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
Having recently broken the MLS record for most shutouts in history, Rimando’s time with the USMNT is short compared to his age. Had he broken into the setup earlier, Rimando could have been a regular for years. The USMNT has never been short of goalkeepers, and the Real Salt Lake man is but the latest casualty of that abundance.
John Brooks (Hertha Berlin) Caps: 5 Goals: 1 Age: 21
Few, if any, USMNT fans will be unaware of John Brooks. The young German-American scored probably the greatest goal of his career against Ghana in Brazil this past summer. The defender’s inclusion was questioned by some, and even his appearance at half time for the injured Matt Besler led to moans from pundits and fans around the country. But his headed goal and memorable celebration will live on in the memories of fans for a very long time.
Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) Caps: 13 Age: 24
It’s hard to believe Chandler only has 13 caps, as it seems like he’s been a USMNT mainstay for years. Another of Klinsmann’s German-American contingent, Chandler’s last appearance before the World Cup was against Honduras in February 2013. Injuries kept the player from featuring for his club, and therefore kept him from the USMNT. After only a few appearances for Nurnberg last season when the club was relegated, Chandler moved to Frankfurt for the 2014-2105 season.
Greg Garza (Club Tijuana) Caps: 0 Age: 23
One of just a few players in this squad not based in Europe, Garza is one of the newbies to the senior national team setup. After a promising youth career that culminated in a two-year stay at Sporting CP in Portugal, Garza signed his first professional contract with Estoril Praia in Lisbon. But the fullback failed to break into the squad, and signed with Mexican club Tijuana in 2011. His 39 appearances and two goals for the club are what caught the eye of Klinsmann and his staff, and the Grapevine, TX, native could earn his first cap this week.
Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach) Caps: 28 Goals: 1 Age: 26
As one of the most-capped German-Americans of the Klinsmann era, Johnson’s speed and skill on the ball have been important components of the USMNT’s tactical setup since his inclusion. Able to play as a fullback or winger, Johnson’s combination down the right wing with DeAndre Yedlin during the World Cup was one of the USMNT’s most potent weapons. Johnson recently moved to Borussia Monchengladbach, and is likely to be a USMNT mainstay for this cycle.
Michael Orozco Fiscal (Puebla) Caps: 11 Goals: 3 Age: 28
Orozco Fiscal, the Orange, California native, spent much of his career at Mexico club San Luis, having loan spells at Philadelphia Union and current club Puebla. In 2013 he moved to Chiapas, from which he was then sent back to Puebla on loan. Orozco Fiscal had his first USMNT cap in 2008, but had to wait until 2011 for his next appearance. USMNT fans are likely to remember the defender’s finest moment for the national team to date, when he scored the winner in a friendly against Mexico at the Azteca – the USMNT’s only victory against Mexico away.
Tim Ream (Bolton) Caps: 8 Age: 26
St. Louis native Ream played college soccer at St. Louis University before being drafted by the New York Red Bulls in the MLS SuperDraft in 2010. After spending the offseason training with Bolton Wanderers, Ream was purchased by the club in January 2012. Ream couldn’t prevent the club from being relegated to the Championship, where the club currently sits. Ream hasn’t made an appearance for the USMNT since 2011, and will be hoping to rejoin the fold for the new cycle.
Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes) Caps: 32 Goals: 1 Age: 27
One of the few USMNT veterans still playing in Europe, the New Jersey native’s career has taken him to Sweden, Scotland and currently to France, where he joined Nantes in 2013. His performances in Ligue 1 have kept him in the USMNT mix, playing in all four of the nation’s World Cup matches. His international and club appearance should cement his place in the team during 2018 World Cup qualifying at the very least.
Joe Corona (Club Tijuana) Caps: 11 Goals: 2 Age: 24
Corona, once a bright young talent whose international allegiance was once fought over, has fallen down the pecking order at Club Tijuana and therefore has been out of the USMNT conversation for some time. He made a single appearance for Mexico’s U22 team before playing in the USA U23 squad and later being officially cap-tied to the USMNT in a World Cup Qualifier in 2012. Corona’s talent is still evident, and he’ll be hoping to prove himself to Klinsmann yet again.
Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg) Caps: 20 Goals: 3 Age: 23
Diskerud’s USMNT career has had its ups and downs, and sometimes it seems that Klinsmann doesn’t exactly know how he feels about the player. Diskerud was born in Oslo and grew up there, his connection to the USA being his Arizona-born mother. The midfielder, who has played his entire club career – bar a short loan to Belgium – in Norway’s Tippeligaen, played for both US and Norway youth national teams before committing to the USMNT senior squad in 2010. He was in the 2014 World Cup squad, but did not appear in any matches. At just 23, Diskerud brings ample international experience to the table. His club career and international performance in the next couple years could decide whether or not he becomes a long-term part of the squad.
