Jϋrgen Klinsmann has chosen 21 players to represent the United States against Italy on February 29th in Genoa. After putting together a squad that consisted mostly of U.S.-based players in January, Klinsi is clearly taking a different approach for this match, with just four MLS players in the team this time around.
Not present amongst those four is New England Revolution playmaker Benny Feilhaber, despite his decent showing against Venezuela last month. Feilhaber has struggled mightily to work his way into Klinsmann's team since the German took over the reins last year, which has to be frustrating for a player who moved stateside from Europe, partly in hopes of increasing his national team exposure.
Editor's Note: Just added the poll
That said, it's pretty obvious that bringing MLS players into this particular squad is not high on Klinsmann's list of priorities. MLS is in preseason right now, and Klinsmann recognizes the value of working out with one's team to get into regular season form. Furthermore, the match is in Genoa, which represents a tough travel load for domestic players, while those based in England, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere can take shorter flights. At the end of the day, Benny's lack of inclusion is probably less of a "snub" and more of a calculated decision to maximize the fitness of Klinsmann's entire talent pool.
Whenever one of these rosters is announced, it tends to breed discussion about who deserves national team attention, who's being frozen out, and who could be the next big thing at the international level. Unfortunately for most Revs fans, New England players have long been left out of those discussions. Before Feilhaber's arrival, defenders Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes were the only Americans still on the roster who were drawing any national interest at all. After the last two seasons, however, it is likely that both have played their way out of contention for the time being, if for no other reason than the fact that the Revs defense has been abysmal as a unit.
Geoff Cameron, Nick Rimando, Edson Buddle, and Landon Donovan will represent MLS next Wednesday. Unsurprisingly, all four players are from three of last season's top sides. The Revolution (again, other than Benny) haven't been represented in a match at the national team level since Jay Heaps turned out for the Red, White, and Blue in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup, when the dominance of the Revs wasn't such a distant memory. The days of watching Steve Ralston, Clint Dempsey, Pat Noonan, and Taylor Twellman grace the pitch for the USA, representing the Revolution, are no more than pleasant - if painful - memories.
All is not lost. A new-look roster full of promising youth, driven by a new, enthusiastic coach may furnish fans with some hope that the U.S. national team will once again feature Revolution men. Kelyn Rowe, already a standout for the U.S. U-18 and U-20 squads who drew international interest after a great Freshman season at UCLA, looks the most likely to be the next New England representative at the international level. His preseason form does little to dispel such notions; the 20-year old has torn apart the competition, scoring and creating almost at will.
Rowe is far from the only promising talent on the roster, however. Fellow SuperDraft pick and Generation Adidas player Tyler Polak has seen extensive time with the USA U-17s and also has a cap with the U-20s. Left-back is a traditionally thin position in the U.S. player pool, giving him ample opportunity to claim a regular spot with the Nats if he can raise his game to the professional level.
A.J. Soares could also force himself into the conversation. Soares earned countless accolades at Cal while in college as a sure-footed defender with an attacking bent. In his rookie season last year, Soares was a rare bright spot in the league's second-worst defense. Despite playing hurt for most of the year, he managed to score a goal and worked his way into the Rookie of the Year conversation before finally succumbing to his ankle problems at the end of the year. Soares is probably an outside shot to enter the national team consideration, but if a healthy 2012 leads to stingier defense and more assured performances from the former Golden Bear, it is certainly possible he could be in Klinsmann's consciousness for the 2013 Gold Cup, or even World Cup 2014.
U.S. Roster By Position
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Timmy Chandler (Nϋrnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brøndby), Michael Parkhurst* (FC Nordsjælland), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
Midfielders: Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)
Forwards: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd† (Borussia Dortmund), Edson Buddle (L.A. Galaxy), Clint Dempsey* (Fulham), Landon Donovan (L.A. Galaxy)
* - Former Revolution player
† - Uncapped