Welcome back to the Thursday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being a USMNT made up of guys who are outside of Jurgen Klinsmann's pool, but could have competed in the ongoing Copa America – 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.
The US have participated in Copa América twice in the past, finishing fourth in 1995 with what was the best squad we could muster at the time, and then bowing out in the group stage in 2007 using a team of mostly youngsters and reserves.
That particular journey was memorable for two things: First was that
Pele Maradona* said Eddie Johnson reminded him of Eusebio. Pele Maradona has said a lot of outrageous things in his days, and that is in the top five (no disrespect to Eddie, who's had a fine career – but just search for Eusebio highlights and you'll see why the comparison is misguided).
*I remembered it as Pele, but as noted by Paul C. in the comments below, it was Maradona. My bad on the goof.
Second is that Juan Roman Riquelme played the first 45 minutes of Argentina's 4-1 win over the US with his left shoelace untied. He only had two assists in that time.
Anecdotally, the 2007 tourney is the data point most would use to say "It's not worth sending anything less than a full-strength US squad to Copa América." But a number of players from the team the US brought went on to play significant roles in 2010 World Cup qualifying as well as the 2009 Confederations Cup, and one veteran of Venezuela '07 thinks a trip to Chile this month would have been worth it:
Prep aside, there's this point: MLS has improved significantly in the past eight years, enough for the US to compete with Mexico's collection of "youngsters & spare parts" that's currently repping El Tri in Chile (they have two draws in their first two group stage games).
Below is my version of that kind of roster for the US, with one stipulation: this only includes players who are "out of the pool." By that I mean they weren't on the provisional Gold Cup roster; haven't participated in a USMNT camp this year; and weren't in the picture for the recent U-23 and U-20 teams (so guys like Cristian Roldan, Zach Pfeffer and Oscar Sorto aren't eligible for selection by me).
With that preface, here is my hypothetical 23-man US squad:
- GK: Luis Robles (RBNY), Bobby Shuttleworth (New England), Clint Irwin (Colorado)
- LB: Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Chris Tierney (New England)
- CB: Chad Marshall (Seattle), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia), Andrew Farrell (New England), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas)
- RB: Marvell Wynne (San Jose), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas)
- DM: Dax McCarty (RBNY), Matt Polster (Chicago)
- CM: Sacha Kljestan (RBNY), Dillon Powers (Colorado), Tony Tchani (Columbus)
- AM: Benny Feilhaber (Sporting KC), Harry Shipp (Chicago)
- WM: Ethan Finlay (Columbus), Teal Bunbury (New England)
- FWD: Charlie Davies (New England), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia), Timmy Mueller (Oregon State)
First: You can see why the US doesn't participate in this tournament, as this team would decimate several MLS rosters. And no, that doesn't mean it's worth changing to a winter schedule. Literally nothing is worth changing to a winter schedule when you have teams in the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains and Great Lakes region. To say nothing of New England, which only got 105 inches of snow from November to April.
Third: I have tons of experience up the spine, but young understudies at nearly every spot.
Fourth: If Jurgen gets to bring his favorite college player to games, then I get to bring mine. Mueller was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year last season, scoring 11 goals for Oregon State. To put that into context: Jordan Morris had four goals for Stanford, and Khiry Shelton – Mueller's teammate, and the No. 2 pick in this last SuperDraft – scored 10 for the Beavers.
Mueller has carried his college form over into the PDL season (6 goals in 7 games for a struggling Lane United team).
Thanks for helping me kill another Thursday afternoon! Check the comments section below for the back-and-forth.