Thoughts on the USMNT roster for October friendlies

Hey, this site actually started with a focus on the United States Men’s National Team (and various other big-picture thoughts about US Soccer), with a side focus on Nashville SC. That has obviously not been the case during the USL season (mostly for the better, in personal e-pinion). However, it’s time to dip back into the original.

The roster for the Oct. 11 friendly against Colombia and the Oct. 16 bout against Peru (in Tampa and Connecticut, respectively) have been released. Here they are:

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Keepers: Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath, Zack Steffen

My thoughts on Brad Guzan are well-established by this point: I’m not a big fan – not that I have a problem with him, but naturally a 34-year old guy is losing a step (and when he was in his prime, he was never better than a healthy Tim Howard, either). I understand calling him in, and he could even end up being the third keeper on the next couple competitive cycles (Gold Cups, World Cup Qualifying, World Cup), but the hope is that Steffen continues to be worthy of the top spot, and Guzan’s presence is more for veteran-ness and whatnot than any likelihood of actually playing.

Defenders: John Brooks, Reggie Cannon, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, Antonee Robinson, Ben Sweat, Deandre Yedlin

This is an interesting group. I would almost rather Brooks not get called in and get an international break to just rest (rather than take a cross-Atlantic flight and play a couple games), because he’s always nursing some sort of injury and more rest is better in that situation. At the same time, getting some chemistry with Miazga is good, since that’s your likely top CB pairing for the foreseeable future. Aaron Long and Ben Sweat are both New York-based MLS players looking for their first cap (though Long was on the September roster, he was released early to NYRB, while Sweat plays across town – a phrase that here means “actually in New York” with NYCFC).

There’s not a ton of depth at the outside back positions, with Reggie Cannon – a player I’m excited about in the long-term – supporting DeAndre Yedlin on the right, and Antonee Robinson the only true left back in the camp. Maybe some odd backlines on the way? We haven’t seen anything other than 4-1-4-1s from coach Dave Sarachan to date, so I doubt it.

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Jonathan Amon, Michael Bradley, Julian Green, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, Kenny Saief, Wil Trapp, Timothy Weah

This is… pretty much as close to a first-choice midfield group as you’re going to get, yeah? Maybe you’d replace Green with an offensive-minded No. 8 like Darlington Nagbe for competitive matches, but that’s about the only change I’d think of as likely. Of course the inclusion of Michael Bradley is going to draw some eye-rolls from the more pessimistic/cynical corners of the USMNT internet (read: most corners of said internet), but certainly he has a bit more to contribute, unpopular though he may be. I actually like calling him in here to see if he still fits into the setup, and if his diminished athleticism is enough to prevent him from getting into the 2019 Gold Cup… you know earlier. (He’s not going to be dropped for “mailing in the Trinidad game” or “poisoning the locker room against Klinsmann” or whatever, so stop asking for it).

The wingers… dude, if they can play Christian Pulisic on the wing, with either left-footed player (Jonathan Amon or Kenny Saief) on the opposite wing, that’s a killer lineup. If Pulisic is moved centrally, you can put Timothy Weah on the right wing (or inverted left), and while you aren’t getting the most out of Pulisic that you can, you’re putting yet another dangerous player on the field. Perhaps Weah up top, instead of at midfield? You still don’t have a creator as a No. 10, but could also get away with two box-to-box guys centrally because of the pace and ability on the wing.

As for Amon v. Saief specifically, I like ’em both. I would prefer to see Amon on the field first, because we already know what Saief brings (which, when healthy, is very productive), whereas this is Amon’s first call-up, and his speed and lefty crossing ability are a different package than Saief brings. The long-term potential of it is probably higher, and well, we’re building toward a long-term deal here, right?

Forward: Andrija Novakovich, Josh Sargent, Bobby Wood

These are the three guys we’re always going to get (especially with MLS not pausing during international breaks, which is stupid), yeah? Bobby Wood is sort of the workmanlike “know what you’re getting” guy, while Andrija Novakovich is an intriguing physical specimen who is still working toward production, and Josh Sargent has been anointed by many (and rightfully so, to a large extent) as the next big thing up top for the USMNT. I’d like to see the two non-Wood players, just because the additional experience for them is probably more valuable than it is for Wood.

Potential lineup

Here’s your usual realistic/hopeful combo for a potential first-choice lineup:

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Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country

I think you’re extremely likely to see at least something from Michael Bradley here, so if Sarachan sticks to his 4-1-4-1 guns, it’ll be interesting to see how he manages some of that personnel logjam at a few spots.

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