USMNT roster decision looms: Which MLS players made their cases in Week 2?
U.S. men’s national team manager Bruce Arena will unveil his roster on Wednesday for this month’s two critical World Cup qualifiers. Here’s a second glance at some of his MLS-based options – which players helped themselves in Week 2 of league play, and which ones may have reduced their chances of getting recalled.
Note: This is not a comprehensive list. All totaled, there are nearly 30 MLS players appearing somewhere along Arena’s depth chart.
Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Even in an offense that is struggling to create good chances, Altidore is doing his job, making things hard on opposing defenses. In Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Philadelphia, he drew a (controversial) penalty and then converted the spot shot.
Greg Garza (Atlanta United FC)
Like everyone on a team that wins 6-1 on the road, Garza looked great. Even in Minnesota’s fluffy white conditions, he managed to attack confidently down his side. Garza looks more and more like a guy who can ably hold that perennially problematic U.S. left fullback spot.
Tim Howard (Colorado)
No one did more to improve his positioning over the weekend. Never mind that he was playing for the first time in almost four months, clearly having recovered from last year’s playoff injury. Howard was outstanding in a 1-0 loss (on an own goal) at the New York Red Bulls, still capable of game-changing saves.
Here’s what Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch had to say about Howard’s quick return to such a high level: “… I've seen enough of him to know how good he is and how talented and athletic. He's a big-save keeper. So I wasn't surprised to see that.”
Bruce Arena says he needs to see how Howard comes through in recovery from his first match back, but the U.S. manager sounds like a man who really wants Howard in camp next week.
Matt Hedges (FC Dallas)
Of FCD’s preferred back four, only Hedges started and manned his usual spot ahead of Dallas’ mid-week Champions League visit from Pachuca. So he was the glue guy as Oscar Pareja’s team absorbed a lot of pressure and conceded a high percentage of possession but generally kept Sporting KC from creating good scoring chances. Dallas kept the clean sheet.
Sebastian Lletget (L.A. Galaxy)
Versatility is one of his strengths, and that’s something national team managers prize when they assemble these rosters. So you’d better believe that Arena, in attendance at the StubHub Center on Sunday, noticed Lletget started in a wide position before shifting to central midfield when the 10-man Galaxy accounted for an early red card.
Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers)
With 18-year-old Marco Farfan behind him, Nagbe spent a lot of time protecting the Timbers’ fill-in left back, who was knee deep in his first MLS appearance. Nagbe’s 10 defensive recoveries was second best among the Timbers.
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
A goal and an assist (plus a big part of the game-changing sequence, as Vancouver’s goalkeeper was ejected) will certainly get any manager’s attention. There are lots of quality strikers/attackers ahead of him (Altidore, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris and perhaps Clint Dempsey, just for instance), but Arena needs steady hands. Wondo is trusty that way.