Some tough decisions made in assembling senior and U-23 sides for qualifying.
By Robert Wagman
By Robert Wagman
(Thursday, March 24, 2016) – United States men’s coach Jürgen Klinsmann and his top assistant, Andi Herzog, have completed their player selections for two important, some would say critical, home-and-home contests the Americans face this coming extended weekend. Some of their choices might be called unexpected.
In its wisdom, CONCACAF, the governing body of North America, Central America and the Caribbean, has scheduled a round of World Cup qualifying for this FIFA international match day period lasting from Friday through Tuesday. Simultaneously, the U.S. Soccer Federation scheduled the two-leg playoff against Colombia for the final spot in the upcoming Rio Summer Olympic Games for the same dates.
Klinsmann then takes the senior squad to Guatemala City for a Friday World Cup qualifier against Guatemala. Also tomorrow, Herzog takes the under-23 men to Barranquilla, Colombia, to open their Summer Olympics qualifying series against Columbia.
For the return legs on Tuesday, the senior men meet Guatemala in Columbus, Ohio, while the Olympic side hosts Colombia in Frisco, Texas.
Olympic qualifying is strictly a under-23 competition in the men’s tournament, which allows each team three overage players in the actual competition. So the question facing Klinsmann and Herzog in drawing up the two rosters is what to do about the several young players who are age eligible for the Olympics, but who have recently held spots on the full national team.
The assumption was most or all players eligible for the U-23s would be headed for Olympic qualifying, given the importance Klinsmann has put on Olympic qualifying. He says the U.S. has suffered by missing out on the London Olympics four years ago and believes the Games provide invaluable international experience for younger players.
Somewhat surprisingly, several Olympics-eligible younger players are with the senior squad and not on Herzog’s Olympic teams. Three senior players eligible for the U-23s. Defenders John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin remain are with the full team, while striker Jordan Morris is with the Olympians.
With roster changes permitted between the two Olympic qualifying matches, the possibility exists for Brooks and Yedlin to join the team for the second leg of the series with Colombia.
There are were few surprises on the senior roster. With defender Jermaine Jones serving a multi-match Major League Soccer suspension, he is not eligible for international play during that period. That, perhaps, explains Yedlin’s presence on the senior roster.
Another potential back-line wing problem for Klinsmann is that Fabian Johnson suffered a groin injury in Burussia Mönchengladbach’s match last Friday. His condition is being evaluated in a Florida training camp.
One unexpected addition to the senior roster is Bobby Wood, who is one of the hottest goal scorers in Germany’s second division so far this season for Union Berlin. This undoubtedly explains Morris being available for the Olympians. Wood fell just six weeks shy of the age cutoff date for the U-23s.
The senior team is in the middle of the CONCACAF semifinal round of World Cup qualifying. This round is being played in four team groups with the top two finishers in each group advancing to the six-team final qualifying round, starting in October.
The Americans opened with a home victory over St. Vincent and the Grenadines and a road draw at Trinidad and Tobago. Two wins over Guatemala would surely advance the U.S. into the final round. The U.S. is on top of its group with four points in two matches, while Guatemala has three.
The U-23 team is in a more difficult situation. It failed to secure one of CONCACAF’s two automatic berths, which went to Honduras and Mexico), so now it faces Colombia after South America’s two automatic berths went to Argentina and Olympic host Brazil.
Three potential U-23 call-ups did not occur because of injuries: defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, midfielder Gedion Zelalem and forward Rubio Rubin.
U.S. men's roster
Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes, Major League Soccer), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England) Tim Howard (Everton, England), William Yarbrough (Club Leon, Mexico)
Defenders: Ventura Alvarado (Club America, Mexico), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City, MLS), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United, MLS), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, England), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey, Mexico), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca, Mexico), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana, Mexico), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland, England).
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake, MLS), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes, France), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC, MLS), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC, MLS), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew, MLS), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers, MLS), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution, MLS)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), MLS, Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders MLS), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose, MLS), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin, Germant), Gyasi Zardes (Los Angeles Galaxy).
U.S. Under-23 men's roster
Goalkeepers: Cody Cropper (MK Dons, England), Ethan Horvath (Molde, Norway), Tyler Miller (Seattle Sounders, MLS).
Defenders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas, MLS), Matt Miazga (Chelsea, England), Eric Miller (Colorado Rapids, MLS), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps, MLS), Desevio Payne (Groningen, Netherlands), Shane O’Neill (Cambridge United, England), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire, MLS), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas, MLS).
Midfielders: Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes, MLS), Paul Arriola (Tijuana, Mexico), Luis Gil (Queretaro, Mexico), Julian Green (Bayern Munich II, Germany), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham, England), Jerome Kiesewetter (Stuttgart II, Germany), Matt Polster (Chicago, MLS), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids, MLS), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew).
Forwards: Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Mönchengladbach II, Germany), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC, MLS).
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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