Ahead of 2018 World Cup Qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica in five weeks, the USMNT has friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand this week. The full 23 man roster is available here.
First, big ups to Lynden Gooch who got his first senior call up. Second, I hope to see Darlington Nagbe, a USMNT prospect I am very excited about, return to the fold before too long. It’s been reported that the Portland Timbers midfielder has had to miss out due to personal reasons.
I’ve heard that Darlington Nagbe is not with the #USMNT this camp due to personal/family reasons
— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) October 2, 2016
Now, onto the striking situation following the the unfortunate omission of Clint Dempsey due to the irregular heartbeat that ended his MLS season in August. Here’s to his healthy return to the game in 2017! In the meantime, how does the USMNT replace it’s second all time leading scorer ahead of the Hex.
While Dempsey plays a more withdrawn role for the Sounders in MLS, the USMNT will need to replace Deuce up top where he’s been suiting up for the Stars and Stripes since 2004. With Jozy Altidore, Julian Green, Jordan Morris, Chris Wondolowski and Bobby Wood in the squad, Klinsmann can go in a few different directions. One potential option is the same player who has helped fill the void Deuce has left in Seattle: Jordan Morris. Since Dempsey’s last game (a 3-1 win over Portland on August 22), Seattle have a 4-2-1 record, averaging 2 points per game after averaging just 1.25 points in their first 24 games. Credit belongs to the entire squad, but Morris has been a big part of this recent surge.
Morris has been lethal in the seven games Seattle have had to play without Dempsey; his goals per 90 has almost doubled from 0.36 in the first 24 games to 0.63 in the last seven. You might expect this jump to be complemented by a similar rise in xG values, but that hasn’t been the case. Morris’ cQxG (if you’re not yet familiar with our approach to xG, read this intro) per 90 has actually dropped from 0.45 to 0.36 while his sQxG has remained constant at 0.46. What these numbers tell us is that Morris’ scoring production hasn’t come from simply having more chances with Dempsey out, rather he has answered the bell with the Sounders’ star man out and has upped his finishing, something that could certainly help the USMNT.
While I have faith in former Stanford Cardinal Morris as well as the other forwards Klinsmann will be bringing to Cuba and DC to face New Zealand, I would have liked to have seen Juan Agudelo make a return to the national team. The Revs have had a tough season, but a September surge that has seen them win four out of five MLS games has kept their playoff hopes alive and no player has been hotter than Agudelo. He started all five MLS games in September scoring three goals (he’s also rung the bar three times) and assisting two; additionally, he scored both Revs’ goals in the US Open Cup Final loss to FC Dallas.
Agudelo couldn’t get into the Revs’ starting XI most of the season. Before his return to the starting lineup in September, he had only 7 starts with 10 appearances off the bench, but when he starts the Revs perform.
Agudelo has started only 37.5% of Revs games this season, but he’s started in 70% of the games they’ve won. It’s obviously not as simple as saying Agudelo makes the Revs win, but the fact that the Revs have averaged over a point per game more when Agudelo starts is outstanding. With friendlies on the horizon, this could have been a great time to give the young, internationally inexperienced Agudelo (he has 3 senior caps to his name) another chance with the national team over one of the more experienced, known commodities Klinsmann has called to play up top for the USMNT.