Here are 6 players Bruce Arena needs to get back in the USMNT fold
GK Bill Hamid, D.C. United
Bruce Arena went with experience in the latest round of qualifiers, opting to bring Nick Rimando as his third goalkeeper. But it’s clear that the U.S. needs to start preparing for life without Tim Howard, and it needs a goalkeeper to push Brad Guzan.
Hamid is the best young goalkeeper in MLS, and while he may fight consistency issues, he is a talent that can be developed into the next starter for the U.S. men’s national team. Arena will not throw Hamid into the starting lineup for must-win games against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, but he needs to start getting Hamid as much as experience as possible, even if it means he’s on the trips and on the bench for the big games.
There is no guarantee Howard will be at the necessary level next summer, and the line of succession for the goalkeeper position feels as shaky as it ever has. It’s simple preparation to get Hamid some more call-ups and as much experience as possible.
CB Matt Miazga, Vitesse
If there was one problem that surfaced more than any other in the last two qualifiers, it was the struggles at center back. Arena has rotated his partnerships consistently since taking over, partly due to injury, and there is a lack of chemistry at the position that has proved costly.
The U.S. has actually looked its best defensively when playing three at the back, and that means more options may be needed at the position. Miazga showed well during his time with the national team at the Gold Cup, and despite being loaned out by Chelsea again, Miazga is getting minutes with Vitesse in the Dutch Eredivisie.
His physical presence may be just what the U.S. needs at the center of a three-man back line, with players like Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron on the outside able to be on the ball more often. Miazga also has good athleticism and strength to compete with the types of forwards the U.S. will see against Panama, as well as Trinidad and Tobago.
LB Justin Morrow, Toronto FC
We already touched on the center back struggles, but the U.S. clearly lacks depth at the fullback position, and Arena can’t count on DaMarcus Beasley as a shoe-in to push Jorge Villafaña for another year. Beasley showed his age as much as he ever has against Honduras, and Villafaña hasn’t exactly put a lockdown on the starting job. Fabian Johnson wants to remain in midfield, and if he’s not going to be moved back to the left back job, the U.S. needs to start finding more competition at the spot.
Morrow was called up for the Gold Cup and didn’t do enough to impress Arena, but he has been one of the best left backs in MLS this season and deserves another shot to prove he can cut it at the international level. His attacking quality fits in with how the U.S. wants its fullbacks to play, and Morrow has also proved to be a solid defender with Toronto FC.
If Arena wants to add more competition to the job, Morrow is the best option.
DM Danny Williams, Huddersfield Town
The U.S. has struggled to figure out what its midfield is going to look like, but Michael Bradley looked better when he partnered with Kellyn Acosta against Honduras. Is a 4-2-3-1 in the USMNT’s future? Or a 3-5-2? If so, Williams provides another solid option to partner with Bradley and cover ground defensively to give Bradley more time and space to work on the ball.
Williams has played just 62 minutes in two Premier League games this season, but he impressed last year in the Championship with Reading, and earning time in the Premier League is noteworthy. While Acosta and Cristian Roldan have plenty to prove they deserve call-ups, Williams also is worthy of a look from Arena.
It may not be ideal to bring Williams in for his first call up since October 2016, but right now, the U.S. is searching for answers. Adding a player like Williams may be a decent spark in midfield to push some of the younger players.
MF Sacha Kljestan, New York Red Bulls
If the U.S. is going to continue to use Christian Pulisic in a wide role, whether in a 4-4-2, 3-5-2 or 4-2-3-1, it needs to find a true playmaker that can dictate the game from a central role. Darlington Nagbe failed to impress in that role against Costa Rica, and Clint Dempsey isn’t a natural 10; he’s best when playing up top.
Enter Kljestan, who is playing some of his best soccer right now for the Red Bulls. Kljestan leads MLS with 3.4 key passes per game, and his influence has helped New York stay in the mix for a top-4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Kljestan was part of Arena’s January camp, playing 77 minutes in a game against Serbia before being released due to the upcoming birth of a child. He hasn’t been called back since.
Arena’s team needs a playmaker, and Kljestan’s experience may give him the nod.
MF Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution
While Kljestan has been playing fantastic soccer for the Red Bulls, Nguyen has been flying mostly under the radar despite a standout season for the Revs. The 30-year-old recently turned some heads with a record-tying four-assist performance in New England’s 4-0 win over Orlando City, and Nguyen now has eight goals and 14 assists this season.
His influence in the final third is clear: Nguyen averages three key passes per game and he is now tied for the league-lead in assists while ranking tied for eighth for most goals by a midfielder in MLS.
Nguyen hasn’t been called up since February 2016, but if Arena is considering adding a playmaker to the midfield, Nguyen has done plenty to prove he’s worth a look.