With World Cup qualifiers complete until the fall, the focus of the U.S. Men’s National Team has turned to the Copa America and which players could make Jurgen Klinsmann’s tournament roster.
The USMNT is set to play host to South America’s biggest tournament, which will be celebrating its 100th anniversary on U.S. soil. As the summer’s prime competition, the Copa America will pose plenty of tough questions for Klinsmann regarding the team he assembles.
The recent availability of the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team’s top stars has only added to Klinsmann’s potential pool. After falling to Colombia in a recent Olympic Qualifying playoff, the U.S. U-23s will be available and eligible for selection for this summer’s competition.
“With the fact that our Olympic team did not qualify for Rio de Janeiro, the situation comes up where how many of those younger players are ready to get into the senior level toward Copa America,” Klinsmann said. “I think that’s a discussion to have. Matt Miazga, for example, breaking in at Chelsea. Ethan Horvath playing with Molde, playing in the Europe League until they lost to Sevilla. He’s a very promising goalkeeper. How fast can his development curve be over the next 12 months?
“Kellyn Acosta could have been with us for Guatemala, but was with the Olympic team and Jordan Morris, who has already been with the senior team. Does it change their situation? It absolutely does, because they’re not getting the opportunity to play in the Olympics and we’re going to help them to develop, help them their next step in their careers. It’s going to be an open fight with the senior guys to get into that roster for the Copa America.”
One player in particular that has impressed Klinsmann as of late is Miazga, who recently made his first Premier League appearance for Chelsea.
Klinsmann revealed that he texted Miazga a short congratulations after the appearance, a full 90-minute performance in a 4-0 thrashing of Brad Guzan’s Aston Villa. With Chelsea looking to build around youth for the final few weeks, the USMNT coach is hoping to see Miazga continue to emerge while furthering his case for the summer.
“It’s big for Matt, a huge milestone that he kind of took in playing his first game in the Premier League,” Klinsmann said. “To be at such a prestigious club as Chelsea with tremendous players around him and a very very good coach there that guides him through that process, that’s exciting for us. He came back from the Olympic team qualifiers, the playoff with Colombia, not succeeding there and getting to Rio, but he comes back and he’s playing for Chelsea in the starting lineup.”
While Miazga battles into the Chelsea lineup, another player that has seen his stock rise a bit with Klinsmann is Timmy Chandler. The Eintracht Frankfurt fullback has been out of the USMNT picture since the Gold Cup, but has recently regained form in Bundesliga play.
“If they’re playing in Europe or in Mexico or MLS, it’s always with the hope that they show their qualities on the field,” Klinsmann said. “Players that hadn’t been given the chance maybe in the last couple of weeks to perform are back in the picture. For example, Timmy Chandler is back in the lineup for Eintracht Frankfurt and we get the chance to see how he is doing for the next couple of weeks. We’re still waiting for Alfredo Morales, that he comes back after his injury and was now on the bench.
“With Timmy, it’s important to see that he really picks it up and plays strongly in the Bundesliga in order to have a shot maybe at the Copa America. Obviously, he had a game playing against the champions, Bayern Munich, and on his side, he played at right back, he had to deal with Franck Ribery and Franck was just in outstanding form and scored an unbelievable, beautiful goal. That was a tough one for Timmy Chandler, but hopefully now he’s going to pick it up.”
With the Copa America less than two months away, Klinsmann is hoping to see other contenders follow the lead of Miazga and Chandler.
In the Bundesliga, Fabian Johnson and John Brooks continue to battle back from injury, with Brooks set to miss out again this weekend. In MLS, players like Brek Shea continues to shine, while Clint Dempsey looks to have started to turn things around with the Seattle Sounders.
Klinsmann’s biggest desire for improvement comes with regards to his Liga MX pool. With several crucial players like Omar Gonzalez and William Yarbrough earning consistent playing time, Klinsmann is hoping to see several others step up and be counted ahead of this summer’s tournament.
“Liga MX is in full run, and our players are with their clubs doing very well. Unfortunately, not all of them get the playing time that we want to see from our players,” Klinsmann said. “The higher you play in your club environment, the thinner the air. In order to have your starting spot, you compete with very, very good players. We have to be patient there.
“Maybe when Ventura Alvarado is not playing, maybe there’s a reason for it or Michael Orozco not getting into the starting lineup right away. William Yarbrough is doing really well at Club Leon, that’s fun to see. Edgar Castillo played the first 45 for Monterrey. We follow them throughout their club performances and sometimes it works out great, and sometimes it’s a bummer that he doesn’t get the playing time he should have.”