The USMNT successfully lifted the Gold Cup trophy on the horrible pitch at Levi Stadium. The main objective was obviously to win the title but Arena was primarily using the tournament as a testing ground for lesser used domestic players. So, while we can argue about the pathetic performances the US put in on multiple occasions, the more useful exercise is to go through the 29 players who suited up in the red, white, and blue and analyze them in terms of the larger USMNT depth chart moving forward.
To do this I’m going to list each players’ statistics, then in parenthesis I’ll put the ratings I gave them in chronological order of the matches in the tournament. After that I’ll note if I think their stock is up, steady, or down before giving a little analysis underneath. For the more visual readers, the following is an explanation of the order of the statistics and what the abbreviations mean:
Player Name: Games Played [GP], Games Started [GS], Minutes played, Clean Sheets [CS], Goals Against [GA] OR/AND Goals Scored/Assists [G/A], Cautions [C], [wins-draws-losses] Record, Ratings (Game by Game – Average) – stock [Up, Steady, or Down]
Now on to the review.
Sean Johnson: NA – Down
- Never appeared in a match. Sent home after the group stage to make room for Jesse Gonzalez. I would’ve thought he and Hamid had a 50-50 chance to start the final group stage game. With Hamid getting the call, you’d have to think Johnson’s is no higher than 4th on the full squad depth chart and possibly lower.
Jesse Gonzalez: NA – Steady
- Since FIFA approved his one-time switch from Mexico to the US Arena didn’t have to cap him in the tournament as he’s permanently tied to the US moving forward. If you wanted to claim his stock is up since Arena did make the decision to bring him in and get him acclimated I can see that argument. I’m just not a hundred percent positive he’s going to get a secure spot until after Russia.
Bill Hamid: 1 GP, 1 GS, 90 min., 1 CS, 0 GA, 0 C, 1-0-0 record (7 – 7) – Up
- He made it through the entire tournament… WITHOUT getting hurt! That alone is enough to raise his stock. The fact that he was handed a start over Johnson and kept a clean sheet and was kept around through the knockout rounds all bode well for the DCU number 1. Yeah, he wasn’t tested much in his one appearance but you can’t fault him for an opponents’ ineptitude. I’m not sure this is enough to secure a place in the squad moving forward. But it appears only Rimando or Gonzalez would be his competition for number 3 on the US depth chart.
Brad Guzan: 2 GP, 2 GS, 180 min., 0 CS, 3 GA, 0 C, 1-1-0 record (7, 5 – 6) – Steady
- Personally, I don’t think he did anything to hurt his standing. If you want to argue that he solidified himself in second position on the depth chart, and that it’s a step down from joint number 1 with Howard, you may have a point. I don’t think Arena ever valued him over Howard so I don’t consider this a demotion on the depth chart. And I also don’t think he was overtaken by anyone below him. Had some shaky moments, particularly against Martinique but he also had a couple brilliant moments against Panama.
Tim Howard: 3 GP, 3 GS, 270 min., 2 CS, 1 GA, 1 C, 3-0-0 record (7, 7, 5 – 6.3) – Steady
- This is another case where you can argue he improved his stock by clearly solidifying the number 1. I don’t think he was ever anything but in Arena’s mind. He definitely earned both of his clean sheets with a couple big saves in both matches. He was hung out to dry once or twice by the defense and rose to the occasion every time. On the one goal he gave up, it’s debatable if he could have done anything better.
Matt Miazga: 1 GP, 1 GS, 90 min., 0 GA and 1/0 G/A, 0 C, 1-0-0 record, (6 – 6) – Up
- Started one game. Got a clean sheet. Scored a goal. And won the US the group with the goal. Looked comfortable next to Besler. They seemed to have decent communication together which is big for a young defender. He really wasn’t given any opportunities to showcase any defending traits but you can only play those who line up against you. Hopefully his second loan season at Vitesse will help the Chelsea youngster develop and continue to be in Arena’s mind. He’s obviously a long shot for Russia but for me he’s definitely in the running for the 5th center back spot.
