In 2013, US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann made good use of rotating his active roster between the group stage and knockout rounds on the way to a Gold Cup title win.
This year, he's hoping the move will pay dividends for another Gold Cup trophy.
U.S. Soccer announced on Tuesday three players -- Jozy Altidore, Greg Garza and Alfredo Morales – would be departing the USMNT, with replacements from the Gold Cup provisional roster, Alan Gordon, DaMarcus Beasley and Joe Corona, coming into the squad.
While changes were expected, to some extent these specific moves were somewhat surprising. In particular, Altidore – who admittedly had not had a strong group stage after suffering an injury with Toronto FC earlier this season – being removed from the team raised some eyebrows.
Klinsmann explained the rationale for his decisions in a Q-and-A on U.S. Soccer's website on Tuesday. In the case of Altidore and his replacement, LA Galaxy forward Gordon, Klinsmann cited fitness as the main motivation for the swap.
"We believe that Jozy’s just not there yet," he said. "Jozy never really got into this tournament and never really picked up the rhythm. He’s just simply not in the shape right now to help us. For Jozy it’s just simply going back to Toronto, picking up his rhythm, getting in shape, working on his fitness and then he will start scoring goals again.
"That’s why Alan Gordon was on the standby roster from the beginning and that’s why we brought him in. He’s fully fit, he’s so full of energy, he scores goals with the Galaxy, and he fits in right away. He’s a pure giver to the group, and he might be a player that can make a difference at any second when you bring him in.”
Meanwhile, Beasley's addition came as less of a surprise, primarily because the Houston Dynamo defender came out of international retirement to be named to the preliminary squad last month. For Klinsmann, the veteran's leadership and experience was invaluable as the US navigate the knockout stage.
"Having DaMarcus come into the team is huge, because of his character, his giving nature, the spirit he brings, but also the high quality he brings," he said. "He brings a lot of experience into this group, and he’s hungry. He’s still as hungry as day one in his career. That speaks for us having him back in the group and now it gives us a couple of different options on how to put pieces together. We’re very happy to have Beas back."
Though Garza, recently sent on loan to Liga MX side Atlas for the coming season, is leaving the team, the coach did not plan to shut the door on his national team prospects.
"Greg Garza is there for the future," Klinsmann said. "He’s only getting better. He’s done tremendously well these last two weeks, he knows that he has to grow more, get more experience and it’s as simple as that. It’s why we made the switch. It’s really fun to work with Greg. He has a great character, a great attitude every day – he gives you everything. For him it was another step in the right direction for the national team and he totally understands that we want to switch it for right now.”
And the former World Cup winner explained that Garza's former club teammate Corona was joining the team due to his experience on the CONCACAF level.
“In the tournament now we need to produce results and get things done. With Joe we have that option to bring him in now. He knows CONCACAF inside out. Joe Corona is very experienced in playing against the teams from the Caribbean and Central America. He’s a player that can also help us, here and there, to hold the ball better, to take care of the ball. With his great technique, with his one-touch passing, he makes things very easy and simple.”