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U.S. Men's National Team

A look at players with the most to gain from making the Gold Cup roster

The 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup will serve many purposes for U.S. Men’s National Team manager Bruce Arena, but the biggest is getting an extended look at new faces and those on the fringe of the first team.

Arena took the first step toward Gold Cup preparations on Saturday, when U.S. Soccer released the provisional 40-man roster for the tournament.

Included in the roster are first-team regulars, young players hungry to make their mark and some old faces that have been waiting for a second chance for years in some cases.

Here’s a look at a few players who have the most to gain, starting in the Gold Cup on June 25 and going into the tournament itself.

Jesse Gonzalez

The name that stood out right away on the provisional roster was that of FC Dallas netminder Jesse Gonzalez. The goalkeeping prospect has been in a tug of war between the United States and Mexico for his talents, and it seems like the USMNT has an edge on El Tri if he shows up and plays in the Gold Cup.

Out of the six goalkeepers on the provisional roster, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan seem to be surefire locks to make the 23-man squad, unless one of two pulls out for whatever reason. That leaves one spot on the roster remaining for Gonzalez, Bill Hamid, Joe Bendik and Sean Johnson to fight for.

Hamid is a known quantity and should still be in Arena’s sights regardless of if he makes the final cut. Bendik and Johnson have had good seasons in MLS, but will probably come up short of making the Gold Cup. Gonzalez is the most intriguing prospect because Arena has the ability to cap tie him in July, probably in a group stage contest. If that is the case, the USMNT could have its goalkeeper of the future secured.

Eric Lichaj

Because of the lack of stability at full back over the last few years, Eric Lichaj’s name has always come up in USMNT discussions, but he never received a true opportunity from Jurgen Klinsmann. The Nottingham Forest man was on the preliminary Copa America Centenario roster, but he only played in the friendly against Puerto Rico.

The 28-year-old carries a load of European experience from his time at Forest into the camp, and he put himself in a good position to start in the Gold Cup at right back with DeAndre Yedlin being given some rest. Lichaj will be in direct competition with Graham Zusi, Matt Polster and potentially Matt Besler for the right back spot, with Jorge Villafana, Greg Garza and Justin Morrow battling at left back.

Cristian Roldan

At some point, the younger generation of American midfielders will have to take over the keys to the car. Kellyn Acosta has started to break into the first team, and Cristian Roldan could be next on the list. The Seattle Sounders man has impressed over the last year and a half and it appears he’s ready to prove himself on the international stage.

However, it will be hard for Roldan to work his way into playing time in July with Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe in the squad. It’s a safe assumption that quartet will make the 23-man squad so Roldan will be in competition with plenty of other MLSers for the final few spots. Based off what we’ve seen in Seattle, Roldan could hold an edge over the likes of Wil Trapp, Kelyn Rowe and Tommy McNamara.

Juan Agudelo

It’s hard to believe Juan Agudelo is only 24, but he is and he’s found consistency at the club level with New England to earn a spot on the 40-man Gold Cup roster. Agudelo is the owner of 23 caps, with three goals in those appearances. If Arena values past experience, albeit the majority of it from six years ago, Agudelo could enter camp with an edge over fellow MLS strikes C.J. Sapong and Dom Dwyer.

A return to the first team could be a huge boost of confidence for Agudelo, who already has seven goals in 2017 for the Revs. His presence would also bring another dimension to the attack that carries plenty of physical players.

Dom Dwyer

Dom Dwyer’s arrival to a USMNT squad has been one of the most anticipated topics in 2017 among American soccer fans. Dwyer has been one of the most consistent forwards in MLS over the last three years, and he earned his American citizenship in March.

It’s probably same to assume Dwyer is competition with Agudelo and Sapong for the final forward spot on the roster, unless Chris Wondolowski does something magical in camp and knocks out the three younger forwards. Dwyer’s skill set would benefit the USMNT greatly, and it would give Arena a direct backup to Altidore in terms of style of play, something the Americans have struggled with in the past during major competitions.

14 comments
  • johnnyrazor

    For the group stage:
    —Agudelo—–Dwyer—–Arriola—-
    ——–Nagbe——Saief—————
    —————-Acosta——————-
    Garza-Besler—Hedges—–Lichaj–
    —————Hamid——————–

    But upon study the roster to come up with that line up I wouldn’t be surprise to see a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3. If you look at the FBs all are offensive in nature and several are converted midfielders.

    ——-Agudelo—Dwyer————–
    Morrow-Acosta—Nagbe—-Lichaj
    ————–McCarty—————–
    —–Besler–Hedges–Omar——–

    Besler would have to be the captain, which looking at how inexperienced I made the roster makes me doubt even more either of these would happen. Either Duece, Jozy, or Bradley would probably be in any line up even though I think all three could use the rest in the group stage.

