The USL regular season is here, but it’s not all-NSC all-the-time. The US Men’s National Team takes on Paraguay tomorrow evening (6:30 p.m., FS1). Here’s a look at the Americans’ roster:
Alex Bono (zero caps), Toronto FC. Age 23. Club form: two starts, 180 minutes played, 1.5 goals against. .571 save percentage.
Bono has a chance to earn his first cap. He was No. 5 in Major League Soccer in expected goals against differential per 96 minutes, and has been a player on the rise in the USMNT player pool. At just 23 (turning 24 next month), he’s on the very young side for a high-level goalie, and he’ll be near his prime at 28 during the 2022 World Cup.
Bill Hamid (five caps), Midtjylland (Denmark). Age 27. Club form: yet to appear since joining Midtjylland during the January transfer window.
Hamid is unfortunate in terms of age (just close enough to Tim Howard and Brad Guzan) and the USMNT missing on the 2018 World Cup that his window of opportunity is going top be very small. A transfer to Denmark hasn’t paid off for him yet, and he may need national team appearances to prove he’s ready to perform for his club.
Zack Steffen (one cap), Columbus Crew. Club form: three starts, 270 minutes played, 0.67 goals against. .800 save percentage.
Steffen was just OK last year (near the bottom third in MLS keepers in the above-linked stat), but part of that is facing a lot of rubber – to borrow a hockey term – and wearing down behind a team that had a lot going on off the field. Getting a chance to prove himself with the national team could be a nice step.
Cameron Carter-Vickers (one cap), Ipswich Town (English Championship, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur). Age 20. Club form: seventh on the team with 28 starts in 38 matches, Ipswich is 13/24 in the Championship in goals against.
Carter-Vickers is a member a member of the cohort of very young, very potential-laden defenders playing overseas. A native of England, he has a US passport and has chosen to represent the Red, White, and Blue. He’s getting plenty of playing time in the Championship (with his second Championship team of the season – he did most of his work with Sheffield United before Spurs recalled him and loaned him to a second side).
Eric Lichaj (14 caps, one USMNT goal), Nottingham Forest (English Championship). Age 29. Club form: Nottingham Forest is 16th in the Championship, with a defensive performance to date about in line with that. Lichaj is tenth on the team in minutes, third among fullbacks.
Lichaj is one of the elder statesmen on this roster, simply because it’s such a young group. His FA Cup golazo caught some attention, and he’s healthy for the first time in what seems like ages. His athleticism at fullback may wane too much for him to be a World Cup selection in 2022, but he can be part of the group helping the team get there.
Matt Miazga (four caps, one USMNT goal), Vitesse (Netherlands, on loan from Chelsea). Age 22. Club form: Vitesse sits sixth in the Eredivisie, but is fifth-best in goals allowed. Miazga is an every-game starter when not suspended for grabbing a dude’s balls, and is a rock in the back.
Miazga should have played against Trinidad and Tobago (a lot of guys should have played against Trinidad and Tobago), and is one of the USMNT’s young stars. His club situation is pretty good – not great – and getting time alongside his fellow future national team stars (minus perpetually injured John Anthony Brooks) should help him get fully integrated into the setup.
Shaq Moore (zero caps), Levante (La Liga). Age 21. Club form: Five appearances, 425 minutes on the season.
Moore isn’t getting a ton of time with his club – such is life as a 21-year old American in La Liga – and if he gets a bit of run for the USMNT, could parlay that into a bit of an increased profile going forward. A pure right back, he could be a long-term fixture of the squad.
Erik Palmer-Brown (zero caps), Kortrijk (Belgium, on loan from Manchester City). Age 20. Club form: New to the squad, EPB has made one appearance for Kortrijk.
Palmer-Brown has been the victim of a crappy club situation: Sporting KC wouldn’t plasy the homegrown player, so he signed with Manchester City to be loaned out. He has yet to get his feet wet in Belgium’s first division. Like Moore, a solid showing with his national team may help him break in with his club.
Antonee Robinson (zero caps), Bolton Wanderers (English League One, on loan from Everton). Age 20. Club form: Eighth in minutes (first among fullbacks) for a Bolton team in a relegation battle. Four assists on the year.
Also eligible for England (he’s from Milton Keynes, though his father is American), Robinson has only played for US Youth teams to date. Getting his first senior team cap would be a nice touch, though. A pure left back – raise your hand if that’s something you’ve been waiting for the USMNT to unearth for ages – he should be a long-termer with the senior team.
Jorge Villafaña (15 caps), Santos Laguna (Mexico). Age 28. Club form: Ten appearances in the Clausura season for league-leading Santos. Liga MX Best XI team of the week in late February.
Another true left back (like Alejandro Bedoya, sort of a fullback/wingback hybrid, in fairness), but one getting up in age, Villafaña is hoping to show that he’s still capable of being a contributor. Will that be the case four years from now? We’ll have to see, but he’s still excelling in Liga MX, which is a nice level of play.
DeAndre Yedlin (49 caps), Newcastle United (England). Age 24. Club form: First-teamer for a Newcastle team that is a big win or two away from being safe in a relegation battle. One assist on the season.
Yedlin is not a player with anything to prove: when health and available, he’s the USMNT’s starting right back. His gambit of dropping to the Championship to get on a promoted team paid off handsomely, and now he’s a Premiership starter. At just 24, he’s one of this squad’s leaders (13 clear of No. 2 Bobby Wood for most caps).
