Friday, January 8, 2016

Breaking down the USMNT January Camp Roster - Pros and Cons

Only three of 23 players on the roster for the U.S. Men's team's January camp currently don't hail from MLS clubs: Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Jordan Morris (Stanford) and Jermaine Jones (unattached). And of those three, Jones spent 2015 in MLS with the New England Revolution and Jordan Morris has been linked to the Seattle Sounders, so there's definitely a heavy MLS influence on the roster this go around. Ten players in camp have yet to earn their first senior national team appearances: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps), Marc Pelosi (San Jose Earthquakes), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC) and Kiesewetter. Another seven players have fewer than 10 CAPs with the U.S.: Bill Hamid (DC United), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), and Morris. So other than the sextet of Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones, Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC) and Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), this is, by and large, an untested group. Which when you consider that we're in the early stages of World Cup Qualifying, that's probably what you want to see. Here's three picks I like, and three I don't:


1) Ethan Finlay - Finlay has tremendous pace and is coming off a career year with the Columbus Crew. Whether or not his high speed and hustle game translates to the international level remains to be seen, but he's a big reason the Crew made it to the MLS Cup Final in 2015.

2) Luis Robles - The reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year led the Red Bulls to the 2015 Supporter's Shield and is being deservedly rewarded for his stellar 2015 season. While he's no threat to usurp Tim Howard or Brad Guzan, at some point we're going to have to find someone other than the ageless Nick Rimando to be our third goalie. Why not Robles?

3) Kellyn Acosta - In regular season games started by the 20 year-old Acosta, FC Dallas went 11-3-5 compared to just 7-7-1 in games in which he didn't start. Mauro Díaz and Fabián Castillo normally get most of the credit when things go right in Dallas, but Acosta's contributions should be noted as well.


1) Jermaine Jones - Jones, who is currently out of contract, faces a six game suspension whenever he returns to action, so he may not even be eligible to play in the U.S.'s next World Cup Qualifying matches. At age 34, he's almost certain to not be a part of the 2018 World Cup squad should the U.S. qualify so you have to wonder why Klinsmann would bring him in for a couple of friendlies that are really intended to be used for developing younger players who wouldn't normally get to see the field with the National team. Alternative option: Perry Kitchen.

2) Eric Miller - Miller made only six starts for the Montreal Impact in 2015, and while I understand he's a member of the U-23 squad that faces a must-win playoff series against Colombia in a couple months, I'm not certain we couldn't have better utilized this spot. Alternative Options: Saad Abdul-Salaam, Amadou Dia, Jorge Villafaña, Matt Hedges, Steve Birnbaum.

3) Khiry Shelton - Shelton was injured for much of 2015 and, as such, didn't have the impact he probably could have with New York City FC had he stayed healthy. He's certainly a talented player, but I don't think he's ready for a National Team call-up based on his body of work. Alternative option: Juan Agudelo.

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