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After US World Cup disaster, the USMNT players that should stay or leave player pool

The US isn’t going to the World Cup. As shocking as that is, it’s the reality of the situation. The US were quite frankly terrible throughout the entirety of qualification (even going back to the semi-final round where they needed a 4-0 win against Guatemala to avoid being dumped out) and honestly deserved this fate.

You will never sell me that that group of 11 players that took the field against Trinidad & Tobago cared at all about making it to Russia. The complete lack of effort, the walking around, the end result is an absolute disgrace. Everybody not named Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood had better take a long hard look at themselves and ask how did they let it get to this? So with no World Cup next summer to look forward to, the US must look way into the future (the next meaningful games won’t be played until around July of 2019 at the Gold Cup) and figure out how to make sure this never happens again. Obviously change at the top within the federations but that’s already been written about a dozen times in the last 24 hours. The focus now should be on overhauling the player pool.

Here are some players that we need to see more of and some players that we never need to see again.

Players to phase out and/or drop entirely

Jozy Altidore – For years Jozy Altidore has been hyped as a great player for the US. But now fans are sick of him. He rarely scores in clutch moments but if you’re up 5-1 against St. Vincent & the Grenadines or you need an opening goal in a January camp friendly against Iceland or you’re up 3-0 in the 80th minute against Guatemala he’s there. If you need an equalizer with your World Cup hopes on the line? Not so much. Not only does he only score when the US doesn’t need him to, he spends 50% of the game just whining. Whining about poor service, whining about the referee, whining about everything. In ten Hexagonal games, he registered just two goals. That’s not acceptable. He’s now third all-time on the US scoring charts and for him to get any closer to the record would be a travesty of justice to Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey (who both scored big goals in big moments time and time again). Get out.

Matt Besler – He’s been a trooper going back to 2013 but Besler is no longer cutting it on the international stage. He’s now 30 years old and it’s really starting to show. He’s just too slow. That’s a killer against fast, counter-attacking Central American teams. Besler is now at a point where if he has to go a full 90, there is going to be a serious defensive lapse because he’s too tired to get to where he needs to be (that was made brutally clear at the World Cup in 2014 on Belgium’s first goal in the Round of 16). Time to retire.

Michael Bradley – Another guy who’s antics fans have grown incredibly tired of. Fans are tired of him passing the ball to the other team and tired of him just running in circles at midfield and tired of him blowing smoke in press conferences. He’s been the captain for the better part of the last four years and just failed as a leader and as a teammate. Alexi Lalas put it best when he went on the now infamous rant when he called out Bradley and said we don’t need you to be Zen we need you to be good. Sadly, that fell on deaf ears as Michael Bradley continued to blow hot air, but failed to register a goal or an assist in these final two qualifiers. Bradley’s national team career should be done and if we’re being honest with ourselves it should have been done after his performance against Argentina at the Copa America. Get out.

SEE MORE: World Cup failure will leave USA shellshocked for years to come

Clint Dempsey – This is a hard one to do but it has to happen. Father Time is undefeated and sadly, Dempsey is no exception to the rule. He’s been the US’ best player for the better part of the last six years. He’s tied for the most goals scored in US history. But he’s lost his starting spot and with the exception of the Gold Cup semi-final, he hasn’t provided much of a spark off the bench. Time to retire.

Benny Feilhaber – This shouldn’t even be an issue because he shouldn’t even have been called in but here we are. There’s a reason that Jurgen Klinsmann never called Feilhaber into a national team camp: he’s not any good. But then Klinsmann got fired and Feilhaber got called into the January Camp where he failed to produce anything of note. No matter because Arena didn’t call him in again. Well that is until this round of World Cup Qualifying with the USA’s hopes and dreams on the line. Down 2-1 with 15 minutes to save themselves Bruce Arena called on Feilhaber to save the day. Needless to say, he didn’t do it. All of this for a guy who is 32 years old. Get out.

Omar Gonzalez – All during his time with the US in 2013, fans screamed for his head. He made mistake after mistake after mistake, whether it was being too slow to react, leaving opposing players completely unmarked or failing to clear a dangerous ball. Nevertheless he went to the World Cup in Brazil where he gave a good account of himself. He since made a move from LA Galax to Liga MX. But his performances with the MNT of late have left plenty to be desired and it was his own goal against Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday night that got the disastrous ball rolling. Gonzalez is almost 30 and there’s not much that he brings to the table that a whole host of younger center-backs don’t also bring. Time to drop him.

Tim Howard – Another difficult one to do but it has to be done. For all of his heroics in Brazil in 2014 and for all his steady play in the years prior to that, Tim Howard has not been good this cycle. First came the year and a half sabbatical from the national team in 2015 (which he got a pass for but Landon Donovan got crucified for). Then he came back but only after making a move from Everton to the Colorado Rapids. His play at times has left US fans scratching their heads and his play in the home loss to Costa Rica was bad as well as his play in the loss to Trinidad & Tobago. Time to retire.

