Obviously, if there are players that benefit from a coaching switch, there are also players who will not benefit. And while Bruce Arena has already said he doesn’t think there will be major roster changes in the works from now until March, that still does not mean there won’t be any changes at all. Here are five players with plenty to lose from the new USA coaching situation.
In 2014 and again in 2016, Jermaine proved that while he is advanced in soccer years, in high pressure situations he can be counted on to perform, be aggressive, and play very good teams tough in the midfield. Unfortunately, Jermaine has three things going against him: inconsistency in form, age, and fitness. Jermaine can be equal parts brilliant and dumb. You saw that against Ecuador in the Copa America, where he both delivered a brilliant cross for Clint Dempsey’s goal and also got himself a red card in a play he wasn’t even involved in to begin with. And because he and Bradley are very similar players in many respects, if you’re not a coach favorite, your form needs to stay at a high level consistently to continue to enjoy the amount of playing time he saw under Klinsmann. If Bradley and Jones aren’t both playing at a very high level, the 4-4-2 gets exposed very quickly. I don’t think Bruce shies away from Jones because of his aggressiveness (if anything, Bruce’s U.S. teams had plenty of bite in the midfield), but I do think his age and constant battle to stay healthy in addition to his unpredictability mean Jones will probably see a serious dip in playing time.
And here’s where we get into the meat of Bruce Arena’s comments on dual-nationals. Even with the explanation he gave upon U.S. Soccer’s announcement of him as new head coach, the proper amount of a pride a player needs to have for his country still seems like a pretty murky line.
Arena on "foreign nationals". "I embrace all players that are eligible to play. Just want to make sure their hearts are in the right place".— Simon Evans (@sgevans) November 22, 2016
And whether you think those comments are in good taste or not, those beliefs are going to effect Arena’s team selection. If anyone on the team has had his commitment to the cause questioned over the past few years, it’s been Chandler, and his tendency to get hot for Eintracht Frankfurt and then turn in lukewarm displays for the U.S. will not do him any favors with Arena, either.
Maybe I’m projecting with this one. Please, Bruce. Get Orozco off this team. You’re our only hope.
Contrary to where you might think I’m going here, I don’t think the issue here is that Julian is another German-American. More so, Klinsmann has allowed Julian to use the USMNT as a place to display his skills at a far more advanced level than Bayern Munich’s reserve team. That’s fair enough; he extended that same courtesy to other players and helped guide them to bigger and better things in their careers. Most notably, the late-2014 version of Bobby Wood could not score a goal if Moses parted opposing defenses for him. But Jurgen kept giving him chance after chance, and despite being in a hellish club situation, something clicked for Bobby: he scored goals against Germany, the Netherlands, landed a new gig at Union Berlin and promptly became a top-5 scorer in the 2. Bundesliga, sealing a move to Hamburg and the top flight the very next year. None of that happens without the playing time he got under Klinsmann. Things happened similarly for Green. His USMNT appearances have usually been met with a bit more exposure at the club level. After scoring against Cuba and New Zealand, he managed to score his first ever senior goal for Bayern in his first start of the season. But with only eight games left in the Hex, I doubt Bruce will be open to running a development program. If Green isn’t getting at least some minutes for Bayern by March, I have serious doubts he’ll be included in the squad.
This one seems like a bit of an outlier, but Jurgen Klinsmann kind of staked his reputation on Michael Bradley in many ways. When Clint Dempsey was away with form and injury struggles, Klinsmann named Bradley the full-time captain, and then proceeded to role out formations that hinged almost entirely on him. Sometimes that trust paid off (friendlies against Germany and the Netherlands) and sometimes it did not (most official competitions). Obviously, Michael Bradley was not going to be dropped under Klinsmann. Maybe Bruce Arena comes in, doesn’t want to shake the status quo up too much, and keeps Michael Bradley as the team captain. But Arena’s legacy is not tied to Bradley in the least, and Bradley’s suspect performances over the past couple years could just as soon lead to him being dropped from the starting XI as they would keep him the captain’s armband. Would it be surprising if that happened? Probably, but it’s not outside of the realm of possibility, either, which was practically unthinkable under Klinsmann.