Matt Hedges: 2 GP, 2 GS, 180 min., 2 GA and 0/0 G/A, 0 C, 2-0-0 record, (2, 2 – 2) – Down
- He was the worst USMNT player by far. For a player who had many people championing his cause to be a major part of the USMNT picture, he showed absolutely nothing of quality. What’s even more concerning is that this wasn’t against the Brazil’s or Germany’s of the world. El Salvador is ranked 103 currently by FIFA and Martinique isn’t even a FIFA member, yet he conceded two goals to the Caribbean minnow! Showed no strength, no pace, no chemistry with Gonzalez or anyone else for that matter. If he has not played himself out of the USMNT picture through Russia then we are in serious trouble.
Eric Lichaj: 2 GP, 2 GS, 180 min., 2 GA and 1/0 G/A, 0 C, 2-0-0 record, (6, 5 – 5.5) – Down
- I have long felt he was someone Klinsmann unfairly froze out of the USMNT picture. He’s been plying his craft in the championship consistently for years and he’s been named Nottingham Forest’s player of the year. Yet Klinsmann never saw fit to give him a real run out. I was ecstatic to see Arena call him in for this tournament. Unfortunately, it looks more like Klinsmann recognized something I’ve missed. Yes he scored a very well-crafted and taken goal. But his defending was nothing to write home about and he nearly cost us a goal in the opening minutes of the quarterfinal against El Salvador. With Yedlin the lockdown starter and Cameron and Chandler both solid options I felt Lichaj really needed a statement performance to grab a foothold. Unfortunately, Arena preferred Zusi much more so and Lichaj really did nothing to change that. Long odds to get to Russia.
Justin Morrow: 2 GP, 2 GS, 180 min., 2 GA and 0/0 G/A, 0 C, 2-0-0 record, (5, 5 – 5) – Steady
- Not much of an impact one way or the other in either game. Didn’t commit any serious gaffs. Didn’t show anything off to merit inclusion going ahead. Probably deserves another look but I would hope we have better options for WCQs this fall. Being a left back keeps him in the picture by default (even the ageless wonder Beasley remains in the running) as we haven’t had a locked in left back since the Mayor of Hannover (Steve Churundolo) patrolled that side of the pitch. Would surprise me to see him get to Russia.
Matt Besler: 4 GP, 4 GS, 360 min., 2 GA and 0/0 G/A, 0 C, 3-1-0 record, (3, 5, 6, 6 – 5) – Up
- The stats (or more so my ratings) seem to suggest a steady outlook however I think he had a better tournament overall than perhaps my ratings indicate. He was hurt by such a poor performance against Panama in the opener but he improved every game and really became a crucial stalwart in the Semi and Final. He and Gonzalez I think solidified themselves as no worse than the 3 and 4 centerbacks on the depth chart. If Brooks continues to struggle the opportunity is there to take the number 2 spot next to Cameron.
Jorge Villafana: 4 GP, 4 GS, 360 min., 2 GA and 0/0 G/A, 0 C, 3-1-0 record, (6, 5, 5, 5 – 5.25) – Steady
- He’s in a strong position on the roster, at least through Russia, mainly by default. To be fair to him he hasn’t done anything to hurt his own standing with this tournament performance. I just got the feeling that he struggled more than he should throughout the tournament based on the quality of players he was facing. He seemed to have the best performance when paired with Rowe as they had a good chemistry. Otherwise he rarely got forward to any effect. Wasn’t tested often defensively so not much to take out of this tournament for the former Chivas and Timber player. Still probably a lock for Russia.
Graham Zusi: 4 GP, 4 GS, 360 min., 2 GA and 0/1 G/A, 1 C, 3-1-0 record, (5, 6, 5, 5 – 5.25) – Steady
- Arena clearly preferred him as his primary right back throughout the tournament. And you could argue that it’s an improvement in his stock but I think particularly in terms of the quality he showed he’s steady. I don’t think he showed fans or (more importantly) Arena anything they didn’t already know. Arena’s fondness for the SKC man is slightly concerning to me because I really don’t want him at right back against any serious competition. I appreciate a lot of the qualities he brings to the position but he clearly showed time and again that he’s really a midfielder. His defending was suspect. However, I do think he’s got a place in the squad. It’s helpful to have that extra bit of possession and attacking quality against the smaller nations that will bunker in against us. I think the question moving forward will be whether he or Chandler hold the backup spot behind Yedlin in Russia. Either way I’d expect to see him in the WC 23.
