It’s no secret that since Dom Dwyer gained his U.S. citizenship back in March of this year that he would be honored and privileged to suit up for the U.S. Men’s National Team. And, in his stint with the squad through the first half of the Gold Cup, Dwyer definitely showed that he belongs there. However, there is a lot of competition at the striker position for the USMNT.
So, what does the future hold for Dom? The next round of qualifiers? The 2018 World Cup in Russia? All of that could be a possibility, but before we get to in depth with that, let’s see those who are guaranteed roster spots, and then break down those that are likely looking on the fringe with Dwyer.
Guaranteed Roster Spots
There are currently very few positions on the USMNT that I think are guaranteed, but barring any major injuries or serious decreases in production or playing time at the club level, I think these three players will likely be in Bruce Arena’s next roster selection.
Jozy Altidore will for sure be there, and although some fans don’t like to admit it, the big guy has been putting in serious work with Toronto this year and could potentially become the all-time leading scorer for the USMNT at some point. Keep in mind he’s still only 27 years old. He currently has tied his career high in goals and assists this season with Toronto, and with a few games left to go I don’t see any reason he doesn’t surpass those totals.
The second player I think you can expect to see a lot of is Bobby Wood. He did pick up a knock to his knee during the last World Cup qualifying stint, but it seems as though he should be back and ready to go. His style is very similar to that of Dwyer’s: tenacious and strong, while being somewhat diminutive in stature. And that has shown very well as he has helped his club, Hamburg, get off to one of the better starts that it has seen in years.
And the third name, of course, is Clint Dempsey. He’s on the verge of becoming the sole leading scorer in the history of the USMNT, and even though he will be 35 years old by the time the World Cup kicks off in Russia in 2018, he is still an incredibly valuable asset to this team, no matter his role, whether it be starting or off the bench.
Players on the Fringe
Dwyer is definitely a player on the fringe, and since Bruce Arena rarely selects more than four forwards to a roster, it’s safe to say that Dom is fighting with these next four guys for that final roster spot.
I currently think that Dom is on the cusp of being that fourth forward, but his hottest competition comes from the likes of Jordan Morris. Seattle’s young forward has had a year of ups and downs this season on the club level, but on the international level he has still been pretty consistent. He’s put the ball in the net only three times for the Sounders this year, while scoring four times for the USMNT in 2017.
The other options may seem a little further out on the fringe. First is Juan Agudelo of the New England Revolution. His case is slightly curious, though, as he’s not really been the go-to forward in New England since the trade was made for Kei Kamara, But he has still put up consistent numbers this year with eight goals and an assist.
Gyasi Zardes is an even more curious case to me, mainly because he just seemed to fall far off Arena’s radar at times. Less playing time with the Los Angeles Galaxy has led him to only have two goals and two assists this season. But it seems that his role as a forward/striker has been redefined by the club, and he is playing more of a midfield/winger role, which would also drastically change how he fits into the future of the USMNT.
The final player that I put on the fringe is Chris Wondolowski. I’ll be completely honest and level with you all right now: he is a great player for the San Jose Earthquakes, but I have never really been a huge fan of Wondolowski with the USMNT. He has had another very good year in San Jose, with 11 goals and five assists, and this is now his eighth straight season scoring 11 goals or more, but at the top level of international soccer I feel like he lacks composure. And with him also turning 35 at the beginning of 2018, I think Arena would likely look at younger, faster players instead of a late-game poacher.
The Case for Dwyer
It hasn’t been entirely easy for Dom to settle in with Orlando, but on the big stage last weekend in front of the biggest regular-season crowd in Major League Soccer history, Dwyer put on a masterclass performance, notching his first two goals with City since his return and also adding an assist to Cyle Larin for City’s third goal of the game. He also got another assist the week prior against D.C. United, connecting with Larin again.
This is a good sign for Orlando City that Dwyer is settling in, but I think it’s also a fantastic sign for Arena’s USMNT.
One thing that Dwyer brings up top that the other forwards on the fringe have been lacking is solid link-up play. Wondolowski is the only one of the group that has had more assists this season so far than Dwyer. But the reason that I think this is so important — and why Arena should take note of it — is because Dwyer is playing up top with Larin, and it’s not too hard to tell that Larin has a very similar playing style to one of those names I said that was guaranteed a spot on the roster moving forward in Jozy Altidore. Dwyer and Larin linking up together could be a sign of things to come if Dwyer and Altidore get the chance to run out together for the stars and stripes.
Is my opinion and theory here perfect? Absolutely not. But I think Dwyer genuinely deserves an extended run with the USMNT, especially as we were all shocked to see that he was sent home from the Gold Cup a few months ago after getting off to a phenomenal start with the Red, White & Blue.
More game time with the USMNT will be important for his development, and these upcoming qualifiers could be crucial, but it may not be a bad idea to send out some fresh faces who are eager to make a big name for themselves. Dwyer is that guy. And who knows, maybe if he does get the opportunity to shine in upcoming qualifiers, we will be sending him on his way to Russia in 2018.