Landon Donovan’s national team exile, self imposed and otherwise, has ended at last with Donovan’s inclusion in the USMNT roster for this month’s Gold Cup.
Donovan’s selection was by far the biggest news surrounding yesterday’s unveiling by U.S. Soccer, but it wasn’t the only story. Former captain Carlos Bocanegra missed out, while his longtime, former partner in the center of the U.S. defense, Oguchi Onyewu, was recalled despite receiving virtually no playing time for Malaga this past season. All this on a day when it was announced that veteran fullback Steve Cherundolo would again require knee surgery, a setback that calls the Hanover mainstays USMNT future in doubt.
In a conference call with the U.S. soccer press on Thursday afternoon, it was no surprise that Donovan was the first question Klinsmann faced. The coach described Donovan’s return as, “exciting,” calling this recall, “a wonderful opportunity for him (Donovan) to prove where he’s at now.”
“We’re just curious,” Klinsmann continued, “to see how he picks up the rhythm, how he picks up the speed and tempo and all these elements, and therefore we’re excited to have him back.”
“With Carlos, I had a long talk,” Klinsmann explained and he cited Bocanegra’s club situation, when asked about the experienced defenders omission. “He basically is in the middle of another move,” Klinsmann said, possibly breaking some news, when he added that Bocanegra was going to, “leave it looks like today, he’s going to leave Racing Santander.”
Although no news of a Bocanegra move has broken, Klinsmann said that he wants to allow his former captain to get off to a fresh start with whatever new club he ends up at, and participating in the Gold Cup could interfere.
As for Onyewu’s coming back into the team despite a disappointing lack of playing time at Malaga, Klinsmann said, “this is huge for Gooch now, to prove a point with us. We know the qualities of Gooch, we know what his level can be.” Klinsmann believes, “that if he is in very, very good shape, if he’s really focused and if he picks up the rhythm, then he’s a very good center back.”
This roster isn’t only about the veterans, some younger players will get a chance to impress as well. Houston Dynamo fullback Corey Ashe and Philadelphia Union striker Jack McInerney are the only players who will be looking for their first cap, but the duo are part of a group of young and youngish players, trying to move up the national team depth chart.
Like Ashe, Real Salt Lake’s Tony Beltran will be looking for minutes at fullback, as will Edgar Castillo, who has been around the national team for a while now, without proving much. Young midfielders Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud, Josh Gatt and Alejandro Bedoya will battle for playing time with Jose Torres, on perhaps another “last chance” and the recovering Stuart Holden. This is an interesting group, with the dependable, if limited Kyle Beckerman, the only known quantity at this point.
MLS goal scoring leader McInerney (tied at 10 with Mike Magee and Marco Di Vaio) is joined up front by Will Bruin and vets Donovan, Herculez Gomez and Chris Wondolowski.
The 20 year old McInerney is among the most interesting players named in this group, because, well goals are interesting. A pretty fair goal scorer in his own playing days, Klinsmann said of McInerney, “we see there is a lot of talent coming through. He’s a hungry kid, he’s hungry for goals, he can score goals in many, many different ways, he’s providing assists, he’s there for his team, he’s chasing people down, he’s highly energetic.”
As if to temper expectations after that glowing review, Klinsmann added, “We just want to open the door now for him to become part of our group, and we would like to see him on a daily basis and possibly in the games as well.” “This,” Klinsmann concluded, “is a first step for him in the senior program.”
This year’s Gold Cup winners will play off against the 2015 champions for a spot in the 2015 Confederations Cup in Russia. Although the U.S. team is not at full strength because of the World Cup Qualifiers, Mexico is at a similar disadvantage, compounded by their participation in this year’s Confederation Cup in Brazil. Mexico have been knocked out of the Cup, but their team was named prior to that elimination, so this could be an opportunity for the U.S.
12 teams will compete in three groups in games played at venues throughout the United States. Here are the groups. Group A: Mexico, Panama, Canada and Martinique. Group B: Honduras, El Salvador, Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti. Group C: USA. Costa Rica, Belize and Cuba. The top two teams in each group and the top two third place finishers move on to the quarterfinals, so it’s not that big an ask.
With one eye on Brazil, Klinsmann said that, “the Gold Cup is a huge opportunity for all the players to make a very, very strong statement.” For the U.S. that opportunity begins July 9th, when they play Belize in Portland, Oregon. Next up for the U.S. is Cuba, July 13 in Sandy, Utah before the hosts finish group play in East Hartford on July 16 versus Costa Rica.
Here is the 23 man USMNT Gold Cup roster. Four players can be added after group play is concluded.
GOALKEEPERS (3) : Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8) : Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Oguchi Onyewu (Malaga), Michael Orozco Fiscal (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (FC Augsburg)
MIDFIELDERS (7) : Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Helsinborg), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Joshua Gatt (Molde FK), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Jose Torres (Tigres)
FORWARDS (5) : Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Club Tijuana), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)