The road to the 2018 World Cup in Russia kicks off on Friday night for the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) in the opening match of the fourth round of CONCACAF’s 2018 World Cup qualification.
USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has named a 23-player roster for the opening match against St. Vincent & the Grenadines in St. Louis on Friday at 3:30 p.m. PT. Included in the roster are California natives Gyasi Zardes (Hawthorne) and Michael Orozco (Orange). LA Galaxy’s Alan Gordon and Stanford’s Jordan Morris were named to the roster as well.
The USMNT was drawn into Group C for the fourth round with Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Guatemala. In each group, teams will play against each other in a home-and-away round-robin format. The top two teams from each group will advance to the fifth round, which is commonly known at the Hex. The fifth round kicks off in a year from now with the majority of games being played in 2017.
Following the game on Friday, the USMNT will travel to the Port of Spain for a clash against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday.
Zardes is likely to start in these next two games. He has shown versatility in playing up top or on the left wing, and is a tireless runner in addition to being a good finisher. We may see Zardes paired with Stanford’s Morris at some point. Morris looks like he has all the tools to be a big contributor at the international level.
Gordon and Orozco are a completely different story. Gordon’s call-up was a bit of a surprise. However, outside of Jozy Altidore the USMNT does not have any other players who can play with their back to the net, hold up play, and be a dominant force in the air. Gordon can do all this and more. He seems to get labeled as a player who can only do that, but Gordon can move, can pass, and can take defenders on.
Orozco, like Gordon, is getting up there in age. If Orozco has any hope at playing in the 2018 World Cup, he needs to start putting together some stellar performances for the USMNT. However, that may be hard as there are better options at the positions he plays. Gordon and Orozco may not be world beaters, but in CONCACAF games, a veteran presence is always needed on and off the field. Calling up players like Gordon and Orozco is more beneficial than calling up player who has no experience with the USMNT in World Cup qualifying games.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (8): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Ream (Fulham FC), Brek Shea (Orlando City SC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Miguel Ibarra (Club Leon), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)