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Predicting the USMNT Copa Centenario Roster

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Jurgen Klinsmann's 40 man roster was without controversy, but the hard part is narrowing down that 40 to the 23 that will ultimately represent the nation in Copa Centenario. Here are one Brotherly Game contributor's picks for that final roster.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

I do not envy the job of Jurgen Klinsmann. Trying to piece together just 23 players to cover any situation during an international tournament is no easy task. Based on the 40 man roster than Klinsmann named already, I took my own stab at who I would pick to comprise that 23 man roster. To do that, I categorized all of the players into 5 categories:

  • Locks (L): the players that absolutely should be on the team as long as they are healthy
  • Favorites (F): players that would be considered very likely to make the roster
  • Cover (C): Mostly there to round out the roster and provide coverage for the first choice players
  • Bubble (B): Very easily could be coverage players, but ended up on the wrong side
  • Reserve (R): Least likely to make the roster and would require injuries ahead of them to make the final roster
Players ranked as Locks or Favorites are picked to make the roster.

Goalkeepers:

(L) Brad Guzan - Aston Villa/England
(F) Tim Howard - Everton/England
(C) Nick Rimando - Real Salt Lake
(B) David Bingham - San Jose Earthquakes
(R) Ethan Horvath - Molde/Norway

The goalkeeper position is still firmly in hands of Brad Guzan and Tim Howard, but this may be the last tournament that they are obvious picks. Bingham and Horvath are closing the gap and this pre-tournament camp will be a great learning experience for future tournaments. Nick Rimando is nearing the end of his international career and this may be his last tournament before being overtaken by the younger group.

Defenders

(L) Matt Besler - Sporting Kansas City
(L) John Brooks - Hertha Berlin/Germany
(L) Geoff Cameron - Stoke City/England
(L) Edgar Castillo - Monterrey/Mexico
(L) DeAndre Yedlin - Sunderland/England
(F) Timothy Chandler - Eintracht Frankfurt/Germany
(C) Steve Birnbaum - DC United
(C) Brad Evans - Seattle Sounders

This group is going to be the core defenders as long as they are healthy. The comprise the most experienced players and those who have shown the best in their caps with the national team. It would be a shock not to see these names on the final roster.

The Locks comprised the bulk of the defensive unit, and there were just a limited number of spots remaining. Evans has been in and out of the national team, and while not the best talent, has had positive appearances. Chandler has a great deal of potential, but we're all still waiting for it to come together on the international stage. Finally Birnbaum is a young talent that is on the cusp of taking that step to USMNT contributor.

(B) Ventura Alvarado - Club America/Mexico
(B) Omar Gonzalez - Pachuca/Mexico
(B) Tim Ream - Fulham/England
(R) Kellyn Acosta - FC Dallas
(R) Eric Lichaj - Nottingham Forest/England
(R) Matt Miazga - Chelsea/England
(R) Michael Orozco - Club Tijuana/Mexico

The one thing to watch with this group is how important it is to Klinsmann to have players with Central American playing experience on the roster. There's a very good chance he sees these players as a way to cope with the playing styles of the teams they'll face and those with LigaMX experience could find themselves on the final roster.

Midfielders

(L) Kyle Beckerman - Real Salt Lake
(L) Michael Bradley - Toronto FC
(L) Fabian Johnson - Borussia Moenchengladbach/Germany)
(L) Jermaine Jones - Colorado Rapids
(F) Perry Kitchen - Heart of Midlothian/Scotland
(F) Darlington Nagbe - Portland Timbers
(C) Alejandro Bedoya - FC Nantes/France

Beyond the obvious Locks, this is a tough group to pick as it all depends on the approach Klinsmann takes with setting up the formations. If we've learned anything from the most recent qualifiers, it's that the most important role is the holding midfield to help cover the center backs. Beckerman was able to do that in the last qualifier to much success and should be in the first team again. Jones and Kitchen also could cover this role, with Jones offering more going forward. Bradley is given more freedom with a solid defensive partner in midfield and Johnson offers width and creativity. Nagbe and Bedoya are versatile options that can work both inside or on the wings. Those types are very valuable on a limited roster.

(B) Mix Diskerud - New York City FC
(B) Lee Nguyen - New England Revolution
(B) Graham Zusi - Sporting Kansas City
(R) Alfredo Morales - Ingolstadt/Germany
(R) Danny Williams - Reading FC/England

To be completely honest, any of the Bubble players could beat out Bedoya for the last midfield spot. This is a tough group to pick between. In the end, Bedoya has had more success with the national team and his familiarity with the coaching staff and team is what puts him above the others. It would be very surprising to see Morales or Williams earn a spot on the final roster. They have had very limited interaction and success with the USMNT first team.

Forwards

(L) Jozy Altidore - Toronto FC
(L) Clint Dempsey - Seattle Sounders
(F) Jordan Morris - Seattle Sounders
(F) Bobby Wood - Union Berlin/Germany
(C) Christian Pulisic - Borussia Dortmund/Germany

For the most part, this group should be no surprise. Altidore and Dempsey are clear leaders and Morris and Wood have been routinely in the side if they are healthy. Altidore's recent injury certainly opens the door for a bubble player to make the roster. Pulisic is bursting onto the scene as his amazing story continues to unfold with one of the best teams in the world. Klinsmann's admiration for players playing at the highest level possible makes it almost impossible for him to leave Pulisic off the list. Get him the experience and continue his development on a new stage.

(B) Chris Wondolowski - San Jose Earthquakes
(B) Gyasi Zardes - LA Galaxy
(R) Ethan Finlay - Columbus Crew

Wondolowski somehow continues to make rosters, even after 90% of the USMNT fan base would have left him for dead. At some point his run is going to end and with young prospects on the rise, this is as good a time as ever. The one surprise on this list is Zardes, who is loses his spot that seemed like a certainty a year ago, to the young Pulisic. Finlay is probably a little way out from making a 23 man roster and could be pushing for the 2018 World Cup.

EDIT: With Jozy being bitten by the injury bug yet again during a major tournament, it leaves the door open for one of the three that would be left out to make their way onto the roster. The debate becomes is it Wondolowski who is a target forward, or Zardes who is a more exciting option, but leaves the roster lacking a true target forward. The only other option is to bring in someone not in the preliminary roster that can play that same style. The option that comes to mind would be CJ Sapong. There isn't a healthy option in the US player pool playing better than Sapong as a target, hold up style lone forward. It would be quite a surprise for Klinsmann to go so off script and bring in a player out of the blue, but in my opinion, would be the best for the balance of the roster.

Most likely Altidore replacement: Chris Wondolowski

Let us know how we did. Who did we include that shouldn't be anywhere close to the roster, and who is an obvious must pick that was left off? Keep an eye out for further coverage as the Copa Centenario grows closer and make sure to get your tickets as Philadelphia plays host to the final USMNT group stage encounter.