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U.S. Men's National Team

Projecting the USMNT January camp roster

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The U.S. Men’s National Team’s January camp has long been a proving ground. Due to the absence of European players, the January camp is often dismissed, as several of the team’s top stars continue to ply their trade at the club level overseas. However, players like Geoff Cameron, Jozy Altidore and, most recently, Steve Birnbaum have made their big impressions during the winter friendlies, earning more regular spots with the national team.

Knowing that, the January camp is an annual chance for MLS players to step up and stake their claim. Under a new manager, that chance is even greater.

Bruce Arena takes charge of the first camp of his second go around as USMNT boss as he brings a group together for several weeks ahead of a pair of friendlies. The U.S. is set to open camp on Jan. 10 before taking on Serbia and Jamaica on Jan. 29 and Feb. 3, respectively. Ahead of those dates, Arena stated that he plans to call in roughly 30 players for the annual camp, giving each a chance to impress the new coach with World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup looming.

Here’s a look at a group of players that could make up the annual January camp:

GOALKEEPERS

David Bingham, Brad Guzan, Bill Hamid, Luis Robles

Outlook: The goalkeeping position is as open as it has been in years and, with Tim Howard injured, the January camp gives several others a chance to restate their cases under a new head coach.

If Brad Guzan’s long-reported move to Atlanta United goes through in time, the goalkeeper should join the U.S. at some point, but it remains to be seen exactly how the timing will work following a weekend appearance from Middlesbrough. However, the U.S. is still several weeks away from the first friendly date, giving the goalkeeper plenty of time to join if the situation arises. Even if Guzan doesn’t join up, the U.S. has several capable goalkeepers in camp, including Bill Hamid, a player many believe could be one of the biggest benefactors of coaching switch. Hamid has long been on the outside of the USMNT picture, and a hot January camp could be just the start needed to see him join the upper echelon of Guzan and Howard.

The same could be said for David Bingham, who has been involved but never truly competitive for the No. 1 spot. Luis Robles, meanwhile, should join camp once again, as the New York Red Bulls goalkeeper has become a regular veteran fixture at the annual gathering.

Among the potential surprises could be Stefan Frei who is fresh off an MLS Cup-winning effort. The Seattle Sounders goalkeeper stated his desire to represent the U.S. internationally, but it remains to be seen just how plausible it is to see him in the near future.

Missed the Cut – Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson, Stefan Frei

DEFENDERS

DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Steve Birnbaum, Greg Garza, Matt Hedges, Eric Miller, Justin Morrow, Keegan Rosenberry, Walker Zimmerman

Outlook: A mix of strong veterans and up-and-comers headline the potential roster as Arena is given the chance to introduce several new faces to the fold.

DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Hedges, Keegan Rosenberry and Walker Zimmerman have been confirmed as atendees, giving the latter trio a chance to step up under the new regime. The call-up has long been deserved for the FC Dallas duo, who have repeatedly stepped up in the center of defense on the club level, while Rosenberry’s spectacular rookie campaign earns him a nod. The Philadelphia Union fullback could be a player that earns more frequent looks at a relative position of weakness, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares during the two friendlies.

Among the more familiar faces, Steve Birnbaum and Matt Besler figure to feature, giving Arena two top centerbacks. At fullback, Greg Garza rejoins the pool following extended injury issues and a move to Atlanta United. Look for Arena to try some new faces due to the absences of DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson, opening the door for players like Justin Morrow and Eric Miller to earn looks.

Missed the Cut: Brad Evans, Justen Glad, Chad Marshall, Drew Moor, Ike Opara, Robbie Rogers

MIDFIELDERS

Kellyn Acosta, Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Benny Feilhaber, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, Sebastian Lletget, Dax McCarty, Darlington Nagbe, Chris Pontius, Cristian Roldan, Will Trapp

Outlook: Several of the usual suspects should be available, but they will face new challenges at this camp. Michael Bradley is still pretty much untouchable, but it’s up to him to now convince Bruce Arena that he is locked in to a No. 6 role. Jermaine Jones faces a test, too, as the midfielder looks to prove himself worthy enough of continued call ups despite his advancing years.

The marquee name on the list, though, is Benny Feilhaber, who finally rejoins the USMNT picture after several years away. Feilhaber was long the excluded but unforgotten man during the Klinsmann era, and his playmaking ability could certainly be a major help to the U.S. as the cycle continues.

