Heading in to the next international break USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann finds himself in a very unique position. With the next round of World Cup qualifying not starting until November, Klinsmann has an interesting choice to make on who he calls up to the national team for the teams upcoming friendlies in October.
On the one hand, Klinsmann would like to use these friendlies as a chance to expand the US player pool. But on the other hand, there is also the pressing need for the US first team to prepare for a crucial game against Mexico as soon as the final Hex gets underway.
With several young players just making strides to break into the first team at their clubs in Europe, it may be prudent to allow some of them to avoid travelling across the Atlantic for friendlies and instead focus on their clubs. But if he did that how would the US get their chance to assess these players before the important games start?
This is not an easy situation to be in, and it’s why I believe Klinsmann will call in an expanded roster for these two games. It would not surprise me for Klinsmann to call around 30 players into camp, but send many of the younger European based players back to their clubs following the match against Cuba to allow them to get a full week of training in with their clubs again.
That leaves just one more question, who may Klinsmann be calling in, and who may he be leaving at home?
Ever since Pulisic made his first start against Trinidad & Tobago all he’s done is put on impressive display after impressive display for Borussia Dortmund. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in the Bundesliga or the Champions League the 18 year old is performing. At this point, Klinsmann has no excuse to not start him against Mexico, but with Andre Schurrle returning for Dortmund his chances to start may be harder to come by. This is Klinsmann’s chance to at least guarantee him 90 minutes of match action a few times over the next month.
Verdict: Called in
The 20 year old broke onto the scene when he was a starter for Sunderland at the start of the season. Klinsmann didn’t even think to call him in back in September as he didn’t want Gooch to lose his place in Sunderland’s starting XI. Since then Gooch has had some good performances, but has also lost his place (though Sunderland lost both games). Gooch is also eligible to play for England and the Republic of Ireland. Appearing in a friendly for the US wouldn’t cap-tie Gooch, but it would certainly help sway him to stick with the US permanently.
Verdict: Called in – sent back to club after first game
It almost seems like an international break doesn’t begin until US Soccer tweets that John Brooks has returned to Germany with an injury. Brooks is always around over the summer when it matters, but seems to never be around during the season (he’s never played in an away WCQ). Brooks just returned from a back injury this past weekend and it’s hard to see him travelling across the Atlantic for a meaningless friendly when the US will need him in a month.
Verdict: Stays in Germany
There’s no bigger enigma in the US player pool than Fabian Johnson. When played on the wing he’s the United States best player. When played as a fullback his talents are completely wasted. He also can be injury prone and while he’s healthy right now, it’s hard to see him being risked if it’s just to come over and play left back in a couple of friendlies. The US knows what they have in Johnson and they would be best served using these two games to find a new left back which would allow them to push Johnson forward more permanently, but they know that if they need him there against Mexico he can step in.
Verdict: If he gets called in at all, it will only be for the first game
It’s hard to figure out why Kitchen was left off the roster for the September qualifiers. Klinsmann said it was because of an injury, but Kitchen had already returned for a few games with his club team when Klinsmann named his roster. Despite just leaving MLS earlier this year, Kitchen has already been named captain of his club side Hearts. That doesn’t move him up the US pecking order, but it certainly shows how well he’s adapted overseas. He’s earned the chance to fight for Kyle Beckerman’s spot.
Verdict: Called in
Stanko made his debut last month against Trinidad & Tobago and impressed in a brief cameo. However since returning to his club he’s yet to start a match – though he has appeared in every one. Stanko represented himself well in his appearance against Trinidad & Tobago, albeit it was in mop-up duty but he has earned the chance to compete head-to-head with Perry Kitchen to try and take Kyle Beckerman’s roster spot.
Verdict: Called in
Speaking of Beckerman. If Jermaine Jones is healthy (that’s a big IF) there’s no chance Beckerman will start against Mexico. If Jones isn’t healthy, there still isn’t a huge chance that Beckerman starts against Mexico. Therefore, why select him to these games? Sacha Kljestan has likely jumped Beckerman in the pecking order and it makes more sense to give Stanko or Kitchen a chance in these games.
Verdict: Left behind
The Tottenham academy player is starting to get noticed in England. He made his first team debut last week in Tottenham’s EFL Cup match and drew the praise of not only his manager but many pundits. Carter-Vickers has lived his whole life in England, he’s eligible for the USMNT through his American father. With the whole country taking notice of the defender and England needing an influx of new young central defenders, it would certainly benefit Klinsmann to give him his senior debut sooner rather than later. Especially if England manage to hire a manager who actually looks to the future…
Verdict: Surprise call up
Just kidding. Not a chance this happens.