Two words jump out when taking a look at the United States Men’s National Team that interim Head Coach Dave Sarachan called up: foreign and youth. The average age is just 22 years young — only two players born prior to the 1990s — and Christian Pulisic’s 20 caps are tied with Joe Corona for the most on the 22-man roster.
Out of the 22 players called up, just two play in Major League Soccer: Alex Bono and Walker Zimmerman. The majority of the players (8) come from English club teams, while Germany, Mexico, Belgium, Denmark, France, Portugal, Canada, and the U.S. are also represented.
Three players — Alejandro Guido, Matthew Olosunde, and Keaton Parks — will be participating in their first training camp, while Bono, Guido, Olosunde, Erik Palmer-Brown, Parks, Antonee Robinson, and Josh Sargent are all in line to earn their first caps.
With so many new players involved, here is a breakdown of the entire squad:
Alex Bono, Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath.
Anybody that has followed the USMNT over the past few years should know all of these names. Bono is the only one to have never made an international appearance, but each keeper has been involved in the national team setup before.
Bill Hamid, who at 27 years old is one of the veteran players in this camp, will most likely get the nod as the starter. The former D.C. United mainstay made his first appearance for FC Midtjylland in a 2-1 Danish Cup victory last month and has played in just three total games for the first team. Hamid could be the clear starter for the national team, and at one point it looked like that’s where he was heading, but he needs to be playing regular first-team soccer.
This lull in action leaves the door open for the starting keeper spot, and Bono and Horvath will be looking to step into the spotlight. Horvath has the edge right now, although it is pretty open and will remain so until a permanent head coach is found. Jürgen Klinsmann gave the 22-year-old his first cap in a 2-0 win over Cuba back in 2016. Horvath is in a similar situation as Hamid and has had trouble seeing the field for Club Brugge after transferring from Sweden.
Bono is the only keeper called up to be playing consistently for his club team. Toronto traded Joe Bendik to Orlando City and put its hopes into Bono. That faith has paid off and Bono has played in 52 MLS games since 2016 and helped the Canadian club to a treble last year. The Syracuse native most likely comes into camp as the third-string goalkeeper, but moving forward he should start becoming more involved in the national team setup.
Cameron Carter-Vickers, Eric Lichaj, Matt Miazga, Matthew Olosunde, Erik Palmer-Brown, Antonee Robinson, Jorge Villafaña, Walker Zimmerman.
This defense might be young, but that does not take away from its quality. The biggest name on this list is Cameron Carter-Vickers, who may be playing a bigger role at Tottenham next year after getting a new contract. Carter-Vickers is most likely the center back of the future, paired alongside John Brooks if he can ever stay healthy.
Villafaña and Lichaj are two of the most veteran players in this squad. At 28 and 29 years old, respectively, they are the oldest players called in and are two of the four players with 10 or more caps. Expect for them to both be in the starting XI on Monday, playing the fullback positions.
Miazga and Zimmerman are in line after the fullbacks but have taken different roads to get to this point. Miazga is a New York Red Bulls academy product and in 2015 looked like he was going to be a mainstay in the USMNT, but a move to Chelsea hindered his national team call-ups. On his loan to Vitesse, Miazga has done well, playing in 33 Eredivisie games and scoring four goals. He leads the Dutch team in clearances and blocks per game, and has the third-most minutes on the team.
Zimmerman made his name with FC Dallas and has continued right where he left off this year with LAFC. He averages the second-most interceptions in MLS (minimum of 180 minutes played) and has been a key figure in the expansion side’s impressive start.
Matthew Olosunde, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Antonee Robinson all have the most to prove among defenders. Each of them are looking to get their first caps but will most likely stay in the youth set up for a few more years. They are all eligible to play in the 2020 Summer Olympics and should play an important part in that international tournament. Against Bolivia they might not play a huge role, but for them as individuals this is an important step in their careers.
Joe Corona, Lynden Gooch, Julian Green, Alejandro Guido, Weston McKennie, Keaton Parks, Christian Pulisic, Rubio Rubin, Tim Weah.
When I first looked at the roster as a whole the first thing that popped into my head was how surprised I was to see Julian Green. The Tampa native might have the most interesting story on this team. He is the only player called up with World Cup experience, and has just four appearances for his parent club, Bayern, since 2013. Instead, he has bounced around loan clubs, playing for Hamburger SV, Stuttgart, and, most recently, Greuther Fürth. This season he has played in 24 games in the German second league, scoring just three goals and adding one assist. Green’s 62 shots are the second most on Greuther Fuerth but 69% of them are from distance.
Most of the other midfielders are in the same boat as each other. Guido and Parks are participating in their first training camps while Gooch, McKennie, Rubin, and Weah have combined for a total of 10 caps and one international goal.
The midfield is the U.S.’s weakest area right now and as such has the biggest competition battle going on. Most of these midfielders are good on the ball and have the ability to take players on, but need more experience — for club and country — to know when to dribble or pass, and must gain confidence and develop their soccer IQs. Defensively, they all need work and most of them cannot excel right now in the No. 6 role. The exception is McKennie — more on him below.
Andrija Novakovich, Josh Sargent.
If you are not a fan of Jozy Altidore or Bobby Wood, then keep an eye on each of these two youngsters. Sargent made his name during the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He scored four goals and had one assist in five games to lead the U.S. into the quarterfinals. The 2017 U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year had to wait until late February when he turned 18 to sign with Werder Bremen and so he has yet to make his debut for the first team. However, he is expected to play a big role next season. Novakovich, on the other hand, is the leading goal scorer for Telstar and is the second-highest goal scorer in the Dutch second division.
Best Player: Christian Pulisic
Most to Prove: Weston McKennie
Every player on this roster has something to prove. Only Pulisic has a definite spot moving forward, so every player needs to show that they can play at this level. Still, a couple names jump out as having more to prove than the rest. Each of the keepers certainly do, Corona, and Green have little room for error, and this is an opportunity for McKennie to become a USMNT regular. When healthy he is almost always in the starting XI for Schalke and he works hard to win the ball back after he loses it. He is a physical midfielder who has a bright future ahead of him in Germany. For him to have a bright future with the U.S., he needs to step up right now. Most important is going to be how he plays with Pulisic. This intriguing combination looks like it will be the midfield pairing of the future and it starts now. A good outing from the 19-year-old will keep him in Sarachan’s plans.
Most to Lose: Bill Hamid
It’s make-or-break time for Hamid. Expect for him to start, but a poor performance could result in the end of his USMNT days. There are plenty of younger keepers who are in the picture as well — such as Jesse Gonzalez, Zack Steffen, and Jonathan Klinsmann — and the fact that Hamid is not getting regular club appearances is not helping his cause.
What to Expect Moving Forward
This training camp is essentially a glorified tryout and the Yanks’ coaching staff will be looking to get answers to some of their questions. Many players will be going home after the Bolivia match, and expect MLS players to jump in the squad for the France and Ireland games. (It is not during an international break so that has an impact on which MLS players get called up.) As with every game since October, the game itself is meaningless, but these next three games are the most important in planning for the future.
Potential Lineup (4-3-3):
Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid.
Defenders: Eric Lichaj, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Walker Zimmerman, Jorge Villafaña.
Midfielders: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Joe Corona.
Forward: Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, Julian Green.