Tyler Adams (two caps), New York Red Bulls. Age 19. Club form: Red Bulls two wins and a loss. Adams has two appearances, 116 minutes played.
Adams is a success story of the MLS Academy system, graduating from NYRBII to the real deal over the past year or so. The deep-lying midfielder could be the No. 6 of the future for the national team. Getting him some experience is important.
Marky Delgado (zero caps), Toronto FC. Age 22. Club form: Subbed on twice for an 0-2 Toronto FC team. Has played 50 minutes so far this year.
Toronto FC hasn’t started the year off well, with a bit of a Concacaf Champions League hangover permeating the squad. Delgado got more playing time in CCL than he has in MLS so far, and with the ability to play either fullback spot or on the edge of the midfield, he has a chance to make an impact.
Kekuta Manneh (zero caps – switched from Gambia), Pachuca (Mexico). Age 23. Club form: Manneh has made just one substitute performance for Pachuca so far.
Manneh filed his one-time switch from Gambia when he earned his American citizenship in 2016. A longtime MLSer (most recently with Columbus Crew), he’s gotten vanishingly little playing time with Pachuca. If he gets on the field and has a positive performance, it could help him get back in the good graces of his club.
Weston McKennie (one cap, one USMNT goal), Schalke 04 (Germany). Age 19. Club form: McKennie missed all of February with injury. He has 16 appearances (ten starts) for Schalke, who sit No. 2 in Bundesliga. He is still seeking his first goal or assist.
McKennie is another young player who is considered a future stalwart of the team. He is playing regular minutes (when healthy) for a team that is second in the Bundesliga, and while he hasn’t been able to produce any goals, his ability to be a weapon both offensively and on defense makes him a nice piece. Along with fellow Bundesliga star Christian Pulisic, he is the future.
Darlington Nagbe (24 caps, one USMNT goal), Atlanta United. Age 27. Club form: Nagbe has played all but about 40 minutes through three games so far for a 2-1 United squad. He has yet to record a goal or assist.
Nagbe is one of the more experienced players in the USMNT setup. He also draws a wide range of opinions, with his ability on the ball (but inability to shoot it, and unwillingness to track defensively) a major characteristic of his game. Going forward, a box-to-box role should be his best use, though in this one, he may be an offensive linchpin.
Christian Roldan (two caps), Seattle Sounders. Age 22. Club form: Roldan has played every minute in both Sounders games (losses) so far. The injury-ravaged Sounders were also thrashed in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League 3-1.
Roldan is another defensively-oriented central midfielder who can also make an impact on the edges. A possibility for a deep-lying 6, Roldan played in a more traditional middle spot in a four-man group in front of a CDM against Bosnia.
Kenny Saief (one cap), Anderlecht (Belgium). Age 24. Club form: Has made nine appearances for an Anderlecht team that is second in Belgium entering the playoffs. He has one goal.
Saief has fought injury issues lately, including a strained groin that took him out of the Gold Cup after one appearance last Summer. He’s getting back to full health and that has seen him get back into the good graces of Anderlecht. A left or central midfielder, Saief packs a bit of an offensive punch that could be useful there.
Wil Trapp (three caps), Columbus Crew. Age 25. Club form: Played in three of four games for the Crew (missing yesterday due to the call-up), and has completed 92% of his passes thus far.
Trapp is Columbus’s captain, a homegrown player, and an all-around MLS success story… at just 25 years old. Another defensively-oriented midfielder – there are many brought in for this camp, as you can tell – he should be in his prime around the next World Cup.
Timothy Weah (zero caps), Paris Saint-Germain (France). Age 18. Club form: 30 minutes in two Ligue 1 substitution appearances.
Weah isn’t getting a ton of playing time (even after an injury to PSG’s most expensive player, Neymar Jr.), but has looked good in the couple appearances he’s made. An 18-year old American at one of the big-spending clubs in the world is impressive enough for the time being, and he should be a star in the future.
Andrija Novakovich (zero caps), Telstar (Netherlands second division, on loan from Reading). Age 21. Club form: 18 goals in 29 appearances for Telstar, which is fourth in the Dutch second division.
Novakovich is a 6-4 striker who is piling up goals in the second division of the Netherlands. A Serbian-American from Wisconsin, he has target-forward size. Despite that, his game seems to be more about speed and foot skills, making him an intriguing long-term player.
Rubio Rubin (four caps), Club Tijuana (Mexico). Age 22. Club form: Two starts and one substitution appearance in the Clausura season (12 games so far).
Rubin is hardly the most exciting prospect for USMNT fans, after not having a club in January (the call-up for the BIH friendly helped him sign on with Tijuana). With 20 goals in 51 YNT appearances (mostly the U-17 team) just 22 years old, there’s a chance for him to re-find his form. A diminutive goal-getter, he has to, you know, get goals to be useful.
Bobby Wood (36 caps, 10 USMNT goals), Hamburger SV (Germany). Age 25. Club form: Terrible (this isn’t news for folks following MNT regulars or Americans abroad). Just one goal in 20 appearances – 15 starts – for a Hamburger team that is going to get relegated.
Wood is a good hold-up striker despite being just 5-11. However, he’s had numerous injuries and a run of really poor form over the past year or so. He’ll probably be moving on from Hamburg after the season, and a fresh start may be what he needs. Bagging a goal or two for the national team (for whom his form has also not been good) could help get things re-started.
My thoughts on a lineup, a look at Paraguay, and a full game preview tomorrow.