U.S. Men's National Team
3 Outsiders Who Deserve January Camp Invitations
December 27, 2016
BRUCE ARENA has dropped plenty of hints about who will be in attendance at the forthcoming January training camp, and ASN's Brian Sciaretta did a good job of aggregating these clues, along with some of his own insights, to create a predicted roster.
Never one to mince words, Arena has already conveyed that continuity will be a priority of this camp, so we will no doubt see many familiar faces convene in southern California early next month. Add in a few noteworthy Jurgen Klinsmann snubs—Benny Feilhaber and Matt Hedges top that list—and the 2017 camp lineup is likely to look very similar to the 2016 player pool.
That's fine. That's pragmatic. That probably makes sense, given that the Yanks need a minimum of four points from two games in March.
But I, for one, hope the former Los Angeles Galaxy coach is willing to mix things up a bit more than he has indicated. Here are three Major League Soccer players who deserve a shot in January—men who could sneak onto a 23-player Hexagonal roster and make a difference as the Yanks try to claw their way back into the CONCACAF competition and secure a spot for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Imagine this scenario: It's late in the evening on March 24th at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, and the U.S. is stuck in a scoreless draw with Honduras. Jozy Altidore's first touch has abandoned him yet again. Michael Bradley is struggling in the center of the pitch. Christian Pulisic has made his presence felt but cannot connect that final pass. (Any of this sound familiar?)
To their credit, the visiting Catrachos have bunkered completely, and effectively, and with 20 minutes left to play it's clear to all that changes need to be made.
Arena looks down his bench, spots his guy, and calls Kelyn Rowe into the match.
Yes, Kelyn Rowe—the guy who scored these goals:
The New England Revolution midfielder is a sniper, pure and simple. He has authored more long-range goals over the past few years than any other American that comes to mind.
Rowe is not particularly big or speedy or technical, and people tend to forget about him because his team plays in an NFL stadium in the suburbs led by the worst ownership group in Major League Soccer. But Rowe, a former UCLA star, has steadily improved during his five years with the Revs and is precisely the sort of guy who can make something out of nothing. Fans named Rowe the team's MVP in 2016, and with good cause: He makes shit happen.
Stuck in a tight contest? Running out of ideas to break through a bunker? You could do far worse than calling on a guy who specializes in strikes that seem to come out of nowhere. I'm not suggesting that Rowe is the next coming of Paul Scholes, or even that he should start for the Yanks. But he could be a very useful player off the bench.
Invite him to January camp, Bruce, and let yourself be impressed.
Speaking of guys who can create something out of nothing, Tommy McNamara is another candidate for a U.S. men's national team bench role. He scores from distance....
...he can pick out a run and set up his teammates...
...and he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time:
New York City FC boss Patrick Vieira was a tough midfielder during his playing days and is a tough judge of talent now as coach. (Don't believe me? Ask Mix Diskerud.) Vieira is an unabashed believer in McNamara and I have to agree with the Frenchman.
Despite sharing the midfield with some big-name players in the Bronx, McNamara, a New York native, started 28 games in 2016, scoring five goals and registering nine assists. He always looked dangerous and he often delivered.
"He’s smart," Vieira said of McNamara. "Always in the right position at the right time. He can score goals, he can [create]; assists, he’s comfortable with the ball at his feet. I like this player.”
I think Arena would like him too.
The goalkeeping situation for the U.S. men's national team is far from dreadful but it is also a far cry from what it was just two years ago.
Tim Howard is no longer a game-changer for Everton—he's an MLS backstop who will be 38 in March, somebody who injured his right adductor in a Hexagonal match against Mexico and had to be subbed off in the middle of the game. The Colorado Rapids No. 1 will probably get the first shot at being the U.S. starter against Honduras, but given his age and his non-contact injury in a key game, Arena will need to have strong Plan B in place.
Brad Guzan has been that Plan B for a number of years, and a very good one at that. But the Middlesbrough keeper is out of favor in the U.K. and is hoping to land a gig in Major League Soccer. If Guzan succeeds in this effort, he likely will get a few games in before U.S. camp opens in mid-March. If he is stuck on the bench in the midlands, he will be far too rusty to get the nod in a World Cup qualifier.
There are other American goalkeepers to consider—including Ethan Horvath, Bill Hamid, and David Bingham—but I'm bullish on Luis Robles, a guy who offers the right mix of experience, athleticism, and shot-stopping acumen. He's a grown-ass man who has been through a lot, and managed to persevere.
Robles made his national team debut in 2009 and then had to wait nearly seven years for another chance, a 3-2 victory over Iceland last January. The 2015 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year hasn't missed a regular season game in four years, rarely makes mistakes, and often comes up with a special stop or two—which is all you can ask from your goalkeeper.
Most importantly, Robles, 32, could step right into a high-stakes contest and deliver a steady performance. The next two Hex matches are not graduate seminars in soccer; the Yanks need results. Horvath is just 21 and is too green to be considered for the two March games. Hamid, 26, and Bingham, 27, will get their shots—perhaps at the Gold Cup next summer—but I would much rather have a veteran backup ready to go if Howard and/or Guzan are injured, or too rusty, to answer the bell.
Rowe, McNamara, Robles—would you like to see any of these three in camp next month? Share your take below.