Omar Gonzalez: 5 GP, 5 GS, 450 min., 4 GA and 2/0 G/A, 1 C, 3-1-0 record, (5, 6, 8, 4, 5 – 5.6) – Up
- Clearly an Arena favorite which is understandable if for no other reason than their familiarity (and massive success) with the LA Galaxy. He had one bad outing but considering he played 5/6ths of the tournament, that’s not a huge deal. He also found his scoring boots which was a shockingly pleasant development. Some people may complain about his performances with the national team but he has put in many massive shifts throughout the Klinsmann and Arena 2.0 eras. He looks to be the 3rd center back option currently and may have a chance to jump Brooks for second spot going into Russia.
Christian Roldan: 1 GP, 1 GS, 90 min., 2 GA and 0/0 G/A, 0 C, 1-0-0 record, (5 – 5) – Down
- This may be a little harsh on the Sounders man but he really did nothing to help himself. I could accept a steady stock watch for him. However, I think to really have any part in this team moving forward he needed to show something special. I do expect him to get another chance but only in friendlies this fall. In other words, the door isn’t shut on Russia but he’ll have to get there on club form and impressing in friendlies between now and then; don’t expect to see him in any WCQ without a rash of injuries.
Joe Corona: 2 GP, 2 GS, 128 min., 1 GA and 1/0 G/A, 1 C, 1-1-0 record, (3, 4 – 3.5) – Down
- I did not like either of his performances. He was far from the only culprit of our poor outing against Panama but being in the center of the attacking quartet magnified his failure. I thought he was misplayed as a central midfielder in a 4-man midfield against Nicaragua but he did improve from Panama. He even managed to find the back of the net but that was thanks to a deflection after he dallied on the ball for hours after receiving it in the box. Later in the game he was given a second opportunity from the spot and had one of the worst pk attempts ever. Unfortunately for him I hope he’s played his last game for the USMNT. I definitely don’t see any spot for him in Russia.
Kelyn Rowe: 2 GP, 2 GS, 131 min., 1 GA and 1/1 G/A, 0 C, 1-1-0 record, (6, 8 – 7) – Up
- I thought he was possibly our best performer from the group stage. It was disappointing to see him sent home. I hope that decision was in coordination with the Revolution and not an indication of Arena’s opinion of the attacker. It would’ve been nice to see him down the middle instead of Corona but he still made the most of his opportunity on the wing. With Arena stating that the wings are where he sees the competition to be the most wide open this was a huge tournament for Rowe. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him included in WCQ rosters and if he is I’d say he’s a lock for Russia (provided those performances go well).
Alejandro Bedoya: 2 GP, 2 GS, 203 min., 1 GA and 0/2 G/A, 0 C, 1-1-0 record, (4, 8 – 6) – Up
- After the Panama match I was ready to crucify Bedoya. It was an absolutely pathetic performance, especially from the man sporting the captain’s armband. He redeemed himself in spades when moved centrally against Nicaragua. I could see him partnering with Bradley pretty well. The key to his performance against Nicaragua was his movement. He timed perfectly when to stay home and help defend and when to break forward and attack. And when attacking he moved around, popping up out wide at times and hit a great cross for the opening goal. He was probably already a lock for Russia but if he can duplicate his last performance against improved competition he may be in a fight for a starting spot.
Chris Pontius: 3 GP, 1 GS, 110 min., 2 GA and 0/0 G/A, 0 C, 3-0-0 record, (5, 6, 5 – 5.3) – Steady
- Technically he was only on the pitch for 1 of Martinique’s 2 goals so the Goals Against is a little harsh on him. Really didn’t show anything super special. Coming in literally the day before the first match as a late replacement for the injured Saeif his tournament really can’t be classified as a disappointment. However, I didn’t see anything that should get him into WCQ or Russia.
