Eight MLS players were among the 23 called up by Jurgen Klinsmann for friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand as the United States national team prepares for Hexagonal matchups against Mexico and Costa Rica in November.
The squad includes the core of the team that defeated St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago in September's World Cup qualifiers, with 15 players and five of six goalscorers returning to the group, including Borussia Dortmund starlet Christian Pulisic, MLS MVP candidate Sacha Kljestan and on-form strikers Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris.
The US will take on Cuba in Havana on Oct. 7 (4 pm ET; ESPN2, UniMas), the first friendly between the teams on Cuban soil since 1947. Four days later, on Oct. 11, the Americans host the Kiwis at RFK Stadium (8 pm ET; ESPN, UniMas) as players compete for 23 roster spots up for grabs in November.
The US are 9-1-1 all-time against the Cubans, with only three games played on the island. Cuba's lone victory came in the first-ever game between the two sides, a 5-2 triumph on July 20, 1947, in Havana.
“These two games are very important for us because it’s the last time we can see certain players before making the decision on the 23 going in to represent us for the Mexico and Costa Rica clashes,” Klinsmann said in a statement. “There’s a lot at stake for the players to make their case, to show where they are right now. We have the opportunity to bring some players back that haven’t been with us for a little bit, and we want to see if they can put a stamp on this camp and have a chance for being in the roster next month. The bigger picture behind this is definitely Mexico and Costa Rica, and these two games will show us a lot about individual players.”
Klinsmann's evaluation process will not include goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, who've split duty between the posts of late. Neither was named to the squad, with San Jose's David Bingham, Ethan Horvath (Molde FK) and William Yarbrough (Club Leon) called in their place.
“I think the goalkeeper position is unique. Obviously we have the two experienced guys with Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Both are in different situations right now – Tim is obviously very busy with the Colorado Rapids and Brad is not getting the opportunity to play at Middlesbrough," Klinsmann said. "I think it’s a perfect time to give an open window to three younger goalkeepers with William Yarbrough, Ethan Horvath and David Bingham. That’s why we decided to leave the two older guys out and give these three youngsters a chance to prove their point. That kind of opportunity is very rare.”
With stalwarts such as Matt Besler, Kyle Beckerman, Darlington Nagbe and Graham Zusi left off, there remains the possibility that Klinsmann could make additional changes ahead of the Oct. 11 game vs. New Zealand. Camp begins on Monday in Miami.
GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Ethan Horvath (Molde FK), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
DEFENDERS (7): Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Perry Kitchen (Hearts), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Danny Williams (Reading)