After the US Soccer men’s national team’s 4-0 shellacking by Costa Rica in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying the federation fired coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Replacing him is Los Angeles Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, who also led the USMNT from 1998 through the 2006 World Cup.
To say Klinsmann’s tenure as head coach and technical director for US Soccer was rocky is an understatement. He had success, leading the team to the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup and the semifinals of this past summer’s Copa America Centenario, but also abject failures. They include the youth teams not qualifying for the previous two Olympics, and not making the 2017 Confederations Cup. He also lost twice to Jamaica (once in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup), and also Guatemala, ranked 92nd in the world at the time, in the previous round of World Cup Qualifying.
When the USA was defeated by Mexico at home 2-1 two weeks ago, it was their first loss to Mexico in America during World Cup Qualifying since 1972. Klinsmann came under fire for fielding an unusual 3-4-3 formation for his squad. After the Costa Rica loss, the USA sit at the bottom of the CONCACF qualifying standings with zero points and a -5 goal differential.
Assignment: Russia 2018
With Arena in charge, many American soccer fans hope he can bring unity to a team that has often looked like a collection of individuals unsure of their roles under Klinsmann.
One of the strongest points of Arena’s previous tenure as USMNT coach was building a solid foundation of players and coherent style of play for his squad. To help his plan Arena may be bringing in MLS players often overlooked by Jurgen Klinsmann, who openly preferred Americans playing in Europe.
“I don’t think the roster’s going to have radical changes from the last couple camps, but there will obviously be some changes,” Arena told the press when introduced on Tuesday. “I’ll use our January to identify the domestic players, and I’m obviously well aware of the players in Major League Soccer, and then continue to keep an eye on the players that are playing abroad and consider them on their strengths and weaknesses.”
MLS Players who may join the USMNT Pool
With that in mind here is a look at some of the MLS players that might crack the USMNT lineup before the next round of World Cup qualifiers in March 2017:
Benny Feilhaber – He has been one of the most glaring examples of a player who excelled in MLS but was left off the USA squad. The midfielder has been the offensive sparkplug for Sporting KC, scored 17 goals and 28 assists in his past two club seasons.
Dax McCarty – Is one of the most rugged and dependable defensive midfielders in MLS. His skill set would work perfectly with the offensively-minded USMNT mainstay Michael Bradley or his NY Red Bulls teammate Sacha Kljestan.
Matt Hedges – The center back was recently named 2016 MLS defender of the year. The last two qualifiers have show that the USA needs some new options in the defense. When he was on the field, FC Dallas only allowed 23 goals in 26 games.
David Bingham – The San Jose goalkeeper did get a call-up under Klinsmann in October for a friendly. With the injury to Tim Howard, the role of back-up keeper after Brad Guzan is wide open. Bingham posted eight shutouts in the 2016 MLS season and saved 106 shots while only allowing 39.
Sebastian Lletget – He never quite cracked the lineup while being on the West Ham United’s training squad in England. After a move to MLS, the attacking midfielder became a starter for the LA Galaxy which was coached by Bruce Arena.
Landon Donovan – The greatest MLS player ever came out of retirement to help a Galaxy team dealing with several injuries to key players this season. USA coach Arena liked having senior players on the team for their leadership (remember Cobi Jones?) during his last stint with the national team. He loved the veteran’s ability to substitute late in a hostile away game World Cup qualifier to help his team hold the lead.