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Klinsmann finally opts for the conventional with initial Copa America selections

Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports
Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski/USA Today Sports

Dating back to the build-up to the 2014 World Cup, Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster selections have always seemed to cause a bit of drama. The U.S. Men’s National Team boss has faced his fair share of criticism for glaring omissions and head-turning selections in the two years following the world’s biggest tournament.

Sunday’s Copa America preliminary roster produced no such surprises, as Klinsmann’s selections finally shifted from the bewildering to the conventional.

When U.S. Soccer unveiled Klinsmann’s 40-man preliminary squad, there was no real head-turner, no Landon Donovan-like absence or Julian Green-like inclusion. Rather, Klinsmann released a list of players that were expected ahead of what could be a tournament of reckoning for the German-born head coach’s regime.

Klinsmann’s selections mix in the young with the old. On the veteran side, there were no shocking omissions or national team exoduses. Regulars like Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman all remain up for consideration despite their age, signaling confirmation of Klinsmann’s view of the Copa America as more than a chance to blood youth. The youngest of selections, Christian Pulisic, has proved to arguably be the most in-form of the bunch with his recent performances with Borussia Dortmund.

In total, 10 players over the age of 30 are counted among the roster with several of them still proving vital to Klinsmann’s plans. It was certainly an option to begin the phasing out of players like Beckerman and Jones, but the team’s immediate chances would certainly be better with the duo on the roster. The same could be said for Pulisic, whose spot on the roster is about his ability to contribute to the current team, not just the hype that surrounds his bright future.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Klinsmann’s roster selections were the positions where the chosen were listed. After being deployed consistently as a right midfielder with little success, DeAndre Yedlin is listed as a defender. Following months of success as a wide midfielder for Borussia Monchengladbach, Fabian Johnson is listed as a midfielder rather than a fullback. Just one player, Kellyn Acosta, is listed in a  position that differs from his typical club deployment, and, to be honest, the FC Dallas’ midfielder’s recent form for club and country make him a long-shot selection to begin with.

Are there players left off who have a case for the 40-man list? Jorge Villafana and Brek Shea probably have the strongest claims, especially considering the state of the USMNT’s left back corps. However, with so much emphasis placed on this summer’s tournament, it makes plenty of sense for Klinsmann to go with players recently in the fold over an uncapped product and a player still showing adjustments to the left back position. Players like Villafana, Shea, Fafa Picault and Sebastian Lletget may have their day, it just won’t come this summer.

As for surprise inclusions, Eric Lichaj and Timmy Chandler spring to mind, but make some sort of sense given the situation at hand. The left back position appears to be Edgar Castillo’s to lose, while Lichaj provides valuable and disciplined cover should anything go awry. Chandler, who has experienced an upswing on the club level following lackluster period, adds potential depth on either side of the centerbacks. Will the two make the roster? Perhaps not, but they do provide Klinsmann with experienced and familiar options should the need arise.

Following two years of experimentation, shuffling and learning curves, Klinsmann’s USMNT is finally in a position to be assembled in the most logical way possible. There are still decisions to make and 17 names to remove from the roster, but Klinsmann’s initial selections signal a shift in thought process ahead of what could be a program-defining event.

There will be no hoopla or hysteria, at least for the time being. Preliminary rosters are supposed to be fairly straight-forward, and Klinsmann’s was exactly that. The initial process of assembling the USMNT for the Copa America was a positive one, and the team will likely be better for it come this summer.


  1. This article cracked me up. Applauding JK for being “conventional” this time.
    It is a 40 man roster. Let’s see how the 23 looks before we go ahead and give credit.

    We are two years out from the next World Cup. A rare dress rehearsal and perfect for integrating and building tourney experience for the young blood.

    It is very important to have a mix (i don’t mean a Diskurud!), don’t get me wrong, but having a Jones and Beckerman is redundant to me.

