For the U.S.’s first match since its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, interim coach Dave Sarachan has called in 21 players that represent a strange, experimental mix of youngsters, veterans and fringe internationals.
Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and defender Cameron Carter-Vickers join McKennie, Adams and Sargent as the five uncapped players in camp. Other fresh, though not completely new faces include goalkeeper Ethan Horvath and midfielder Lynden Gooch.
Among the national team regulars, John Brooks makes his return to the U.S. after missing September’s and October’s qualifiers due to injury. The only holdovers from the 23-man matchday squad in Trinidad are DeAndre Yedlin, Jorge Villafaña, Tim Ream, Kellyn Acosta and Alejandro Bedoya.
The most notable exclusion is Christian Pulisic. It’s an understandable one, though.
“Christian has had a very long year, not only with the national team but finding his way with Borussia Dortmund,” Sarachan explained. “Between his contributions for the national team and his club, he has probably played more total games than almost anyone in our pool this year, and in doing that Christian has really pushed the limits mentally and physically. With those things in mind, this was an opportunity for Christian to get a break and recharge for the rest of an important campaign with Dortmund.”
U.S. ROSTER FOR PORTUGAL FRIENDLY
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Bill Hamid (FC Midtjylland), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)
DEFENDERS (7): John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sheffield United), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Vitesse Arnhem), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher)
The MLS playoffs kept several players off the roster. Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Justin Morrow, Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris, Christian Roldan, DaMarcus Beasley, Zack Steffen, Wil Trapp and others were unavailable for selection due to their preparations for the conference finals.
In addition, Geoff Cameron has been recovering from a concussion. According to U.S. Soccer, Paul Arriola underwent a minor procedure following the conclusion of D.C. United’s season, and Bobby Wood has been struggling with a knee problem at Hamburg. The injuries explain their absences.
“Bobby was excited about the opportunity to come into this camp and was on board to be a part of it,” Sarachan said of Wood. “But he has had a lingering knee issue that has gotten to the point where it needed to be addressed. … Like with Christian, we felt it was better for Bobby to get a little extra time to rest and recover.”
Also excluded were Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Darlington Nagbe, Dax McCarty, Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones.
The only real eyebrow-raising absence is that of Jonathan Gonzalez, an 18-year-old Mexican-American midfielder who has represented the U.S. at youth levels. The northern California native, a fixture at defensive midfield for top-of-the-table Monterrey in Liga MX, has been courted by the Mexican federation as well. But his exclusion is due to his club obligations. Monterrey plays Santos Laguna on Thursday, and Tigres the following weekend.
The U.S. camp will include several promising youngsters, though. McKennie, 19, has been getting regular minutes for Schalke in central midfield. Adams, 18, had a breakout season for the New York Red Bulls playing both central and wide. Miazga, 21, and Carter-Vickers, 19, start game in and game out at center back for Vitesse and Sheffield United, respectively.
Sargent, 17, won the Silver Boot at the Under-20 World Cup, then four months later led the U.S. to the quarterfinals of the Under-17 World Cup. He’s the first player in U.S. history to participate in U-17, U-20 and men’s national team camps in the same calendar year. He’ll be on the move to Bundesliga club Werder Bremen when he turns 18.
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With an already weak striker pool diminished by injury and playoff-related unavailability, Sarachan also handed a shot to C.J. Sapong, the top American goalscorer in MLS this past season. Sapong has not appeared for the U.S. since January of 2012.
“The one word that I would use in reference to all of this is opportunity,” Sarachan said of the roster and camp as a whole. “It’s an opportunity for many players who haven’t been in the picture that we feel have a bright future with the national team to get to measure themselves in a game against a quality opponent.”
More on the roster to come shortly.
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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.