Darlington Nagbe: 3 GP, 3 GS, 266 min., 1 GA and 0/0 G/A, 1 C, 3-0-0 record, (6, 6, 6 – 6) – Up
- Clearly already in a strong spot as Arena brought him in as one of the heavy hitters for the KO rounds. He only strengthened his position. Was hacked over and over by the Reggae Boyz in the final but stayed calm and composed. I’m not sure whether his better position is central (quarterfinal) or out wide (semi and final). I was annoyed with his slow decision making and if he could speed that up he’d be lethal. Unfortunately, being in MLS, he’s never going to get any faster. Arena values him and he’s a lock for Russia. It’s all a matter of whether he’ll secure a starting spot or not.
Michael Bradley: 3 GP, 3 GS, 270 min., 1 GA and 0/1 G/A, 0 C, 3-0-0 record, (5, 5, 4 – 4.6) – Steady
- My opinion of the general is just about as low as you can get and these performances didn’t change that. Everyone else’s opinion (including Arena’s) of him is higher than Snoop Dog on pot and nothing in these performances changed that. He was, is, and will be a lock for every critical USMNT game through Russia and will start every one (barring injury or suspension of course).
Dax McCarty: 5 GP, 3 GS, 190 min., 4 GA and 0/0 G/A, 0 C, 4-1-0 record, (3, 5, 5, 5, 5 – 4.6) – Steady
- Wasn’t on the pitch for either of Martinique’s goals or Jamaica’s so really only had 1 goal against. Did absolutely nothing surprising. Every performance was exactly in line with his MO. He plays negative passes as often as possible. Doesn’t ever move out of the holding midfield role. Will dig in for any tackle and does bring some steel to the midfield. To me he looks like he would’ve been a solid partner for Jermaine Jones but I doubt that will be necessary moving forward, and they won’t bench Bradley anyway. He may have a role as the backup defensive mid that can help lock things down. It wouldn’t be my choice but Arena isn’t consulting me as of yet. I’d say he’s on the bubble for WCQ and Russia.
Kellyn Acosta: 5 GP, 4 GS, 301 min., 4 GA and 0/0 G/A, 1 C, 4-1-0 record, (2, 5, 3, 5, 5 – 4) – Down
- He was given the keys to the castle; this was easily his best opportunity to lock down a starting spot next to Bradley. Instead of waltzing in like he owned the place he went walkabouts. I’m pretty sure they still have a missing persons claim out for him in Nashville. Provided he gets back to his best with Dallas, I’d expect to see him given at least a couple more opportunities to earn a starting spot in Russia. However, (especially now) I’d think that’s a long shot; he’s definitely trended down. I still expect him to be on the plane to Russia next summer.
Paul Arriola: 5 GP, 4 GS, 309 min., 3 GA and 0/0 G/A, 0 C, 5-0-0 record, (6, 5, 6, 6, 6 – 5.8) – Up
- This is another time when GA is a little harsh as he was only on the pitch for Martinique’s first goal. Regardless, the Tijuana youngster upped his standing with several good performances. Though he never put in a truly outstanding performance his pace and intensity caused fits for defenses. His final ball needs to seriously improve. Hopefully he was just dealing with some preseason rust, as the Mexican season had not started prior to the Gold Cup, leaving him a few steps behind the MLS players. He still managed to carve out a consistent role, getting the 4 starts. With the wing depth a problem for the USMNT I expect him to continue to get calls. I’m thinking he’s not quite a lock for Russia but if he continues performing like this (even if off the bench) he should probably get a place in the top 23 next summer.
Dom Dwyer: 2 GP, 2 GS, 164 min., 1 GA and 1/0 G/A, 0 C, 1-1-0 record, (7, 5 – 6) – Up
- Though he didn’t register an assist he was heavily involved in both of Bedoya’s goals against Nicaragua. Plus, in that same game he drew a penalty (though he did fail to convert from the spot). I was shocked to see him sent home after the group stage. I hope that decision was simply for SKC’s benefit and considering he was traded before the tournament was over it is very plausible that the SKC brass asked Arena to send him back as early as possible. I think he clearly has a role going into WCQ though it may be as a squad rotation or cover player than an actual starter or even super sub. Jury is still out on Russia.
