USA-Paraguay Preview: Youngsters are raring to go

The third game into a new cycle for the U.S. national team brings its most important test yet.

Interim coach Dave Sarachan has tried to downplay expectations, but Tuesday's game against Paraguay will be a big opportunity for his young players to show what can do.

Like last November when it played Portugal and in January, which it finished off with a game against Bosnia & Herzegovina, the USA is only playing one game during the March FIFA window. That's raised the intensity in camp as only a maximum of 17 of the 23 players will get a game.

Veterans Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley won't likely return until the three-game series that begins in late May. Christian Pulisic is back in Germany and Weston McKennie, the other young American playing in the Bundesliga, is in camp but questionable for the game with an injury picked up with Schalke 04.

Eight players in Cary have no caps, and four more, including McKennie, have only one.

“They come in with what I’d say is a clean slate in their minds,” Sarachan says. “They’re looking to impress, so they’re pushing each day in training."

Four players -- outside backs DeAndre Yedlin and Jorge Villafana, midfielder Darlington Nagbe and forward Bobby Wood -- were automatic choices in qualifying and give the USA plenty of experience. Eric Lichaj is the elder statesman in terms of longevity, having played for the USA at the 2011 Gold Cup. But after that, there's not a lot of experience.

Not that Sarachan doesn't have plenty of choices, particularly in central midfield.

'Rejuvenation process.' Tyler Adams is the only player in camp who started Sarachan's first two games, and he has been instrumental in the New York Red Bulls' run to the Concacaf Champions League. The Crew's Wil Trapp captained the USA against Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Both of their MLS teams had games over the weekend, but they're with the national team for a reason. They are pretty much automatic choices.

Also available in the middle are Cristian Roldan and Marky Delgado, two young products of Southern California who have been among the most consistent Americans in MLS for the last two seasons.

Nagbe can also start in the middle but he'll likely play out wide like he did for much of World Cup qualifying. The other options on the wings are uncapped Kenny Saief, who has one cap, and uncapped Kekuta Manneh and Timothy Weah.

Adams says there are a lot of good midfielders getting important minutes in MLS. The next step will be replicating that on the national team.

"It stinks not to have too many competitive matches coming up in the near future," Adams said. "But at the same time we have to take these matches seriously because we know they’re important games in starting the rejuvenation process of getting these young guys minutes and games."

'Thin margins.' Of the eight uncapped players, Weah, the son of former Ballon d'Or winner and current Liberian president George Weah, has gotten the most attention. Eligible to play for the USA, Liberia, Jamaica and France at the senior level, Weah should get a look -- even if the friendly won't cap-tie him -- though he isn't the only newcomer who could play.

"Nobody's here that shouldn't be here," said Sarachan. "I think they all belong here, they've all made a good case for themselves this week. It’s going to be a little bit of a challenge putting the first XI out because I think the margins between what I would consider the very top to the very bottom are very thin. They've all made a good impression, a couple maybe that surprised me that I didn't really know that well that have hung in there pretty well."

A few of the names he mentioned after saying he hated to single anyone out: Antonee Robinson, Andrija Novakovich and Erik Palmer-Brown.

U.S. Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Bono (Toronto FC; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 5/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew 1/0).
DEFENDERS (8): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Ipswich Town/ENG; 1/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 14/1), Matt Miazga (Vitesse/NED; 4/1), Shaq Moore (Levante/ESP; 0/0), Erik Palmer-Brown (Kortrijk/BEL; 0/0), Antonee Robinson (Bolton Wanderers/ENG; 0/0), Jorge Villafana (Santos Laguna/MEX; 15/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 49/0).
MIDFIELDERS (9): Tyler Adams (NY Red Bulls; 2/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC; 0/0), Kekuta Manneh (Pachuca/MEX; 0/0), Weston McKennie (Schalke 04/GER; 1/1), Darlington Nagbe (Atlanta United; 24/1), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 2/0), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht/BEL; 1/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; 3/0), Tim Weah (Paris SG/FRA; 0/0).
FORWARDS (3): Andrija Novakovich (Telstar/NED; 0/0), Rubio Rubin (Tijuana/MEX; 4/0), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER; 36/10).
In parentheses are caps and goals.
5 comments about "USA-Paraguay Preview: Youngsters are raring to go".
  1. Terry Lynch, March 27, 2018 at 7:07 a.m.

    Do NOT need to see Altidore nor Bradley in the May series.  Already know what they (inconsisrently) can do, will be too old in 2022, and don't deserve to take minutes away from the next generation.  Looking forward to tonight's game and hopefully seeing development from the "kids".

  2. Wooden Ships replied, March 27, 2018 at 9:37 a.m.

    I agree Richard. The only time I could stomach a JA-MB USMNT performance would be a farewell cameo. I really am dumbfounded with regard to another 1 game friendly in yet another FIFA window. A waste. Does the USSF even give a s__t? If I’m the damn manager I’m jumping on someone’s table demanding max opportunities-minutes while I have these players. Nothing like getting called up and only receiving a congeniality award. 

  3. Nick Gabris replied, March 27, 2018 at 12:06 p.m.

    PLEAAAASE NO Altidore or Bradley, enough already!

  4. Ben Myers, March 27, 2018 at 9:37 a.m.

    Reverting back to Klinsmann-like selections, are we?  Only five field players and two keepers from MLS in the 23.  This seems to confirm that the rest of the world is better than MLS for the development of young players.  Klinsmann was cashiered for speaking the truth, in addition to delivering less than optimal results.  When Arena took over the USMNT, he went with a mostly MLS squad and they all went down in smoke together.  If Don Garber has any thoughts about this selection, they cannot be positive.

  5. beautiful game replied, March 27, 2018 at 10:52 a.m.

     The quality of MLS players with USMNT aspirations remains mediocre except for a handful, and they need to prove their metal. Time to forget about Jozy and michael B for 2022. 

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