Bruce Arena will reveal the United States Men’s National Team 2017 Gold Cup Roster on Sunday. He’ll have to narrow down the 40-man preliminary roster into a 23-man final squad. Arena will be allowed to make up to six changes after the group stage concludes.
Look for national team stars like Clint Dempsey to be added to the USMNT for the knockout stages.
When asked how many regulars to expect on the roster, Bruce Arena told the media “Almost none. Very few. Maybe [Omar] González and [Matt] Besler. Maybe [Clint] Dempsey and [Jozy] Altidore at some point. [Darlington] Nagbe is a possibility.”
Arena also suggested that Brad Guzan will make the roster and Tim Howard will be added after the group stage concludes.
“We’re pretty sure [Brad] Guzan is coming in. [Tim] Howard can come in after the group stage. So we’ll have to name at least two other goalkeepers. Keeping that quote in mind, it seems that Arena’s squad will consist primarily of MLS players who are on the fringes of the national team.”
Keeping Arena’s statements in mind, lets take a look at my projected 23 man roster.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas)
Expect Guzan to be the team’s #1 keeper, at least through the group stage. If Jesse Gonzalez completes his one time switch by Sunday, then he will be selected. Gonzalez is one of CONCACAF’s most promising young keepers and could be handed his international debut against a minnow like Martinique.
Bill Hamid leads MLS in saves (as a result of D.C. United’s porous defense) and is finally healthy after a series of injuries. Hamid has a higher ceiling and is marginally better than Sean Johnson. That said, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Johnson chosen over Hamid.
Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN), Jonathan Spector (Orlando City SC), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire)
Matt Besler has been in and out of the national team picture the past year, but has been playing well recently. Matt Hedges has only 1 cap and deserves a chance with the national team after several years of excellent play in MLS.
Spector has been key for Orlando City and has invaluable national team experience. Lichaj should have been on just about every USMNT roster since 2015 and will likely be the starting rightback.
Justin Morrow and Greg Garza are the two best American leftbacks in MLS. Morrow has been underrated for years and Garza is an excellent 1 v. 1 defender.
Miazga quietly established himself as a starter for 5th placed Eredivisie side Vitesse, showing the defensive skills that made him a star for the New York Red Bulls.
Matt Polster is having a career year for the Chicago Fire and will provide depth at rightback.
Midfielders: Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Kenny Saief (Gent/BEL)
Kenny Saief recently filed a one time switch to the U.S. and is an exciting left-footed midfielder. Saief plays for Gent in Belgium and has Champions League as well as Europa League experience. The Gold Cup will give him a chance to prove that he should be a national team regular.
Cristian Roldan has been one of the top central midfielders in MLS this season and will likely feature as a defensive midfielder for this team. Dax McCarty has been arguably the best defensive midfielder in MLS the past few seasons and is a great leader.
Kellyn Acosta is the best American box-to-box midfielder in MLS and looks set to be a national team regular for many years to come. Arena may chose to leave Acosta off the roster if he already considers him a national team regular, although Acosta only has 8 caps. The Gold Cup would be a great opportunity for Acosta to gain more international experience.
Darlington Nagbe has been a national team player since late 2015, but has failed to establish himself as a starter. If he plays up to his potential, he could be one of the best USMNT midfielders.
Kelyn Rowe is a versatile midfielder, with an excellent passing range. He has excelled since coming into MLS and may never be a national team regular, but deserves a chance with the team.
Paul Arriola is still only 22 and has a ton of potential. He may not make the squad, as the Liga MX season starts during the Gold Cup and he will be fighting for a starting spot at Club Tijuana.
Alejandro Bedoya can play anywhere in the midfield. He has been in poor form for the Philadelphia Union, but Bruce Arena needs some veterans to guide the team.
Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
Agudelo and Dwyer are essentially guaranteed to make the roster. Agudelo has already tied his career high for goals in a season, with seven MLS tallies so far. Agudelo’s dribbling skill and newfound consistency would be a big boost for the team.
Jordan Morris has struggled mightily in his second season for Seattle, with just two goals in MLS. However, Arena will chose Morris due to his pace and previous national team experience. U.S. fans can only hope Morris breaks out of his slump at the Gold Cup.
Dwyer recently received American citizenship and has been one of the best strikers in MLS over the past three years. Arena has previously stated that he hoped to call up Dwyer for the 2017 Gold Cup.
C.J. Sapong should undoubtedly be selected over Chris Wondolowski, but I except Wondo to get the nod. Wondolowski is having a solid year in MLS (5 goals, 3 assists) and while Wondo has struggled on the international stage for past several years, he has always played well against CONCACAF opponents.
Who do you think makes the Gold Cup Roster? Sound off in the comments below.