As Adam Cann noted, the preliminary roster for this summer’s Gold Cup tournament was released on Friday, and Philadelphia’s own John Seamus McInerney is on it, as expected. For Union followers, the other big news is that neither Amobi Okugo nor Jeff Parke were called up. That is, of course, a disappointment for the two of them, but is probably better for the Union’s summer outlook.
Aside from McInerney, there are quite a few interesting inclusions.
Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra each got an invite. Both have been missed by the senior squad in recent months. In Bocanegra’s case, it has seemed Jurgen Klinsmann is looking to move away from the experienced former captain. He’s getting older, and has played only intermittently for his club team during the season just ended, something Klinsmann has consistently cited as a major factor when selecting his teams. His lack of pace is perhaps his biggest deficit when compared to his younger counterparts, but the callowness and naivete of the defense in Bocanegra’s absence has shown that there may be a place in the back line after all for Boca’s intelligence and experience. Indeed, many of the young defensive players in the senior squad now (Omar Gonzalez, Clay Goodson, Matt Besler) have also been included, presumably either to compete with or learn from the old man.
Donovan’s national team career took an abrupt and very public time out last fall. Regardless of the reasoning behind his self-induced sabbatical, Donovan’s time away was not welcomed by Klinsmann, and some USMNT watchers have wondered if their relationship had been damaged beyond repair when Donovan was not named in the senior squad for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers. Donovan’s inclusion is a positive sign that a rapprochement may be in the offing, and provides him the chance to prove he’s back to his best.
Back from the dead
A couple names that haven’t been called upon in a long time make returns. The first has already had his fairy tale reappearance—Stuart Holden subbed on late against Belgium on Wednesday. He may get more time against Germany or in the Qualifiers, but the Gold Cup is his real opportunity to get back in the national team groove.
With the defense in flux, seeing Oguchi Onyewu’s name on the list is a welcome surprise. Gooch hasn’t played for the national team since late 2011, due to a combination of injury and poor form. Most recently playing for Malaga of the Spanish La Liga, he made nine appearances this season. The Gold Cup is his chance to show he’s back and still able to contribute.
Bits and pieces
Chris Wondolowski gets another chance to prove that he’s more than an MLS-level player, but he gets some young competition in Jack Mac and Will Bruin. Herculez Gomez, a long-time Klinsmann favorite, is also on the roster.
Brek Shea and Mixx Diskerud, two exciting but uneven players, who so far have more potential than demonstrated performance, are included. So, too, are young guns Joe Corona and Josh Gatt.
Hero of last summer’s win in Mexico and former Union man Michael Orozco Fiscal is also called up.
The key to remember is that this 35-man list must be culled to 23 for the tournament itself, so there’s great potential for drama in the final selections. Young players like McInerney and Bruin should feel good to be included, but they should be under no illusions—they will need to fight to make the final cut.
The same is true for some of the older fringe players, like Alan Gordon and Benny Feilhaber. Klinsmann is unsentimental, and past performance or club success is no guarantee of future inclusion (though both help).
In the end, what this roster represents is possibility. At a time when the USMNT is struggling to evolve, seeing younger and fringe players perform in competitive games that are, nevertheless, not the pressure-cooker of World Cup Qualifying, shows us what the national team might be in the coming cycles. It’s an opportunity these 35 players—and Klinsmann—can’t afford to waste.