    Realistically, it is an outside shot either of those guys make it to Russia let alone both.
    Why not bring in a younger midfielder to take one of their spots?

    At first I was complaining about Castillo. You know what, I am just glad we have fullback cover.
    I like the Lichaj call.
    We have the time to assemble a squad – please no patch work.

    I hope JK uses this tourney effectively for what it should be. We do not have the Confeds or Olympics, this it is. I just do not want to see the same, tired, lineup that we saw last summer.

    • “Realistically, it is an outside shot either of those guys make it to Russia let alone both.
      Why not bring in a younger midfielder to take one of their spots?”

      You mean like Perry Kitchen, Alfredo Morales, and Danny Williams?

    • You have fall friendlies in Europe and January camps for MLS based players, as well as 2017 Gold Cup all three which would be fine to break in younger players. Why put in young players just to watch them get thrashed by Colombia, Paraguay, and Costa Rica? Did the U23s qualifying cycle not show that they are not ready for top competition. Even if you are just breaking in a few to the lineup can you honestly say any of the younger guys are better than the veteran ahead of them.

  2. id rather see Dax be given a shot over beckerman at this point. I hated beckerman’s boring safe style for a while, but he did grow on me. Its just time to move on and see if someone could play the same role Beckerman did in last world cup.

    I also agree Kljestan deserves a spot over Mix, but does it really matter? If either makes the field it says a lot about the talent of the team.

    • I know Dax and Beckerman play the same position, but their style of play seems very different. I see Dax as more a holding player that certainly can win a ball when needed, but Beckerman more as the hard tackling professional foul, break up the attack and stay out of the offenses way.

    • Throw the guy a bone and add him to the 40 knowing you wouldn’t actually use him. I think Mix is on the list just as JK trying to boost his confidence. Mix is actually more productive with the Nats than Sasha, but both have been uninspiring. I just don’t think Sasha gets the time he needs to pick out the spectacular pass, like he does with Red Bulls in international play.

      • Fair enough, but Mix has not been a positive presence for the NT in quite a while. Kljestan has not shone very brightly in his opportunities, but Mix’s trend line is sloping downward. Anyway, neither one is likely to make the roster, and come to think of it, I’d much rather have Kljestan playing for RBNY.

      • I was hoping Trapp would get called in so I wouldn’t have to see him in Columbus.

  3. The only complaint is Villafana, but given that unless you play Johnson at left back we really don’t have an international level player at that position, and we have a guy who is excelling at one of the top clubs in Mexico, it seems like malpractice not to include him.

    • PS – this is how I would line up:

      Howard, Horvath; Ream, Villafana, Besler, Miazga; Nagbe, Trapp, Zardes Finlay; Wood, Morris

      If you take just the top 40, replace Villafana with Castillo and Trapp with Acosta or Beckerman. But I suspect that Klinnsman is thinking more:


      Howard, Horvath; Castillo, Gonzalez, Besler; Beckerman, Nagbe, Zusi, Zardes, Pulisic; Altidore, Morris (although he possibly may add Acosta or Chandler for one of Beckerman, Zardes, or Zusi).

      • Zardes will definitely be there. Preferred by Klinsman and playing very well for his club right now.

  4. I admire people who seem to have watched enough soccer to have firm opinions about who should be on the squad or in the starting eleven. Where do they find the time? I didn’t realize that there were so may independently wealthy soccer fans out there. Good for you all.
    From the vantage point of much more limited exposure to some of these players, I have to wonder where the generation between Jones and Beckerman on the one hand and Pulisic on the other is. I have also to wonder why having such antiques as Jones and Beckerman in the squad, much less on the field, improves the US’s chances. And how is it that Castillo is still included? I would have thought that repeated failures disqualified you from the side. One could go on.
    I would also note that this article assumes that Klinsmann is using Copa America as a developmental opportunity “blooding young players.” I wonder if Jurgen really thinks that. And how can you do that and expect to do well in the competition? Are we back to the Gold Cup again where out goals changed as our fortunes on the field faltered?
    Looking as this squad overall, I am struck more by the fact that it seems a mishmash, with an odd assortment of players and displays no consistent approach to the game. To be fair, national team coaches have to do the best with what they have, but I have to wonder if someone else could have worked over the past five years to assemble a team that might more readily be cohesive.

