Next week the United States will gather in Europe for two friendlies against Denmark and Switzerland. Some may think a couple of international friendlies during the stretch run of most of the top European club seasons would be meaningless. However, these few games will give Jurgen Klinsmann a close look at several fringe players he may not otherwise have been able to evaluate directly.
With the Gold Cup on the horizon in July, every opportunity to evaluate players is crucial in finalizing a roster for an important competitive tournament. For the fringe players, these games offer a chance to prove that they deserve a spot on the Gold Cup roster. These friendlies are the last set of games on the official FIFA calendar before the end of the European domestic seasons conclude. For all the European-based fringe players this is the last chance to make their mark on Klinsmann's radar. Expect to see a heavy dose of players from Mexican and European clubs with MLS just getting underway.
So, who makes the roster for these games? Here is our projected roster:
Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, William Yarbrough.
The first two keepers are set in stone. Expect to see Guzan and Rimando 1-2 on the depth chart for as long as Tim Howard remains on hiatus. The third choice brings some new blood into the mix. William Yarbrough is a Mexican-American plying his trade with Leon in Liga MX. Yarbrough was born in Mexico but has an American passport through his parents who are both from Texas. He is 25 years old and won the 2014 Clausura with Leon. Klinsmann has been rumored to be in contact with him, while Mexican journalist Ruben Rodriguez is reporting that he has already received a formal call up.
Defenders (9): Greg Garza, DeAndre Yedlin, Timothy Chandler, Geoff Cameron, Ventura Alvarado, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Brek Shea, John Brooks.
The defensive options are much tougher to predict. Matt Besler has not enjoyed post-World Cup life. Other than receiving a nice raise, his form has dipped dramatically. Most said his struggles were a cause of fatigue, but in the opening game of the MLS season he was both beaten badly for a goal and sent off.
Garza is in great form for Club Tijuana. He started off the 2015 Liga MX Clausura making the Team of the Week two out of the first three weeks of the season. Other than a minor injury, it's been nothing but smooth sailing for Garza in 2015. Expect to see him play a big part for the USA this summer.
Backing Garza up could be the enigma that is Shea. Once a promising attacking talent, Shea has seen his career slump to the lowest depths of the third tier in England, only to be dealt a lifeline by MLS expansion side Orlando City FC. Now with a new position of left back, Shea will have a chance to prove himself to Klinsmann, who has been a longtime admirer of his. Speedsters Yedlin and Chandler, who are able to play multiple positions, round out the fullback options.
At the center back spot we have usual suspects Brooks, Cameron, and Gonzalez along with eternal fringe player Ream. Another new face that could enter the fold is yet another dual citizen. Mexican-American Ventura Alvarado won a starting spot for Club America in Liga MX just as the eventual 2014 Apertura champs began their playoff run. With Mexico manager Miguel Herrera stating that he's not interested in calling up Alvarado yet, this could be the perfect chance to get the versatile defender into the player pool.
There are not many surprises in who our choices in the midfield are, but maybe in who we omit. Veteran Graham Zusi was an instrumental part of the World Cup team, starting all four games in the tournament. He too saw a dramatic drop in form after returning to Sporting KC from Brazil. With no real need for him with Alejandro Bedoya and Mix Diskerud already on the roster, he doesn't make the cut.
Along with mainstays Bedoya and Diskerud, Dempsey, Bradley and ultra utility man Johnson are all safe bets. The two fringe players we are likely to see are Morales and Williams. Both central midfielders could be competing for the same holding midfield spot. Williams, who is now with Reading in the English Championship, is finally healthy and enjoying a nice run of form. Morales is a regular starter for Ingolstadt in the 2. Bundesliga. His side currently holds a three point lead at the top of the table.
Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Gyasi Zardes, Rubio Rubin.
With Johannsson finally back to full health expect to see him back in a USA kit for the first time since the World Cup. Altidore is off to a good start with his new club Toronto FC. Finally escaping the talent smothering blanket that is Sunderland, Altidore looks extremely happy to be with a team that can offer him the service he needs to succeed. Despite getting plenty of accolades following the January camp, Zardes is still very much a fringe player. His eye opening performance against Panama earns him another vital call up and chance to prove he belongs.
Rubin is in a very unique position. The 19-year-old is eligible for the US U20 team who will compete in the U20 World Cup at the end of May. It's unclear what the plan is for him for this summer. The last time Rubin competed for the US at any level was with the senior National Team in a friendly in November. With Rubin's current dip in playing time for his club FC Utrecht, it remains to be seen if he'll be asked to play for the senior team at the Gold Cup or for the U20 team at the U20 World Cup. This month should go a long way in determining what the plan for him is.