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Let’s Break Down the USMNT Roster For Their Upcoming Friendlies

Jurgen Klinsmann has called 23 players up to the USMNT ahead of friendlies against Denmark (3 pm Eastern Wednesday: ESPN2) and Switzerland. The friendlies mark the beginning of four tough European away matches (with a home mostly for MLS players only match against Mexico sprinkled in) as the squad gets prepared for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Since the post World Cup matches were used mostly for experimentation and the January camp is primarily for MLS players, it’s safe to say these are the first meaningful friendlies the US is playing in this World Cup cycle. To add importance to them, if the US faced any tests in their previous friendlies this year, it’s safe to say they’ve failed pretty much all of them.

So without further ado, let’s breakdown the team that Jurgen Klinsmann has called in for these two games: (from US Soccer) *Clint Dempsey will miss both games with a hamstring injury.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Southampton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Club Leon) 
DEFENDERS (8): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Michael Orozco (Puebla), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Julian Green (Hamburg), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Danny Williams (Reading), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy) 
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht)

Let’s start with the goalkeeping position. Tim Howard is still out on his year-long sabbatical, and Brad Guzan is remaining in England as his wife is expected to give birth. That opened the door for Cody Cropper and Mexican-American duel citizen William Yarbrough to get call ups. I’d expect Rimando to make both starts but would love to see Cropper be given a look. Yarbrough has been making headlines as he grew up in Mexico by two American parents. While people expect big things from him, there are so many great goalkeepers ahead of him, and I don’t think he’ll ever break through.

The big story with the rest of the team is it’s made up of primarily European based players, and there’s a noticeable lack of MLS players. This is for a few reasons, one of which is they’ll have their own chance against Mexico in April, and they had their chance in January. Even then, besides the core players of Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and Jozy Altidore, the only MLS players called in were Gyasi Zardes, who impressed tremendously in January, and Brek Shea (why?).

Brek Shea is the interesting one here. He played well as a left back in the US’s two January friendlies, and with the retirement of Demarcus Beasley, the US is in the market for a new left back (though they pretty much have ALWAYS been in the market for a left back). It looks like it’ll be a three-way fight between Shea, Timmy Chandler, and Greg Garza.

Where will Shea play?

Brek Shea will have to beat out two others for the open left back spot.

Another interesting player to watch will be DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin was tremendous in the World Cup this past summer, which earned him a transfer from Seattle to Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League. However, since arriving in London in January Yedlin spent about a week at his new club before coming back to the United States for a month for the US’s January camp. He hasn’t been heard from since. With Spurs out of the FA Cup and coming into the business end of the EPL season, it’s likely that the USMNT is the only chance he’ll get to play in full games, so he’ll need to take advantage of these opportunities to make the Gold Cup squad.

Once again the biggest question is what will Jozy Altidore bring to the table? Altidore has finally gotten away from the disaster situation he was in at Sunderland, joining teammate Michael Bradley at Toronto FC. He scored two goals in Toronto’s opener, but of course the caveat is that was MLS.

It’s time for Jozy Altidore to put up or shut up when it comes to scoring goals. He’s had success in the MLS in his career and in Holland, but he’s been a big time flop not once but twice in England. Internationally he’s scored 26 goals for the US, but other then a hat-trick against Bosnia and Herzogovina, most of his goals have come against CONCACAF teams or European B teams. Perhaps playing week in week out with Michael Bradley will help him both domestically and internationally. It’s time for Altidore to start scoring against some of the world’s better teams, something he has so far failed to do in his career.

The final striker is 18 year old Rubio Rubin. Jurgen Klinsmann, why are we still trying to make Rubio Rubin a thing? As of now, not only is he not a thing but he’s not going to be a thing. He’s 18 years old and hasn’t done anything at the senior level. At this point he’s better suited to be playing for the U20’s or the U23’s and not riding the bench for the senior side.

Jurgen Klinsmann has already stated the US will be bringing their strongest side to the 2015 Gold Cup. For a lot of the European players this is a great chance to make an impression and make the squad. The MLS players had their chance in January and many of them were particularly underwhelming in the January matches vs. Chile and Panama. With the exception of Mixx Diskerud, Omar Gonzalez, and Matt Besler (and MAYBE Graham Zusi) the team for the March friendlies looks a lot more like the team that will go to the Gold Cup then the January team.

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