      • Wow, got up on the wrong side of the bed? As it happens, I don’t claim to be able to pick the squad. I just marvel at the folks who think they are. And that’s exactly what my post says.

      • Dr. Offside, more like you belittled posters on here for expressing their opinion of who should play for USMNT. Big man, holier than thou, you should be proud

    • I understand your frustration, and I think you are right the issue is that lost generation between say age 24 and 28. Injury and poor club decisions certainly hurt that age, but also it just seems they were never that good.

      U17 WC Teams 2007: Rnd of 16 1-0-3 2009: Rnd of 16 2-0-2 2011: Rnd of 16 1-1-2
      U20 WC Teams 2009: Group Stage 1-0-2, 2011 Did not qualify 2013:Group Stage 0-1-2
      U23 Olympics 2012: Did not qualify

      MLS parity and salary cap model prevents cohesion like you might see with Mexico with 5 or 6 players from Club America, Germany with 5 or 6 from Bayern and Spain with 5 Barcelona, 5 Real, and one guy from the BPL. Not sure if that’s what you meant about mismatch or not.

  5. I hope we don’t trot out the usual attacking combo of Jozy/Clint/Bradley when we have some new talent like Pulisic/Wood/Nagbe/Morris and we should really try FJ in the midfield where he plays best for club.

    • Of course he will roll those guys out. I mean Jozy has zero goals in MLS this year while Morris has 2 or 3 I think. Doesnt matter. JK likes Jozy. Bradley is very far over the hill these days and JK needs to do something there. Same with Dempsey… he’s about done at the Int level

  6. Klinsmann will always call his usual list no matter what. One would think that Castillo, Chandler, Gonzalez, and Orozco would have done enough to NOT be called again but here they are again. Has something changed? We even have Nick Ramando on the goal list. It goes on and on

    • Its a 40 man roster, many of them will never get called anywhere as they will still be with their clubs when the 23 man comes out. Imagine if Guzan and Howard come down with an injury in the final weeks, would you want Bingham, Horvath, and Cropper to be in the Copa with no vet, Romando is insurance. Orozco I have no idea why he is on the list.

    • Did you even watch the excellent performance of Nick Rimando during the RSL vs Houston game last Sat? If you’re speaking about current form, I believe Rimando has been much better than Howard and Guzan!

  7. People, if you don’t know Fabian Johnson is going to be our left back this summer, you are being a little short sighted. Such a wonderful opportunity to put a top quality player in this position, which will be so key this summer, where a player is needed to go up against world class talent.

    Maybe US fans should be asking themselves who they would rather see supporting Christian pulisic on the left flank, a left back who is prone to not offer a lot defensively, or a player with World Cup experience at fullback, as well as bundas league experience in the same position.

    • I think you are definitely correct if we play a 4-3-3, there is no need to put Johnson at FW as we have plenty of those and if you put him in the midfield he would be more inside than he likes to play, LB is his best spot in that lineup, able to get down the wings. In a 4-4-2 diamond, he has to play in midfield to create the width and stretch the defense. (Whoever, plays on his side should be able to overlap with him in the diamond, but it never seems to happen whoever plays in front of him)

      • Let’s take a cue from the 5000/1 long shots that just won the EPL. They play a 4-5-1 and they counter, and they beat higher priced teams. Besides, the 4-3-3 is only a 4-3-3 in attack, in defense, it becomes a 4-5-1, and if it doesn’t, those teams that don’t adjust usually end up on the losing end

  8. hold on! we still have to trim this roster down from 40 to 23 before May 20th… still plenty of time to make some questionable roster decisions.

