As the United States seek to secure their place in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Gold Cup tomorrow night, talk is shifting towards the roster that coach Bruce Arena would carry into the knockout stage. Arena is able to make as many 6 changes to the 23-man USMNT roster, allowing him the opportunity to call in some of his regular starters that are rested and ready to go. The players must come from the 40-man preliminary roster that was submitted last month.
So, which players should Arena call in? Which ones will go back to their clubs? Arena has had a tendency to shuffle around his lineups, so let’s assume that he uses all 6 changes. Here are some possible reinforcements and who they would replace:
Tim Howard for Brad Guzan: Bruce Arena has mentioned on several occasions that Brad Guzan would be the #1 keeper for the group stage matches, while Tim Howard would likely be called in for the knockout stages so Brad Guzan could begin with Atlanta United. This is still the most logical scenario. It’s unlikely that Arena would call in a 2nd goalkeeper, like Jesse Gonzalez, when he knows he’s going with Howard. Timmy’s our clear top keeper right now and Arena’s choice to go up against the likes of Costa Rica or Mexico.
Jozy Altidore for Juan Agudelo: The opportunity is there for some goals to be scored, and bringing in Jozy Altidore makes the most sense. Juan Agudelo has done alright during the tournament, but I don’t think he’s staying when you have the chance to bring in Altidore to start up top.
Darlington Nagbe for Alejandro Bedoya: Adding Darlington Nagbe to the lineup will give the USMNT more speed and creativity, either on the wing or in the middle. Sending home Alejandro Bedoya, who hasn’t had a particularly good tournament, is the move that should be made.
Michael Bradley for Dax McCarty: Dax McCarty has done fairly well as the center defensive midfielder for the USMNT so far, but the time is perfect to bring back the captain, Michael Bradley. Bradley has the leadership that will be needed for these matches, and while the name Bradley nowadays sparks huge debate about whether he’s still got the juice to lead the team, he’s a competitor. And, you know Mexico will be wary with Bradley on the field.
Steve Birnbaum for Matt Miazga: Our backline has been inconsistent during the tournament, and a lot of that inconsistency has occurred in the air. Bring in Steve Birnbaum, who leads MLS in aerial duels won (66). That will really help in the box, where we have been shaky on set pieces and corners. Matt Miazga doesn’t seem to have impressed much during the Gold Cup group stage, and it would be good for him to return to Europe for preseason in order to sort out where he will be playing this fall.
Clint Dempsey for Jordan Morris: This might be the one that’s the biggest surprise. Jordan Morris featured well against Martinique, earning Man of the Match honors. Still, I think Arena trades Morris for Clint Dempsey. His experience will be much needed, and the man just scores and scores and scores in big moments. Pairing him with Jozy Altidore or Dom Dwyer sounds like the goals we want to see down the stretch.
What do you think? Will Bruce Arena call in 6 guys? Are these the ones? Who do you think would be called in for the knockout stage? Hit the comments and let’s see what you got!