Then there are the newcomers, like Sebastian Lletget and Christian Roldan. Lletget is an all too logical inclusion given his history with Bruce Arena, and provides depth both out wide and centrally if need be. Roldan, meanwhile, is a player that has flourished in a holding role for the Sounders, proving himself as a capable two-way midfielder through MLS play. He has obviously yet to prove he can stand up to the international level, but his recent MLS efforts certainly show him worthy of that chance.

Missed the Cut: Kyle Beckerman, Ethan Finlay, Tommy McNamara, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Graham Zusi

FORWARD

Juan Agudelo, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Kekuta Manneh, Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes

The forward pool is all but confirmed. Arena mentioned the likes of Juan Agudelo, Clint Dempsey, Kekuta Manneh, Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes by name in his brief look into the roster, confirming, at worst, a large chunk of the forward roster. After shining en route to an MLS Cup berth, Jozy Altidore is also an obvious inclusion.

There’s still plenty of intrigue, though. Is Dempsey past his heart condition and, if he is, what type of role can he expect to return to with Altidore and Bobby Wood thriving? What can Manneh bring to the table before officially joining the USMNT? Can Jordan Morris take the leap and begin to push Altidore and Wood harder for starters minutes? How does Arena see Zardes lining up for the national team after coaching him for so long with the Galaxy?

The January camp will answer several questions for a growing USMNT pool.

Missed the Cut: Patrick Mullins, Chris Wondowlowski

24 comments
  • The Imperative Voice

    General ideas of meaningless January camps under continuity leadership don’t really apply with a new boss in an all hands on deck situation. We’re back qualifying in two months, when MLS is in early stages. I expect him, give or take injuries, to call in all qualifying game candidates from leagues whose schedules sync up. I expect some surprises in terms of who he thinks is worthy (or the coaching change would defeat the point).

    Central midfield is a problem area so I anticipate Roldan gets a look and some other people, and it may surprise how Bradley and others get treated. If we don’t fix that this goes nowhere. I can’t imagine Arena just dutifully runs Bradley out and gets the same buzzsaw Klinsi was being run through, that would be dumb. He’s gonna churn the backline and churn the central midfield.

    Like

    • Twomilerule

      Curious to the sudden interest in Roldan and how he is described as a “two way midfielder?” All I have seen of him is a high work rate and the player pool has no shortage of “hustle” players. Roldan is a fringe player at best in the scheme of USMNT. Remember this “two way midfielder” delivered zero balls that resulted in a shot on goal in the MLS finals. In contrast in the first half Bradley was pinging balls all over the field. Not to beat up on Roldan because it could be other fringe players called on but few of the new guy call ups have yet to impose themselves on a game that I have seen thus far.

      Hope this camp establishes what Arena wants to do with his team?

      Like

      • Atx_Colin

        I think Roldan will use this camp as a springboard for his USMNT career, I like his game and think he will earn minutes at cm moving forward , he is more creative then you are giving him credit for.

        Like

    • johnnyrazor

      MLS is the only league that would match up that US players play in. Josh Gatt would be a candidate as he is out of contract, but heard he is on trial in Germany this week. Although I’m sure Bruce would like to bring in his qualifying roster it can’t happen this time.

      Like

  • antonnynoronha

    my squad of 23, generally are more, i know
    gk: hamid, bingham and howard
    def: besler, birnbaum, hedges, Zimmermann, vincent, rosenberry, garza and Rogers
    mid: acosta, trapp, lletget, Bradley , bedoya, rowe, nguyen
    fow: altidore, Morris, agudelo, manneh, zardes

    Like

  • RSLpotshottin

    Starting XI

    Wondowlowski–Khiry Shelton–Zusi
    ——Beckerman———-Diskerud———
    ————————Cronin———————–
    Sinovic—Burling——Okugo—Sarkodie
    ————————Saunders——————–

    Like

  • Brent McD

    Bradley should no longer be considered untouchable. He’s looked decidedly average in a US shirt since moving back to MLS. No question about Bradley’s tactical acumen, but his lack of pace is a real concern.

    Like

    • Twomilerule

      Whom is better? None of the heir apparents have stepped up to take his spot? Bradley is currently a key cog but just needs to be played to his strengths and better players around him.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Delle Alli

      Bradley is still the best option, no matter what a few fans seem to think. He’s had some disappointing games, but he’s still very good. He was one of the few to show well in Costa Rica, and I don’t see Bruce sitting him of all people.

      Like

  • Aquaman

    Probably not popular choices, but I am going to suggest Brek Shea (as a midfielder, not defender) and Mix Diskerud for this camp.