Julian Green (Hamburg) Caps: 3 Goals: 1 Age: 19
Another name that USMNT fans are likely to know quite well, despite his age and few appearances. Green, who is owned by German juggernaut Bayern Munich but is currently on loan at Hamburg, was all over international soccer news when Klinsmann finally secured him for the USMNT in early 2014. Green was controversially included in Klinsmann’s final World Cup squad, over experienced players like Landon Donovan. The point was settled, however, when Green scored a spectacular volley in extra time in the USMNT’s round of 16 match against Belgium. The Yanks went on to lose the match, but most American fans were now sold on the German-American youngster. Green will hopefully be getting first-team experience in the Bundesliga during his Hamburg loan, and US fans will be holding their breath in coming seasons in the hope that Green can break into one of the best clubs in the world.
Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt) Caps: 1 Age: 24
Berlin-born Morales, a German-American whose youth and early professional career began with Hertha Berlin, currently plies his trade in Germany’s second division with Ingolstadt. The midfielder played in various US soccer youth team setups, and made his first senior appearance in a friendly in 2013. Morales has not actually been cap-tied for the USMNT, and his Peruvian heritage has also caused the Peru national team to court him as well. This call-up, while still not cap-tying, could help seal the deal for both the player and coaches if all goes well.
Brek Shea (Stoke City) Caps: 26 Goals: 2 Age: 24
Another player whose promising talent was destroyed by a move to Europe, the Texas-born Shea was a star for MLS side FC Dallas until he was purchased by Premier League side Stoke City in 2013. A quick and skillful winger, Shea’s career was derailed at Stoke City by injuries and poor management, and a loan to Barnsley was cut short after Shea responded poorly to angry supporters. Shea’s international career started well, and after a long stretch of no call-ups he was brought into the 2013 Gold Cup squad. Despite having what seemed like an international career rejuvenation at the Gold Cup, Shea was cut from Klinsmann’s 30-man World Cup roster in 2014. Shea will hope to impress Klinsmann both at club level and in any matches he can get for the USMNT.
Emerson Hyndman (Fulham) Caps: 0 Age: 18
One of the most talked-about youngsters in the US soccer system right now, Hyndman has already impressed after making a handful of first team appearances for recently relegated English Championship side Fulham. Seen by many American soccer experts as a huge talent for the future, the Texas-born midfielder has an eye for passing and is quite tidy in central midfield. Being a key player in Fulham’s hopeful promotion could be huge for the young man’s career, and Klinsmann will no doubt be watching with great interest.
Jozy Altidore (Sunderland) Caps: 71 Goals: 23 Age: 24
It’s hard to believe that Jozy Altidore is just 24 years old. 23 goals in 71 appearances for the USMNT before 25 is an incredible feat, but Altidore’s recent form and health has some suggesting that he’s already peaked. Altidore became the youngest American to ever score a hat-trick in international play in 2009, and he’s had an impressive run for the national team since. One of the forward’s biggest problems is consistency, since leaving the New York Red Bulls in 2008 for Spanish side Villareal, Altidore has bounced from club to club all over Europe. His greatest run was with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar, where his goalscoring was marveled at throughout Europe. This led to a transfer to English club Sunderland, where Altidore has failed to score more than a single goal since his transfer in summer 2013. Named captain for the Czech Republic friendly, Altidore will be wanting to prove his critics wrong both at home and abroad.
Joe Gyau (Borussia Dortmund II) Caps: 0 Age: 21
Florida-born Gyau will be hoping to make his first appearance for the USMNT this week, having played in nearly all US youth teams. Gyau started his professional career at Hoffenheim, but a recent transfer to Borussia Dortmund has caught the eye of Klinsmann. Gyau will be playing in Dortmund’s second team this season, and hopefully a successful appearance there will lead to a chance at the senior squad soon. Top level experience could make Gyau a star for the USMNT down the road.
Jordan Morris (Stanford) Caps: 0 Age: 19
College players are rarely called up to full national teams, but Klinsmann sees huge potential in Morris and may give him playing time against the Czechs. The Washington State-born forward was a part of the Seattle Sounders academy setup, and may make his way back there after completing his education. Morris is in the Clint Dempsey mould, and he made the all-Pac-12 team and led in assists among freshmen in the conference. Klinsmann may have him with the squad simply to get experience and learn from veterans, but we may end up seeing him on the pitch.
Rubio Rubin (Utrecht) Caps: 0 Age: 18
Another Pacific Northwest native, Rubin came up through the Portland Timbers setup before being signed by Dutch side Utrecht. It seems that the forward could well be a starter for his club this season, and he’ll have ample chances to prove himself to his club coaches as well as Klinsmann.
Bobby Wood (1860 Munich) Caps: 1 Age: 21
Wood, born in Honolulu, moved to Munich 2007 to join Bundesliga side 1860 Munich. The striker was called up before, making a friendly appearance for the USMNT in 2013. His record for 1860 Munich isn’t the best for a striker, and he’ll need to up his club game if he hopes to continue to be in contention for the USMNT. Klinsmann sees potential in him, but time will tell if the player lives up to it.