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Who should the USMNT call up for November’s qualifiers?

Photo by Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

The time for experimenting and tinkering is over. There are no more moral victories, no more learning curves. The U.S. Men’s National Team’s Hexagonal path begins with a bang, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s side will need to be ready for two of the toughest games they’ll face in their pursuit of a spot in the 2018 World Cup.

Mexico looms large, as the USMNT hosts their traditional rival on Nov. 11 in the first match of the Hex. A visit to fellow powerhouse Costa Rica soon follows, giving the U.S. a vicious opening to the start of the latest stage of World Cup qualifying. There’s little room for mistakes this month against two of the region’s elite.

That said, a pair of wins would go a long way towards booking a spot in Russia, while a pair of defeats would serve as a humbling start to what always seems to be a roller coaster of a competition. Luckily for Klinsmann, the U.S. has access to a majority of the team’s big guns, excluding regular forwards Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes.

The question is how Klinsmann decides to use them. Does he call in a veteran group, one that has the experience of going at, and beating Mexico on the big stage? Does he go with a squad littered with youngsters, players with talent that could and should be vital when the calendar reaches the summer of 2018? Or does he go somewhere in the middle, looking to both the past and future for what is undoubtably the toughest stretch of the qualifying cycle?

Here’s a look at the 23 players that could make up Klinsmann’s roster for the upcoming Hexagonal matches:


Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, William Yarbrough

Outlook- Following Leon coach Javier Torrente’s recent announcement, there’s little mystery left over which goalkeepers will be named to the USMNT roster. However, the real mystery lies in who will actually be in goal when the action kicks off.

Torrente revealed on Wednesday that William Yarbrough has been called up by the U.S. ahead of the Hexagonal, and the Leon shot-stopper will all but certainly be joined by Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. While Yarbrough is likely there for experience and to provide valuable cover in case of a super-emergency, the real battle lies between the two veterans stationed in front of him.

Klinsmann has generally opted for Guzan throughout the past year, as the USMNT has been locked in a goalkeeping battle since Howard’s return from an international hiatus. However, Howard continues to thrive with the Colorado Rapids while Guzan remains glued to the bench at Middlesbrough. The former is no doubt the man in-form while the latter, meanwhile, hasn’t played a single game since August.

That leaves Klinsmann with a question: Does he go with the man with the hot hand, or stick with the goalkeeper that earned the No. 1 spot throughout a solid Copa America run?

Missed the Cut– David Bingham, Ethan Horvath



Matt Besler, Steve Birnbaum, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Omar Gonzalez, Fabian Johnson, DeAndre Yedlin

Outlook- Starting with the centerbacks, Geoff Cameron and John Brooks remain the go-to partnership, health withstanding. Brooks finally appears back to full health after some up-and-down moments to start the season, while Cameron should be clear to return from a knee injury in time for the Hex.

Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez and Steve Birnbaum, therefor, are all competing for backup spots. Besler and Gonzalez have both shined against Mexico before, aiding their cause, while Birnbaum provides added versatility due to his ability to play fullback in a pinch. Then there’s Michael Orozco, another utilityman and Klinsmann favorite, even if he didn’t show well during his most recent friendly appearance. While Orozco can certainly jump into the mix as he has done many times throughout the past few years, look for Klinsmann to stick with the veteran duo while bringing along a potential future cornerstone in Birnbaum.

At fullback, DeAndre Yedlin has bounced back wonderfully, solidifying a spot at Newcastle following a series of shaky national team performances. Fabian Johnson, meanwhile, remains the best option at left back for the time being, especially given the task at hand. An in-form Timmy Chandler provides valuable cover at both positions, while Besler and Birnbaum could also hop in at fullback if needed.

