6 players who have made their case to be part of the USMNT's Gold Cup
Emerson Hyndman, Rangers midfielder
What a leap the 21-year-old has taken over the last year. Last May he was still fighting for minutes at Fulham. But a move into the Premier League and then a loan into Rangers, one of Scotland’s clubs of lore, has worked out splendidly. The young box-to-box midfielder was a regular at Ibrox from the beginning of his January loan, totaling four goals in 21 appearances.
He did so well in the loan that Bournemouth has waved off transfer overtures, reiterating more than once that Hyndman is not for sale. One thing to keep our eyes on: the Texan appears to be done for the year with Rangers; he has just returned to England for treatment of a foot injury.
Danny Williams, Reading midfielder
As a box-to-box guy, he may be ahead of Hyndman at present; Williams is a regular starter at Reading, a Championship club still very much in contention for promotion into the Premier League. But at 28 years old, he surely is what he is. That’s different from Hyndman, who may have more upside.
But for someone who could be a like-for-like replacement for Michael Bradley – should the Toronto FC man be injured or just not able to get his game where it needs to be – Williams has far more experience. In fact, Williams’ game looks a lot like Bradley’s; he can play as a defensive midfielder, although his tackling is better suited as a No. 8 than as a true, holding No. 6. Remember, Williams was a starter for Klinsmann during the previous cycle of World Cup qualifiers, but lost his place after a run of injuries.
Eric Lichaj, Nottingham Forest defender
Right back is a tricky spot right now for the U.S. men’s national team. DeAndre Yedlin has a chance to grab the position and make it his for years and years to come, the way Steve Cherundolo did for so long in the previous decade. So, in that way, all is well and swell. But who is behind him? Graham Zusi is successfully making the switch at Sporting KC, but he is perhaps not sufficiently adept to handle a critical World Cup qualifier.
Arena would find himself in a pickle if Yedlin weren’t available for one of the biggies ahead. That’s where Lichaj comes in. Now 28, he’s in outstanding form, having just been named Forest’s Player of the Year. And how about this for a bonus: Lichaj can play comfortably along the back line on the right or the left, as he explains here.
Steve Davis’ column, America’s Game, appears weekly on FourFourTwo USA. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveDavis90.