After a year of experimentation following the 2014 World Cup, United States men’s national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann, as he suggested he would, has gone for the tried and trusted in his attempt to retain the Gold Cup next month. The 23-man squad announced on Tuesday for the Concacaf championship, cut from an earlier-named 35-man roster, includes 17 players who went to Brazil last year, while three of those who missed out -- Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones and Geoff Cameron -- were made unavailable for selection.
It leaves a squad with plenty of experience, none more so than captain Clint Dempsey. The Seattle Sounders forward, with 112 appearances, and 40 goals, for his country, has been selected despite being handed a three-match domestic ban last week after tearing up a referee’s notebook during a U.S. Open Cup match.
"It’s something that nobody wants to see. It’s a mistake, and mistakes happen," Klinsmann said of Dempsey, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s website. "So, obviously when he comes in next week to Nashville in preparation for our friendly game with Guatemala, we’ll sit down and talk through that and we’ll go from there."
Dempsey is joined by Jozy Altidore to reunite the team’s long-time strike partnership, although one that hasn’t been seen in action since a 2-0 win over Panama in February. In the time since then, Stanford student Jordan Morris, against Mexico, and German-based striker Bobby Wood, against both the Netherlands and Germany, have both made names for themselves with high-profile goals, but neither will feature at the Gold Cup. And Klinsmann explained that, with a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup on the table should the U.S. prevail the Gold Cup, the time had come to go with experience.
"Our approach for putting together the roster for this summer’s Gold Cup, which is very, very important to us, is obviously to do everything possible to win this competition," he said. "Winning it would qualify us for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, so putting the pieces together is very crucial. That’s why we came out with a roster full of quality, but also a lot of experience."
There are some new faces in the squad who have emerged during Klinsmann’s attempts to expand his pool of players in an effort to build toward the next World Cup in Russia. Liga MX-based duo goalkeeper William Yarbrough and center-back Ventura Alvarado, along with young LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes will get further chances to impress in the three-week long tournament taking place across the United States.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the final squad announcement came in Klinsmann’s decision to leave three of his left-back options out. The position has long been a problem area for the U.S., as demonstrated by the fact that 33-year-old DaMarcus Beasley was persuaded to come out of international retirement to take his place on the original 35-man roster. But he failed to make the cut, along with Greg Garza and Brek Shea who have each had an opportunity in the role in recent months. It means that Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Fabian Johnson, who has been played at both right-back and in midfield for the U.S., is likely to be deployed at left-back. Klinsmann could yet change his plans, however, with each team permitted to make up to six changes to its squad ahead of the knockout phase, providing the players come from the original 35-man list.
There will also be disappointment for Sporting Kansas City center-back Matt Besler, who missed out, despite starting all four U.S. games at the World Cup. It is a familiar lineup in midfield, though, with Michael Bradley, who is set to earn his 100th cap during the Gold Cup, joined by fellow World Cup veterans Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya, Mix Diskerud, Brad Davis and Graham Zusi. Together with the rest of the squad, they’ll be looking to resist the challenge of fierce foes Mexico and Concacaf’s best performers at the 2014 World Cup, Costa Rica, to avoid a playoff for the Confederations Cup, which could be crucial preparation for the following year’s World Cup.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Club León)
Defenders: Ventura Alvarado (Club América), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers)
Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Aron Jóhannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)