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Evaluating the USMNT Gold Cup Roster

A new era of US Men’s National Team soccer started on November 22nd of this past year, when Bruce Arena was appointed as USA’s head coach for the second time, replacing Jurgen Klinsmann after six years at the helm. Arena has already improved the US’s position in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, with 3 wins, 4 draws, and 1 loss since he took over, but he will have his first big test coming up in a week at the start of the 2017 Gold Cup.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup, as opposed to every other confederation’s tournament in the world, is played every two years instead of four. The two winners play each other in a play-off to determine who goes to the Confederations Cup, which is played the summer before every World Cup. Because of this, powerhouse teams in the CONCACAF such as the U.S. and Mexico will not field their best teams in this year’s Gold Cup, but will wait until 2019 to try to cement a spot in the 2021 Confederations Cup. This means USMNT fans may not see a lot of familiar faces as the tournament starts a week from today, such as 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund star Christian Pulisic, who Arena already confirmed will not be playing in the tournament to keep him healthy for upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

However, this means that American soccer fans get to see a lot of young and unproven talent, mixed in with some experience. This article will go over every position group for the 23-man Gold Cup roster, and let you know which young (or old) stars to keep an eye on.

This squad will certainly want to win the Cup, but for Bruce Arena, the primary goal is to give several fringe players the opportunity to burst onto the scene, such as U.S. stars Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley did in this same tournament in 2004 and 2002, respectively.



  • Brad Guzan
  • Bill Hamid
  • Sean Johnson

No surprises here, Arena opted to go with veteran Brad Guzan who has been consistent between the sticks in his international career. Hamid has excelled in his MLS career with D.C. United, but has only made two appearances in a USA shirt, while Johnson is currently with New York City FC, and has made five appearances for the national team. Arena will likely save Tim Howard, who is nearing the twilight of his career for World Cup Qualifiers and possible the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia. Another name many USMNT fans expected to see was Ethan Horvath, the 22-year-old currently plays for Club Brugge in Belgium and could be a mainstay with the U.S. after Howard decides to hang up his gloves, but Horvath also will sit this one out.

Expect to see Guzan start, but I would not be surprised if Arena did some rotating to get Hamid and Johnson in the mix, at least in the group stage.



  • Matt Besler
  • Omar Gonzalez
  • Matt Hedges
  • Eric Lichaj
  • Matt Miazga
  • Justin Morrow
  • Jorge Villafana
  • Graham Zusi

This group has a good mix of veterans and unproven players. Guys like Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, and Graham Zusi have had many appearances with the USMNT at a variety of positions, particularly Zusi, who can play as an outside back or on the wing. The player I am most excited to see in this group is Matt Miazga. The 22-year-old has represented the U.S. on many national team levels, and could have chosen to represent Poland because of his heritage, but it appears he will stick to the states. Miazga earned a move to Chelsea from the New York Red Bulls last year, and is currently on loan at Dutch club Vitesse. Look for him to make an impact at center back. Miazga has two CAPS with the national team.

Someone else to keep an eye on in this group for me is Eric Lichaj, the 28-year-old outside back is coming off a good year at Championship club Nottingham Forest, where he captained the side and was named “Forest’s Player of the Year” by the club’s fans. With only 11 USMNT appearances, this could be Lichaj’s last chance to make himself a part of Arena’s plans going forward.

27-year-old FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges will be trying to make his mark as well, Hedges was named 2016 MLS Defender of the Year and has two CAPS with the national team.



  • Kellyn Acosta
  • Paul Arriola
  • Alejandro Bedoya
  • Joe Corona
  • Dax McCarty
  • Cristian Roldan
  • Kelyn Rowe
  • Kenny Saief
  • Gyasi Zardes

USA fans will be familiar with guys like Alejandro Bedoya and Gyasi Zardes, but I think the man to keep an eye on not only in this position group, but in the whole squad is Kellyn Acosta. The 21-year-old FC Dallas midfielder has risen the USMNT ranks, and many believe he will be a regular for the U.S. going forward. Early in Acosta’s career he was deployed as a fullback, but has made the transition to the defensive midfield and that is where Bruce Arena will use him. As Jermaine Jones slowly moves out of the USMNT picture, Acosta may be the perfect option to take his place. With excellent vision, link-up play and the willingness to surge up field and score, Acosta has had an excellent start to the season with FC Dallas, and fans can expect to see him consistently in this Gold Cup as well as in Bruce Arena’s plans for the future.

Also, keep an eye out for Cristian Roldan, the hard-nosed Sounders midfielder reads the game very well, and can perform several duties in the midfield, Roldan will be making his first USMNT appearance soon. Kenny Saeif is another to look out for, the 23-year-old Israeli-American attacking midfielder playing for Belgian side Gent has made two appearances for Israel, but has switched his allegiance to the U.S. and will likely see the field in this tournament.

EDIT: Saeif has suffered a groin injury in the build-up to the tournament, he will be replaced by Chris Pontius. The 30-year-old Philadelphia Union attacking midfielder has two international appearances for the US.



  • Juan Agudelo
  • Dom Dwyer
  • Jordan Morris

Rising star Jordan Morris is already a fixture with the national team, and will likely lead the line in the Gold Cup, but look for Dom Dwyer to make an impact. The 26-year-old was born English, but moved to the U.S. to play for the University of South Florida, and has 57 goals in his 128 appearances for Sporting Kansas City. Dwyer is unproven on the international stage, and this is his first call-up, so it remains to be seen if he can translate his success in the MLS to the USMNT. Juan Agudelo is a player who made an impression at an early age, becoming the youngest American national team goalscorer in 2010, (a record later broken by Christian Pulisic) but has since fallen off the national team map. His good form recently with New England Revolution has seen him earn another call-up.


Expect to see a lot of rotation from Bruce Arena, particularly in the group stage, experimenting with different formations. Each squad is allowed six changes to their team after the group stage, and we may see some more experienced guys come into the fold as the tournament goes on, so many of these fringe players know this is their shot. Also, expect to see a few of them in USA’s friendly today against old World Cup rival Ghana.

The USMNT will open their Gold Cup campaign on June 8th, at 3:30 PM EST against Panama, then will follow that up with a 7:30 PM EST matchup with Martinique on July 12th, and will close out the group stage against Nicaragua on July 15th at 6:00 PM EST.

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