Seltzer: Five MLSers who should be in the mix for a US national team call

It's almost time for the U.S. national team to reconvene for friendly tests against Brazil and Mexico, which means it's also time to ponder which MLSers have been playing their way into the frame.

There's no shortage of worthy call-up candidates among those stateside guys who've yet to enjoy an international debut. The honorable mentions range from the more seasoned standouts that don't seem good bets to hang around until the next World Cup (Tim Melia, Christian Ramirez, Ben Sweat) to precocious young'uns that would probably do well to simply continue their early club trajectories for now (Chris Durkin, Jonathan LewisJaylin Lindsey).

Above all, though, we've come up with five names to look for on selection sheets over the next five months.

Danilo Acosta

Danilo Acosta | USA Today Sports Images

Yeah, I know what you're probably thinking: he keeps falling out of the Real Salt Lake lineup. And, pinky swear, I cannot explain that.

After sitting out most of their first dozen games (for some reason), Acosta worked his way out of the doghouse, grabbed a couple of Team of the Week nods and the previously struggling team went 6-3-1 in his first 10 starts of the season. And then he was benched again (for some reason). At least, this time the guy that head coach Mike Petke is picking ahead of him (natural right back Aaron Herrera) is playing pretty well.

But I'm not concerned with such things right now. The facts remain that:

  • A) the USMNT need to restock left back with as much potential as they can
  • B) the Royals play more regally, get considerably better results and have a clearly better goal differential (+17 compared to -25) when Acosta is playing that very position.

And hey, Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle has already predicted Acosta will make the next two World Cup squads.

It's no wonder. The 20-year-old is a strong mano-a-mano defender and already one of the better passers at either fullback slot in the U.S. pool. A debut cap is due in my book, club curiosities notwithstanding.

Russell Canouse

You may have noticed that D.C. United are winning more since Wayne Rooney arrived. What you may not have detected is another lineup change that occurred the day they started a recent 4-0-1 run to ignite playoff hopes in the capital: inserting Canouse into the defensive midfield.

The 23-year-old missed the first 19 weeks of the season with a knee injury, took a few short sub shifts and then reclaimed the starting spot he grabbed almost immediately after arriving last season. Simply put, this year's Canouse effect looks much like last year's, only better.

Though certainly not a flashy player, the Pennsylvania native gets results — quite literally. Since he landed in D.C. last August, the Black-and-Red pocket just about twice as many points per game with him (1.63) as they do without him (0.82).

Canouse (who, like Acosta, took part in January camp without seeing game action) faithfully forces opposition turnovers and moves the ball along positively. Can these team-friendly skills earn him a call-up during the next few months? With no clear dedicated No. 6 at the top of that depth chart, they should.

Brooks Lennon

For national team purposes, I'm just going to ignore how RSL have rather successfully plugged the young right winger into their right back slot this season. DeAndre Yedlin leads a host of capable players at the latter position, while the former is as unsettled as it gets.

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of prospects in the right flank squadron, but do any of them get the ball into the box as well as Lennon? I think not.

Upon receiving his first call-up (but not cap) this January, the 20-year-old immediately became one of the finest crossers in the pool. He can also wiggle his way into opposing areas on the dribble, and will persistently run at defenders until he does. The right back experience only lends additional insight into how backpedaling fullbacks think.

With the Europe-based contingent available for all five autumn friendlies, Lennon may well need to cool his heels until the next January camp. That's fair enough, but I'd get itchy waiting any longer to see him get a debut run in red, white and blue. The kid has the look of a troublesome bench weapon for the wing.

Aaron Long

The only player on this list waiting on his first ever call-up is also one we already know is on the shortlist of contenders for the forthcoming September camp. New York Red Bulls boss Chris Armas let that news slip this past weekend.

Some may be surprised about it, but they really shouldn't be. Long has earned it. After a solid first season as a starter last year, the Red Bulls center back has raised his game to a "Best XI discussion" level this season.

Long is tough to beat on the ground, and tougher to beat in the air. Thanks to RBNY's high-pressing system, we know quite well by now that he can defend on the run and make emergency interventions when necessary. And he does it all working nearly as clean as a surgeon, committing but 0.65 fouls per 90 minutes over his 60 career MLS matches.

The United States’ top center-back pairing of John Anthony Brooks and Matt Miazga will be hard to dislodge when fit, but a battle royale for the back-up spots is already under way. Long could soon see his chance to enter the ring and wrestle some international forwards.

Keegan Rosenberry

This was the toughest call of all; I could have just as easily tabbed Reggie Cannon. It seems very likely that the FC Dallas up-and-comer has more long-term upside, but Rosenberry is now worthy of a look for the second time.

The Philadelphia Union right back has rebounded from a tough campaign to regain, if not improve on, the fine rookie form he showed two years ago to earn a January call in 2017. Rosenberry possesses the one-v-one ability in his end to push good wingers right out of a game, and gets forward better than ever.

All in all, Rosenberry has been among many keys to the Union's recent excellence. With him coolly patrolling the starboard side, Philly have won four of five to zoom seven points above the playoff line and reach the U.S. Open Cup final.

The 24-year-old can play tough in the back and he can help the team play pretty moving into attack, as seen in a sterling performance when Philly recently blanked a cultured New York City FC squad. It says here that Rosenberry should not leave fall without a first U.S. cap.

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