Saturday, October 21, 2017

2017 Gold Cup: Are The USMNT Strong Enough To Contend For The Title With A Backup Squad?

Juan Pablo Aravena in Editorial 28 Jun 2017

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Bruce Arena USMNT 2017 Gold Cup

Bruce Arena decided to call up an alternative squad for the 2017 Gold Cup – Source: USSoccer.com

The United States’ Men National Team are one of the top teams in the CONCACAF region. There is no question about that, as they tend to be the top dog in the region alongside Mexico.

With a deep pool of players and several established stars featuring in Europe, their head coach, Bruce Arena, decided something quite interesting. Arena will face the upcoming 2017 Gold Cup with an alternative squad. It makes sense in a way, because winning this tournament does not give a berth to the Confederations Cup, and there is nothing to play but pride this year.

If there is one team that can make this, it’s the USA squad. We have seen this before, though. Mexico did in the 2015 Copa America or this year’s Gold Cup. And Germany are doing it in the Confederations Cup as well.

A Deep Look At The Roster

Here is the squad Arena chose for the 2017 Gold Cup:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC)

Defenders: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG), Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC/CAN), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana/MEX), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Kenny Saief (Gent/BEL)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

Analysis

First of all, we can see this is mostly a local squad. Out of the 23-man squad, 16 players feature in MLS, and four more play regularly in Mexico’s Liga MX. Only three players come from Europe, and neither plays a significant role in their respective clubs.

It is worth noting that four players have been included in the squad even though they had not been capped previously. These are Dom Dwyer, Cristian Roldan, Kenny Saief, and Kelyn Rowe.

If we take a deeper look, we can see the US team lacks star power. There is no Clint Dempsey, and no Christian Pulisic. Experienced defender John Brooks wasn’t called up either. However, that does not mean the U.S. are going to be an easy team. They shouldn’t be taken for granted, because they are talented enough to mount a title challenge as they are constructed.

Defence

The defensive line will not have Tim Howard, Brooks, or DeAndre Yedlin. However, there are some interesting players worth keeping an eye towards the future.

Brad Guzan will be the starting keeper, and in front of him we can expect a four-man defensive line. Roles have not been defined, but Matt Miazga should be the leader of the back unit. The Chelsea player needs to show he has improved since his move to England in order to become a viable alternative for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

Midfield

The midfield is probably the best unit on the squad. Aside from combining youth and experience, it also has a few players that should become regulars for the USMNT sooner than later.

Two players to keep an eye are Kellyn Acosta and Kenny Saief. Acosta is considered one of the brightest prospects in MLS, and most experts believe he will move to Europe sooner than later. On the other hand, Saief will represent the Stars and Stripes for the first time in his career. But we have only heard nothing but positive things from Belgium regarding his performances.

After all, the USMNT always needs depth and youth in midfield. These two players can provide that both now and for the future.

Attack

One would think the attacking line lacks a proven goalscorer, but that is where Dom Dwyer comes in. The England-born striker has made a name for himself stateside playing for Sporting Kansas City, and he will have the chance to prove he can become a backup alternative to Jozy Altidore.

There are also to wingers that can create havoc on any defensive line, such as Juan Agudelo and Gyasi Zardes. Both have a decent amount of experience playing for the USMNT.

Conclusion

This is not the strongest team we will see from the USMNT. And when Arena names the team for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers it will be a very different one. However, this squad is good enough to mount a title challenge in the CONCACAF region, especially if we consider that Mexico will not have their top players either.

Anything less than a Top 3 finish would – and should – be considered a disappointment.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Juan Pablo Aravena


A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.

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