Jozy Altidore, Jordan Morris, and Rubio Rubin will all be making their return to the USMNT as Jurgen Klinsmann has called 26 players into camp ahead of the United States final two semifinal round World Cup Qualifiers. The U.S. will travel to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday before facing Trinidad and Tobago in Jacksonville on Tuesday.
The 26 players are a combination of young players on great form, as well as the reliable veterans Klinsmann trusts. It’s a larger pool of players than usual, which is likely because should the U.S. clinch their qualification to the final Hexagonal round on Friday (which can only happen if they defeat St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago defeat Guatemala) Klinsmann will likely release some of his veteran MLS players back to their clubs to allow some of the younger players to get their first taste of competitive CONCACAF matches.
Nineteen of the 23 players who comprised the U.S. roster at this summer’s Copa America Centenario will return with Clint Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes, Edgar Castillo, and Perry Kitchen being the four dropped players.
“We definitely think that the group that got fourth in the Copa America deserves a certain priority going on to the next World Cup qualifiers because they did tremendously well in the Copa America,” Klinsmann said in a statement released by U.S. Soccer.
Dempsey, Zardes, and Castillo will all miss out due to injury but the exclusion of Kitchen is certainly curious, especially since the U.S. will be without captain and first choice central midfielder Michael Bradley against St. Vincent due to suspension. Bradley’s first choice partner Jermaine Jones’ participation is also a doubt as Jones hasn’t played since picking up a knee injury in a July 4th match with Colorado.
The combination of injuries, suspensions, and quality of opponents will allow Klinsmann the opportunity to try new combinations that will be vital for the long term success of the national team. The absence of Bradley in the first game, and likely absence of Jones, will force Klinsmann to start a new central midfield pairing, which could lead to a first national team start for a player like Darlington Nagbe. Meanwhile the absence of Zardes opens a spot on the wing, which could lead to Klinsmann pushing Fabian Johnson up to left wing, the position he plays with his club team Borussia Monchengladbach and by far his best position, while 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta slots in at left back.
Acosta has earned his first call up to the senior team since January. While he plays as a holding midfielder for FC Dallas, he’s spent his entire national team career at left back, and started there in the MLS All Star Game.
There are plenty of potential combinations in the midfield, but all eyes will be on the strikers. Freshly back from injury, Jozy Altidore will make his return to the national team. Thanks to the absence of Clint Dempsey, Altidore will likely slot right back into the starting position he’s always had but never deserved. In fact, since the U.S. is playing low-quality CONCACAF opponents Altidore will likely score a few goals, tricking people into thinking he’s a capable international striker.
Altidore will likely line up alongside new striker sensation Bobby Wood. It’ll be the first chance the two get to play together and if successful, could form the first choice US striker partnership for years to come. Though betting on any striker partnership that features Altidore to be ‘successful’ is always long shot. Jordan Morris also returns but will likely be used as an impact sub.
Youngsters Paul Arriola, Caleb Stanko, and Rubio Rubin have also been included in the squad due to their recent club form as well as the plan for long-term integration into the national side. Should the U.S. defeat St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I would expect Arriola to come on as a substitute against Trinidad and Tobago to get him cap tied.
Here is the complete U.S. Squad.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough), Ethan Horvath (Molde FC),
Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids)
Defenders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha BSC), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle)
Midfielders: Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Rubio Rubin (FC Utrecht), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg SV)