Jurgen Klinsmann's 22-player roster for the upcoming friendly against Puerto Rico in Bayamon features five players making their debut in a senior national team camp: Paul Arriola, Fabrice Picault, Caleb Stanko, Zack Steffen, and Amando Moreno.
Moreno's inclusion is of particular interest. The 20-year old striker has been a reserve and cup player for Liga MX side Club Tijuana, and only recently made his league debut in April. He's been a regular call up in the U.S. youth national team set up, but hasn't scored a notable amount of goals in his appearances.
On its face, the inclusion of Moreno -- a slight 5'7" striker with limited professional appearances and fewer goals -- seems slightly unwarranted. However, his club career has been on the upswing after a tumultuous beginning.
Moreno began his career with the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer, signing a Homegrown/Academy contract before the 2013 season. He made three early season appearances for a combined 92 minutes, and was kept out of the match day roster for the rest of the year. Despite being offered a contract extension, he chose to leave and seek better fortunes south of the border. At the time, Empire of Soccer reported that Moreno was "frustrated in a system where he knew playing time was non-existent. That boiled over into the locker room, where several players and members of the technical staff... caught wind of his outward disdain, creating a rift between player and club."
Moreno has thrived since leaving the Red Bulls, leading Tijuana's under-20 side to the 2015 Apetura final, scoring ten goals along the way. He's also scored three goals in the Copa MX. With Tijuana enduring a rough season and missing out of the Liguilla (playoffs) for both the Apertura and Clasura, Moreno was the chance to log some Liga MX match experience. He made appearances against Monterrey (April 16th), Pumas (April 23rd), Puebla (April 30th), and Atlas (May 8th).
The club's technical director, Raul Chabrand, recently praised Moreno claiming he has shown "significantly" well and will be pushing for a first team spot in the future. So while his call up may appear to be confusing to some, it shows that his rise through the ranks of Xolos has not gone unnoticed by U.S. Soccer.
One can assume, as always, Klinsmann has a plan in mind. Perhaps he sees great potential in Moreno. Maybe it's a cynical, speculative attempt at keeping a Mexican-American dual national in the fold with an invite to a meaningless friendly. Despite not being included on the preliminary roster for the Copa America Centenario, being called into a senior camp is a great boost to a young professional's career. Even if Moreno doesn't make an appearance against Puerto Rico, he's received positive reinforcement for his hard work at the club level which will ideally spur him onto greater success as he develops.
The United States men's national team should always be calling in potential strikers of the future, whether they've already broken through at the club level or are on the verge of doing so. Perhaps this is the first and last senior team camp of Moreno's career, but that's doubtful based on his current upward trajectory.