By Charles Boehm – WASHINGTON, DC (Mar 9, 2018) US Soccer Players - March is well underway, bringing with it the onset of the MLS season and the decisive stretch run of most European campaigns. While it may feel like January camp just ended a few weeks ago, it’s nearly time for interim USMNT coach Dave Sarachan – whose contract was recently extended further into 2018 as the search process for the next boss cranks into full gear – to release his next roster.
The USMNT will host Paraguay in a friendly in Cary, North Carolina on March 27, their only game this spring. This game falls inside FIFA’s international window, so Sarachan, at least on paper, will have his full choice of anyone he wants in the USMNT player pool.
The observations gained from the MLS-heavy January camp are fresh in his mind. Depending on how the coaching staff wants to approach it, the group could trend younger with an eye toward the future. Or, he could recognize whomever is playing the best soccer right now.
A look at recent USMNT rosters combined with a wider evaluation of the player pool suggests that Sarachan and his staff have lots of options and tough decisions ahead. Meanwhile, those January camp players are now playing club games that count. Here's a rundown of how they're doing in league play.
Zach Steffen took the three points ahead of his fellow USMNT Alex Bono in a quality MLS curtain-raiser in Toronto. Steffen backstopped Columbus Crew SC to a clean-sheet victory over mighty Toronto FC. Both keepers made two saves. Bono was the busier of the two despite TFC’s possession advantage.
Cody Cropper stayed home to recover from an illness when the New England Revolution traveled to Philadelphia and lost 2-0 to the Union in MLS Week 1. New Revs coach Brad Friedel made it clear that surprise starter Matt Turner had outpaced both Cropper and veteran Brad Knighton to the #1 spot anyway.
In Denmark, Bill Hamid has moved through the arrival phase at Midtjylland and made the 18-player game day roster as a substitute last weekend. We’ll eventually see how long it takes him to move into a neck-and-neck battle with current starter Jesper Hansen. With the Ulvene (Wolves) currently running in second place in the Superligaen, it could be a tall task.
Nick Lima and Justen Glad went the full 90 in positive results for San Jose and Real Salt Lake, respectively. Justin Morrow (TFC) and Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City) did so in unexpected setbacks on home soil. Tim Parker was the subject of a trade from Vancouver to the Red Bulls. Instead of playing in the Whitecaps’ MLS match, he stepped straight into the starting lineup for RBNY as they upset Tijuana in a 2-0 CCL first-leg road win.
Danny Acosta is battling with Demar Phillips for RSL’s starting left back job. Phillips started the Week 1 draw vs FC Dallas but came off injured. Acosta replaced him for the last 13 minutes. Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster appear to be Chicago’s starting fullbacks heading into their season opener against Sporting KC on Saturday. Walker Zimmerman failed a late fitness test on a hamstring problem, removed from the lineup sheet for LAFC’s inaugural match, a 1-0 upset of Seattle.
As expected given their strong 2017s, Tyler Adams, Marky Delgado ,and Cristian Roldan are right at the heart of their teams’ engine rooms, and thus their CCL campaigns as well. All three made key contributions in quarterfinal first-leg triumphs for RBNY, TFC, and the Sounders. Toronto and Seattle both lost at home in their league openers, though, hinting at the difficulties of fighting on multiple fronts so early in the season.
Paul Arriola led the charge for DC United as they conceded an injury-time equalizer to Orlando but still managed to sweat out a 1-1 road draw. His teammate Ian Harkes logged half an hour off the bench, and Russell Canouse missed out due to injury. Kelyn Rowe had to settle for a substitute appearance for New England, who suffered two red cards in a dispiriting 2-0 loss at Philadelphia.
Wil Trapp was at or near his quietly influential best in deep midfield as Columbus ambushed Toronto. Marlon Hairston and the Colorado Rapids had a bye on opening weekend. Based on their CCL series the Mississippi native seems to have quickly carved out a significant role as a wingback in new coach Anthony Hudson’s 3-5-2 system.
The offseason trade to Columbus is working for Gyasi Zardes, now the lone striker in Gregg Berhalter’s well-orchestrated system. He scored regularly in preseason before doing so in Crew SC’s impressive win at Toronto. Performing much the same role for Philadelphia, CJ Sapong netted one goal, assisted on another and created a game-changing denial of a goal scoring opportunity red card in the Union’s win.
Rubio Rubin earned CCL minutes off the bench for Tijuana against the Red Bulls, while Juan Agudelo started and played 55 minutes for the Revs. Brooks Lennon didn’t make the trip to Dallas with RSL. Instead, he playing and scored twice for USL side Real Monarchs in a preseason game. Salt Lake coach Mike Petke explained that move as mostly a numbers game.
Dom Dwyer, Jordan Morris, and Christian Ramirez are all battling injuries along a spectrum from nagging to season-ending.
More from Charles Boehm:
- Supporters groups in modern MLS
- Tommy Thompson wants to entertain
- MLS and young domestic players: Will anything change in 2018?
- MLS power still in the East for 2018
(Photo by Michael Janosz - ISIPhotos.com)