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USMNT World Cup Qualifier Preview

(Mark Sims/Icon Sportswire)

The road to Russia 2018 begins Friday night for the USMNT when they open up their World Cup Qualifying campaign with a home match against St. Vincent and the Grenadines in St. Louis. Jurgen Klinsmann has called 23 players up to the national team with a mix of very experienced members and some newbies.

Here is the squad per U.S. Soccer

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Bill Hamid

Defenders: Ventura Alvarado, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson, Matt Miazga, Michael Orozco, Tim Ream, Brek Shea

Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Miguel Ibarra, Jermaine Jones, DeAndre Yedlin, Darlington Nagbe

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Alan Gordon, Jordan Morris, Bobby Wood, Gyasi Zardes

A couple of things jump off the page when looking at this roster, mainly the inclusion of Matt Miazga and Darlington Nagbe. It’s the first call up to the senior team for both young MLS players. Miazga, whose parents are Polish immigrants, played for the U.S. U20 team and helped them qualify for the U20 World Cup, but was undecided whether to represent the United States or Poland at the senior level. Nagbe was born in Liberia but moved to the United States as a child and just recently became a U.S. citizen.

While both players are having fantastic seasons they both still play in the MLS. The call up to the national team will give both players a chance to perform on a larger stage and possibly earn a move to Europe.

As for the rest of the team, what Klinsmann is trying to do is confusing.

Prior to the CONCACAF Cup match against October, Klinsmann said that several of the older players would be playing for their USMNT careers, and if they failed to win some may not be called into the team again. When the team fell to Mexico it was widely assumed that would mean the end for players such as Matt Besler and Kyle Beckerman.

Yet, here we are and Beckerman still has a spot on this team while younger holding midfielders such as Danny Williams and Perry Kitchen do not. Then there’s Brek Shea, who has been given chances time and time again and has always been a little worse than mediocre on his best days.

There is one glaring omission from this team, 2014 World Cup captain Clint Dempsey isn’t there.

There are a couple of problems with this line of thinking from Klinsmann. The first is the time for experimentation is over. The U.S. spent the past year annoying their fans by experimenting in friendlies and not getting good results. Now it’s time to qualify for the World Cup and even though you’ve probably never heard of St. Vincent’s and the Grenadines, it’s still a game that needs to be taken seriously.

The other problem is it’s hard to believe that Klinsmann will be able to actually give the young strikers a chance when he’s going to be forcing Jozy Altidore into the team every day.

If Jurgen really wanted to experiment, why not leave Altidore off so he can see how the young strikers play with Dempsey since that is far more likely to happen in the future than a player like Jordan Morris actually playing and playing well with Altidore?

One day Klinsmann will wake up and realize that after nearly seven years of playing with the national team, Altidore isn’t going to magically figure out how to be an effective striker against top international opponents. Hopefully that day comes sooner rather than later, but it would be nice if when that day comes the USMNT had already given young strikers a chance to develop chemistry with its best attacking player. Unfortunately fans will have to wait a little longer to see that happen.

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