The roster for the USMNT’s January training camp was released on Friday. All but one of the 26 names hail from MLS (Mix Diskerud being the one exception), with ten players having played in the World Cup Qualifying cycle just completed, but with nine players yet to appear for the senior side. This year’s camp will split time between California and Brazil, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann looks to begin simulating tournament conditions for his players, and the camp will conclude with a friendly against the Korea Republic on February 1 (5:00 p.m., ESPN2, WatchESPN and UniMas).
Defense: Positions of need
The U.S. squad as developed by Klinsmann in the past 18 months is quite deep, with multiple options in most positions. The defense, however, could certainly be improved, and that’s where the majority of the new faces play. At fullback, both DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans have done quite well, with Beasley in particular impressing in a late-career renaissance. But the fact remains that neither are defenders by trade. If Steve Cherundolo regains form and fitness in time for the Cup, he might be the answer at right back, but no one not named Beasley has looked good on the left. Now, several young players are getting a shot to impress.
On the left, Klinsmann has brought in Michael Harrington (Portland Timbers), Chris Klute (Colorado Rapids), and Seth Sinovic (Sporting Kansas City). Beasley’s not present, so one of these guys, at least, is going to get his shot.
On the right, DeAndre Yedlin and Chance Myers have both been included. Yedlin started the MLS season in very strong form, but tailed off much like his entire Seattle team. Myers, of course, won MLS Cup with Kansas City. While both players can make decent claims for their inclusion, Sheanon Williams had a better season than either of them, especially going forward, and has reason to feel snubbed.
In the center, both the presumed starters, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, are in camp, along with Clay Goodson, so it looks more like refinement over revolution there. Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids), though, is also in camp, having featured for the U.S. at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Again, the Union faithful may have reason to feel aggrieved, as Amobi Okugo has grown into a powerful central defender, and surely deserves a chance. Perhaps Klinsmann still views him as a midfielder, where the U.S. is fairly stacked, and where Okugo has not played for more than a year.
Midfield: Red Bulls and rewards
The new faces in midfield are Eric Alexander and Dax McCarty of NYRB, Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake), and Benny Feilhaber (Sporting KC). While Union fans won’t care for the New York connections, both Red Bull middies have performed well this year. Gil and Feilhaber were both important cogs in getting their teams to the MLS Cup. Gil is surely a player for the future. Feilhaber, his Gold Cup gamewinner aside, has consistently failed to inspire with the national team, but now has one more chance.
Forwards: Mike Magee, Mike Magee, Mike Magee
The big story here is the inclusion of Mike Magee. Magee’s season was just too good to be denied, and he finally gets his shot with the national team. It may be too late, of course, what with players like Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson already looking like locks, but perhaps Eddie Johnson’s recent ambivalent national-team form, combined with his off-field attitude issues have loosened his place in the team. If Magee outperforms Johnson in January, he might sneak a spot.
Who’s it gonna be?
Last year, Matt Besler had never played for the U.S. before being called into the January camp. Now? He’s probably a World Cup starter. Someone new from this camp is very likely to make the final roster; it’s just a question of who. Will it be Magee, as just mentioned? Or one of the fullbacks? Will the needs in defense mean multiple new faces find themselves on the plane to Brazil in a few months? The new guys have 26 days to make their case.