Missed the Cut–Kellyn Acosta, Michael Orozco, Matt Miazga, Matt Hedges


Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Perry Kitchen, Sacha Kljestan, Jermaine Jones, Christian Pulisic, Danny Williams

Outlook– The midfield contains several locks for the upcoming roster, but the position also contains some of the biggest question marks. Jermaine Jones is a player made for these types of games, but his injury issues and lack of recent game-time could make him a hindrance in what should be two fast-paced games. However, on his day, Jones still might just be the USMNT’s best midfielder, making it a risk worth the potential reward if Jones is limited to substitute duty.

Paul Arriola and Lynden Gooch would both provide a solid presence off the bench, but the two could be passed over in favor of more experienced options like Jones and Alejandro Bedoya. It’s a stance that makes sense for the upcoming slate of matches, and no one would be surprised to see the two lock a more regular role in the future.

Then there’s the deeper position, one manned by Michael Bradley on most cases. While Bradley remains the primary No. 6 the U.S. needs depth and perhaps even a player to sit alongside Bradley if the team isn’t gung-ho enough to roll with a Kljestan-Bradley partnership. Perry Kitchen remains the favorite, while Danny Williams provides a bit more cover for a team still looking to move on from an aging Kyle Beckerman.

That leaves Darlington Nagbe, who appears to be in the wilderness after reportedly turning down an October call-up. There’s almost no chance the Portland Timbers midfielder is back in the squad this time around, as he has a mountain to climb to get himself back in Klinsmann’s good graces.

Missed the Cut– Paul Arriola, Kyle Beckerman, Lynden Gooch, Darlington Nagbe


Jozy Altidore, Julian Green, Jordan Morris, Chris Wondolowski, Bobby Wood

Outlook- Jozy Altidore remains in spectacular form, while Bobby Wood is almost certain to partner him atop the USMNT attack. Wood remains all but a lock for a spot in the XI, even with his recent three-game suspension for an “elbow”. Don’t read into it too much, though, as Wood should be more than ready for the Hex.

The only person capable of unseating the Hamburg star is Jordan Morris. The Seattle Sounders star seems to get a bit better every time he takes the field, as evidenced by a series of strong playoff performances. He’s still just a bit behind Wood and Altidore, but Morris should contribute in some fashion throughout the two games to start the Hex.

And then there’s Julian Green, a player with perhaps the biggest spread of stone cold positives to match overwhelming negatives. It’s hard to guage exactly how far Green has come. He seems to be on the precipice of taking that next step, but it’s just so hard to tell given his lack of legitimate playing time. His recent goal could be the start of something big, or simply a byproduct of playing with one of the world’s best teams. No matter, as Green should be one of Klinsmann’s typical wild card selections to round out what suddenly looks like a weakened forward pool without the likes of Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes.

Missed the Cut– Terrence Boyd, Juan Agudelo, Gyasi Zardes

What do you think of the roster? How would the above 23 players fare against Mexico and Costa Rica? Who would you call in?

Share your thoughts below.


    • He hasn’t dressed for Santos in a month. MLS writer said he was benched, I haven’t seen any report of an injury either.

  1. Gooch and arriola need to be on the roster just for experience of WC qualifiers even if they don’t see the field, they are clearly on the path to being regulars. With the emergence of those two and Green where does zardes fit in when healthy

  2. i would add AJ to just missed the cut.

    i’d love to see something like:

    Yedlin, Cam, JAB, TC
    Pulisic, MB, SK, FJ
    Wood, Jozy

    i want FJ in midfield that bad. people may be terrified of Chandler starting, but he’s in good form. granted, his issue is translating club success to USMNT…

    • That has been the problem with the Jozy/Wood combo. The two are clearly our best strikers at present (sorry Jordan Morris fans), but they haven’t figured out how to work well with each other. Jozy looked good as a lone striker with the young guys on the wings during the TnT match and has played a similar role with Toronto when Giovinco was out, but looked awful in that spot against NZ. Chile used a 4-3-3 to dissect Mexico this Summer so it wouldn’t surprise me to see it at some point in the match, but I don’t know that we will start that way. JK has tended to be very defensive against Mexico so I expect to see the 442 Diamond to start.

      • Sorry hoss, holding your own on a “win all the time” team like Bayern Munich, having the ability to stay in the FW pool for a club like Bayern along the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller, Kingsley Coman, someone who can combined well with players like Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Douglas Costa is no easy accomplishment……in other words Altidore is playing very well but he’s not one of our BEST options currently in the FW position.

      • Your argument is a reasonable discussion to have, however, until Green is playing enough for us to evaluate him its kind of hard to have. The reason I don’t consider him our best option at striker is that JK doesn’t consider him a striker. Its like arguing Acosta vs Bradley, its pointless because Jurgen won’t play him as a deep holding midfielder anyway.

      • I’d like the USMNT to be able to switch formations without making subsitutions. The way they switched from 433 to 442 quickly during the Costa Rica match of the Copa America was impressive, the diamond with two center forwards would probably compromise that flexibility. However, with the current rash of injuries that versatility may be a lot to ask from any XI.

  3. Oh man. Our midfield is weak as you have picked it SBI. I must say:

    Chandler Over. Birnhbaum (close enough)
    – this option gives Jurgen the choice of putting Johnson on the wing. That’s a great combo.

    Arrival/nagbe Over Klejstan
    – Sacha shines when he’s not playing hard pressing physical teams and easily gets dispossessed. Can’t gamble like that Ariola or Nagbe are more physical and have a better eye for passing

    Boyd. Over. Wondo
    -If you’re thinking wondo because he’s good in the box (lol) you have to go with the younger more skilled Biys no question.

  4. how about Brek Shea? And why is Wondo still on roster??? Because he scored a goal a against a meaningless opponent, Cuba? Better off putting a youngster like Terrance Boyd on roster. A guy with a future, and not an old man with no chance of playing in Russia in 2018. It is a wasted roster spot.

  5. GoalKeepers
    Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, William Yarbrough

    Matt Besler, Cameron Carter-Vickers, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Omar Gonzalez, , DeAndre Yedlin
    LB options (in my opinion!!!):
    Kellyn Acosta / Justin Morrow / Ryan Hollingshead / Brandon Vincent
    (Fabian is playing AND SCORING in the Bundesliga at midfield. We need him in MF)

    Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, Sacha Kljestan, Fabian Johnson, Christian Pulisic, Danny Williams
    (Jermaine Jones didn’t even start for his club)

    Jozy Altidore, Julian Green, Jordan Morris, Juan Agudelo, Bobby Wood
    (Wondolowski needs to sit this one out because of the speed of Mexico)

    • ————-Green————-Wood—————–






      (** Morrow or Vincent)

      USMNT 2 vs Mexico 1

      • Morrow did actually have a pretty good year and he combines well with Jozy, and would be fine if this was a January “camp cupcake”, but he, Vincent, and Hollingshead are severally over matched against the Mexican front line with Chicharito, Gio, Tecatito Corona, Herrera, Fabian, and Oribe Peralta.

      • I would agree with you Johnnyrazor if we had another player at LB that combines well or better with Altidore, has developed building from the back with Bradley for a whole season and can score goals.
        Nobody on the roster above plays in that position day in day out
        Justin Morrow has netted 5 goals and rendered 4 assists (on a team with Giovinco and Altidore!!)
        No other LB plays with 2 key members of the USMNT already (so doesn’t have to wait to build chemistry in camp)
        ….and in a league with Bradley Wright-Phillips, David Villa, Ignacio Piatti, Giovani dos Santos, Diego Valeri etc, Morrow (or Brandon) have never been “out matched” in any sense of the word, so Chicharito(Bayer Leverkusen), Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy), Tecatito Corona (used as a sub for Porto), Herrera(only 1 goal 2 assist for Porto), Fabian(Eintracht Frankfurt), and Oribe Peralta(Club America which is MLS level) wouldn’t be a problem if they all just decided to suddenly concentrate their efforts coming in down their right (our left) flank toward goal

    • Its still a case of is Wing a better position for FJ, yes, however, are we better as a team with FJ at LB and Bedoya, Jones, Gooch, or Arriola at Wing? I think we are, and I don’t think experimenting with any of the three you listed who have a combined two caps between them makes us better. If you wanted to do that SVG or last months friendlies were the time not in Columbus vs Mexico or at Costa Rica.

      • Its not “experimenting” when you have a player that:

        1)Plays at LB for a living
        2)Plays effectively with two players already on the USMNT.

        Fabian Johnson is a good LB but is a better LM (which is known to Borussia Monchengladbach and is a position where he can score goals). Experimenting is trying to put a CB or RB in a LB position, or a LM in a LB position, or a RM/CAM/DM in a LM postion when they don’t NORMALLY play there ….regardless how many times a certain player has been called into USMNT camp.

        Bedoya – Played RM and Secondary striker for Nantes, Plays DM for the UNION
        Johnson – Plays LM for Gladbach

        So you are right, we need to stop with the experimentation

  6. This has got to be fairly close, Beckerman for Kitchen wouldn’t surprise me. Perhaps Orozco for Birnbaum or Gonzo. Gooch as a long shot over Williams.

  7. LOL… can Matt Hedges even be a “missed the cut” when JK has never given him the time of the day in the first place. He was never going to be a consideration. Weak analysis there. If Beckerman isn’t there I will be shocked.

  8. I think the SBI roster includes the 23 best players, but there are too many of them that play centrally. There will need to be some width, both in defense and midfield. Acosta has manned the leftback spot enough lately that I think he makes it as the backup for Fabian. And if I was going to pick a wild card player, I would go with Gooch, who whipped in some nice crosses in limited time, something that is desperately needed in this squad.

  9. Wouldn’t be surprised to see some of some of the mls guys that are in their offseason like besler, burnbaum, bedoya and wondo (please!) get skipped over for players in season like orozco, arriola, miagza or even someone who is training but not playing like johannsson or boyd

    • Its only been two weeks since MLS ended and I’m sure guys in the final 30 were told to stay fit. They’ll have a week of training so I don’t think too many will be passed on because of this. This may play a bigger role in the March qualifiers, but really there aren’t a lot of better options to replace the guys you mentioned who are seeing a lot of time with their clubs either.

  10. While I agree with most of the roster selections there are some that I feel are misplaced.
    1) Yarbrough – IMO he was the shakiest of the 3 keepers during the last international break…constantly bobbling the ball. I would much rather have/see Horvath as the 3rd keeper.
    2) Gonzalez – I see no reason to carry 5 center backs. I’d prefer to have another outside back or an additional midfield option. Birnbaum is more versatile so that gives him the advantage.
    3) Kitchen – had probably the worst appearance of anyone in the last international break. Since Jones & Williams could both be used at the #6 position I’d rather see an attacking option (Gooch) brought for a late game spark off the bench.
    4) Wondo – There is NO reason at this point to continue carrying him as he provides nothing that other options can’t provide. Its time to stop the insanity and either bring a different forward or another midfielder. His inclusion is a waste of a roster spot.

    • Yarbrough provides first hand knowledge of about half of the Mexican team, and the third guys isn’t going to play anyway.

      Gonzo would be replaced by Orozco so pick your poison so to speak.

      Kitchen would most likely be replaced by Beckerman again who would you rather. If it was for Gooch or Accosta sure, but more likely it would be Kyle.

      Wondo was better than Agudelo in the last friendlies and still had a better MLS season. Yes Wondo provides little future value, but JK is out in two years so what does he care. Boyd still is only playing reserve matches and Rubin and Johannsen can’t get off the bench or sometimes even dress. This could I supposed be an outside chance as a spot for Gooch or Arriola to provide width as you don’t need 5 CFs. I don’t think JK has bought into Green that role so I think he keeps Wondo.

