On Sunday, USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann finalized his roster for the United States' playoff match against Mexico. Opting for experience, his selections include 16 members of the 2014 U.S. World Cup Squad—four of whom have recorded more than 100 caps for the Yanks (Michael Bradley, DeMarcus Beasley, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard).
After failing to make Klinsmann's Gold Cup roster back in June, Lee Nguyen was not invited to join teammate Jermaine Jones on the final, 23-man CONCACAF Cup roster. Midfielders Bradley, Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Graham Zusi, DeAndre Yedlin, Alejandro Bedoya and Danny Williams will suit up for the match in Nguyen's place.
Should the veteran midfielder have made Klinsmann's roster? Our staff weighs in.
As a change of pace from his recent USMNT selections, Klinsmann selected a veteran-heavy roster filled with familiar names. His philosophy—at least for a one-off match—makes sense. But is he missing a Nguyen-like explosive midfielder? If his team is trailing in the waning moments, does he have a game-changing substitute who can
immediately create a goal? I just don't think he does.
Instead of adding attacking firepower, Klinsmann brought three holding midfielders (Beckerman, Williams, Jones) into the fold. By swapping Nguyen with one of these defensive-minded players, Klinsmann would have added depth at the No. 10 spot, allowing Nguyen to use his vision and creativity to set up a late goal. Perhaps this would have suited his team well; after all, the USMNT could have used an explosive substitute (or starter, even) in its last match against Brazil.
Lee Nguyen is a fantastic player for the New England Revolution and would be just as great for the USMNT. However, if called in, we all know that Klinsmann wouldn't play the creative midfielder. Despite his eye for a pass, underrated defensive work, and shiftiness in midfield, Klinsmann just doesn't favor Nguyen.
I don't have any logical explanation for that, so this stance is only for the sake of not wasting a roster spot. Nobody knows how the Mexico game will unfold, but at some point Klinsmann's hand will be forced. For the sake of pragmatism, it's better that Klinsmann has someone on the bench he actually plans on using. It shouldn't be the case, but Nguyen isn't in Klinsmann's deck.
Let's assume that Klinsmann is going to resort to a more familiar lineup/formation for the CONCACAF Cup, perhaps sliding Michael Bradley back to his best holding midfielder role alongside a Jones/Williams/Beckerman. You'll probably see Clint Depmsey in a withdrawn forward/CAM role behind Jozy Altidore up top and then you have some options out wide. Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin have both locked down those spots in recent months but Graham Zusi getting his first call up in what seems like forever could be telling. It's likely that Alejandro Bedoya will start somewhere in the midfield and having him wide left with an overlapping Fabian Johnson or DaMarcus Beasley at fullback is a strong possibility.
But as far as substitutions go, a Lee Nguyen-like player off the bench is missing for Jurgen Klinsmann. Sure, Bedoya could slide into the center or Bradley could move up, but there's no true central attacking player on the bench at all for the U.S. in this game. Nguyen, Mix Diskerud, Alfredo Morales and Joe Corona, all solid and versatile attacking/two-way players, didn't make the cut on the final roster. That leaves the U.S. especially thin at CAM besides Bradley and Dempsey who are both, as far as I'm concerned, a CDM and striker, respectfully. We'll just have to wait and see what Klinsmann has in store for Saturday night.
Match kicks off at 9:30 PM ET (Fox Sports 1, Univision, UDN) from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. To view the complete USMNT roster ahead of Saturday's showdown with Mexico, visit MLSSoccer.com.