    Like

  • johnnyrazor

    Not sure about that midfield only one true outside player Lletget with Bedoya and Nagbe can play there. LAG played a lot of 4-2-1-3 or 4-2-3-1 the last few years. If that’s the case and Zardes and Morris or Swagadelo are playing wings its ok. However, then you are bringing in a lot of MF for 3 spots.

    I’d bring Finlay if that’s the formation though he’s better for that wing slot than Morris or Juan. Not sure why so many are clamoring for Benny, but no one is talking about Lee Nguyen. Nguyen is a better team guy, plays the same position with similar results in MLS, and never really got a chance to play the CAM role under JK.

    I’d give Jozy, Michael, and Morris the choice after their extended playoff runs, especially the two Toronto players considering their ages and experience.

    Like

  • bizzy

    Calling players in camp and see what they can do!!!!! This is what makes me so excited:

    Defense – Matt Hedges, Eric Miller, Justin Morrow (I’ve been saying this forever), Keegan Rosenberry, Walker Zimmerman

    Midfield – Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan, Sebastian Lletget, Dax McCarty, Darlington Nagbe, Chris Pontius, Cristian Roldan, Will Trapp

    Forwards – Juan Agudelo, Kekuta Manneh (OH YEAH), Jordan Morris,

    I wish Jamaica, that has been on our level in the Klinsmann era, throws everything they can at us in that friendly

    Like

  • bottlcaps

    I do not think Arena will make any substantive changes to the top10-13 players. But what could change is the depth chart, especially in the second 11. After Arena take a good long look at these players, plus the players he knows too well (former and current LAG players), he will then start formulating his 23 for the next round of friendlies, vetting them before the WCQ games. This has pretty much been his modus operandi.What Arena wants to see is a good solid back line, a good passing midfield and runners down the flanks and into the box. finding players he needs will be a lot easier than the first time around.

    Like

  • Chris

    I just put together my camp roster the other day and was pretty similar to this. A few changes:
    1. I had Rimando in camp, just because howard is more than likely gonna be out, and if guzan stays on the bench for middlesborough he’s our next best option
    2. Had robbie rogers over eric miller, dont mind it either way just dont rate miller all that highly
    3. I have zusi in camp, although it is a bit concerning arena already saying that nagbe, zardes, morris, manneh and pontius will be in, so kinda limited spots in the wide spots.
    4. Also guys like trapp and acosta I would like to see develop a bit more at their clubs, were good with bradley and dax right now in that spot

    Like

  • johnnyrazor

    # of MLS Players on World Cup Rosters
    Arena’s 2002 11
    Arena’s 2006 11
    Bradley’s 2010 4
    Klinsmann’s 2014 10

    # of players age 25 or under
    Arena 2002 7
    Arena 2006 6
    Bradley 2010 10
    Klinsmann 2014 8

    # of players age 30 or over field players only
    Arena 2002 6
    Arena 2006 5
    Bradley 2010 3
    Klinsman 2014 6

    You can draw your own conclusions here, Arena and Klinnsman’s roster choices are much closer in composition than Bradley. Klinnsman was much more pro-MLS than Bradley. Or you can just admit that each man had to choose the best from what they had available.

    Like

    • Bryan

      The difference could partly be Bob was calling in younger, better, Euro versions of guys like Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey.

      Like

      • johnnyrazor

        Also, with 2010 only 6 of 19 Euro players had not yet played in MLS and you had guys like Holden and Clark who had only played a few months in Europe. Whereas, 7 of 12 of the 2014 squad had not played in MLS.

        Another aspect is that 2010 squad had by my estimate 10 from Top 5 Leagues whereas 2014 had 9 (I didn’t check some of those lower clubs that swing from top division to 2nd division to see for sure where they were at the time).

        Another thing I found interesting is many of the 2010 squad made the jump to Europe between the 2006 and 2010 World Cup so despite a poor finish in the World Cup opportunities were still available.

        Just interesting that the narrative has been that with Arena it will be a return to a veteran MLS heavy lineup, when that wasn’t the case in the past or with the last American manager Bradley. Truly I think if you let Klinsmann, Arena, and Bradley name 23 man rosters with players available and their form at the time for each of those four WCs you wouldn’t have seen much difference. No more than a player or two different each year. Obviously, Landon would have been included by Bob and Bruce, but Arena called in Landon before he played a first team match anywhere, so maybe Green still goes considering his form for Bayern II.

        Like

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