With the U.S. MNT facing a busy and crucial period coach Bruce Arena revealed his strategy Sunday with the release of what is very much a “B” team for this summer’s “B” event, the Gold Cup, starting with the first name on the list, goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who figures to get starters minutes on the rapidly approaching Gold Cup.
Which is not to disparage Guzan, normally second choice to Tim Howard, or his roster mates but Howard and most of the “A” team are missing from this group, with Bruce Arena electing to rest his first team for September’s World Cup Qualifiers, although some may be called in for the KO stages of the Gold Cup.
And while this group is clearly not his best group Arena was conceding nothing in remarks to USSoccer.com. “It’s a good roster with a nice blend of experienced, veteran players and a good group of newcomers as well. There’s good balance at every position, we can play a number of ways and I think all these players have a desire to play for the U.S. and will be working hard. It will be a competitive camp, they’re going to be highlight motivated, very coachable and they have an opportunity to make a statement.”
Let’s take a look at Arena’s choices, keeping in mind that up to six changes can be made after the group stages. Players must be on the 40 man roster to be added.
As mentioned Guzan is expected to see the lion’s share of the minutes in goal at this event and if the U.S. advance as expected Arena may decide he doesn’t need to trouble Howard for this tournament. Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson also get the call, reuniting the duo that as younger men were seen as battling for the number one jersey at some point down the road.
That road has been seen a share of potholes as both keepers have struggled with lapses in form and Hamid has been dogged by injuries, but with both men now firmly in their prime goalkeeping years and playing very well at the club level this Gold Cup could be big for at least one of the pair.
Eight defenders have answered Arena’s call and as we see throughout the roster most of the presumed first team has been left out. No Geoff Cameron or John Brooks means an opportunity for current third choice center back Omar Gonzalez to solidify and perhaps improve on his position.
Like Gonzalez, Matt Besler has also slipped from starter to a backup and the Sporting KC man will look to grab his chance. Arena also has Matt Hedges and Matt Miazga available and don’t be surprised to see either of these two play, especially if Arena springs his three center back set.
Fullback/wingback DeAndre Yedlin is another starter given time off from U.S. MNT duty, although his partner Jorge Villafana has been included. Eric Lichaj has long struggled to establish himself with the national team and gets another chance while Justin Morrow gets a call, his experience in the TFC three back system can’t have hurt. Converted midfielder Graham Zusi has plenty of experience and Arena’s trust. So don’t be surprised to the SKC man called on in a tight spot.
The story remains the same in the midfield with World Cup veteran Alejandro Bedoya, 60 caps, and Gyasi Zardes, 31, leading a group that includes three players looking to break their international duck.
The cap-free three includes Seattle Sounders Cristian Roldan, New England’s Kelyn Rowe, and Israeli-American Kenny Saief, the latter who has just recently been cleared to play for the U.S.
After impressing versus Mexico at the Azteca just over two weeks ago in World Cup Qualifying play the team’s other Kellyn, FC Dallas’ Kellyn Acosta, looks ready to assume a bigger role in the team.
Like Acosta, Paul Arriola was thrown into the deep end versus Mexico and emerged relatively unscathed, so the Tijuana man has shown he can be relied on. Dax McCarty has earned raves for his play with his new club since his shock trade from the New York Red Bulls to the Chicago Fire but the midfielder has struggled for playing time with the nats, so this could be his chance.
With 17 appearances for the U.S. MNT, Arriola’s TJ teammate Joe Corona is the third most capped midfielder in the bunch and he will be hoping to use the Gold Cup to re-establish himself in the group after having fallen out of favor.
Arena will have just three forwards available, although Zardes is often played as a striker. Jordan Morris has a lot to prove having scored just twice so far this year in Seattle after his 12 goal Rookie of the Year campaign in 2016.
On the other hand, Juan Agudelo started this year with a flourish, leading the Revolution with seven goals and giving hope that this could be the year that the 24-year-old puts it all together and finally lives up to his immense talent.
This is a first call to the U.S. MNT for new citizen Dom Dwyer and given his scoring record in MLS it is hard to say that the English-born SKC striker has not earned it.
Arena will have a chance to evaluate his options in a friendly versus Ghana on Saturday, July 1 in East Hartford, Connecticut before opening Gold Cup play versus Panama on July 8, in Nashville.
The opener is by far the most difficult match of the Group B schedule for the Americans, who are looking to put a terrible, fourth place finish at the 2015 event behind them. After Panama, the U.S faces Martinique on July 12, and wrap up group play on the 15th against Nicaragua.
The top two teams in each group advance along with the best two third place finishers, so the Americans should advance.
Quarterfinal play begins on July 19, in Philadelphia and continues a day later in Glendale, Arizona. The semifinals will be July 22, or 23 in Arlington, Texas or Pasadena, and the Championship match is on July 26, in Santa Clara.
Friendly – July 1, 2017, 4:45 PM ET MNT vs Ghana Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field; East Hartford, Conn.
ESPN, UniMas, UDN (pregame 4pm ET)
Gold Cup Group B
July 8, 2017, 3:30 PM CT MNT vs Panama Nissan Stadium; Nashville, Tenn.
FOX, Univision, UDN
July 12, 2017, 9 PM ET MNT vs Martinique Raymond James Stadium; Tampa Bay, Fla.
FS1, UniMas, UDN
July 15, 2017, 7 PM ET MNT vs Nicaragua FirstEnergy Stadium; Cleveland, Ohio
FXX, Univision, UDN
23 Man Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 54/0), Bill Hamid (D.C. United; 2/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 5/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City; 39/1), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX; 39/1), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas; 2/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 11/0), Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG; 2/0), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN; 1/0), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna, MEX; 6/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City; 47/5)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 8/0), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX; 5/2), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 60/2), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/MEX; 17/2), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire; 6/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 0/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 0/0), Kenny Saief (Gent/BEL; 0/0), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 31/6)
FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 23/3), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 15/2)
40 Man Roster:
GK: Joe Bendik (Orlando City SC), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Sean Johnson (New York City FC)
DEF: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Jonathan Spector (Orlando City SC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MID: Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/MEX), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Tommy McNamara (New York City FC), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Kenny Saief (Gent/BEL), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
FOR: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)