It’s been nearly one month since U.S. Men’s National Team doomsday, and a lot has happened in that month. Bruce Arena has moved on, and a number of the players from that fateful day in Trinidad & Tobago will likely join him. There has been plenty of criticism and calls for reform in the past few weeks, and the reverb from the 2018 World Cup failure will ring out for a long time.
But that cycle is over and, for the U.S. at least, a new one is beginning. That begins with a friendly against Portugal.
The U.S. is set to take on Portugal on Nov. 14 in the first game of the post-apocalyptic era. It’s a friendly that will almost certainly feature a slew of new faces and bright prospects as the team now looks to build for a tournament five years from now.
A lot can change in those five years, but it’s important to start building a foundation. You can start that against Portgual, although there will be some missing pieces.
With the MLS playoffs looming, you can count out a number of potential call-ups, while the date with Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal may come a bit too soon for U-17 stars like Josh Sargent and Andrew Carelton.
Knowing that, here’s a look at one possible USMNT squad:
Jesse Gonzalez, Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath.
Outlook: If Zack Steffen and the Crew somehow crash out of the playoffs, expect him to almost certainly be on this list but, given the scoreline, Steffen stays in Columbus as the Crew look to march on.
Even without the in-form Crew star, there’s a talented pool of young goalkeepers involved. Hamid is the elder statesman of the bunch and, with his own European adventure set to begin, he finally looks ready to compete for a starting gig. Ethan Horvath also remains in that mix after receiving several call-ups over the past few years, and many still see the Club Brugge goalkeeper as the brightest prospect of the bunch.
Jesse Gonzalez is the most likely third goalkeeper after joining the team for the Gold Cup this summer. Despite all of FC Dallas’ struggles, Gonzalez is still more than worthy of a call-up.
Missed the Cut: Alex Bono, Jonathan Klinsmann, Tim Melia
Danilo Acosta, Tyler Adams, John Brooks, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Justen Glad, Matt Miazga, Shaq Moore, Brandon Vincent, DeAndre Yedlin
It’s time for the youth movement at centerback, although you could see Geoff Cameron as the lone real veteran in the mix if Sarachan wants to bring in an older face. Now healthy, John Brooks could also be that face as he is now officially taking the leap from young star to focal point.
Alongside him, the U.S. has a number of relatively tested centerabacks that might have come knocking for a 2018 spot anyway. Matt Miazga certainly would have been in contention while Cameron Carter-Vickers has done more than well enough with Sheffield United. Add in Justen Glad, a player that shined down the stretch for Real Salt Lake and you have a good, young central defense pool.
At full back, it’s time to throw left backs at a wall and find a few that stick. Danilo Acosta and Brandon Vincent are young, but both have plenty of experience in MLS. At right back, Shaq Moore should push DeAndre Yedlin after breaking through at Levante and earning a few first team nods, which could push Tyler Adams into a midfield spot.
Adams’ growth is very much a wait-and-see sort of thing as both the U.S. and the Red Bulls iron out a consistent position. Though for my money, he’s a midfielder.
Missed The Cut: Geoff Cameron, Erik Palmer-Brown, Matt Polster, Jorge Villafana, Walker Zimmerman
Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse, Jonathan Gonzalez, Lynden Gooch, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic.
The midfield features a combination of new and familiar young faces, but two stand out.
Jonathan Gonzalez and Weston McKennie probably would have made cases for 2018 but now, especially in Gonzalez’s case, it’s time to get the involved. With Mexico looming, convincing Gonzalez to get into and stay in with the USMNT will be vital, and a partnership between the Monterrey midfielder and McKennie could provide a spine for years to come.
Christian Pulisic, meanwhile, suddenly becomes the leader, despite his age. He’s showed signs throughout his national team career and he’s displayed the bravado necessary to be that go-to guy on and off the field. It’s almost certainly too soon to name him captain but, from this point forward, he’s your guy.
As for the playoff-eligible players, look for Darlington Nagbe, Marky Delgado or Cristian Roldan to sneak in should one of their teams go down.
Missed the Cut: Andrew Carleton, Luca de la Torre, Marky Delgado, Emerson Hyndman Darlington Nagbe, Cristian Roldan, Kenny Saief
Juan Agudelo, Christian Ramirez, Bobby Wood, Haji Wright.
Bobby Wood remains a focal point, despite the recent struggles that could have him benched by Hamburg. Maybe a friendly goal or two is what he needs to snap out of it, even if it will be tough to find them against Portugal.
As for the other spots, there are a number of options. Haji Wright is perhaps the most intriguing, even if we only have a limited sample size of him in the 2. Bundesliga. He’s physical and fast and could be a weapon either centrally or out wide for years to come.
Then there’s Juan Agudelo and Christian Ramirez, who probably aren’t the sexiest of picks. Agudelo will be 29 when the next World Cup hits and, if he’s played in the correct position, he can be a piece for next cycle. Ramirez, meanwhile, has earned this shot by simply scoring goals, and lots of them.
Missed the Cut: Dom Dwyer, Julian Green, CJ Sapong, Gyasi Zardes