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As the USMNT prepares to begin the most important 11 months of the past two years, Jurgen Klinsmann got it right. Klinsmann called 26 players, featuring a mixture of young and experienced players, into the USMNT camp prior to their matches against Mexico and Costa Rica which will open the final Hexagonal round of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying. The roster was announced via Facebook Live on U.S. Soccer’s Facebook page.
Only 23 players will be able to suit up for each match, but the expanded camp allows Klinsmann to give some youngsters their first taste of how grueling CONCACAF World Cup qualifying could be while also creating a competitive camp as players battle it out for roster spots.
Klinsmann took advantage of the expanded roster by calling in four goalkeepers. In addition to veteran mainstays Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, he also called in youngsters Ethan Horvath and William Yarbrough. Giving both Horvath and Yarbrough this experience could be an indication that Klinsmann plans on bringing both keepers to the 2018 World Cup and that veteran Brad Guzan’s place on the roster could be in jeopardy. During the Facebook Live, Klinsmann confirmed that Tim Howard would be the number one goalie for the upcoming two matches.
For the most part, the U.S. comes into these two matches with nearly its entire roster healthy. Jermaine Jones, who had been out of action with the U.S. since the Copa America returns from a knee injury. However, with the great recent play of Sacha Kljestan, Jones is not expected to start, but his presence on the bench will give the United States tremendous depth in the midfield.
The U.S. will be missing just one core player, defender Geoff Cameron. Injuries to the back line are nothing new for Jurgen Klinsmann. John Brooks has never played in a World Cup qualifier, meaning Klinsmann has never even had the opportunity to play his preferred pair at the back.
Cameron’s injury, along with the expanded roster, has opened the door for the most intriguing player on the roster, 18-year-old defender Cameron Carter-Vickers. Carter-Vickers has become a mainstay on the bench for Tottenham this year, but has only appeared in two senior matches.
At just 18 years old that’s nothing to worry about but the bottom line is Klinsmann couldn’t leave him off the roster any longer. The 18-year-old possesses a lot of raw talent but isn’t ready to help the U.S. immediately. Nonetheless, the England-born defender’s ability and potential have been noticed by all of England. With England in need of new young center backs it was only a matter of time before England would try to persuade Carter-Vickers to don the shirt of the Three Lions.
Should the U.S. hold a late lead in either of their upcoming games, Klinsmann needs to get him on the field to cap-tie the defender to the United States. Once he’s cap-tied Klinsmann can go back to bringing him along at his own pace.
As is always the case with Klinsmann, you win some and you lose some. Left off the roster is FC Dallas star Kellyn Acosta, who has made sporadic appearances for the U.S. at left back. During the Facebook Live, Klinsmann all but admitted that Fabian Johnson would start at left back behind Christian Pulisic despite it being the worst of the four positions Johnson plays.
While the U.S. should be OK with Johnson at left back against Mexico and Costa Rica, it still hurts the team having their second-best attacking midfielder be relegated to a full back role that hardly lets him get involved in the attack. Having Pulisic available is not a good enough excuse to relegate Johnson to left back. Real Madrid doesn’t play Gareth Bale at left back simply because they have Cristiano Ronaldo, rather they figure out a way to maximize the talents of both players.
In addition to Carter-Vickers and Pulisic, Klinsmann has also called in European based youngsters Julian Green, Caleb Stanko, and Lynden Gooch. The Hex, rather than friendlies, is the time to mix in younger players. These games will provide the players with tests they have never faced before and important matches is where you can see who can handle the pressure or not. In addition, they will be playing alongside the core group of USMNT players and you can learn whether they fit into the team seamlessly or not. It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann mixes all the youngsters into the team over the next two games.
Here is the complete roster.
Goalkeepers (4): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough), Ethan Horvath (Molde), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
Defenders (9): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca),Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
Midfielders (9): Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)