Let me level with you guys for a second: I’ve been fairly lukewarm about Dom Dwyer as a potential USMNT player for a while now. Even after it came out that he would be getting his citizenship this year, the prospect only brought out a half-hearted “Woo.” Internally, not verbally. Because this is the internet.
I think Dom is a good player. I just wasn’t taken with his prospects given how our forward pool looked going into last winter. Jozy Altidore had finished the season playing the best 4 months of soccer of his life. Jordan Morris capped a 12 goal regular season, adding another two goals in the postseason. Bobby Wood was still finding net in Germany despite playing for a woeful Hamburg side (who have since turned things around). And Clint Dempsey, while he was still dealing with his health scare, was still Clint Dempsey, and signs had begun to point to his return already. Behind them, there was still people like Juan Agudelo, who weren’t making huge waves, but had still finished the MLS season strong. Dwyer seemed like a nice depth option, but not a particularly exciting one. For the first time in possibly forever, the U.S. already had plenty of forwards who were playing well.
That doesn’t stop things from changing quickly. Agudelo didn’t do much with his January Camp game time and both Morris and Wood were too injured to participate in March World Cup qualifying. That deep forward pool suddenly looked much shallower with only Chris Wondolowski backing up Altidore and Dempsey. Enter Dom Dwyer on a Sunday night in Kansas City.
Dwyer didn’t have the best of nights against Colorado initially, getting starved of the ball for much of the first half. That did not stop him from turning things up in the second half, having a big part to play in both of Sporting KC’s second half goals.
This hold-up play is sublime. He wins the battle to the initial ball, leaving one center back in his wake. Then, he takes another two defenders out of the play with two quick touches before pinging a diagonal ball to Roger Espinoza, who eventually feeds MLS newbie Gerso Fernandes for the finish. Dwyer wasn’t done yet, as he also managed to open his season account to finish off another lightning Sporting counter attack.
Where his hold up play on the second goal was a flash of creativity, this play stands out for clinical effectiveness with a high degree of difficulty. Dwyer should obviously score on this play. He’s got the ball on his own in front of the Keeper. But Tim Howard isn’t just any Keeper, and Dwyer’s also running full speed to meet this cross in time. But his decision-making is perfect here, opening up his hips and one-timing the ball back across the face of goal, away from Howard who was shifting over from his right post to cover Dwyer on his left. The goal capped a 3-1 win against a typically stingy Rapids defense, one who gave up the fewest goals in MLS last season. Add in the fact that Howard had just stonewalled Dwyer 1v1 only 5 minutes prior, and you’ve got an ideal striker’s goal: fast, efficient, and full of that delightful short-term memory loss the best poachers have.
Now, one half of soccer does not a national-teamer make, and many will still make the argument that Dwyer is just a poor man’s Bobby Wood. He’s also a polarizing player, a little gnat who is not afraid of a scrap, can lose his head a bit, and in general is the type of player you love to have on your team, but utterly loathe if he’s not. But he can score with both feet and his head, he has not failed to reach double digits in the goals column since his first full season playing and starting for Sporting KC, and he’s done it as a lone striker in 4-3-3s and 4-2-3-1s, looks that we all know Bruce Arena is interested in having in the USMNT repertoire. This summer’s Gold Cup is traditionally the off-year Gold Cup, when most countries field B or B+ teams. I would not be surprised to see Arena treat it as such, bringing in less-experienced players from both MLS and abroad. This is the kind of play that gets players noticed, and with his goalscoring record in MLS well-established, don’t be surprised if Dwyer suits up in red, white, and blue this summer for the 2017 Gold Cup.
He might need to sit down and have a cuppa with Timmy first, though.
Yes or no to Dom Dwyer on this year’s Gold Cup roster? Let us know in the comments!