Graham Zusi – Sort of in the same boat as Matt Besler. Been a solid contributor for a number of years now but age is catching up with him. He’s been serviceable as a defender but that’s not a natural fit for him. It’s not that he’s been bad for the US but he’s on the wrong side of 30 and as is the case with Omar Gonzalez, there are younger options that bring the same stuff to the table. Time to retire.

There’s a few other players that need to be phased out or dropped completely that don’t even merit a full paragraph: Damarcus Beasley, Tim Ream, Michael Orozco, Alejandro Bedoya, Dax McCarty, Chris Wondolowski, Sacha Kljestian and Gyasi Zardes. If the US wants to have better players, more talent players or more skillful players all of the guys listed above have got to go.

Players to keep and/or bring in

Paul Arriola – He’s fast, he’s young and he can make things happen. He’s played in Liga MX for the last few years before moving to DC United. He’s got 14 caps and 2 goals to his name and would be a good attacking midfielder for years to come with the US.

John Brooks – His presence was sorely missed during these last four World Cup Qualifiers (he was out with an injury). Brooks is the best defender the US has and it’s no coincidence that he plays in the Bundesliga in Germany. He’s only 24 so we should see a lot of home for a long time to come.

Geoff Cameron – This is a tricky one because he is 32 so maybe he doesn’t need to stay around until the next World Cup but maybe through the 2019 Gold Cup to help teach younger players how to do their jobs. He plays regularly in the Premier League and that is a quality that cannot afford to be wasted any more.

Cameron Carter-Vickers – Not that 19-year old wunderkind but a different one. He started his youth career at Tottenham Hostpur before being loaned out to Sheffield United. He’s played at the youth levels for the US and it’s time to bring him into the fold.

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  1. Bitte! Bitte

    October 13, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I think we may have trouble qualifying for 2022 with the dearth of talent in our pipeline. Other than Pulisic, Wood and McKinnie we have very little depth. Arriola, Nagbe and the other guys mentioned in this piece are very ordinary. As MLS will NEVER change for the better–instituting relegation, scrapping DPs and salary caps—we can look forward to more mediocrity as the rich guys running our youth development program with their kids given preferential treatment won’t change either.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      October 13, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      If we start playing younger guys like Zelalem, McKinnie, Sargent and even maybe Kenny Saif we’ll be in decent shape to get to Qatar 2022.

  2. francis

    October 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    May as well play the kids now with no major competions for USA until 2019

    • Lawrence Dockery

      October 12, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Exactly. Basically a year and 8 months worth of friendlies for the US to get young players up to speed at the international level. I would play two friendlies on the road against European opposition next month, and then play two home games against South American teams in the January Camp and then in March play two more road games in Europe. Gotta start playing against tough opposition on a more regular basis.

  3. Vicbklyn

    October 11, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    I will add US commentators & Arena to the list. They were all Arena and MLS for years without being objective until now. The reaction & comments to us not qualifying should of been the conversation all year long.
    No support for Klinsmann or sons of our country’s servicemen. We need players like competing in the Champions League. Klinsmann was pushing our plsyers to Europe instead of MLS.
    Im not saying Klinsmann was perfect but I would like to see the best coach possible leading us. Arena was first fired for a reason and went to MLS Galaxy to a star studded roster. No personal improvements besides dressing more Hollywood.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      October 12, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      As much as I love Alexi Lalas calling them overpaid, tattooed millionaires last month and then Taylor Twellman going ape sh** on SportsCenter I have to admit that they were both late to the party on this one.

    • Can-Tuna

      October 13, 2017 at 11:01 pm

      Arena was an open xenophobe before getting the job. He pretended that he was not really a xenophobe after getting the job, but his subsequent actions told otherwise. It is a shame he considered the sons of US Servicemen not American enough to play for the USMNT.
      He did not bring any young European based players to the team because I suppose he also has a bias in that regard.
      Klinsmann was heavily criticized, and rightfully so, for his tactical failures, but he had an eye for identifying talent. He brought Pulisic, Morris, Wood, Johnson, Chandler, Brooks, Yedlin, Green, Johannsson, Williams, Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and so on to the team.
      Arena brought no one worth mentioning. Well, maybe Paul Arriola.

      • Lawrence Dockery

        October 16, 2017 at 11:06 am

        Klinsmann found Paul Arriola as well. Got him involved in 2016.

  4. Kris Klassen

    October 11, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Beautiful article. I predict when we qualify for 2022 it will be a result of some currently unknown Hispanic Americans who are discovered.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      October 12, 2017 at 4:33 pm

      Maybe. Who knows? Five years is a long way off.

