On Friday, the United States men’s national team will face Cuba on the island nation’s home soil for the first time since 1947. The match is part of the USMNT’s warm-up for its crunch time World Cup qualifier against Mexico next month.
For the match against Cuba and for next week’s clash with New Zealand, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called up the kind of mixture of veterans and up-and-comers we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the past 12 months or so.
The U.S. pool is definitely in a state of transition with veterans like Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, Brad Guzan and Tim Howard all left out of the team this time around. Dempsey remains sidelined by a medical issue and Jones is still working his way back from a knee injury.
It’s the exclusion of Guzan and Howard that’s really raised eyebrows. There’s a heightened sense that Klinsmann is preparing to turn the page from the Howard/Guzan era with Molde’s Ethan Horvath expected to contest for the number one spot with David Bingham of the San Jose Earthquakes and William Yarbrough of Club Leon.
John Brooks of Hertha Berlin has been recalled for another stint at center back, likely alongside Omar Gonzalez of Pachuca. Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron, Gladbach’s Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin of Newcastle are all back in the picture, having distinguished themselves at this summer’s Copa America Centenario.
Up at the other end of the field, the good goal-scoring form of Toronto’s Jozy Altidore has seen him recalled to the attacking lineup along with fellow MLS’ers Jordan Morris of Seattle and Chris Wondolowski of the Earthquakes.
The other two members of the U.S. strike force currently ply their trade in the Bundesliga with Hamburg’s Bobby Wood and Bayern Munich’s Julian Green both included.
While the Yanks suddenly look to have acquired a depth in attack they’ve been sorely lacking in over recent years, it’s in the midfield where the mix is most intriguing.
Mainstays Michael Bradley of TFC and Alejandro Bedoya, now of Philadelphia Union are still onboard, as is NY Red Bull, Sacha Kljestan who impressed in his last call-up. Christian Pulisic is of course the name on most U.S. soccer fans’ lips at the moment.
The Dortmund man is back along with fellow European-based talents Perry Kitchen of Hearts, Danny Williams of Reading and Lynden Gooch, a 20-year-old who’s earned his first cap after a bright start to the season with Sunderland in the English Premier League.
Klinsmann seems to be using what basically amounts to a pair of low-pressure friendlies to give a run out to a few first timers and players who missed the last round of internationals, while maintaining enough of the rejuvenated spine he’s seemingly been building for the team since the Copa.
It will be intriguing to watch who distinguishes themselves and who earns a spot in the roster when the real shooting war begins against Mexico next month.
Tune in for the United States historic away match in Cuba Friday, October 7 at 4:00 pm ET on ESPN. The USA will play New Zealand on Tuesday, October 11 at 8:00pm ET, which you can also catch on ESPN.