The US national team unveiled their final 23-man roster for the Copa America Centenario on Saturday at half-time of the New York Derby. The initial impressions were mixed; some optimistically said "could be worse" while others griped about the usual Jurgen Klinsmann mishaps.
I'm in the former group, for the record. But this roster definitely could be better. Here are some takeaways from the unveiling, both positive and negative:
1. I am very concerned with the full-back position. DeAndre Yedlin is on the roster as a defender, so the right-back spot is sufficiently filled, but Klinsmann decided not to include the two players who would best suit the starting left-back role, Eric Lichaj of Nottingham Forest and Edgar Castillo of Liga MX's number-one team, Monterrey. Instead, he went with Timmy Chandler—who has played scarcely for relegation-threatened Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt.
He also included utility defender Michael Orozco as a depth option. He has barely played for Mexican side Club Tijuana this season and has struggled in his US appearances. Chandler will likely get the start, but Lichaj or Castillo would have been better options.
2. Star winger Fabian Johnson—in contention for a spot on the Bundesliga team of the year for his play on the wing with Borussia Moenchengladbach—was named as a defender on the roster. I didn't include him in the discussion above because I just can't think about the proposition of Klinsmann actually playing him as a full-back.
3. I'm optimistic about the center-back group. Geoff Cameron will be a certain starter, and they have multiple good options behind him in Steve Birnbaum, Matt Besler, and John Brooks. People complained about Matt Miazga's exclusion from this squad, but I don't see as much of a problem with it given the quality of the above four.
Omar Gonzalez also could be considered a snub, but I can't complain about the selections Klinsmann made at this position.
4. Perry Kitchen will get an opportunity to prove his worth as the next Kyle Beckerman after his surprising inclusion over Danny Williams. Now a pure number-six after an offseason move to Scotland from D.C. United, Kitchen will likely back up Beckerman in defensive midfield.
Unfortunately, it has been made certain that Michael Bradley will not get a chance to play his best position with the selection of Kitchen. I just hope Bradley won't be forced to play as a number-ten.
5. Darlington Nagbe made it. He should be in the starting lineup as a central midfielder, but Klinsmann probably won't do that because he's Jurgen Klinsmann. Jermaine Jones will also be in midfield—hopefully not as a number-ten, or as a winger, or as a center-back, or as a forward—and Alejandro Bedoya made it as a possible starter as well. No Lee Nguyen—which means no real number-ten—but there is Graham Zusi, presumably a depth option who can play in center midfield, out on the wing or as an emergency defender.
6. It will be hard to replace Jozy Altidore. The forward—who injured himself in the most Jozy way possible a week ago for Toronto FC—provides crucial hold-up play and physicality from the striker position that no one else in the national team pool can provide. Klinsmann went with the expected core of forwards—Clint Dempsey, Gyasi Zardes, Bobby Wood—and decided to pick veteran striker Chris Wondolowski over young prodigy Jordan Morris.
None of these players can provide what Altidore provides. It will be interesting to see how they fare without him.
7. Christian Pulisic nabbed a spot. He will be in contention for a starting position on the wing.
Johnson should have one spot locked down while the other will probably go to either Pulisic, Nagbe or Bedoya. Hopefully, it does not go to Zardes, who clearly is a much better forward than he is winger.
8. Klinsmann named Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Ethan Horvath as his three goalkeepers. Also, he confirmed that Guzan will be the starting keeper over Howard when the tournament begins, despite his struggles with Aston Villa this season.
Horvath made it to gain experience and to learn from the two Premier League veterans ahead of him.
9. Overall, not bad. Definitely some flaws, but not too many disasters. The disasters will probably come when he names the starting lineup on June 3rd.