Bruce Arena named the first roster of his rebooted U.S. MNT tenure on Thursday, inviting 32 MLS players to Carson, California for what is shaping up to be the most important January camp in recent memory.
With crucial World Cup Qualifiers rapidly approaching versus Honduras and Panama in March the players called in will be intent on impressing the new boss and earning a spot absent European and Mexican based players who are unavailable due to club commitments.
Notably absent from the group is Clint Dempsey, who Arena had previously indicated would be invited. Speaking via a U.S. Soccer stream Arena said that Dempsey isn’t ready just yet but is making “great progress” and may be available for selection in March.
Arena also said that Dempsey’s 21-year-old Seattle teammate, midfielder Cristian Roldan is one to watch for later in the year and called New England creator Lee Nguyen “a very good player” who was edged out of the midfield by the competition.
Arena named Sacha Kljestan, Darlington Nagbe, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s favorite whipping boy Benny Feilhaber as players competing to fill the offensive midfield position that Nguyen also plays.
Fullback is another position that Arena has called a position of need and this roster reflects as much.
As promised DaMarcus Beasley has been given a chance to revive his international career, although Run DMB is just one of three left-sided defenders called to Carson. Recent Atlanta loan signing Greg Garza is another looking to re-energize his national team prospects while DC United’s Taylor Kemp rounds out the hopefuls and is perhaps the biggest surprise on this roster.
Longtime U.S. servant Greg Zusi has been called in for an audition as a right-sided defender despite spending his entire career in the Sporting Kansas City midfield and he will battle veteran Seattle veteran Brad Evans and impressive Philadelphia defender and 2016 Rookie of the Year candidate Keegan Rosenberry for time on the right flank during camp.
Some interesting names on the roster include Sounders keeper Stefan Frei and Vancouver attacker Kekuta Manneh, neither of whom is eligible just yet to play for the U.S.
Arena will get a chance to see these players in action in a pair of friendlies after camp wraps. First up is Serbia on January 29 at 1 pm PT at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif.
Arena will get one last look at this group in a (semi) competitive environment when the Reggae Boyz come to Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee on February 3.
Then Arena 2 begins in earnest with the March World Cup Qualifiers.
March 24, 2017: U.S MNT vs Honduras at Home at a site TBD.
March 28, 2017: U.S. MNT vs Panama Away site also TBD.
GOALKEEPERS (5): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Stefan Frei (Seattle Sounders FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)
DEFENDERS (10): DaMarcus Beasley (Unattached), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Taylor Kemp (D.C. United), Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders FC), Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia Union), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS (12): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Jermaine Jones (Unattached), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Kekuta Manneh (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Dax McCarty (New York Red Bulls), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS (5): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)