These five players have the most to gain from a Gold Cup stint with USMNT
Bruce Arena's 40-man preliminary roster for next month's CONCACAF Gold Cup included a number of players who have resided on the periphery of the U.S. men’s national team, but have done enough with their clubs to deserve a shot to show they belong.
Here's their opportunity, although going through the paces when Arena's pre-tournament camp opens in three weeks might depend on what they do with their club teams the next few games. Only the 23 players on the final roster will make the trip to Nashville, where the team gathers June 25.
Which players have the most to gain from their inclusion on this list? Which stand the best chance of turning this call-up into a regular gig? Here are five:
5. KELLYN ACOSTA
The FC Dallas midfielder has been climbing the ladder since his mid-teens, representing the U.S. at a U-17 World Cup and at two U-20 World Cups, and he picked up his sixth full cap in Saturday's draw with Venezuela. He is also in the mix for the upcoming qualifiers against Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico.
Acosta turns 22 next month, but is in his fifth professional season and in superb form, building hugely on last year's breakout campaign. Bruce Arena understands that the prized FC Dallas academy product is a central midfielder, not a fullback, and he might be the best bet to step into the No. 8 spot next to Michael Bradley at the No. 6.
Acosta is athletic, runs forever, is two-footed, very good on the ball, and he can pick out passes others miss. He has already played in two World Cup qualifiers, and here's his chance to climb among the first-choice XI.
4. CRISTIAN ROLDAN
The Seattle Sounders' third-year central midfielder is a prospect for the future, to be sure, and if he can quickly adjust to this level -- as he has with every jump in standard he's faced -- the future might be now.
There has been a loud call for Roldan's inclusion since he broke out big during the Sounders' title run last year, and he has the skill, vision, intelligence and competitive fire to compete for a slot within the U.S. midfield hierarchy. He has evolved, under the mentorship of Seattle captain Osvaldo Alonso, into one of MLS' finest box-to-box midfielders. Roldan is terrific defender adept at closing passing lanes and making timely tackles. His touch and vision have been vital to the team's attack and possession game.
Roldan, who turned 22 on Saturday, also qualifies for El Salvador and Guatemala, so cap-tying him now would be a plus.
3. DOM DWYER
This call-up has been a fait accompli since the 26-year-old England-born striker took his citizenship oath back in March, and if there's something the U.S. could use, it's someone with a nose for the net.
Dwyer scores goals. He has 50 in the past three seasons with Sporting Kansas City, a total bettered in MLS only by the New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips, and he scores them in bunches: 10 multigoal games. He's crafty and gritty and works hard, does the important things that too often aren't noticed, and he plays with great courage, and those are assets that would play well in combination with nearly every other option Arena has up top. When -- if? -- he sees his first international action, he and wife Sydney Leroux will become the Yanks' first capped couple.
2. JONATHAN SPECTOR
The 31-year-old defender debuted for the United States back in 2004, has made 36 international appearances, and was part of the 2010 World Cup squad. But now is his best chance to assert himself within the primary pool since the 2009 Confederations Cup, where he started at right back for Bob Bradley.
Spector has been spectacular anchoring Orlando City's backline since his January arrival following 14 years in England, primarily with West Ham United and Birmingham City; his tenacity, intelligence, and ability to read the game and direct teammates could vault him into a battle for playing time at center back, and he can step in at outside back if needed.
Spector's résumé includes a stint with Manchester United, but his international career, to now, has been a disappointment. He was an afterthought during Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure, making just three appearances after 2011, the last in the friendly that followed the Americans' extra-time loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup 20 months ago at the Rose Bowl.
1. JESSE GONZALEZ
The most stunning name on Arena's 40-player preliminary roster was the 22-year-old FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, and if what we're hearing is true, his presence here is as much a test for U.S. Soccer as for Gonzalez himself.
He's the most prized young goalkeeper in North America, is in wondrous form for the Hoops, and if he makes the 23-man roster, according to reports, he'll commit to the Yanks. If not, he's Mexico's. Giving him a roster spot and cap-tying him should be a foremost goal for the U.S., which had looked certain to miss out on the North Carolina-born, Texas-bred shot-stopper.
Gonzalez is 6-foot-4, excellent with his feet, and has the quickness to get down to make tough saves. It enabled him to snatch the No. 1 job at Dallas midway through the 2015 season and again this year after losing the post last year. He's been in Mexico's youth national teams program for years, and he initially accepted when he was first called in by the Yanks, by Klinsmann for the January 2016 camp, before taking a U-turn and reporting to El Tri's U-23 camp. Now that he's had a change of heart, the door is once again open for the United States.
Scott French is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJFrench.