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USMNT Notes: Arena tabs Acosta for big Gold Cup, Villafana building on strong year and more


Photo by Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports

Kellyn Acosta’s rise from prospect to legitimate contributor has come quickly. The FC Dallas midfielder, at just 21 years old, was thrust into the USMNT midfield against Mexico last month, a big step for even the most experienced national team players.

His play has possibly vaulted him into consideration for a World Cup spot. But, for that to happen, he’ll need to continue to impress Bruce Arena.

So far, the FC Dallas star has done just that. He’s shown that he can be a solid partner for Michael Bradley in the center of the field while his club displays have shown an increased ability in the attack. His game continues to round out, and Arena expects more from the young midfielder in the next few weeks.

“I think the national team program is a long process throughout this year and certainly next year,” Arena said. “Kellyn has now positioned himself for more playing time. This tournament is going to be important for him. He continues to be a player that’s more comfortable in our environment so I’m looking forward to him having a good Gold Cup.”

Here’s a look at some more USMNT news and notes:


Jorge Villafana finally got his chance during January camp, and the Santos Laguna fullback has spent the last few months showing exactly why he was long viewed as a potential USMNT regular. Now that he’s fully involved, though, Villafana is just hoping to keep that rhythm going through the Gold Cup.

Villafana is one of few USMNT regulars included on the Gold Cup roster, and he’s more than earned that distinction in the few months since his USMNT debut. Since his January camp call-up, Villafana has played six times and rapidly become the starting option at left back.

Since the USMNT’s win over Trinidad & Tobago last month, though, Villafana has been out of action. The past several days have been vital for him to get his fitness back and, now that he’s feeling more like himself, he’s targeting another strong run of performances.

“I think it’s a really great honor that I got the opportunity to be a part of January camp and show myself. I kind of won a spot there, and I’m really happy for the opportunity. I’m really happy for the opportunity Bruce has given me to be a part of this team and be a part of the U.S. Men’s National Team.”


Four years. That’s how long Justin Morrow has waited. A lot has changed for the Toronto FC defender since he last wore a USMNT shirt.

Now, given another chance, Morrow is looking to bring the experience of a veteran to only his third USMNT camp.

Morrow made his USMNT debut back in January 2013, starting in a draw against Canada. He was called in to March qualifiers a few months later, but failed to get off the bench for matches against Costa Rica and Mexico. Since then, nothing, even as he’s refined his game as a vital member of Toronto FC.

Now back, Morrow joins a fullback group that includes Villfana and Eric Lichaj as potential left back options as he looks to once again prove himself as a potential national team contributor.

“It’s a pleasure to be back. It feels like four years of hard work. It was four years ago that I was in camp and it feels great to be back.

“I think I’m here to express myself, enjoy the moment, help the team win, get forward be hard to play against defensively and be a little bit of a veteran presence out there.”


In off year Gold Cups, the U.S. Men’s National Team generally looks towards MLS to build a roster. It’s not a new concept. With a World Cup looming, it makes sense to rest the program’s European regulars, giving them a chance to be fresh ahead of what is always a big season on the club level.

Bruce Arena isn’t reinventing the wheel with his latest USMNT roster, which includes 16 MLS call-ups. Arena, though, continued to talk up the development of the American player and the impact MLS has had on that development.

“The league has improved. I think the American player has more opportunities today than ever before,” Arena said. “It’s interesting to see the combination of young players and more experienced players that we have. It’s encouraging, and it’s certainly a positive for Major League Soccer as well.”


  1. MB played well in both of the last 2 qualis, looks like a refreshed outlook from the coaching staff and return to his proper role has helped him as much as any USMNT player. great to see. no issues with youth either or others, but MB back where he should be has played well since then

  2. “Acosradleyta is a strong partner for Bradley” Im not sure Bradley should still be a starter every game. Apparently Arena does. Nobody should be anointed as a starter at this point and I think he can find a better DM than B

    • This is spot on. I’ve been thinking about it, and I think the biggest issue is we (ie. most fans/media) are stuck in the past with regard to squad depth.

      I keep hearing about Acosta, Roldan, Adams (bit too young I guess), Danny Williams in the prem league…Most of these guys are young, and we may have a budding crop of talent. However, it’s always MB as the one guy they have to make way for. I think the talent pool is diverse enough where it should be more about who is in form, rather than who has been there. In this case, it’s about Bradley. He hasn’t been pushed, yet for some reason, even with more options than ever, nobody ever questions whether he should be rotated. He’s a mainstay, despite not being great.

      He’s far from the only one. The Guzan/Howard thing is similar (Hamid/Gonzalez now/the kid in Belgium), might all be better options. But we’re still happy with these 39 year olds. Same with Altidore. Yes, he’s been there a while…But I keep hearing “ohhh, if Dwyer or Agudelo plays well, they can be in the convo with Altidore”. Why can’t these guys pass him? They are both on form, they both are scoring, why is Jozy some mainstay.

      My guess is the media is so focused on the past, when we really only had a few decent players. That’s not the case. If Danny Williams carves out a spot in the Prem League, why on earth shouldn’t he be considered over MB? Bradley couldn’t do that in his prime, much less 4 years past his prime. If this kid in Belgium cements his spot as #1 goalie, why on earth shouldn’t he be our #1? Because Howard had a great game 4 years ago against Belgium?

      I’m not one of these “bring in the young guys, even though they are untested, maybe they’ll be good”. No, for the most part, these are players that are succeeding with clubs at a higher level than current NT mainstays, yet can’t jump to the front because we’re so comfortable with these guys who have been around for years.

      I realize we’ll need to wait til late-2018 to start these convos, cuz Arena ain’t changing his stripes, but I continue to be perplexed. The only players who should have an absolute guaranteed starting spot are Pulisic, Cameron, and to a lesser extent, Brooks/Yedlin. Everyone else needs to be cycled at this point.

      • And the scary part is that this was basically why Arena was let go last time. He got tunnel visioned on aging stars and we got too old as a team. Good think he’s learned in his time away…..NOT He’s the same as he was.

        Well qualify but little more if he continues this. We have younger talent…USE THEM

      • Arena 2.0 isn’t falling into that trap. He has stated as much that he knew he failed by bringing in too many aging veterans and not varying his roster enough. I think the Gold Cup roster alone should put that to bed.

    • If this were the start of a cycle I’d agree with you, however we’re at the end of the cycle. At this point if a coach/manager doesn’t know who his top 13-15 players are than they’re in trouble.

      • Get what you’re saying, but we’re still a full year from the World Cup. This isn’t a club team, and these guys train together for a week or two at a time every few months. Think you need to constantly be grabbing the best/most in form players. Still so much time to be figuring things out.

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