By JOSIAH TAKANG (@jtakang22_7)
Photo credit goes to lavacanza.com
U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has submitted his 40-player preliminary roster for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which is, for the first time, being held in the United States this summer. The final 23-man roster must be submitted by May 23.
The preliminary roster will be whittled down when the U.S. begins training camp May 16 in Miami and plays its three preparation matches in advance of the tournament opener against Colombia on June 3 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
The roster included many fresh faces (see: Kellyn Acosta of FC Dallas, the highly touted Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund, and Matt Miazga of Chelsea), as well as the usual mix of veterans: star striker Clint Dempsey of Seattle Sounders FC, captain Michael Bradley of Toronto FC and Everton goalkeeper and 2014 World Cup hero Tim Howard, among others.
Jozy Altidore has been declared out of the Copa America by his club, Toronto FC with (yet another!) hamstring injury; he will miss 6-8 weeks.
David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes)/MLS Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)/EPL
Tim Howard (Everton)/EPL
Ethan Horvath (Molde)
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)/MLS
Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas)/MLS
Ventura Alvarado (Club America)/Mexico
Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City)/MLS
Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United)/MLS
John Brooks (Hertha Berlin)/German Bundesliga
Geoff Cameron (Stoke City)/EPL
Edgar Castillo (Monterrey)/Mexico
Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)/German Bundesliga
Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC)/MLS
Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca)/Mexico
Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest)/ English Champions
Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC)/EPL
Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana)/Mexico
Tim Ream (Fulham)/English Championship
DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)/EPL
Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake)/MLS
Alejandro Bedoya (FC Nantes)/France-Ligue 1
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)/MLS
Mix Diskerud (New York City FC)/MLS
Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach)/German Bundesliga
Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids)/MLS
Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian)/Scotland
Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt)/German Second Division
Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers)/MLS
Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)
Danny Williams (Reading FC)/English Championship
Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)/MLS
Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC)/MLS
Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew)/MLS
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)/MLS
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)/German Bundesliga
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)/MLS
Bobby Wood (Union Berlin)/ German Third Division
Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)/MLS
*Currently unknown who will replace Altidore as the eighth forward.
Some surprise (but not really?) exclusions included Orlando City midfielder-turned-left-back Brek Shea, who has been on uneven footing with Klinsmann but had a decent start to the MLS season.
Bayern Munich midfielder Julian Green, a goalscorer in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, was also excluded, although less surprisingly. While his contract is, in fact, owned by footballing giant Bayern Munich, the American-born German has been plying his trade for the Bayern second team, who competes on the fourth rung of the German football ladder. At just 21, however, he’s still got time to grow at the club level and within the program.
Other notable exclusions include Club Leon (Mexico) goalkeeper William Yarborough, New York Red Bulls (MLS) midfielder Sasha Klestjan, up-and-coming LA Galaxy striker Sebastian Lletget and star Sporting KC midfielder Benny Feilhaber -- who, despite an extended run of form dating back to over two years ago, appears to have been inexplicably shut out of the national side under Klinsmann.
My hopeful final 23, assuming Klinsmann does nothing crazy, which, knowing Jurgen Klinsmann, is entirely possible (I'm assuming a normal 4-4-2 arrangement):
GK: Howard, Guzan, Rimando
Howard and Guzan are both locks for sure, but I was torn between Rimando and Horvath for the third position. However, Horvath's club will be in season, and it is better for his development for him to be starting for his club rather than riding the bench for the national team.
CB: Brooks, Cameron, Gonzalez, Besler
Cameron and Brooks is definitely the first-choice pairing. Gonzalez is good to bring on in case the U.S. needs a goal late because of his size and heading ability; Besler is a very safe and strong option who has proven to be able to get the job done in the back and going forward on set pieces, a necessity against the lethal strike force (i.e. James Rodriguez) of group stage opponent Colombia.
RB: Yedlin, Evans
Yedlin starts for sure; he’s held his own at Sunderland this term, and he provides much-needed pace down the wing. Evans comes for his positional flexibility. He can be brought on as a defensive-minded winger if the team is protecting a lead late.
LB: Ream, Castillo
Not a lot of spectacular options here, but Ream has had a great season across the pond and has done well for the nats when called up in the past. Castillo played well enough in his last call-up to be given a spot over Chandler, who missed most of the season with injury. I'd like to see Jorge Villafana of Mexico’s Santos Laguna, but he's never played with the USMNT before, and bringing him on for a major tournament as his first call-up isn't probably the best way to introduce him to the system; let him get some friendlies first.
CM: Bradley, Jones, Williams, Zusi
Bradley is an obvious starter and captain while Jones is a Klinsmann favorite and will start, as well. Williams has been in excellent club form at Reading and has the speed to play defensive midfielder against South American teams, something I don’t feel Beckerman can do anymore due to loss of pace and general wear and tear. Although, Klinsmann may be inclined to include him in the squad over Zusi, something he has not been hesitant to do. Zusi is a solid offensive-minded substitution choice that can also play on the wing, in addition to being good on set pieces -- a key part of the American game.
Wingers: Johnson, Bedoya, Pulisic, Nagbe
Fabian Johnson is probably the best player in our pool right now and is an obvious starter at LW. Bedoya is very reliable and should start opposite Johnson. Pulisic can come on and provide some magic and inject some pace and field vision as a sub, and Nagbe's prodigious dribbling ability gets him the call-up.
FW: Dempsey, Wood, Morris, (Nguyen?)
Dempsey and Wood are the clear starters, Dempsey being one of our best players and Wood being in amazing form over at Union Berlin. Morris is finally in good form in Seattle (see: five goals in his past five matches) and should get a call-up. Zardes may take a FW or Winger spot, but his first touch is a bit shaky, and as such, a call-up is no certainty for him.
Lee Nguyen of the New England Revolution is my favorite to replace Altidore on the roster; his paciness and ability to create space for shots gives him the advantage here. He’ll provide a spark off the bench late, and is a consistent goalscorer.