The Concacaf Gold Cup rosters are set to be announced in the coming days. Matt Doyle will give his full USMNT projection tomorrow. I’ll get you started with some MLS players who have seen their US men's national team and Canadian men's national team stock rise or fall with their performances through the first 11 weeks of the season.
These players may or may not have played their way into out or out of the rosters, but they’ve certainly at least caught the attention of their national team managers.
M Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquake)
No domestic player has blossomed more in the last three months than the San Jose Earthquakes midfielder. Anybody who has ever watched Yueill play could see a young attacker with rare levels of awareness and comfort on the ball. He always seems to know what is around him and be able to keep his cool in traffic. But everyone who watched him play also whispered the same things: “He doesn’t defend, though.” Matias Almeyda has changed that. Yueill has become a more complete player. He now covers ground and doesn’t shy away from the necessary tackles.
To add to it, Yueill fits Gregg Berhalter’s profile for a defensive midfielder. He can receive the ball from defenders, break lines with passes, and switch the field when it’s open. It’s still too early to say Yueill deserves to play over Michael Bradley or Wil Trapp, but the 22-year old has put himself on the radar.
CB Miles Robinson (Atlanta United)
Robinson, like Yueill, started the year a couple dozen spots down the USMNT depth chart. The Atlanta United center back is not going to earn a Gold Cup start from 10 solid MLS games. But he’s certainly been one of the better center defender in MLS through the opening two months of the season. He’s read the game well, used his athleticism when needed, and added a new composure on the ball when building out of the back. The tough part for Robinson is that center back is probably the USMNT’s deepest position.
AM Memo Rodriguez (Houston Dynamo)
One of the spots up for grabs in Berhalter’s team is the attacking midfielder role. Rodriguez has shown he might deserve a look. He starts on the left for Houston, currently the second best team in the league on points per game, but spends most of the game tucked into a central position. He’s been good at receiving the ball between the lines, and more so at making complimentary runs off his more talented teammates — traits that Berhalter values. Rodriguez probably isn’t as talented overall as someone like Cristian Roldan, but Rodriguez might fulfill the unique requirements of Berhalter’s system better.
Two more interesting names…
Alejandro Bedoya and Roldan. It seemed like Bedoya had seen the last of his national team appearances, both for his age and the emotional scar of being on the last qualifying squad, but he’s been excellent over the past two MLS seasons. He’s been a dominant force both on the field and in the locker room for the Union.
Similarly, Roldan’s game has taken a step forward in 2019. He’s moved from “excellent role player” to “central boss.” The one question I have about both of them, which runs counter to my points about Rodriguez and Yueill, is that they might be casualties of Berhalter’s specific tactical system. Bedoya and Roldan are energetic all-arounders, and the system Berhalter has implemented with the USMNT doesn’t appear to use that type of player.
F Christian Ramirez (LAFC)
Ramirez started 2019 in striking distance of the depth chart. He had a reliable skill set — finishing! — that Berhalter could count on. Unfortunately, Ramirez hasn’t been finishing all that well to start the MLS season. While LAFC have scored goals like Steph Curry hits side-step threes, Ramirez hasn’t been a big part of it. A huge factor of striker selection for the national team is form and confidence. The saving grace for Ramirez heading into the Gold Cup: What USMNT forward is playing well right now?
AM Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)
New LA Galaxy boss Guillermo Barros Schelotto presented Lletget with a huge opportunity this year. The Argentine manager lined up Lletget up as an attacking midfielder, the position he’s most likely to play for Berhalter. Lletget has had a weekly platform to show Berhalter that he’s the man for the job. While he’s been fine, though, and neat as ever in possession, Lletget hasn’t looked comfortable so high on the field. He has lacked the instinct to make dangerous runs into the box.
M Mark-Anthony Kaye (LAFC)
Holy crap is this dude good. He’s excellent at picking out passes in tight spaces and he covers ground like a snake — you barely see him coming, and he’s always there quicker than you expect. He started the year as a possible starter for Canada, given their crowded center midfield. He might be the first player on head coach John Herdman’s lineup sheet now. The only question for Kaye is where Herdman plays him, midfield or left back.
CB Doneil Henry (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)
Henry had already been a regular starter for Canada recently, but it felt by default given Canada’s lack of depth in the back. Henry has demonstrated that he fully deserves the spot throughout the 2019 season, though. He’s been the mainstay on a solid Vancouver backline. He’s been a monster on 50/50s and shown impressive communication and leadership qualities. Canada desperately needed a quality center back to emerge, and Henry could be the guy.
No one, I don’t think. Every MLS player who gets minutes for Herdman has played at least to his expected level. Samuel Piette, Russell Teibert and Jonathan Osorio have each been stellar in the middle for their squads. Tesho Akindele has had a bounce-back year for Orlando, and probably deserves to get into the Stock Up category. Derek Cornelius, the center back for the Whitecaps, might be the only player who has slipped. I’m not sure, however, that another center back has stepped into his place for the national team.