Juan Agudelo: 3 GP, 1 GS, 130 min., 3 GA and 0/0 G/A, 0 C, 2-1-0 record, (6, 6, 5 – 5.6) – Steady
- In my eyes, he went up. However, the fact that he was never used in the knockout rounds may be an indication that Arena was not as impressed. And since he never did anything amazing to stand out or climb a relatively stacked striking corps means his stock is steady. I’d be a bit surprised to see him playing a role in WCQ but I think he did enough to get another look in some of the friendlies later this fall. It will probably be a stretch to get to Russia.
Clint Dempsey: 3 GP, 1 GS, 149 min., 1 GA and 1/3 G/A, 0 C, 3-0-0 record, (7, 9, 6 – 7.3) – Up
- Unfortunately, it’s looking like Captain America is going to be relegated to a super sub role under Arena. Some stars might take exception to that but a very strong start and two good performances off the bench (including the best stretch of the Gold Cup for any American) clearly showed Duce is ready for anything. Either way he showed once again he is absolutely critical to the success of this team. He’s a lock for Russia and will be fighting with Arena to get the starter role. If he’s not starting he should clearly be the first off the bench.
Jozy Altidore: 3 GP, 3 GS, 263 min., 1 GA and 2/0 G/A, 1 C, 3-0-0 record, (3, 6, 6 – 5) – Steady
- He definitely improved as the tournament went on. His first game was awful but the second two were serviceable. Had a great goal against Costa Rica. Brilliant run and found with an inch perfect pass from Duce. In the final he had a decent free kick goal. I think had Blake still been in goal for Jamaica he probably saves the shot but you can only face who’s in front of you so kudos to Jozy. In general, I thought his touch was poor and he went missing for long stretches. However, that is of little to no consequence as I don’t think he did anything to change his roster spot. He’s still a first-choice striker and a lock for Russia.
Gyasi Zardes: 5 GP, 3 GS, 203 min., 4 GA and 0/1 G/A, 0 C, 2-1-0 record, (4, 5, 6, 5, 6 – 5.2) – Steady
- Not on the pitch for either of Panama or Jamaica’s goals but did suffer through being in for both of Martinique’s. Of course, as a striker/mid the more important stats regard goals and assists. The Galaxy striker only managed one assist but it did come on the tournament winner. A lot of the commentary was strongly critical of his touch and passing. I can understand it to a certain extent as he’s not the cleanest player. However, I think a lot of it was excessive complaining. He was always going to be called in for this tournament if for no other reason than his familiarity with Arena. I don’t think that is enough to sustain his position going ahead. He’ll need to improve his MLS form to stay in the USMNT picture. I’d put him as probable for WCQ this fall but on the fringe of the plane to Russia.
Jordan Morris: 6 GP, 3 GS, 323 min., 4 GA and 3/0 G/A, 0 C, 5-1-0 record, (4, 7, 5, 4, 5, 6 – 5.1) – Up
- The Seattle striker had an up and down tournament. That should be expected as this was his first official tournament with the USMNT after Klinsmann left him off the Copa roster last year. He struggled particularly against Panama and El Salvador. It is interesting to note that those were 2 of his 3 appearances off the bench. In matches he started he performed much better, notching 2 critical goals against Martinique and then an even more important one to win the tournament against Jamaica. While we should expect more from the youngster he seems to be a lock for WCQ and Russia.
Now, the point of this tournament, as I stated before, was to test out the player pool depth with an eye towards Russia. I understand the US still has a good chunk of work to do to get there but Arena seems to have stabilized the ship. It is not unreasonable to look ahead (as fans) to what the team will look like next summer. I can guarantee Arena and his staff are having discussions in a tournament post-mortem right now. So let’s hypothetically look at a 23 man roster for Russia. For simplicity sake, I’m going to mirror the numbers Klinsmann took to Brazil, with 3 keepers, 8 defenders, 8 midfielders, and 4 strikers. Underneath I’ll include a couple extra players that would fill out a potential 30-man pool, which is what Klinsmann initially named prior to pairing down the 2014 roster. Unlike Klinsmann I’m going to include 4 extra defenders (instead of 3), 2 extra mids, and 1 extra striker (instead of 2). This is just because I’m less certain about the defenders Arena rates than anything. I’ll also give a line to those who I think still hold a legitimate chance to make the roster.
