Editor's note: This Fanpost of the Week dreams what we could have had in a World Cup roster this summer and how our player pool was plenty talented enough to make a run.
I know I'm not alone in still being heartbroken over missing the World Cup. While that pain waxes and wanes, it hit me particularly hard today with Aron Johannsson scoring again and generally looking great for Werder. While that may seem a bit odd, please let me explain-
While a lot has been written about the weakness of our player pool, I can't help but look at our players and strongly disagree. We did not miss the World Cup because of our player pool. We missed it because of arrogance, both from our Federation, and from our coach.
In our last match we lost to a vastly inferior team, after refusing to play some of the best players in our player pool. Geoff Cameron, EPL starter- glued to the bench against T&T. Fabian Johnson, 270 career Bundesliga games, and one of the most talented players in our pool. Had he been in a rut? Sure. But that doesnt cancel out his talent or experience. Against T&T- not even called in. Danny Williams- getting consistent minutes in the EPL- zero total minutes this entire cycle. Matt Miazga- talented young CB excelling in Holland- barely played under Arena. Timmy Chandler, having a phenomenal season in the Bundesliga-no minutes under Arena. Etc.
While I don't think Klinsmann should have been fired in the first place, for argument's sake, let's say he was an we hired a generic qualified manager.
Under this scenario, we stay in close touch with Jonathan Gonzalez and call him in once he starts to break out in LigaMX. Other talented players in our pool get correctly utilized, and we don't seem to call up MLS players solely for the sake of propping MLS up.
So let's take a look at our hypothetical 23 man roster for the World Cup (note, I'm using a three man backline)-
Goalkeeper- Bill Hamid, Zack Steffen, Brad Guzan- Overall a pretty strong group. Hamid is a talented starter, and should have gotten more chances in this last cycle. Steffen currently is the young keeper showing the most potential. I kept Guzan on as an experienced third keeper, but there are a few other guys that can make a strong case.
Centerbacks- John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Matt Miazga, Tim Ream, Ike Opara- Brooks, Cameron, and Miazga make up a talented starting group, Ream has been playing extremely well for Fulham, and Opara brings a lot of athletic ability and was great last season.
Wingbacks- DeAndre Yedlin, Timothy Chandler, Fabian Johnson- Yedlin locks down the right side, Chandler has been arguably the best player in our pool playing as a LWB the last few weeks. Johnson provides elite depth and can fill in further up the field too.
CMs- Michael Bradley, Danny Williams, Jonathan Gonzalez, Weston McKennie, Kellyn Acosta- Another strong group. I have a lot of the same issues with Bradley as a lot of you do, and wouldnt be opposed to replacing him. Danny Williams has played well in the EPL this season. In this better world, we still have JonGon, and he provides excellent depth and can push Bradley. McKennie adds a lot to our depth as well. I was in a toss up situation between Acosta and Tyler Adams for the last spot, and would be happy with either. Both of them can provide depth at both CM and wingback.
Attacking Mid- Christian Pulisic, Kenny Saief, Paul Arriola- Pulisic is clearly already on the path to being our all time best player. Saief has a ton of talent and brings a lot to the table. There are other players in competition for the last spot, but Arriola has generally been solid when he plays for the USMNT.
Strikers- Aron Johannsson, Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey- ArJo has been in stellar form and is great at link up play. Wood has been in a major slump, but I tend to think that part of that is as a result of us missing the WC (he seems to have taken it particularly hard) and his work rate combined with far better service is valuable. Like Bradley, I have issues with Jozy too, but he currently brings more to the table than Bradley in my opinion. Dempsey comes along as a supersub.
I have a tough time not seeing this team as the most talented that we have ever had. We would be leaving players at home that would have been starters on any other US World Cup roster. Regardless of whether you play a 3-4-3 with ArJo being flanked by Pulisc and Saief, or a 3-5-2 with Pulisic behind ArJo and Jozy or Wood, that is a dynamic attack with serious goalscoring potential. Being able to bring players like Fabian Johnson, McKennie, Dempsey, etc off the bench gives you the potential to change a game like we've never had.
It's just so damn disappointing. I fully believe that we have enough talent in our player pool to make a serious run at the quarterfinals. And we threw it all away.
As the poet John Greenleaf Whittier once said- "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these- "it might have been""