With preliminary World Cup rosters being announced this week, I started thinking about how many problems there are currently in our national team pool. If we were going to the World Cup next month, there would literally be questions and concerns at every single position. Let’s take a look.
Gone are the days of American keepers playing every weekend in the Premier League. In fact, there really aren’t any success stories in terms of goal keepers outside of MLS this past year. Ethan Horvath sat on the bench at Brugge for six months before starting a couple matches last week. Bill Hamid has only started three games in all competitions for FC Midtjylland since moving from DC United, and he hasn’t looked good in any of them. Tim Howard struggled mightily against T&T in October and is 39 years old. Brad Guzan’s been ok for Atlanta United. Same goes for Zack Steffen with Columbus. Tim Melia won the award for the best goal keeper in MLS last year, but he’s never appeared for the USMNT. What was once our strongest position has fallen off in a big way.
Deandre Yedlin is the unquestioned starter, and he had a solid year for Newcastle United. That’s the good news. The bad news is after him it’s nothing but question marks. Timothy Chandler limped off injured after 17 minutes in Eintracht’s penultimate Bundesliga match and missed the season finale. Eric Lichaj has only appeared twice in the last three months for Nottingham Forest. Shaq Moore hasn’t made an appearance for Levante’s first team since January. Even in MLS there are very few players of any quality at this position.
Over the last cycle, the most successful USMNT centerback pairing was Geoff Cameron and John Brooks. Geoff Cameron only played 28 minutes over the last two months of the season as Stoke City bowed out of the Premier League. John Brooks started the final game of the season for Wolfsburg after only playing 29 minutes since December 12th. To put it into perspective, John Brooks has only played 162 more first team minutes this season than Shaq Moore has. Omar Gonzalez wasn’t playing much for Pachuca until the final month of the Clausura. Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers had nice years, but would you throw out a centerback duo at the World Cup with all of a handful of caps combined between the two?
Jorge Villafana has had a very nice Clausura season for Santos Laguna, but he didn’t start either of the Liga MX playoff semifinals against Club America. Fabian Johnson has played all of nine minutes since the end of November. Antonee Robinson finished the season with a strong performance to keep Bolton alive, but he experienced a decent spell on the bench. However, he has zero USMNT caps. Chandler and Lichaj also deserve mention in this fiasco.
Central defensive midfielder
Michael Bradley is healthy and would be the presumed starter, but who would be his backup? Danny Williams has a broken leg. Jonathan Gonzalez switched to Mexico. Wil Trapp? McKennie could play here in an emergency, but it would reduce his effectiveness in my eyes.
Weston McKennie is the best 8 in the player pool. Tyler Adams also is promising although inexperienced internationally. We’d have some nice talent, but very little experience with the two of them combining for just 4 USMNT caps. Alfredo Morales had a good season in the 2. Bundesliga that earned him a contract with newly promoted Fortuna Dusseldorf. He hasn’t been capped in years though. Kellyn Acosta is also recently coming back from injury. Marky Delgado also recently impressed in March.
Christian Pulisic is the unquestioned starter here if we play without a 10. Otherwise, who knows? Paul Arriola was terrible against T&T in October and has only looked ok for DC United. Lynden Gooch had a season-ending injury after an up-and-down campaign. Darlington Nagbe could get a shout and is also an option centrally. Brooks Lennon is playing Right Back these days.
Kenny Saief just went down with an injury. Jonathan Amon has shown brilliantly in Denmark and would be an option, but he has zero USMNT caps. Timothy Weah has 32 minutes of professional football at PSG and 5 minutes for the USMNT. I’d be tempted to bring him along with his ability to be a late game sub to run at tired legs. Julian Green played a lot for Greuther Furth in the 2. Bundesliga this season, but he only scored three goals and had one assist in more than 2,000 minutes.
This is definitely the most depressing of the positions. Jozy Altidore just underwent surgery on his foot. Aron Johansson has an achilles injury. Jordan Morris has a torn ACL. Bobby Wood’s scored three goals in all competitions this season while Hamburger SV got relegated. Josh Sargent has yet to play a minute professionally. Clint Dempsey is 35 and has just one goal in eight games in all competitions so far this season. Gyasi Zardes and Dom Dwyer would be likely candidates.
What an absolute mess.
After all that, this would be my USMNT 23 if we had made the World Cup (Please note: This is who I would pick, not who I think Bruce Arena would have picked, and it is only players I know are available and in some kind of form):
Starters in bold:
GK: Guzan, Steffen, Melia
RB: Yedlin, Moore
CB: Brooks, Miazga, CCV, Ream
LB: Robinson, Villafana
CM: McKennie, Adams, Acosta, Morales
RW: Pulisic, Arriola
LW: Nagbe, Amon
S: Wood, Dempsey, Dwyer
With how young and inexperienced this group is, I’d be shocked if we made it out of the group stage. I have little doubt that they’d be fun to watch though. Hit the comments section to tell me how much you hate my group and how wrong I am about everything. Thanks for reading!