Goal Keepers (3): Howard, Guzan, Hamid
- Still a chance: Gonzalez, Rimando
Gonzalez could easily overtake Hamid for spot 3. Rimando may also be in the picture if Arena decides to go with the seriously experienced (old) group at the back. But based on the Gold Cup performance, if Hamid can stay healthy he’s got a good shot of holding onto his #3 spot.
Defenders (8): Cameron, Brooks, Gonzalez, Besler, Yedlin, Chandler, Villafana, Zusi
- Prelim: Beasley, Garza, and Ream
- Just missed: Morrow, Lichaj, Birnbaum
I’d love to see the Beas make an American record 5th world cup squad, and I think he legitimately has a chance. I’d take him as a left back option. But he may be a bit off the pace right now, to say nothing of next summer. I think Morrow did enough to stay in the conversation, but with Garza continuing to show well with Atlanta and making the All-Star team I think he’s ahead in the left back race. Zusi could be on the outside looking in currently, but I think Arena will favor those he knows come the World Cup. If you’re looking at center back depth, Ream is probably the next called in, and with his and Besler’s versatility allowing them to play outside backs they definitely have an advantage over other center back options. Birnbaum may be in the conversation if his club form picks up but I think for anybody to crack the top 4 there would need to be an injury.
Midfielders (8): Pulisic, Bradley, Johnson, Nagbe, Bedoya, Arriola, McCarty, Lleget
- Prelim: Acosta, Kljestan, Rowe
- Still a chance: Saief, Jones, Feilhaber, Williams, Roldan
Personally, I’d take Acosta over McCarty, and I’d probably sacrifice a defender (Zusi) for Rowe. But I doubt Arena does that. I also would not be surprised at all if Kljestan is ahead of McCarty but I still feel a strong defensive mid, at least for the bench, is an important role to have. My most controversial pick here may be to include Lleget at the expense of Acosta. I was just highly impressed with Lleget in his USMNT debut and my opinion dropped of Acosta throughout the Gold Cup. Club form and showings in WCQ and friendlies between now and next summer may change my mind on that. Yet again though I come back to Arena’s familiarity with players. He knows Lleget and I think that gives him a leg up. Jermaine Jones is probably done. As much as I love the former Schalke man and hope he does really well I just don’t see enough right now to make me think he’ll last to Russia. Kenny Saief was unlucky to get hurt prior to the tournament. It may have cost him any real chance at the WC but with Arena stating he’s most concerned about the wing areas he’ll probably still get a look. I also would like to see Feilhaber, Williams, and Roldan get additional looks to work their way into the squad but I think it will take blistering hot form (or injuries) for them to get a chance.
Forwards (4): Altidore, Wood, Dempsey, Dwyer
- Prelim: Zardes
- Still a chance: Johannsson, Agudelo, Sapong
Depending on the reason Dwyer was let go after the group stage, it’s conceivable that Arena may favor Zardes for the 4th striker spot but I hope not. Zardes does bring the advantage of having familiarity playing wide midfield as well as up top. I wouldn’t be horribly upset if he was included at the expense of either McCarty or Lleget. I also think Johannsson could be brought in from the cold if he can stay healthy and anybody is hurt or in poor form come next summer, provided of course he himself catches fire. Agudelo I’d say is definitely on the outside looking in. And if Sapong continues his hot MLS form he may find himself with a chance in January camp next year.
That’s my synopsis of the USMNT picture, post 2017 Gold Cup. A lot can (and will) change between now and next summer. Perhaps the biggest take-away from this tournament is that we have depth. It may not be of exceptionally high quality but if players get hurt or lose form, Arena definitely has options. It will be very interesting to keep an eye on this picture over the next few months.