The US men’s national team’s 40-man preliminary roster for this summer’s Gold Cup dropped on Saturday night, with 32 MLS players named to a squad that will eventually be culled to 23 before CONCACAF’s June 27 deadline.
It’s hard to have too many quibbles with a roster so big, and while I absolutely love a few of the call-ups Bruce Arena gave to fringe players – I thought Jesse Gonzalez, Justin Morrow, Kelyn Rowe and Jonathan Spector were all particularly deserving – I do think there were a few snubs.
Just to be totally clear, that group doesn’t include first-teamers like Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks or Bobby Wood. Their exclusions weren’t snubs – just Arena giving some time off to crucial players ahead of their European campaigns.
With that out of the way, let’s dive in. Here are five players who didn’t make the cut that I would’ve liked to see on the Gold Cup preliminary roster:
5 – Lee Nguyen
I thought long and hard about putting Sacha Kljestan in this spot for his recent success against CONCACAF foes and obvious chemistry with Dax McCarty and Christian Pulisic (remember those qualifiers last September?), but couldn’t justify taking him when Lee Nguyen has been so much more effective in MLS this year. The Revolution playmaker has six goals and seven assists in just 15 games and is fully in form, having racked up two goals and four assists in his last five games. He’s never had much success with the national team, but hasn’t ever really had much of a shot, either. It would’ve been interesting to see the talented 30-year-old get an extended run at the Gold Cup.
4 – Tim Melia
A league pool goalkeeper less than three years ago,
’s ascent to one of the top backstops in the league is one of the more underrated stories in MLS. The
man leads the league with eight shutouts, a 0.67 goals against average and a 78.6 save percentage. He’s been superlative this year and certainly earned a call to the preliminary roster, even if it’s hard to argue against any of Arena’s six selections in net.
3 – Christian Ramirez
Christian Ramirez has had a pretty solid transition from NASL into MLS, leading the Loons and sitting in a tie with CJ Sapong for first among Americans with eight goals in 14 league games. The 26-year-old Minnesota United FC striker has scored at a solid rate everywhere he’s played, and I think the Gold Cup would’ve been a great time for his introduction to the national team. As it stands, he’ll likely have to wait until at least January for his first call-up.
2 – Danny Williams
Lose the Championship Playoff Final in
, then fail to earn a spot on the preliminary roster for the Gold Cup. Yeah, Danny Williams had a rough week. He can take solace in the fact that his play for Reading – where he tallied four goals in 44 appearances as a box-to-box midfielder this season – absolutely merited a place on this roster. If he can continue his solid form in the fall, perhaps in the Premier League, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him earn a World Cup qualifying call or two.
1 – Ike Opara
Matt Besler has been really solid this year, has a load of international experience and will bring a calming veteran presence to the Gold Cup, but he hasn’t even been the best center back on Sporting KC in 2017. That honor would go to Ike Opara, who’s putting together another excellent start for Peter Vermes and SKC. As SKC teammate and Honduran international Roger Espinoza noted in May, Opara has all the requisite qualities to be a successful international center back.
“He’s a guy who could play at that level,” Espinoza told our Steve Brisendine last month. “He wouldn’t have to change anything. He’s played against some great forwards – from Europe, from South America, from Central America, from Africa. His speed, his ability to win balls, to pass the ball, the way he reads the game – he could play anywhere.”
It would’ve been nice to see the 28-year-old – who has been snakebit by injuries throughout his career – get a shot this summer. Now, like Ramirez, he’ll probably have to wait until at least January for his next chance at a call-up.