three years. Matt Miazga is coming through our youth system, was in the Under-20s, was in the Under-23s.

“So it's a progression, and it's a progression from their club environment into our environment, and then hopefully find the right time in our environment to give them the start, to give them their first cap, which obviously means a lot to the player. We are not making those decisions overnight.”

Nagbe has not spoken to media while with the USMNT this week. But media reports have suggested that the Liberian-born midfielder may have even impressed the US coaching staff enough to earn minutes on Friday night.

“We'll see – I think he'll be in a few more camps still,” predicted DeAndre Yedlin with a grin.

Meanwhile, Poland's persistent interest in the dual-national Miazga could conceivably prompt an early cap to commit the young center back to the land of his birth. Clear answers to such questions are rarely provided before big games. Yet both Klinsmann and Miazga said the New Jersey native's loyalties are not in doubt, despite a full-court press from his European suitors.

“I was keeping my doors open until the opportunity comes with either first team,” Miazga told MLSsoccer.com of his international choice. “So the opportunity came with the USA and I've always envisioned and dreamt of playing for the full [national] team … I was excited and ready to take the challenge.

“My parents are Polish, at home we speak Polish and we follow Polish traditions. So it's very good to have a heritage like that. It's something I take pride in. but at the end of the day I'm also American and I was born here, so I take a lot of pride in being American.”

Miazga – who was reportedly personally wooed by Polish legend and current federation president Zbigniew Boniek – maintains that a late switch is the furthest thing from his mind.

“I'm in camp with the full [senior] team,” he said, “so right now I'm fully focused on the US full team, and trying to train good and play good and hopefully get an opportunity to play.”