Photo by Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
By IVES GALARCEP
The month of February featured just one U.S. Men’s National Team match, but that 2-0 win against Panama was enough to help offer some more information on an ever-evolving player pool four months before the Gold Cup.
Gyasi Zardes and Miguel Ibarra were the players who saw their stock rise the most in February. Zardes stood out in the win against Panama, while Ibarra earned praise from Jurgen Klinsmann for his showing in the same match.
There wasn’t a ton of movement in our projected U.S. Gold Cup squad, though there were a few changes. Among them is Graham Zusi, who has come back from a lingering foot injury and should be back with the national team for the March friendlies.
Here is the February edition of SBI’s projected U.S. Gold Cup roster:
Projected USMNT Gold Cup Roster (February 2015 Edition)
(New additions in BOLD)
Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, Bill Hamid
Outlook- Sean Johnson continues to present another viable option in goal, and Hamid’s toughest competition for a top three spot on this list. Hamid has been recovering from surgery this winter, so he missed out in the recent USMNT camp, and has yet to get going for D.C. United. Even with that, we still see Hamid regaining his regular place upon his return.
Missed the Cut– Sean Johnson, Steve Clark, Cody Cropper
Jermaine Jones, Greg Garza, Fabian Johnson, Matt Besler, John Brooks, Omar Gonzalez, Timmy Chandler, Steve Birnbaum
Outlook- Not much change to talk about at this position, but it’s safe to say the coming months will leave us with the possibility of plenty of changes. With players like Brek Shea and DeAndre Yedlin being fullback options as well as several central defenders vying for a handful of spots, Klinsmann will have some tough cuts to make here.
Tim Ream continues to be on the periphery, but with Besler and Brooks continuing to be the preferred left centerback options, Ream stays on the fringes. Hedges made his national team debut in February, but remains low on the depth chart in central defense.
One interesting development is Robbie Rogers being on speaking terms with Klinsmann again. It’s tough not to see him as a better left back option that Shea, but Klinsmann’s affinity for Shea will likely keep him in the picture somewhere. That is assuming he can have a strong first season in Orlando, where Adrian Heath has plans to play Shea as a left back.
Missed the Cut– Tim Ream, Matt Hedges, Michael Orozco, Chris Schuler, Eric Lichaj, Perry Kitchen, Robbie Rogers.
Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, Kyle Beckerman, Brek Shea, Graham Zusi
Outlook– The biggest development in midfield involved Miguel Ibarra’s continued inclusion in the conversation, and the growing sense that Klinsmann sees him as one his best left wing options. Ibarra had a passable showing against Panama, but doubts persist about him being a viable option against top-level competition.
The other interesting development was Klinsmann’s seeming lack of interest in giving Lee Nguyen a serious look. Nguyen failed to make the starting lineup for either of the recent friendlies, and as much as that can be chalked up to Klinsmann’s preference for Clint Dempsey as a starting playmaker, it was still odd to see Nguyen not be given more of a chance after such an outstanding season in MLS.
Zusi wasted no time showing what he can do after returning from injury, scoring in his first preseason appearance for Sporting KC. It will be interesting to see if Klinsmann calls Zusi right back in for the March friendlies, because it can be argued he’s the best wing option in the pool when healthy.
The March friendlies should give us a clearer picture of the pecking order in central midfield, with someone like Danny Williams potentially ready to be called back into the fray.
Missed the Cut– Miguel Ibarra, Lee Nguyen, Alfredo Morales, Wil Trapp, Joe Corona, Danny Williams, Luis Gil, Harrison Shipp, Joe Gyau, Teal Bunbury.
Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Gyasi Zardes.
Outlook- Nobody boosted their stock more in February than Zardes, who impressed in the Panama friendly with his speed and improved skill set. Though the level of opponent should temper enthusiasm, Zardes has pushed himself into the Gold Cup conversation.
So why does Rubio Rubin fall out when he’s still playing regularly in the Eredivisie? The Under-20 World Cup takes place in late May and June, and Rubin should be a key figure on that team. With Altidore, Johannsson and Zardes as his forwards, and Dempsey as an option, Klinsmann can make due without Rubin at the Gold Cup.
The options on the deeper end of the forward pool are slowly growing thin. Terrence Boyd and Bobby Wood have suffered knee injuries while Chris Wondolowski looked terrible against Panama, making him seem less like a viable option.
Who might those latest developments help? Juan Agudelo returning to MLS makes him a viable option if he can hit the ground running in New England.
Missed the Cut– Rubio Rubin, Chris Wondolowski, Juan Agudelo, Jordan Morris, Charlie Davies, Bobby Wood.
What do you think of this group of 23 players? Who are you happy to see included in the squad? Who is missing that you feel should have made the cut?
Share your thoughts below.