The Unites States Men's National Team is playing a "friendly" against Mexico on Wednesday night at the Azteca. The USMNT has never beaten Mexico in Mexico, and frankly they don't draw much there, either. The last trip was during World Cup qualifying in 2009, and the US dropped a 2-1 result.
So, basically, the US is heading into a street fight in Mount Doom. And you would think that Jurgen Klinsmann, who has been notorious about overlooking MLS players and feeling that his strongest rosters are populated with players based overseas, would be raiding European and Mexican clubs for their American stars. After all, if you're going to a street fight, you want your best players (the European guys) to have your back, and if you're going to Mount Doom, well, you need some men (the Mexican guys) who can take the heat.
We're half right, I guess. In a surprise move, Klinsmann has selected a roster that features ten - that's not a typo, it's TEN - MLS-based players. Couple that with his six Mexico-based players, and you find that Klinsmann's 23-man roster only features seven players from Europe, which is surprising to say the least.
Disappointingly, though, out of ten MLS players, there isn't a single player who suits up for the New England Revolution. That's not real surprising, considering the Revs are mired in a six-game winless streak, a four-game losing streak, and have scored just four goals since the beginning of July. But it doesn't make it any less upsetting.
In years past, if a USA coach wanted to call in MLS players, he'd have been hard-pressed to overlook the Revs. Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, Clint Dempsey, Michael Parkhurst, and even guys like Jay Heaps and Matt Reis were always at least in the conversation, if not in the team.
Not so much anymore. The Revs do have players who either have prior call-ups or have elicited interest in the past - Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen, Reis, Clyde Simms, Kevin Alston, and Darrius Barnes - but those guys don't appear to be on the radar anymore. Even recent youth internationals like Kelyn Rowe and Tyler Polak seem to be out of their respective pools.
Looking at the ten players, it's still possible to find guys that maybe could have been swapped out for Revolution contributors. In fact, there are one or two who arguably don't deserve a call-up in any way, shape, or form, and the recent play of certain New England players, even in the current slump, could provide more.
Brek Shea and Juan Agudelo jump immediately to mind. Shea is stuck in a rut that started towards the end of the 2011 MLS season and hasn't found a way out. Agudelo, meanwhile, came out flying in his first few national team appearances, but has never been a great contributor at the club level and hasn't found a way to help Chivas USA spark an attack that ranks among the worst in the league.
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Enter two of the Revolution's best attacking players: Feilhaber and Nguyen. Both have had prior experience with the senior national team. Neither would represent a like-for-like swap with Shea or Agudelo, but given the way those two have looked in any uniform lately, it's not a certainty that they will produce anything anyway. Feilhaber's ability to find the final ball and spark an attack increases exponentially when surrounded by better attacking talent, and with finishers like Donovan, Gomez, and Wondolowski, it's unarguable that he would find that quality increase. Nguyen, on the other hand, provides an on-the-ball talent that simply doesn't exist on this roster. He's a dribbler, and the ball really doesn't leave his feet unless he wants it to; only Shea, and maybe Beasley, can bring that, and we've already established that Shea's poor form excludes him.
Defensively, Klinsmann has picked a strong contingent in terms of his MLS contributors. Matt Besler and Steven Beitashour deserve the opportunity they're being given. But Michael Orozco Fiscal? Given that he's based in Mexico, his selection maybe makes sense, but the experiment of Orozco Fiscal with the national team is one that's been done already by Klinsmann, and with absolutely no success.
Enter A.J. Soares. A.J. had a rookie-of-the-year-caliber season in 2011 and has followed it up with a strong 2012. He might not be quite ready for the big stage of the US National Team - especially not at the Azteca - but if Klinsmann is going to blood Besler and Beitashour in a trial by fire, why not Soares? And as a dark horse, what about Stephen McCarthy? Realistically, Macca is miles away from even being in a fringe conversation for the national team, but lately his play has been even stronger than Soares'. There is no doubt that McCarthy has much to learn about playing center-back, but it's equally obvious that he's picking it up incredibly fast. His distribution out of the back has improved dramatically, and his presence in the air is nothing short of dominant.
Klinsmann theoretically wouldn't have had to drop Orozco Fiscal to bring in either Soares or Macca, either. The lack of defensive depth on this 23-man roster has been lamented already, and Maurice Edu may be poised to make a start back there which, if recent history teaches us anything, is not a good look. Losing Agudelo or Shea (probably Shea for the sake of roster balance) for one of the Revs' defenders would not necessarily be a bad idea.
This is purely hypothetical. The fact is, the Revs are not playing well enough for any of their players to show up on Klinsmann's radar, and that's not going to change until they can start stringing together wins, or at least solid performances. Numbers are going to change minds at this point, and for right now, none of the players mentioned here are producing at a high enough level.
Which Revolution players do you think have a shot at USMNT call-ups in the near(ish) future? What did you think of Jurgen Klinsmann's roster decisions? Let us know in the comments!