  5. Nick B

    October 11, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    The article is spot on, why in the name of almighty was this not done a couple of years ago , its been so obviously stale with the likes of Bradley , Beasley, Zusi , Guzan , Howard ( dont tell Me we dont have other keeper options ) its best we exited now in dramatic fashion to instill change versus humiliation in russia that woild be written off to big name teams being too tough

    • Lawrence Dockery

      October 12, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      Disaster striking like this is usually the only way things change, but I’m not 100% convinced anything will change.

  6. Jason

    October 11, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    Good list and with the exception of Geoff Cameron not a single player ver 30 should be playing another cap again.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      October 12, 2017 at 9:22 am

      Yeah the only reason I had Geoff Cameron in there is because he plays regularly in the Premier League. Can’t afford not to have that kind of player in the squad. But he should only stick around through the 2019 Gold Cup.

      • Santiago1314

        October 14, 2017 at 9:28 pm

        Mexico still has Marquez…Sort of.!?!?!…Central Defender is like Goalie…They can play a Longer Lifespan…I started as a Forward and, as I got older, Dropped to Attacking Mid, then “Sweeper” ( I know, I’m dating myself)…Extended my playing career 5 years.

        • Lawrence Dockery

          October 16, 2017 at 11:07 am

          Hmm. Never thought of defenders having less wear and tear than the other field players. Always knew goalkeepers could go five or six years longer than everybody else. Let’s hope that’s the case with Cameron because we need him.

  7. David

    October 11, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    I agree with everyone on the list but I would add some more players that definitely need to be brought back into the national team fold. Emerson Hyndman and Ethan Horvath. I wouldn’t bring Guzan back into the national team and let Horvath, Jessie Gonzalez, and Bill Hamid battle it out for the number one keeper spot.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      October 11, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      Yeah it’s been brought to my attention that I missed some guys to bring in. You mentioned Hyndman and Horvath but I also forgot buys like Josh Sargent and Weston McKinnie. Somebody brought up Gideon Zelalem.

      • David

        October 11, 2017 at 5:50 pm

        The US does have a lot of promising youth players out there. Easy to miss some of the guys to bring in. I forgot about Zelalem. I believe he is still out for an extended period of time following knee surgery but for sure he deserves a look in the future.

        • Lawrence Dockery

          October 13, 2017 at 4:55 pm

          My concern with Zelalem is that he heasn’t really been able to get a game at Arsenal and he didn’t do so hot at Rangers.

      • Santiago1314

        October 14, 2017 at 8:41 pm

        The best player in the last u20 group was Rubio Rubin…What happened to him.???…Somewhere in Holland I heard

        • Lawrence Dockery

          October 16, 2017 at 11:05 am

          Oh man, he’s one I forgot about. I remember Klinsmann giving him a few games late in 2014 and thinking that he was going to be great.

        • David

          October 16, 2017 at 1:34 pm

          Rubio Rubin is playing in Norway now. Injuries have derailed his career so far.

  8. The Truth

    October 11, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Good list, you just forgot Brad Guzan. He’s another out for sure. The US has a huge pool of talented goalkeepers, but we continue to rely on bald dinosaurs to keep the ball out of the net.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      October 11, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      I went back and forth on Guzan and that’s why he wasn’t on here either way. I can see the merits of keeping him and dumping him. Yeah he’s like 33 but 33 for a goalkeeper is like 26 for a field player. But there are times where he makes the most bizarre decisions (stepping over the edge of the 18 against Jamaica in 2015).

  9. Further Adu

    October 11, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    I, for one, agree…

    • Lawrence Dockery

      October 11, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      Much appreciated.

      • Santiago1314

        October 14, 2017 at 8:39 pm

        Nice article, Well thought out…only problem is we are never going to have the Quality of players we hope for…But neither does anyone else…Here is something I posted back in 2014…”Fact is; we are no better off than we were under Lothar, Bob G., Steve, Bora, Bruce, Bob B., JK… Some years a little better, some years a little worse…..30 years and No Improvement to Show… A VERY Marginal rise across the board, but still NO Game Breaking Player… Good thing is; NFL Parity has set into World Soccer and the Rest of the World has COME DOWN to our Level, Except for a few Exceptional Game Breakers… Messi, Robben, Alexis, Ronaldo, James, Neymar, Lukaku, Muller,… The other 9 players on the Field could change Jerseys and YOU WOULDN’T NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE …!!!! All the US lacks is a Game Breaker…. ” {(Added today: 19 year old “Wonder Kind” is almost there, give him a year or 2)}{{and throw in the Fact that MLS has Raised the Level of the CONcaCACrApFers so they now have the 9 players needed to compete on a World Level, with 90% of the Teams in the World}}

        • Lawrence Dockery

          October 16, 2017 at 11:04 am

          Appreciate the love. And the MNT absolutely, 100%, no questions asked, needs to have more players playing in Europe. No coincidence that 2013 was the best year for the MNT and Altidore was tearing it up for AZ Alkmaar and Bradley was starting at AS Roma and Dempsey was playing for Tottenham. Bradley and Altidore have fallen off the face of the earth with Toronto FC.

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