Checking In on the USMNT: The Post-Roster Release Edition

Jurgen Klinsmann released his final 23-man roster for the Copa America on Saturday. Looking back on my prediction from two weeks ago, what seems to stand out the most is Jordan Morris’s exclusion. This will be endlessly debated for the next week, but suffice to say I am firmly in the camp that believes Morris should have been in and Chris Wondolowski should be out after Jozy Altidore’s injury opened a spot up front.

Yet, we have to get excited about what we are given, and that includes:

  • A changing of the guard! Brad Guzan is the official number one keeper. Although I thought Tim Howard would get the nod one last time, it makes a certain amount of sense for Klinsmann to go with the slightly-not-as-old Guzan. We will see if he can hold onto the spot.
  • Beyond Morris and Guzan, the roster deviates from my hopeful one with Klinsmann stand-by Timothy Chandler, as well as Perry Kitchen and Darlington Nagbe. Chandler has never impressed me in his national team time, but he offers Yedlin a reprieve if necessary.
  • I like Kitchen’s selection, who substitutes for Danny Williams on my roster as a younger defensive minded midfielder. I hope he will get time to shine, although my guess is he will be third choice behind Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman.
  • Lastly, Darlington Nagbe, another relatively young player at 25, who has proven to be a creative force in MLS playing for the Portland. You can read a nice summary of his strong play in a recent game here, but I believe Nagbe is unlikely to see much of the field while Klinsmann continues to play Michael Bradley as the box-to-box midfielder.

Unfortunately for Klinsmann, as of Sunday when the U.S. Men’s National Team played Puerto Rico, he still did not have all 23 chosen men available. So, although the USMNT won 3-1, the team featured mostly players brought in to supplement like blog favorite Emerson Hyndman, and included only eight men who made the Copa American roster. Given that, I hesitate to take a lot away from the game, especially since El Huracán Azul is ranked 152nd in the world. So to save you the trouble of having to watch the match, here are the few things to note in no particular order:

  1. DeAndre Yedlin looked dangerous throughout the match. He was consistently the focal point of the U.S. attack up the right side of the pitch, marauding forward from his right back position to harass the Puerto Rican defense. It was clear that Yedlin’s pace and crosses were a problem, as Puerto Rico sent two men to contain him over and over again. This is a good sign heading into the tournament, as Yedlin’s speed will be an asset even against better competition.
  2. Bobby Wood is on a roll. He scored and looked dangerous on quite a few occasions. He was also consistently involved in the attack for the U.S., looking dangerous and hungry. Since June 1, 2015, he has the third most international goals behind only Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. If he can maintain this form, he will be a starter for the U.S.
  3. The defense, as usual, was suspect at times. Although Puerto Rico’s goal just before half time was a great half volley into the upper right corner (check out all the goals here), it was the result of a poor turnover in the U.S. half of the field. Most troubling, though, is the lack of solidarity in the center back pairings. The U.S. started the game with John Brooks and Michael Orozco, who faced little in the way of a counter-attack. The second half saw Matt Miazga come on for Brooks, pairing with Orozco. Almost immediately, Puerto Rico enjoyed a few close chances within a couple minutes of the restart. The game settled in again after a nervy few minutes, but Orozco would not be in my preferred starting 11.

In all, it was a warm-up to the warm-up games on May 25th vs. Ecuador and May 28th vs. Bolivia. It does, however, give an excuse to look ahead to the USA’s first game of the Copa America against Colombia on June 3rd. As ever, there is a constant pull between what my head says Klinsmann will select as the starting 11 from the final 23-man roster, and what my heart wants him to do, but I would wager the team will line up as follows:

Guzan

Yedlin — Cameron — Brooks — Johnson

Jones

Bedoya — Bradley — Pulisic

Dempsey — Wood

I may be getting a bit hopeful selecting Pulisic, but few Americans have displayed the kind of promise he brings, playing in a top-flight European league, for the second best team, and scoring goals to boot. I think it will be rewarded by Klinsmann, plus his ability will give the U.S. great creativity on the outside. Regardless, facing off against Colombia will be a tough task. Colombia’s squad will be favored, with recognizable names including Carlos Bacca in attack, Cristian Zapata on the back line, and of course James Rodriguez in the midfield. And that midfield is a particular worry. Although Michael Bradley can be world-class, Colombia’s Rodriguez and Carlos Sanchez will be a lot to handle and if they begin to control the game, it will be a bad night.

To me, that will likely be the key matchup: Bradley against Rodriguez. If I were realistic, I would say that this is a 2-1 win for Colombia after the U.S. come out scared and concede early. On the other hand, that would be boring. So I say that if Bradley can give the U.S. consistent relief with his excellent passing out of the back, then the team will have a chance to stay in the game and can come away with a draw, which will set them up nicely for a run at second place in the group. Either way, we are less than two weeks out from another summer of soccer!

-Jordan Curet

Photo Credit: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

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