Tomorrow Jurgen Klinsmann will announce the roster invitations for the U.S. national team camp. These players will make up the eligible roster for selection for the January 29 friendly against Canada as well as possibly the February 6 World Cup qualifier in Honduras. Usually, the January camp (loving referred to as “Camp Cupcake”) is a time for the national team to experiment with fringe players; it gives the coaches a chance to see young players who could one day work up significant playing time or older players who have earned a last chance at a cap. With the camp occurring during a non-international break, the invitee list for the camp will be made up of players from leagues on break, Scandinavia and MLS primarily.
A further element to this selection is one that Steve Davis noted for NBC Sports, that Klinsmann has indicated that these selections will be taken more seriously and these players can almost be considered the second tier of national team players, i.e. those players who may be relied upon in case of injury or poor performance. That raises the stakes of the announcement on Sunday.
With this in mind, here are six MLS players that I want to see Klinsmann call up for the January camp. All six of these players are ones who have shown in MLS that they are not only ready for their chance at the next level but they can be contributors as well. In alphabetical order:
Austin Berry: Granted he has had very little time to prove himself at the MLS level, but the Rookie of the Year has shown that when he is partnered with a quality veteran, he can hold his own. The ideal national team situation for him might be partnering with a veteran national team player to ease him into regular playing time, which he deserves a chance to earn.
Teal Bunbury: Bunbury has been an on-again, off-again member of this team but now is the time to establish him as a regular in the striker rotation. Before his injury he was rounding into a consistent form for KC and if he would have been healthy, Sporting’s playoff chances may have been better.
Brad Davis: Davis received a call-up back in 2005 but the time has come for another. He may not be as physical as the international game may require, but his vision cannot be replicated. Davis makes a lackluster striker tandem that much better and could be a change of pace on the wings in the midfield.
Omar Gonzalez: This pick is so obvious it is laughable. What is not laughable is that he has not already been called up. Gonzalez is a physical defender with a good skill set and has been coached by men with international experience (college and pro level). What’s not to like? And, as I said with the Berry choice, he plays a long-term position of need. Sign him up already!
Tally Hall: While I understand the upside of Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson, why Hall keeps being overlooked by Klinsmann and crew is beyond me. At 27 he is just beginning to enter his prime and he has already shown that he is an elite MLS keeper. Klinsmann recently began to give long-time MLSer Nick Rimando a chance for playing time, so why not a keeper who is younger and just as talented?
Chris Pontius: Pontius was on the national team radar before he broke his leg at the end of 2011. Now that he has proved he is healthy and can be a dangerous scorer, he needs to be in the national team mix. Not the fastest player, he fills in nicely as a second-string Landon Donovan (midfielder who can play wide or as a forward) in case the Galaxy’s star is hurt or retired. The sooner he is integrated into the system the more ready he can be to become a super-sub/replacement in Brazil.