Jurgen Klinsmann looks set to experiment a bit in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s upcoming friendly, but those experimentations could be vital as the team marches towards November’s World Cup qualifiers.
Following several big-name departures, a series of newer faces are set to lead the USMNT into Tuesday’s friendly against New Zealand. Gone are regulars like John Brooks, Fabian Johnson and Bobby Wood. In their places, players like Juan Agudelo, Tim Parker and Terrence Boyd join the squad in an effort to break into an already crowded national team picture.
Familiar faces are back in the fold as well, with Kellyn Acosta looking to continue to mount his case as an option at left back. Likewise, the centerback position remains one up for debate as Mexico and Costa Rica draw near.
Here’s a look at several storylines to watch in Tuesday’s match:
NEW, BUT FAMILIAR, FACES AT FORWARD
Following the departures of Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood, Klinsmann needed some new faces at the forward position. To that aim, he turned to two young strikers looking to rediscover their international careers.
Juan Agudelo and Terrence Boyd are 23 and 25-years-old, respectively, but their international careers have seemed all but over at several points throughout the past few years. The last of Agudelo’s 20 caps came back in 2015, while Boyd has been out of action since making his 13th appearance in the Fall of 2014. Now, the two are back in the fold, even if it’s just for one game.
Following a failed transfer saga that saw him travel all over Europe, Agudelo has found his feet with the New England Revolution. The forward has provided three goals in three assists in his last five matches while displaying the form that made him one of the hottest USMNT prospects when he made his debut in Nov. 2010.
Boyd’s road has been significantly more difficult. Catastrophic injuries kept the forward out of action for nearly two years before a return this fall. He’s still been limited to reserve matches, but the RB Leipzig forward has shown enough progress for Klinsmann to justify getting a closer look.
Just several weeks ago, the two seemed very far away from the national team picture. Now back with the squad, the two have a chance to prove themselves while adding a bit of extra competition to an already deep forward position.
GOOCH LOOKS TO SHINE IN FIRST CAP
For the time being, Lynden Gooch remains a bit of a mystery, but the winger should get his chance on Tuesday night.
Gooch remained with the squad as several of his European counterparts returned to their club teams. Klinsmann clearly has some sort of plan for the young midfielder, who remained on the bench for the USMNT’s win over Cuba.
In Gooch, the U.S. has a versatile player, one who can play across the midfield. The Sunderland prospect has shown the ability to play out wide, as a No. 10 or as a No. 8 throughout his young career, and could feature in a variety of ways for the U.S. on Tuesday night. It’s unclear where exactly Klinsmann expects to deploy Gooch when his USMNT career kicks off, but the 20-year-old’s versatility could prove an asset as he continues to grow as a player.
Competition for a major role remains high. Players like Julian Green and Paul Arriola seem to lead the way for young wing prospects, while the returns of players like Alejandro Bedoya and Gyasi Zardes further add to roster competition. Still, Gooch can benefit from making a solid first impression as he looks to make the jump from youth star to bonafide senior contributor.
CENTERBACKS PUSH FOR HEX SPOT
The centerback position remains a crowded one, and with John Brooks and Geoff Cameron back with their clubs, several veterans will compete with several newcomers for spots on the Hex roster.
Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler lead the more experienced options in Tuesday’s match, and the pair of World Cup veterans have formed a formidable partnership over the years. The two have always been steady, dating back to their Azteca efforts, and could very well be in line to join the roster for the upcoming Mexico match.
Just behind them are a pair of newer faces in Steve Birnbaum and Tim Parker. Birnbaum has looked solid in his nine USMNT appearances and, unless sidelined by that nasty head injury, should get some major minutes in his home stadium. Parker, on the other hand, is likely joining for the experience, as the Whitecaps and U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team standout could earn his first senior spot.
In addition, the U.S. roster features Michael Orozco. It wouldn’t surprise many if Orozco saw the field on Tuesday, but his position remains up in the air. The Tijuana defender provides cover at each position across the backline, making him quite valuable as the U.S. continues to deal with a lack of fullback depth.
Tuesday presents the last chance for players to make their case for Mexico and Costa Rica, and the centerback position is one that appears to have several ready to battle it out for a spot.
ACOSTA GIVEN CHANCE TO IMPRESS AGAIN AT LEFT BACK
Fabian Johnson is out. Kellyn Acosta is in.
With the former’s departure, the latter becomes the most obvious choice to start Tuesday’s match at left back. Acosta’s three prior USMNT caps have come at the position, with varying success. Klinsmann and co. clearly see Acosta as a potential solution on the left side, as he continues to become more comfortable at the position.
The key for Acosta is game-time. He continues to be an integral part of a potential Supporters’ Shield run with FC Dallas in a holding midfield role, but the transition back and forth from left back is one that requires time. The 21-year-old is still refining his role, one that could become a bit more regular with anotehr solid effort.
Look for Acosta to get that time on Tuesday, as he looks to seal a spot while pushing Johnson up to his preferred midfield role. The transition could pay dividends, as a confident Acosta could open the U.S. roster up to plenty of new looks.