Michael H. dives into Copa America
The United States will be hosting the Copa America Centenario this summer – it’s the first time a country outside of South America has hosted the tournament in its 100 year history. It starts June 3rd (what a perfect gift to my wife for our 10 year anniversary) and will end on June 26th. 16 teams from North, Central, and South (mostly South) America will compete to be named the best team of the Americas. Messi will be there. James will be there. Alexis will be there.
The USA will be there; in a group with Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay, which, first, ouch. And, second, surviving into the knockout round will be a tall task. USMNT manager, Jurgen Klinsmann, called in his chosen 23. As usual, there are a handful of picks that are making everyone lose their goddamn minds, including me.
WONDO OVER MORRIS
Let’s get right to this Chris Wondolowski over Jordan Morris thing. I love Wondo, I really do. I appreciate his talent for poaching goals. He gets into the right places at the right times. He scores a lot of MLS goals (he currently has 7 on the season). He’s scores a lot of goals against subpar CONCACAF competition. And who are we playing in Copa America? NOT subpar CONCACAF competition. Wondo works hard, but he is slow. He gets in good position, but needs a lot to go right to get his goals. He can’t create his own shot.
If only there was a speedy, physical young goal-scorer who is up-and-coming and already scored against Mexico. OH WAIT THAT’S EXACTLY JORDAN MORRIS. There is no defending this pick. I’m sure Jurgen will cite experience and veteran leadership as reasons for leaving Morris at home (Morris, for his part, handled the exclusion with class). It comes nowhere close to making his decision the correct one. If Wondolowski gets free late in a game and scores a game winner I’ll be among the first to tweet “WONDOOOOOOO” but I wholeheartedly disagree with this pick.
OROZCO OVER OMAR
This might even be worse than Wondo-Morris. Omar Gonzalez has been playing well since moving to Liga MX. And talk about experience: Gonzalez has played in some huge games and, occasional blunders aside, his size alone should make this an easy decision. Add in Orozco barely playing for Tijuana in Liga MX (started the last three games of the season, basically nothing before that up through January). Klinsmann’s Michael Orozco obsession is extremely odd, but must be the result of the defender being able to play multiple positions along the back line. But does that versatility really matter if he isn’t that great at any of them?
ZUSI OVER FINLAY
This is the lesser of Klinsmann’s transgressions, but serves to highlight a problem the USMNT manager has with letting some veterans go and getting some younger guys field time. Graham Zusi is a fine player. He is dependable, works hard on defense, and can whip in a decent cross. Ale Bedoya does all of these better than him and is already on the team. Ethan Finlay is a very promising talent and the purest winger the USA has maybe ever had. This tournament would be perfect for him to get some reps against high level competition. Imagining him coming on with fresh legs late in a game, blowing by people and serving balls into the box, is very tantalizing. We do not get to be tantalized in this way at the Copa America.
THE LEFT BACK / FABIAN JOHNSON SITUATION
Regarding the left back part of the above heading, well, there aren’t any on the team. That means either (a) Jurgen will play Timmy Chandler there (i’m starting to sweat already), or (b) Jurgen will play Fab there. He is our best wide midfielder by a decent margin at the moment. Fab plays as a winger in the Bundesliga and Champions league. Where is Eric Lichaj or even Tim Ream or EVEN Edgar Castillo? How do you bring a squad to the the bloody Copa America without a left back? Unless, of course, you plan to play your best attacking midfielder there. I could spend the rest of this article just typing curse words and it wouldn’t adequately express how mad I will be when Klinsmann does this. I will take option (a) all-day everyday over Fab at left back.
IDEAL STARTING XI
No amount of bitching and suggesting will change this roster’s make-up. Here is my ideal lineup with what we have available:
Yedlin will get forward to help with the attack. Chandler will stay home. MB90 and JJ will boss the midfield. Hopefully Wood stays on fire and Deuce will do Deuce shit.
My top 3 subs:
- Nagbe for Deuce or Fab
- Pulisic for Wood, Deuce, or Bedoya
- Kitchen for Jones
- Zardes makes me insane in front of goal. His recent form for the Galaxy is a little encouraging, but I wouldn’t be upset if he didn’t see the field.
- Beckerman is another ‘experience’ guy. I really appreciate his service to the national team. It’s time to put him out to pasture IMO. He cannot handle competition above Jamaica-level.
- Really looking forward to experiencing Pulisic in a tournament setting. I think he will be used as a supersub at the outset, but wouldn’t be surprised if he is starting if the USA manage to make it out of their group.
- The goalkeepers: Tell me when it’s safe to open my eyes. Maybe give Horvath some time?
Good or bad, the USMNT usually keeps it interesting. Let’s hope for a few positives to take away from this Copa America Centenario.FOLLOW THE OPEN FIELD