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  • NC Jeff

    And just last week, we read that Jesse Gonzalez had chosen to play for a MNT other than the US … I guess we’ll get a final answer pretty soon. I hate to see a player get cap-tied just to have him “in case” and/or to deny him to a competitor. In this case, his playing days will likely go on much later than Howard’s and Guzan’s international playing days, so about the time he gets into his prime is when the US may just need him the most.

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  • Old School

    but he never received a true opportunity from Jurgen Klinsmann.

    I believe that depends on your definition of opportunity. If opportunity means called in multiple times and cut from camp prior to a match, then yes, he’s received an opportunity. However, Lichaj was injured or seeking more playing time for a large stretch of Klinsmann’s early tenure and, like most national team managers, he moved on and found other players that became “his guys”.

    However, I’m in the camp of wanting him to see the pitch: if he earns it. This guy has gotten more push by fans and media than almost any other player in our pool and the conspiracy theories of why he hasn’t seen the pitch is laughable.

    On a non-opinion sidenote: I’m still not 100% clear on the new Gold Cup set-up for winning it. What ramifications does this Gold Cup have on the future Confederations Cup, again?

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    • Beto

      no official statements that I have seen, but you would have to assume that 2017 Winners will play 2019 Winners in the Confed Cup Playoff (concacaf cup) again… and mark geiger will do what it takes to ensure that is USA vs. Mexico

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  • wychijeff

    “…the USMNT could have its goalkeeper of the future secured.” Are we just going to pretend Ethan Horvath isn’t out there killing it in a better league?

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    • Old School

      …or even more amusing: Jonathan Klinsmann may another/the candidate for goalkeeper of the future.

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    • Yevgeniy

      “Killing it” is a bit of stretch considering he played about 4 games. “Better league” is also debatable. Brugge is better than Dallas, but not sure the league top-to-bottom

      Liked by 1 person

    • Gary Page

      I agree with Horvath. Plus, what about Yarbrough of Leon? When he was first called in he was only a semi-regular with his club team. I thought he did okay with the NT. Now, this last year he has been an every game starter for Leon and seems to have done well. Yet now he’s completely forgotten. And to further complicate the issue, I think Robles has been as good as the other MLS goalkeepers mentioned. It makes you wonder if Gonzalez and Yarbrough have been called in just to keep them from playing for Mexico (even though Mexico has at least 2 excellent GK’s in front of them).

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  • LouisZ

    I think Saief is the one we should be talking abut. I have a hunch he will take someone’s starting spot.

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  • LouisZ

    Horvath is probably the 3rd best goalie but he is also the youngest. I’m surprised Jesse made the move knowing full well that Horvath is knocking on the door.

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  • Patrick Gillespie

    The omission of Danny Williams and Alfredo Morales annoys me a bit unless they are injured and I don’t know it.

    We need a #6 and since GCam is going to be a CB, we have MB and Dax? No disrespect but yeah we need to look elsewhere. Since Dax is the only true defensive player and I have never been blown away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Super Nintendo Chalmers

      Williams is a free agent. He needs to get his club situation sorted out. I think he can play himself back in the picture provided he gets consistent minutes.

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  • Lost in Space

    When this preliminary roster of 40 was announced there were a number of players I thought could have a chance to stake a claim for positions….
    Lichaj – He doesn’t really have any competition for RB among those called in. Zusi was crap during the January Camp, and of the SKC games I’ve seen him in he hasn’t looked much better. Haven’t seen much of Polster, but from what I have seen he’s more of a stay at home RB instead of one who adds to the attack. Reminds me a lot of Spector circa 2009. I don’t see Besler as a viable RB option, considering he’s predominantly a LCB for Club & Country. Lichaj can also be used as a LB which gives Arena flexibility.
    Roldan – A versatile player who can be deployed as an 8 or a tucked in winger. He’s also been seeing time at RB for the sounders. He’s not a true CDM, but he’d be a decent partner for Acosta/Bradley in a flat 4 midfield. Very similar to Lletget with a little less control in tight spaces.
    Gonzalez – Keeper is fairly wide open. Howard is clearly the #1 right now. Guzan is #2, but needs to reclaim his form to stay there. Then there is a long list of possibilities….Horvath, Steffen, Hamid, Yarbrough, Bingham, S. Johnson…none of which have made a claim for the 3rd spot yet. After 2018 all 3 Keepers spots will be up for grabs.

    Strikers – Up for grabs. We’ve got 2 locks (Wood & Jozy) who’ve had injury issues/concerns in the last couple years that have limited their time with the national team. Dempsey is an aging star, but how much longer can we count on him. We need quality depth options to insure we don’t have a similar situation to the 2010 WC (CD9) or 2014 WC (Jozy hamstring).

    Since we can swap out 6 players after the group stage I fully expect that some players (Jozy, Bradley, Bedoya, Howard) will remain with their clubs for the first stage. This should give some of the others a chance to show what they can do.

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