Due to a variety of factors, United States men’s national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has had to dig deep into the ranks of Europe-based US national team players or potential players. Major League Soccer’s odd and controversial schedule meant that they don’t honor FIFA international breaks for friendly matches, and therefore are unlikely to release key players during such a crucial point in the season. Klinsmann has had his say on this matter, but in effect his hands are tied and he has taken the opportunity to call up many lesser known youngsters based in Europe. It’s unfortunate that the USMNT can’t start the next World Cup cycle without key players like captain Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Graham Zusi. But guys like Dempsey are likely to retire before Russia 2018, though they may be involved in early qualifying. Klinsmann has made his opinion on players choosing Major League Soccer over European clubs well known. If he stands by the idea that those Euro-based players have more potential than MLS-ers, he’ll see this as an opportunity to prove his beliefs.
But this isn’t a story about the virtues of MLS over Europe or vice versa, but rather who the players are that Klinsmann called up for the September 3rd friendly against the Czech Republic. The number of key players in Europe has dwindled over the past year or so, but there are still a number of experienced internationals in the mix.
Cody Cropper (Southampton) Caps: 0 Age: 21
One of the most talked about uncapped players, Cropper recently inked a new deal for Premier League side Southampton. England goalkeeping coach Dave Watson sees extreme potential in Minnesota-born Cropper. He’ll have a hard time displacing obvious starter Guzan for the USMNT setup, but it’s not a stretch to imagine him as the established backup within the next couple years.
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) Caps: 25 Age: 29
The latest in a string of American goalkeepers starring in the Premier League, Guzan has played second fiddle to Tim Howard for years and will finally claim his starting spot in Howard’s absence. The Villa man often takes the blame for the club’s leaky defense, but many see him as one of the best in England. He may be benched against the Czech Republic, but we’ll definitely see him between the sticks come qualifying time.
Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) Caps: 14 Age: 35