What will be the point of this Gold Cup? Regain past glory? Show that the ole Stars and Stripes can still hang a bunch of goals on Guyana and see how it matches up against Mexico in the final using players that couldn’t qualify for the World Cup? Or is Gregg Berhalter going to take a risk and bravely try something new? To what extent can he do that anyway?
Alex went through and made picks and I can’t really quibble with any of them too much, though I think the first one below really, really, deserves a call up and WHERE IS THE BEST PLAYER TO EVER COME OUT OF COLUMBUS, GEORGIA DUANE HOLMES? Anyway, I write about MLS on here every week so I thought I’d add some food for thought ahead of the roster announcement. Here are five Americans in MLS that are maybe a little under the radar heading into the tournament that might deserve a look - and one who was in MLS that absolutely doesn’t (it’s not Michael Bradley, calm down).
Miles Robinson - Pure and simple, Robinson has stepped up to emerge as one of the best American center backs in MLS and to see where he is in the depth chart for the USMNT he needs a call up. It isn’t anyone who can take the starting role from a team captain and that’s what he’s done in Atlanta with veteran Michael Parkhurst. Joe Patrick with Dirty South Soccer brokedown an average Miles Robinson game in this thread, but the gist of it is that he protec and he attac:
He can win the ball, keep the ball he won, and turn the ball he won into an opportunity for his side to attack. You have to give credit to Tata Martino for the work he did with Robinson to put him in this position to succeed. pic.twitter.com/TSvlNEzXyl— Joe Patrick (@japatrick200) May 10, 2019
Robinson has exactly the type of skillset to make the possession system Gregg Berhalter wants to play work. I talked more about Robinson in Americans at home this week, but Atlanta is riding a four game shut out streak and it is in no small part to the way that he plays. Tata Martino did a great job grooming him for the role, he stepped up in his time with ATLUTD Too last year and is bossing a backline for Atlanta’s new manager Frank de Boer, who has made defense a priority in 2019. Plus, his ability to build from the back would be an asset and with John Brooks so prone to injury the MNT could use a player to push him for playing time.
A left back - What, oh what, ohhhhhhhhh whhhhhaaaaaatttttt is the USMNT going to do at left back? In the January friendlies the USMNT started an Anonymous College Graduate and in March Tim Ream did his best against Ecuador and Chile. So what’s the answer? Uh... DaMarcus Beasley might be healthy by then? Greg Garza might still be healthy? The New England Revolution’s best player Edgar Castillo could be viable or Berhalter might remember that Jorge Villafana still exists. Is a 31 year-old Justin Morrow worth calling in? Will Brek Shea suddenly feel the love and make his art with the USMNT again? The list is pretty underwhelming, the best options are all flawed and deserve might be a strong word for someone filling in until a viable starter can be conjured.
But, um, don’t look now, Nick Lima has been starting on the left for the San Jose Earthquakes.
Cristian Roldan - The Seattle midfielder is versatile and can line up at central midfield or the wing. Wherever he lines up the 23 year-old has one thing that really defines the American soccer playing ethos - a tremendous workrate. He is tireless at winning the ball, steady in he is passing successfully 88% of the time to keep possession and has great vision to send others in on goal. The problem may be where to play him - he’s not creative enough to be a no. 10, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie are pretty far above him on the depth chart at central midfield and Berhalter might prefer the more familiar Wil Trapp and the apparently irreplaceable Michael Bradley there too. He’s a capable winger, but that’s not his best spot either. None of this is to say that Roldan doesn’t deserve a call up, just that Berhalter might think he has Reasons to call others ahead of him.
Efrain Alvarez - I mean, the worst he can do right now is say no?
Adam Jahn - There is something of a mutual respect between Tata Martino and Gregg Berhalter. Martino would talk with admiration about Berhalter’s style of play when the two were coaching in MLS. Of course, in the regular season, Atlanta got the better of Columbus when the teams met, but in the playoffs things were different. Adam Jahn scored the winning penalty against the Five Stripes in 2017 and does the USMNT really need to see what Jozy Altidore can do again? Maybe just knowing that Jahn is on the bench in a final against Mexico, if both teams get that far, could influence Tata’s decision making if the trauma of losing to penalties to a talent the likes of Jahn is in the back of his mind.
Bonus, 6th player who is actually in MLS - Jordan Morris - Let’s throw the guy a bone and recognize that every dog has his day. Morris did after all score the game winner in the 2017 Gold Cup final against Jamaica. Morris is fast, he has an OK touch, is fast, isn’t bad at crossing, is fast, knows the ways of Concacaf, is fast, has decent finishing, is fast, and is fast. He is probably going to be in competition for a wing role with Paul Arriola at this point.
To recap, the players that I’ve noted are: an uncapped center back who might end up starting for the national team for a decade and being sold to a big club in Europe if everything goes right and I’m not even kidding, A Left Back, Cristian Roldan, a player who is probably going to pick Mexico over the US, a player in the USL, and Jordan Morris... The Gold Cup truly is The Bachelor of soccer tournaments.