The U.S. men’s national team is looking toward the future. On Monday, despite the release of a January camp roster that includes 15 uncapped players and 21 under the age of 25, that future looks bleaker than it did 24 hours earlier.
Monterrey midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez, arguably the second-most promising teenager in the U.S. player pool, has decided to file a one-time FIFA switch from the U.S. to Mexico. That, without a doubt, is the biggest story in American soccer right now, and the failures that led to it must be scrutinized for days and months to come.
But we do have a January camp roster to dissect. It’s a 30-man roster filled with fresh faces, many of whom casual fans haven’t seen before. There are names like Justen Glad, Ike Opara and Matt Polster at the back; like Russell Canouse, Ian Harkes and Brooks Lennon in midfield. These are the players that will open camp on Jan. 10 in Carson, Calif., and prepare to face Bosnia and Herzegovina in the USMNT’s first game of 2018 on Jan. 28.
On the other hand, there is no Michael Bradley, no Jozy Altidore. This is just one player, Paul Arriola, who was in the 23-man matchday squad in Trinidad three months ago.
Because there is no official FIFA date in January, the pool is often limited to players based in MLS. Clubs aren’t required to release their players for national team duty. MLS teams often do; others – some in the middle of their seasons – often don’t.
That’s one of the reasons U.S. interim coach Dave Sarachan has call in a roster light on big names and experience. But it’s not the only one. January camp will be another new beginning, another initial step in the youth movement. Here’s the complete 30-man squad:
U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC; 0/0), Bill Hamid (FC Midtjylland; 4/0), Cody Cropper (New England Revolution; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (9): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC; 3/0), Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC; 0/0), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire; 1/0), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles Football Club; 1/0)
MIDFIELDERS (11): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 15/2), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC; 0/0), Marlon Hairston (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Ian Harkes (D.C. United; 0/0), Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 1/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 2/0), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy; 37/6)
FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 27/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 24/5), Christian Ramirez (Minnesota United FC; 0/0), Rubio Rubin (Unattached; 4/0), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 3/0)
Hamid, who recently moved from D.C. United to Midtjylland in Denmark, was the only player based outside MLS whose club allowed him to join up with the Yanks. Rubio Rubin, who last played for Stabaek in Norway, is listed as a free agent.
On the flip side, FC Dallas apparently did not release any of its players. That explains the absence of Kellyn Acosta – and perhaps goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, too. The reason is reportedly Dallas’ CONCACAF Champions League preparations, though other CCL participants did not block call-ups.
The other notable, even if unsurprising, veteran absences: Altidore, Bradley, Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Clint Dempsey, Matt Besler, Alejandro Bedoya, Graham Zusi, Darlington Nagbe, Dax McCarty, Benny Feilhaber and Chris Wondolowski.
The most exciting name of the 30 is Tyler Adams, an 18-year-old midfielder/fullback who started against Portugal in November. Others in the squad who could be major contributors for the U.S. over the coming years include Arriola, Jordan Morris and perhaps Christian Roldan.
Of the 15 uncapped players, Zach Steffen, 22, is the most exciting goalkeeping prospect. The 20-year-old Real Salt Lake defensive duo of Justen Glad and Danny Acosta has national team promise. Chicago Fire fullbacks Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent could have opportunities to break in at positions of need.
In midfield, Canouse and Harkes – the son of former national teamer John Harkes – are both 22. So is Marky Delgado. Lennon, 20, is probably the top prospect of the bunch.
The forward line is still startlingly bereft of young talent. Ramirez, the only uncapped forward, is 26.
Whereas November’s Portugal camp required veterans, January camp is solely about breaking in the next generation. It’s about evaluation and development. Chances are, the majority of the 30 participants will never be significant players for the national team. But now is the time to begin picking out the few who will be.
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