      Potential shocker pick Josh Gatt, chance of that <1%

  11. My comments.

    You are assuming a 4-4-2

    Keeper is Howard

    I don’t like Cameron starting at CB.

    The midfield has to be better than that.

    I like the options, bummed Dempsey isn’t able, but someone has a great chance….my first choice at forward is Morris. Plus if you switch to 4-5-1, Morris is learning/able to play the wing now and played well there last Sunday and will do find as solo forward. Jozy will never play wing well and won’t do well up top on the 1 man island of the 4-5-1.

  12. ………………..Jozy…………..

    • This I like a lot. MB and Cameron were so good together and MB should be playing deep.
      I would rather see Nagbe over Sacha, but give Sacha a chance, what does he have to do to get a chance?

      Morris and Pulisic will make Jozy better, even against the good teams. Wouldn’t mind Wood at all, as an alternative up top.

  13. I’m mostly ok with your 23, except for our lack of width in the midfield. Pulic should get the start on the left, but I’m not keen on Bedoya playing the right. Then again, if the other option is Zusi, then I’d stick with Bedoya, especially if go with Bradley as the sole defensive mid. And I don’t know how JK could justify not starting Howard in goal. If they were even at Copa, then Guzan’s lack of playing time makes this an easy decision. My starting line up:

    Jozy — Wood

    Pulisic — Sacha — Bedoya


    Johnson — Brooks — Cameron — Yedlin


    • I have similar concerns with our lack of width. However, one thing I haven’t seen commented is the usage of Chandler at LB and then FJ on the wings. Is it my favorite option, no, but it is one that can be used to open up the field on the wings aside from Pulisic. Also, it depends on the formation we use. We may use our forwards and backs as our width in a 4-3-3.

      In terms of roster, drop Wondo and add Gooch. The rest are pretty understandable. You can also drop Kitchen for Nagbe. Lastly, someone noted that Horvath should get the 3rd GK spot and I agree with that as well.

      Some potential lineups (naturally, a lot of changes possible like Williams/Jones taking the place of someone or Cameron being specific to CB rather than a DM option):





      • you know what’s funny/sad? my eyes just kinda glazed over Wondo’s inclusion, like it’s just expected that he’ll be there. But 97.3% of SBI readers believe he should never be called up again.

        I thought about Chandler in an outside mid position too. Or putting him at outside back and pushing Johnson up. I’m not sure that JK is ready to trust anyone but Johnson with that LB position though, especially against Mex and CR.

        If JK thinks that Jones is match fit, we may very well see the 4th lineup you proposed. Jones offers more bite than anyone else in midfield and plays more as an 8, and Pulisic could create from the outside, like Donovan did in his latter years.

        For me, Cameron and Brooks have to start centrally. That’s been our most solid line up in the back all year.

      • That third line up might lead to a seis a quatro instead of Dos a Cero, five guys who are not known for playing much defense, but if they could get the ball they’d be tough to stop. I think your 2nd is what we’ll see, but Jones is the wild card if he’s able to go you would think he’ll start somewhere.

      • TheFrenchOne and johnnyrazor. Just like you guys noted, I see 2nd or 4th is the likely lineups with Jones as the wild card.

        The offensive lineup could work assuming they do a good job of keeping the ball, in addition to having that offensive edge in front of goal. Won’t go so well if they constantly lose possession.

        I expect Cameron and Brooks to be our central pairing as well as FJ on the left. I suppose one other change could be Chandler for Yedlin. Chandler has been playing well of late and Yedlin is going back and forth in terms of playing time and the position he is used in.

        Can’t wait to see what random choices JK will make, both in terms of roster and starting XI. I hope I am wrong, but it just wouldn’t be JK without some strange picks. “Bornstein is back!” or something like that haha.

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