U.S. Men's National Team
These 23 Players Should Make U.S. Hexagonal Roster
September 09, 2016
THERE WILL BE NO EASING INTO the Hexagonal this time around.
The United States men's national team will open CONCACAF's final round of World Cup qualifying in Columbus, Ohio, on November 11 against arch rival Mexico. After that, Jurgen Klinsmann's team will fly to Costa Rica, where it has never won, to face the Ticos on November 15.
So yeah—the coach needs to assemble the right collection of players or risk falling behind early in this year-long, six-team tournament.
The makeup of the U.S. roster will morph over time, and the 23 players who represent the Stars and Stripes in two months will not be the same players who lace them up in Russia in 2018—assuming the Yanks qualify, that is.
And besides, there is still two months to go before the Hexagonal begins. The October friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand could reveal a lot about Klinsmann's plans, and fringe players who perform well against these two squads could claw their way into consideration. Having said all of that, here is my prediction for the roster Klinsmann will name for those two crucial matches in November.
In the Mix: Nick Rimando, David Bingham, Luis Robles
This is a pretty settled position for the U.S. at the moment, although it is far from certain if Klinsmann will start Guzan or Howard against Mexico. Club form in the next couple of months will dictate that. Meanwhile, Horvath appears to be the No. 3 option right now.
In the Mix: Steve Birnbaum, Michael Orozco, Matt Miazga, Eric Lichaj, Jorge Villafana, Jonathan Spector
While Fabian Johnson saw time at his preferred midfielder position against St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it's hard to see Klinsmann not playing him in a fullback role against top competition. There are some interesting positional battles. Will Gonzalez or Birnbaum get the nod for perhaps the final central defense spot? Will Jorge Villafana get a look in October at left back? Did Kellyn Acosta do enough to earn a fullback spot despite not playing there for FC Dallas? Does Michael Orozco continue to have a role on this team?
Timothy Chandler could be a nice spot to make a bit of a move if he can remain healthy and play for Eintracht Frankfurt. Whenever it seems like he is on the outside of this team, he always finds his way back in.
In the Mix: Kyle Beckerman, Graham Zusi, Ethan Finlay, Perry Kitchen, Danny Williams, Alfredo Morales, Caleb Stanko
There could be a lot of turnover in the midfield in the months ahead. Sacha Kljestan made a very strong statement during this past international break, as did Paul Arriola, who could be a useful offensive substitute off the bench.
Lynden Gooch looks to be in strong shape for an October call-up and he offers the sort of versatility Klinsmann likes. The Santa Cruz, Calif., native can play on the wings or centrally. While he has not been capped October seems like a good time to give the Sunderland starter a close look.
The big question at this position centers on veterans: Is there room for both Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones on this team? If Beckerman is gone, perhaps an established defensive midfielder like Caleb Stanko, Perry Kitchen, or Danny Williams comes in.
In the Mix: Aron Johannsson, Rubio Rubin, Julian Green, Chris Wondolowski
Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood are locks at this point. Clint Dempsey is as well but his health is in question at the moment. It's also hard to see Jordan Morris not being on this roster right now as the Seattle Sounders rookie was lively off the bench against Trinidad & Tobago.
Aron Johannsson is on his way back and he could continue to push for a spot—especially if Dempsey cannot go. Rubio Rubin will also need to stand out at Utrecht to make a case for a spot, but it could happen. At this point, as players are getting back from injury, it looks like Chris Wondolowski might be sliding further out of the picture.
What do you think of Brian's choices? Got a few different options in mind? Share in the Comments section below.