    my 23:
    gk: guzan, howard, rimando
    lb: castillo, lichaj — or Chandler idk..
    lcb: brooks, besler — birnbaum if brooks is injured
    rcb: cameron, miagza
    rb: yedlin
    cdm: beckerman, williams
    lcm: bradley
    rcm: jones, nagbe, bedoya
    lw: johnson, pulisic — nguyen if johnson is injured
    fwd: wood, jozy, dempsey
    rw: zusi, zardes

    regarding the PR game; I hope that a couple of young guys not on the 40-man roster like Hyndman, Kiessewetter, Picault, etc or Yarbrough, Arriola (depending on the MX playoffs) get the call for just this game.

    • Think you are pretty close on your 23 man roster. I don’t know how we will field a team if we don’t bring in some guys just for Puerto Rico (and to train that week). Arriola will be available Tijuana is out of the playoff picture 1 pt from their last five matches.

  9. Like Johnnyrazor said yesterday some players will probably be added for the first friendly in PR because it would only leave 6 midfield/forwards for that match. So maybe some of the younger ones will be around for that first friendly.

  10. I don’t think you can draw many conclusions from this roster. The final 23 man roster is the one to really look at. I think that has to be in by May 20 so I’m not sure what the point is of making the teams name 40 man rosters other than to have stories written hyping the tournament.

  11. Disappointed to see some of the players selected. Orozco hasn’t seen much playing time for his club (just returned to the 1st team this past weakend) and was a disaster the last time he played for the USMNT in Guatemala. Diskerud’s play with NYCFC hasn’t been all that great as of late nor did he impress during the January Camp. While Evans is a capable player I don’t understand his inclusion when we have 6 others who can/have played the RB position in camp (Yedlin, Chandler, Lichaj, Alvarado, Cameron, Fabian). While I don’t have any issue with the inclusion of Jones & Beckerman as part of the preliminary squad….I would prefer that only 1 of the 2 make the actual squad of 23. If both are given spots it will be at the expense of younger players who need the experience and time with the national team.
    There are a number of players more deserving of selection than these players. Players who are in form for their clubs and should have been included….Hyndman, Arriola, & Villafana.

    • In 2016 Hyndman has started 6 games for Fulham, pulled out at half time for one of those. Arriola has started 5 games for Tijuana in 2016. Both have made maybe 6 to 8 substitute appearances in addition. Only Villafana has consistently started and almost always goes the full 90. I don’t believe either Hyndman or Arriola has played enough to justify a call in.

      • @Gary Page, Exactly! Excellent statistic on Hyndman and Arriola. As a matter of fact, Fulham have lost almost 80-90% of their games during the 2nd half of the Championship season. I doubted both Tim Ream (has lost his starting position at Fulham for a while) and Emerson Hyndman have been in very good forms in 2016. The biggest problem of Hyndman after I watched the home and away series of the U-23 MNT vs Colombia, as well as the Olympics qualification is consistency. Hyndman will always played well in one game and then disappeared or played poorly the next. The consistency issue is probably due in part to the lack of regular playing times at club. On the other hand, Villafana was a key contributor at LB on the 2015 MLS Cup winner Portland Timbers team and has been consistently a 90-min starter on his Liga MX club team this year. Villafana’s inclusion in the 40-man Copa America USMNT roster is much more deserving than Tim Ream in my opinion.

    • Hyndman had one good game and had a stinker his last start not sure that qualifies as in form. Arriola hasn’t scored since August and yes he’s started the last six league games, but they’ve gotten 2 draws and four losses.

      I like both these players, but these aren’t the games for them. You can’t compare them to Evans, Beckerman, and Orozco they don’t play those positions. Is Hyndman better than Bradley, Nagbe, Bedoya, Johnson, or Nguyen? Is Arriola better than any of the forwards?

      Unless there is something about Villafana we don’t know, I don’t get why he’s not on the list.

