Last week United States men's national team (USMNT) coach Jurgen Klinsmann released his 26 man roster for this month's camp, which will conclude in a February 1 friendly with fellow World Cup 2014 participant South Korea. With the exception of Mix Diskerud , every player on the roster currently plays in MLS. The roster includes USMNT regulars such as Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson, MLS veterans like Mike Magee and Chance Myers getting first call-ups after strong club seasons, and young players with exciting upside in Luis Gil, Shane O'Neill, and DeAndre Yedlin.
No players from the hometown Union were called up by the German coach. Should this matter*?
(* I chose not to use the word snub because it's holds little meaning. This camp and friendlies do not take place during an official FIFA international break, limiting the pool of talent for this roster to MLS and Scandinavian leagues. Most of this roster will not be on the plane to Brazil in June.)
AmericanSoccerNow, a website dedicated to the USMNT, puts up a list of top 100 American players in the world eligible to be selected for national team duties (so no Giuseppe Rossi or Neven Subotic). The list, voted on by a "panel of journalists and former players", features 3 Union players on the list, Let's break down why these three players missed the roster, and their chances of notching an international cap in the future.
Jack McInerney (ASN Rank: 39): Jack is the only Union player that has been selected for the USMNT while playing for the Union (Conor Casey, Jeff Parke, Brian Carroll, and Chris Albright all played for the national team before coming to the Delaware Valley). After an MVP-caliber 1st half of the season McInerney was selected to the 2013 Gold Cup roster, but failed to make an appearance during America's dominant cup run. McInerney was passed over after a poor second half of the 2013 season. Part of his poor form was his failure to finish golden opportunities, but the collapse of the Union midfield also contributed to the poacher's ineffectiveness.
So if Jack wasn't snubbed for this month's USMNT roster, what about his chances of getting capped in the future? As long as the 21 year old regains some of his early white-hot 2013 form at some point in the future, it's a near certainty he represents the red, white, and blue. Russia 2018 is a reasonable goal for McInerney, but to get there it might require a move to a bigger club overseas. Jack can't afford to squander another season thanks to poor service from the midfield, which is why it's so crucial for Hackworth to find quality creative midfielders in the transfer market to appease his young star forward.
Amobi Okugo (ASN Rank 53): Okugo represented the US during Olympic qualifying in 2012. Transitioning to the centerback from defensive midfielder hasn't slowed down Amobi's rising stock. Considering his strong 2013 season, Okugo has to be one of the biggest omissions on the January camp roster.
Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, and Clarence Goodson are centerbacks with national team experience that are still vying for a starting spot in Brazil. It's understandable that Klinsmann is using this January camp to get another look at the three players. Shane O'Neill is a 20 year centerback that started 24 matches last season for the Colorado Rapids. He impressed US coaches with his performance at the U20 World Cup in Spain last summer, but his club career isn't as great as Okugo's just yet. However, the United States is currently trying to lure the young defender to their senior team player pool as the 20 year old is also still eligible to play for Ireland. Okugo might've gotten caught up in soccer politics and got lost in the shuffle as a result.
Okugo's national team future hopes are pretty murky. He can still play for Nigeria, although it's unlikely that will still happen. It's also unclear whether Okugo will move back to his natural defensive midfielder spot with the Union, where I believe he has a better chance of playing for the USMNT. While the USMNT centerback depth isn't as strong as the defensive midfielder depth right now, it's much younger and tougher for Okugo to fight through. In addition, I believe Amobi would really struggle battling in the air with international-level forwards. Many of the players on the current holding midfielder depth chart (Mo Edu, Kyle Beckerman, Sacha Kljestan, Jermaine Jones) will be way past their prime when Russia 2018 rolls around. Of course, that still leaves Michael Bradley, Danny Williams, and Geoff Cameron (as well as FC Ingolstadt 04 player Alfredo Morales), but Okugo is gifted enough to throw his hat into the ring and grab a international cap at defensive midfielder in the future.
Sheanon Williams (ASN Rank: 89) - Sheanon Williams is one of the best right backs in Major League Soccer. He had no shot of making the January roster. Seth Sinovic, Chance Myers, and Chris Klute had stronger seasons on better teams. Michael Harrington was selected since there aren't many good left backs in MLS. And Deandre Yedlin is one of the most promising young players on the camp roster. One could argue that Williams is a better player than Yedlin right now, but with Yedlin's great instincts and athleticism he has the brighter future.
Like Okugo, Williams also played for the 2012 Olympic qualifying squad, but was only called up after Josh Gatt was recalled by his Norwegian club Molde. Other than a January call-up or an appearance in a friendly, I'm not sure Williams will see much time with the USMNT. The kid is tough as nails and one of the best athletes at the position, but I don't think he's dynamic enough on the offensive end to be an international-level right back. Of course, he could always add tools to his game, like improve his crossing and long range shot. However, as long as Eric Lichaj, Tim Chandler, DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, and Andrew Farrell are continuing to play well, Williams will be fighting an uphill battle.