By Morgan J. Wolf
Heading into the 2017 Gold Cup Soccer Competition, the U.S. Men’s National Team stands as one of the favorites, yet, there are a few issues that could keep them from doing as well as they should. With the 23-man roster being released earlier this week, it’s already easy to see that this U.S. squad will be a good one, but it is far from the best.
As far as the goalkeepers, there’s nothing to complain, given that the trio of Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Bill Hamid (D.C. United) and Sean Johnson (New York City FC) is a strong group. However, it could get stronger with the possible addition of FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, who made his one-time switch from Mexico to the U.S. earlier in the week. In this year’s Gold Cup, teams will be allowed to make changes to their rosters after the group stage, so this would be an opportunity for Bruce Arena to hand Gonzalez his USMNT debut.
With the defenders, there isn’t too much cause for concern either, though the absence of DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United) is a little disappointing as fans won’t be able to see him show off his game-changing speed. Despite this, seeing promising players like Matt Miazga (Chelsea) should give the U.S. fans a look at a player who is possibly a future mainstay on the back line for at least the next decade.
The midfield is where there is a cause for unease. Arena has stated that he didn’t want to call up too many players from European leagues so as to not tire them out, but the absence of Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund) is a glaring issue. Not having the player who is far and away the best the country has to offer for a major tournament is a problem, no matter how you slice it. Plus, he’s 18 years old and at that age, a player should have boundless amounts of energy. In addition, he’ll be missing out on a golden opportunity to win his first piece of silverware for his country. Yes, standouts like Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers) will probably be called up for the knockout stage, but not even Nagbe will be able to replace the skill that Pulisic has on the ball.
Another interesting player to keep an eye out for in midfield will be Kenny Saief (KAA Gent), who recently completed his switch from Israel to the USMNT. He is a good player in Belgium’s Pro League, but he’s never gotten enough experience on the international stage because of Israel’s unwillingness to call him up to the national team, so it will be interesting to see what this speedy winger brings to the table.
As for the strikers, the U.S. can rest easy knowing that they have three high-quality strikers in Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) and newly-minted U.S. citizen Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City) up front to put the ball in the back of the net. Additionally, the U.S. can likely look forward to seeing Toronto FC’s Jozy Altidore in the knockout stage, which would give the team even more confidence in having an international veteran up front.
At this point, the USMNT is improving yearly, which bodes well for their continued international success, but it’s troubling that Arena does not seem ambitious enough to put out the best possible squad he can.