      • Sorry Lost didn’t mean to pile on Gary apparently typed his response faster than me. If I’m taking longer than Gary, I am clearly being to wordy.

      • I am not making a direct comparison/substitution between the 2 groups. I was pointing out that these 3 players called in (Orozco, Evans, Diskerud) are not worthy of consideration and that there are ample options already on the list who are better options for the positions that they play (9 players who can/have played CBs were called in including Orozco, 8 players who can/have played RB were called in including Orozco & Evans, 11 players who can/have played CM were called in). I was suggesting that instead of having in these 3 (Orozco, Evans, Diskerud) the spots should have been used to evaluate 3 younger options who actually have a future with the team. This would provide positive feedback for what these young players have done recently and let them know that the coaching staff is monitoring their progress. I’m not saying that the 3 young players should make the final roster of 23, but they are deserving of an up close evaluation.

        The fact that we continue to reward poor performances of OLDER players while ignoring positive performances of young players is Disconcerting to say the least.

      • 1. JK probably doesn’t care about Hyndman and Arriola’s or any of the other young players development for 2022. He knows he’ll be gone so there really is no need to break in young players that aren’t ready now like Pulisic or Yedlin.

        2. The young players not called in really haven’t done anything either. Arriola only recently became a regular starter the rest of the 18-21 age group have either been injured this year or seen very limited action.

        3. These young players will have two more professional seasons to make their mark and earn a spot in the WC. At this point four years ago Besler, Yedlin, and Brooks weren’t even on the radar.

  12. How true that the LB position is probably Edgar Castillo’s to loose. Never really being able to stake a claim as a regular contributor despite being first capped in 2009, he finds himself in a position where he’s only competing with Tim Ream and Kellyn Acosta (maybe Chandler, but being so heavily right footed hurts him), so it seems like he could end up being an important player for us at this Copa. If his last two games vs Guat. have show us anything (That is if you really saw it), it’s that after a five year period of being one of the top LBs in Mexico, he’s finally looks ready to pronounce himself on the int. stage. If we can play smart possession, tempo dictating football in our games he will thrive, but if we cant, he’ll look awful trying to play in a system that at times reverts to the long ball.

    • “If his last two games vs Guat. have show us anything (That is if you really saw it), it’s that after a five year period of being one of the top LBs in Mexico, he’s finally looks ready to pronounce himself on the int. stage.”

      it might also show us that holding your own against guatemala doesn’t mean you’re *that* good.

      • Maybe not, but being one of the best attacking fullbacks in Mexico does, something that even the poorest of American commentators have noted. And as someone who has actually watches Rayados games and Liga MX (perhaps the only one here) I can say with little doubt that he’s a great player and if theres any question to that, someone would just need look to how sought after he’s been by successful playoff, aspiring teams throughout his career.

        Against Guatemala he was consistently looked for on the left side by Mikey, Beckerman and Cameron through the entire game. When your teammates trust you with as much time on the ball as he had, it’s not because your a poor player that’s for sure.

    • “(Castillo) finds himself in a position where he’s only competing with Tim Ream and Kellyn Acosta (and maybe Tim Chandler).”

      Uh, Eric Lichaj is also a left back. In fact, of all the players you’ve named here, only Castillo and Lichaj are natural left backs.

      • If he’s playing lb now for Nottingham it’s because he’s been converted. I saw him play games for west hams reserves as their rb when he was still in their academy.

      • Lichaj has played left back in his career, but plays much more at RB in recent years and is right footed, so I don’t think most would consider him a natural LB either.

  13. Hyndman should have been included… maybe he is letting him sort out his club situation…

    Stunned to see Lichaj… maybe Klinsmann is growing up a little bit in the stubborness category…

    • yeah, honestly, i’m mostly surprised that lichaj didn’t decline the callup. can’t imagine he’d be too pleased if he was brought in after all this time simply to make up numbers in camp or get 11 minutes against puerto rico.


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