US Soccer Copa America Roster Breakdown
Jurgen Klinsmann announced his final 23-man roster for Copa America Centenario this past weekend. The group is led by some of the US players that we have come to love over the years such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley. The roster also includes players like Darlington Nagbe and Bobby Wood who will look at this tournament as an opportunity to solidify themselves as US National Team regulars. 15 of the players on the roster were members of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 18 have appeared in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
With the US set to play their first game in just a couple of weeks against one of the tournament’s favorites to win, Colombia, lets breakdown some of Klinsmann’s roster decisions.
Just Missed the Cut:
David Bingham (GK, San Jose Earthquakes): Bingham was great during the 2015 season for his club, San Jose Earthquakes, and has continued to impress early on in 2016. He received his first call up from the US in the January camp this year and made his debut in a 1-0 win against Canada where he didn’t really have anything to do. At 26 years old, he is still considered young for a goalkeeper and while he will be disappointed to have missed out on Copa America, we should expect to see him back in the national team fold soon.
Omar Gonzalez (CB, Pachuca): Klinsmann has chosen 5 players capable of playing center back for Copa America (Besler, Birnbaum, Brooks, Cameron, Orozco). Center back is a position that has been up for grabs ever since Klinsmann took over as head coach for the US in 2011. This decision really came down to Gonzalez vs. Birnbaum. Besler and Brooks are both left footed, Jurgen flat out thinks Cameron is better than Omar, and Orozco has the ability to play right back as well. Birnbaum is more of an aerial threat than Gonzalez despite being shorter and looked comfortable in the convincing win against Guatemala. Omar has been enjoying success since his transfer to Mexican club Pachuca and given the instability at the center back position, will be called in again soon.
Ethan Finlay (Winger, Columbus Crew): Finlay is the truest winger currently in the US National Team player pool. This is what probably cost him a spot on the final 23-man roster. Klinsmann has showed over his tenure as head coach that he loves guys who can step in and do a job in several different spots. The players chosen over Finlay (Bedoya, Nagbe, Zardes, Zusi), can all play multiple positions. This gives Jurgen more freedom when he decides the style and formation he sees best for his team. It is tough to imagine that Ethan is too thrilled about the recent departure of Kei Kamara. The two were fed off of one another’s play. Ethan loves to get end line and serve balls into the box and Kei is one of the greatest aerial threats that MLS has ever seen. Finlay’s future with the national team will depend on whether or not he can keep up his offensive production without Kamara in the Crew side.
Jordan Morris (FWD, Seattle Sounders): Morris is the name that US Soccer fans will be most disappointed to not see on the final roster. A lot of media surrounded the young forward when he decided to forgo his senior year at Stanford and sign pro. He had a successful trial in January and was offered a contract by Werder Bremen of the German Bundesliga, which he turned down in favor of his hometown Seattle Sounders. It is tough to imagine that Morris wouldn’t have made the Copa America final roster had he accepted the offer from Werder Bremen. Klinsmann has shown a strong bias towards players in Europe over players in MLS. In the end, it came down to Morris vs. Wondo. Wondo has started the MLS season on fire so while we are disappointed not to see Morris make the roster, we can understand Jurgen’s reasoning.
Just Made the Cut:
Ethan Horvath (GK, Molde IK): This choice seems as though it was made from a developmental perspective. Klinsmann most likely views Bingham and Rimando as better goalkeepers right now but does not see the possibility of a third goalkeeper stepping onto the field during Copa America as being very high. Horvath will turn just 21 during the tournament which is impressive considering that he is already the starting goalkeeper for a Europa League club. Copa America will give Horvath the chance to train and learn from Guzan and Howard as well as become more comfortable with the environment. He is the most likely to take over as the US number one after Brad Guzan retires.
Perry Kitchen (CDM, Heart of Midlothian): Kitchen making the final roster shows just how much Klinsmann prefers for his players to be playing in Europe. Kitchen joined Heart of Midlothian in March after leaving MLS on a free transfer and now makes a legitimate US roster for the first time in his career. He has since made ten appearances in the Scottish Premiership and quickly become a fan favorite at the club. Kitchen is most comfortable in a defensive midfield role but we have also seen him as a central defender and a box-to-box midfielder in the past. Klinsmann might view Kitchen as a long-term replacement for the aging Beckerman. The two have similar styles of play and provide great cover to the back line. He was selected over Diskerud, Morales, and Williams, which isn’t shocking given that none of those players have been key members of the squad lately. Fans shouldn’t expect him to play a key role in Copa America but at just 24 years old, he still has a lot to offer the US National Team.
Christian Pulisic (LM, Borussia Dortmund): Pulisic has taken the US Soccer world by storm in 2016. He made his debut at a top European club, Borussia Dortmund, in January at just 17 years old. He has since played in a handful of games for the club and impressed in his performances. In April he became the youngest foreigner to ever score a goal in the Bundesliga and later that month, he became the youngest player ever to score two goals in the Bundesliga. There is a serious hype train around this teenager right now. He can line up as an attacking midfielder but he has mainly featured for Dortmund as a left midfielder. Once again, he is someone that has the versatility to play several different positions. It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann goes about using him in Copa America. Will he start? Will he be a spark off the bench? Will he play at all? The tune up friendlies against Ecuador and Bolivia should provide us with a bit more information on Jurgen’s view for Pulisic. As US soccer fans, we are all hoping that one of our golden boys can finally develop into a world-class player.
Chris Wondolowski (FWD, San Jose Earthquakes): Despite missing a golden opportunity that could have sent the United States to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, Wondo is beloved by most US Soccer fans. He is essentially the American Jamie Vardy. Started off playing at little-known Chico State, earned a developmental contract in MLS, and developed into an MLS All Star before becoming a designated player. Talk about a wild ride. The recent injury to Jozy Altidore offers Wondo a second chance to impress on the international stage. His movement in the box and finishing ability are the best of any player in the national team pool right now. It is tough to imagine Wondo as a starter but his qualities make him a perfect guy to bring off the bench when you are down a goal late in the game. Serve balls into the box and see if Wondo is there to meet it.