As relations between the United States and Cuba continue to move forward with the U.S. men’s national team’s first friendly match on the island since 1947 on Friday, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will also cast an eye to the future. For the match in Havana, and a match against New Zealand in Washington, D.C., four days later, Klinsmann has opted to leave out veteran goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan.
Between them, the pair have 162 appearances for their country and alternated the starting role in recent games. But they also have a combined age of 69, and, with Guzan currently second choice at Premier League club Middlesbrough, Klinsmann is looking to the next generation.
There is no suggestion that both won’t be back in the picture when the U.S. kicks off the final round of World Cup qualifying against Mexico next month. But for now, William Yarbrough, David Bingham and the youngest of the trio, 21-year-old Ethan Horvath, will get their chance to impress. Between them, they have just three caps to their name. While to many it may appear a questionable time to experiment, given the difficulty and importance of taking on not only Mexico but also Costa Rica in just a month’s time, Klinsmann believes it's an ideal opportunity.
“I think the goalkeeper position is unique,” Klinsmann said when announcing his squad. “Obviously we have the two experienced guys with Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Both are in different situations right now – Tim is obviously very busy with the Colorado Rapids and Brad is not getting the opportunity to play at Middlesbrough.
“I think it’s a perfect time to give an open window to three younger goalkeepers with William Yarbrough, Ethan Horvath and David Bingham. That’s why we decided to leave the two older guys out and give these three youngsters a chance to prove their point. That kind of opportunity is very rare.”
The U.S. has played just once in Cuba in the past 69 years and that was in 2008 when Clint Dempsey scored the only goal in a World Cup qualifier. But Dempsey will be absent this time around as he continues to be sidelined with an irregular heartbeat. Another experienced figure will also miss out after Alejandro Bedoya suffered a strained rib muscle playing for the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.
And the youth in the roster extends beyond the goalkeepers. There is a first call-up for 20-year-old midfielder Lynden Gooch, who has earned a starting berth with a Premier League side Sunderland, as well as a continued role for 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund starlet Christian Pulisic. There is also a place for Julian Green, who has been around for some time but remains just 21. Green, who scored at the 2014 World Cup, is back in the squad for the first time in more than 18 months despite not playing a single minute in the Bundesliga for Bayern Munich this season.
Also hoping to make the most of another chance in the national team picture will be Timmy Chandler. The Eintracht Frankfurt full-back has not appeared for the U.S. since last year’s Gold Cup and after some uneven performances.
All those who didn’t feature as the U.S. secured its place in the Hexagonal last month will be aiming to make the same sort of impact as Sacha Kljestan. The New York Red Bulls midfielder continues in the squad after scoring and putting in fine performances against both Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in his first outings in two-and-a-half years.
Goalkeepers: David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Ethan Horvath (Molde FK, Norway), William Yarbrough (Club León , Mexico)
Defenders: Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City, England), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca, Mexico), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United, England)
Midfielders: Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana, Mexico), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland, England), Perry Kitchen (Hearts, Scotland), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Danny Williams (Reading, England)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich, Germany), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg, Germany)
Friday, Oct. 7: vs. Cuba (4 p.m. EDT, Estadio Pedro Marrero, Havana)
Tuesday, Oct. 11: vs. New Zealand (8 p.m., RFK Stadium, Washington D.C.)