Gold Cup 2017: USMNT Roster Needs More Foreign Based Players

Bruce Arena is an Major League Soccer man.

He loves his domestic football in the United States of America. It’s a fair statement, since Arena was the head coach of the LA Galaxy from 2008-16. Furthermore, Arena has never had a head coaching job outside of the United States. Although, when asked about coaching elsewhere by, he said he could coach anywhere in the world.

Some History

Gold Cup 2017 Preliminary Roster
United States head coach Bruce Arena looks on during their FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between USA and Honduras at Avaya Stadium on March 24, 2017 in San Jose, California.

Arena also made his sentiments clear back in 2013 when he called for more domestic players to feature on the U.S. Men’s National Team. His thoughts about European-based players, and dual national players, sparked plenty of controversy.

Fans of the USMNT wondered what Arena’s rosters would look like, when he returned to the USMNT as head coach in November 2016. Arena also previously held the helm of the USMNT from 1998-2006.

In January, MLS players filled the roster spots, but that was normal. Players in other leagues are just starting the second half of their seasons, at that point. In March, during his first slew of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, Arena called in a mix of domestic and abroad players.

He did the same for June’s World Cup Qualifiers. Even more, it was the first time Arena was able to coach players like Bobby Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Fabian Johnson.

However, those players listed above, and other European, or non-domestic players, won’t be featured in the 2017 Gold Cup this summer.


Arena reasoned to reporters that he wanted to “give the European players rest.” However, those same European players, (albeit under Klinsmann,) featured for the U.S. Men’s National Team in the 2015 Gold Cup.

Who’s on the Roster

There are only a few non-MLS players on the 40-man preliminary roster. Christian Pulisic, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Miazga, Eric Lichaj, Jorge Villafaña, Paul Arriola, Joe Corona and Kenny Saief are the non-MLS players on the roster. Pulisic, Lichaj and Saief are the European-based players. While the others feature in Liga MX.

There are a ton of new faces added to the roster, in the likes of Joe Bendik, Justin Morrow, Tommy McNamara, Christian Roldan and Dom Dwyer. While others make their return to the squad in Jonathan Spector and Bill Hamid.

Also, of importance is Jesse Gonzalez from FC Dallas. He is one of the six goalkeepers on the roster. The USMNT and the Mexican federation have fought hard over Gonzalez. In fact, Gonzalez played for Mexico in the U-20’s and U-23’s. However, he is not cap-tied yet to a national team. If he features for the USMNT in the Gold Cup, he’d be making his one time switch. And thus be cap tied to the U.S.

Another standout on the team is Gyasi Zardes. Who makes his return to the USMNT. Although he’s listed as a midfielder. Zardes actually features in a striker position for his club, the LA Galaxy.

USMNT Can’t Win Gold Cup with a MLS based Roster

Meanwhile, it’s hard to ignore the small amount of non MLS players. If Arena really wanted to give them a “rest,” he would have left them off the June roster. However, this would have been diastrous, as specifically, the European-based players are the USMNT’s best out there.

Honestly, it’s a simple statement, in Europe, these players are going up against the best in the world. They have the best coaching available. Not to mention, they play at competitive top clubs, in competitive top leagues. Look at Johnson and Pulisic, who both featured in the Champion’s League this season. Why call Pulisic and not Johnson?

An even bigger misstep by Bruce Arena is continuing to ignore Danny Williams. The midfielder had a phenomenal season with Reading FC in England’s Championship. He was in the race to have Reading FC promoted, but fell short in the playoffs. However, he has been super consistent for the Royals. Yet continues to be ignored.

Whether it’s CONCACAF or not, the USMNT are going to have a hard time hoisting the trophy at the end of the Gold Cup. It’s hard to win a tournament period. Let alone, win a tournament with a bunch of domestic players. Especially once you get to the knockout round, you need those foreign based players. Arena’s idea sounds good in theory, but it simply isn’t.

Does Arena Make Changes?

Bruce Arena does have six roster changes he can make after the group stage, should they move on. However, it’s not a done deal that Arena brings in more foreign based players, with those six changes. Considering the way that Arena has ignored players, or has talked about those players, it’s a big question mark.

The Gold Cup kicks off this July, with the USMNT in Group A with Panama, Martinique and Nicaragua.

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