U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann
terms the national team camp that opens on Sunday "more an identification camp" and "a developmental camp." But there are certainly enough veterans in
camp to then speculate about the future of the veterans not in camp. With just eight of the 28 players initially called into the January 2015 camp back this year, the moves underline the changes in
both the senior and under-23 national teams in the last year. The core 15
Just four starters from the 2014 World Cup will be in Carson: Matt
, Michael Bradley
, Jermaine Jones
and Jozy Altidore
(a late addition to the 2015 January camp after moving from Sunderland to Toronto FC).
Klinsmann's current core is in Europe: goalkeepers Brad Guzan
and Tim Howard
, defenders John Brooks
, Geoff Cameron
, Fabian Johnson
and Tim Ream
and forwards Aron Johannsson
, Bobby Wood
and Jordan Morris
(training with Werder Bremen).
If you add Gyasi Zardes
, who tied a national
team record with 20 appearances in his debut year, that forms a foundation of 15 players around whom Klinsmann will look to build his team for the 2016-17 run through the Copa Centenario and World Cup
There are, of course, a few question marks. Both Guzan and Howard are getting up in years, Jones' club future is in doubt, and Johannsson continues to battle injuries. Those left out
While Klinsmann is generally loathe to cut off players from the national team -- his decision to drop Landon Donovan
the 2014 World Cup is the exception and all the more damning -- his decision not to bring in thirtysomethings such as Nick Rimando
, Brad Evans
, Kyle Beckerman
and Clint Dempsey
can only mark the beginning of their being phasing out.
Coming off an MLS season that saw five Americans, none national team regulars, earn
Best XI selections, many fans anxiously waited to see how many of them would got a call from Klinsmann. New York Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles
(back for the first time since 2009) and Columbus
Crew winger Ethan Finlay
(earning his first call-up) will both be in camp, but FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges
and midfielders Dax McCarty
and Benny Feilhaber
Hedges will find it difficult to crack the center defending corps, the deepest group in the U.S. national team picture with World Cup 2014 veterans Besler, Cameron, Brooks
and Omar Gonzalez
(now in Mexico) still in the mix and Matt Miazga
and Cameron Carter-Vickers
Klinsmann took Tony Tchani
(headed to Cameroon for his
first call-up with the Indomitable Lions until an injury sidelined him in November) over McCarty, two years older, and recalled Lee Nguyen
over bringing back Benny Feilhaber
, a year and
Probably the only other player whose absence created surprise was Sebastian Lletget
, but Klinsmann may want to see a full year out of the LA Galaxy midfielder before
bringing him in. After a strong start, Lletget's struggles in the fall mimicked those of the Galaxy.
One other player not in camp will be 20-year-old FC Dallas Jesse Gonzalez
contrary to reports last week got cold feet about switching from Mexico to the USA. That doesn't mean he can't switch in the future. Until he plays a competitive game for Mexico at the international
level, he is eligible for a FIFA-approved one-time switch. Those in camp
The January camp will primarily serve as a chance for Klinsmann and U-23
coach Andi Herzog
to look at U-23s ahead of the Olympic qualifying playoff series against Colombia in March. They include Kellyn Acosta
(FC Dallas) and Tim Parker
Whitecaps), but most of the U-23s are known quantities.
Just a dozen players are strictly in camp as members of the senior team, and for many of them the camp will be a huge
opportunity (among Klinsmann's favorite words) to prove they still belong in the group or make a case for a starting job.
The former group includes Mix Diskerud
(coming off a poor
first season in MLS with New York City FC) and Nguyen. Bill Hamid
has been around the national team before, but with a solid corps of young keepers behind him, he'll want to make the case that
he should get the first shot for the starting job in goal if and when Klinsmann decides to move beyond Howard and Guzan.
One of the biggest decisions Klinsmann will have to make is who
will succeed Beckerman and Jones (ineligible for the two March qualifiers against Guatemala) in holding midfield roles, and he'll give shots to Darlington Nagbe
and Tchani. Nagbe is more of a
No. 8 than a No. 6, but he thrived in a central role with the Portland Timbers during their march to the MLS title and could be a valuable asset in midfielder for the national team. At 6-foot-4,
Tchani is more of an enforcer, but he, too, is coming off an excellent MLS season. And in Mexico ...
Of those whose stock rose considerably during
the MLS playoffs, the only player who will not be in camp is left back Jorge Villafana
, who was transferred by the Timbers to Santos in Mexico. Besides Villafana, Omar Gonzalez
, who signed with Queretaro, also moved to Liga MX, which resumes this weekend.
Gonzalez and Gil are known quantities on the national team, but Villafana isn't. Klinsmann
and Co. should be closely watching him if for no other reason than the lack of long-term options at the outside back positions.
GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls).
DEFENDERS (5): *Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City),
*Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), *Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), *Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC).
MIDFIELDERS (11): *Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Bradley (Toronto
FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Jermaine Jones (Unattached), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), *Marc Pelosi (San Jose
Earthquakes), *Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew SC), *Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC).
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), *Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart
II/GER), *Jordan Morris (Unattached), *Khiry Shelton (New York City FC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy).
*Eligible for U-23 national team.