Six new faces have been brought into the U.S. Men’s National Team to begin the push through the Gold Cup knockout stages. With their selections, though, the tournament has officially ended for six members of the USMNT’s group stage team.
Alejandro Bedoya, Brad Guzan, Dom Dwyer, Kelyn Rowe, Cristian Roldan and Sean Johnson have officially left the USMNT squad, ending their Gold Cup run. In their stead, Bruce Arena has called in a slew of veteran options as the U.S. looks to make a push for the tournament title.
The six players that depart the USMNT had plenty of time to make their mark, though, and several stood out far more than the others. Their tournament may be over, but the recent four-game stretch could go a long way towards impacting the future of several players both old and new.
Here’s a look at how the six departing players performed throughout their recent run:
It was easy to see a scenario while Alejandro Bedoya was beginning to slide down the depth chart. The rise of Kellyn Acosta added another contender to the midfield pool. Christian Pulisic and Fabian Johnson have the wing spots occupied with players like Paul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes remained firmly in the mix. Players were stepping up and, after some up-and-down efforts with the Union, Bedoya was in need of a big performance.
He provided just that, stepping up as arguably the best veteran presence throughout the last two matches. Against Panama, Bedoya wasn’t at his best but his substitute appearance against Martinique glavanized the USMNT in a game that wasn’t as straight-forward as it should have been. Against Nicaragua, Bedoya provided a pair of assists while drawing a penalty in a match that saw him assert himself as the most dominant playmaking presence.
Bedoya remains in a battle for spots, especially with younger options coming up through the pool. However, while Bedoya’s ceiling may not be as high, his floor isn’t as low as his veteran presence and USMNT consistency make him a player that will remain in the mix up to Russia.
Entering the Gold Cup, Dom Dwyer was probably the most talked about inclusion on the USMNT roster and, by and large, he lived up to the hype.
Including the Ghana match, Dwyer scored twice in his first three USMNT appearances, an impressive haul no matter what you expected of him or how you viewed his efforts. He showed off his typical work-rate and some impressive finishing as, against the group stage competition, Dwyer showed he could translate his game fairly well to the international level. There were some down moments, like a penalty kick miss, but Dywer generally showed pretty well for himself throughout his first international matches.
Where that leaves him remains to be seen. Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood almost certainly headline the senior forward options while Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes and Juan Agudelo are also certainly in the mix. It may be too late for Dwyer to truly push into that upper echelon for next summer’s World Cup, but he certainly didn’t hurt his case with his Gold Cup efforts.
Much like most of the last year or two, Brad Guzan’s Gold Cup was a mixed bag.
Against Panama, he was fantastic. Faced with shot after shot, Guzan made some spectacular stops and, even on the game’s lone goal, he certainly wasn’t at fault. It was one of Guzan’s better performances in quite awhile, and it helped the USMNT earn a vital point to start the tournament.
His performance against Martinique, though, left plenty to be desired. Guzan will no doubt be disappointed with his efforts on Kevin Parsemain’s long-range strike, one that looked like a fairly straight-forward diving save before trickling into the back of the net.
With less than a year before the World Cup, Guzan is still very much in a battle with Tim Howard for the USMNT No. 1 spot. Thus far, the two have largely split time but, eventually, Bruce Arena will need to make a decision. Guzan’s play with Atlanta United will be key in that decision but, with so few USMNT appearances left before a World Cup, Guzan still has a lot to prove if he wants to be the unquestioned starter next summer.
Of the 23 players on the USMNT roster, Johnson was the only one not to earn a start throughout the three-game Gold Cup run. Obviously, that makes assessing him pretty difficult.
With Jesse Gonzalez cleared and Tim Howard coming in to replace Guzan, Bill Hamid is the lone holdover at the goalkeeper position. It’s an obvious sign that Johnson is fairly far down the goalkeeper depth chart, but it will be interesting to see how he fares with NYCFC throughout the rest of the MLS season.
The Gold Cup group stages were about the future, and Roldan was likely the best example of that. The midfield, at this point in time, simply has too many options for Roldan to be considered a serious contender to mount a push for the World Cup.
Still, Roldan did just fine in his lone USMNT appearance. Was it spectacular? No. Did he dazzle? Not really. However, he was fairly steady in what was a somewhat quiet performance. Now, quiet isn’t always bad, especially when you’re playing a bit deeper, and Roldan’s effort wasn’t a highlight or a lowlight of the Martinique match.
If he wanted to be a more serious contender, a dazzling performance was required, and even then, he almost certainly would still be on his way back to the Sounders. It was a good experience for the young midfielder and, if he can build upon it, he can certainly get back into the mix in the years to come.
Of the newcomers, Kelyn Rowe may have been the big winner.
Rowe was a standout pretty much every time he was on the field, and his Gold Cup run was stamped with a goal in the USMNT’s win over Nicaragua. Throughout his run, Rowe was regularly a dangerous option, creating from out wide while continually making his mark on the match. He showed better than many could have hoped, stepping up both individually and within the team.
When all was said and done, Rowe proved he certainly belonged on the U.S. roster. His creativity and versatility is certainly a welcome asset and he showed early just how much the opportunity truly meant to him. What comes next depends on his club efforts and just how much of Arena’s trust he has earned, but Rowe certainly feels like somewhat who boosted his stock bigger than even he could have hoped.