102817_isi_steffenzach_mlspm102617126 Perry McIntyre/isiphotos.com
USMNT breakdown

7 players with the most to gain from January Camp

January Camp can often be an occassion where players take their first international steps and use them to take bigger roles within the U.S. team. Even without a permanent coach, this camp could still be useful. Here are seven players with a lot to gain.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 17, 2018
7:15 AM
THE UNITED STATES MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM'S January Camp is underway in California and this version is unlike previous camps. With no coach to impress and no World Cup to prepare for, the responsibility will be on the players to make the most out of it. 

Interim head coach Dave Sarachan’s opinion and ranking will have little impact on whoever is named as the next full-time national team head coach. Of course there is a chance that the next manager will go back and watch tapes or recent games when putting together a depth chart but it is unlikely to be a major factor.

The players in the camp need to take it upon themselves to learn from the experience and be better prepared when or if they receive future call-ups. It is certainly not impossible for this to be a productive camp but it will be a test of the player's resolve.

It is a younger roster than in the past but here is a look at six players who have the most to gain.

Walker Zimmerman (central defender, LAFC)

There are a lot of young central defenders at the moment who look ready to play at the beginning of the new cycle. Fortunately for them, there are openings as Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream and others might exit the pool due to their age come Qatar 2022.

But there are questions about the proposed incoming pool. John Brooks gets injured a lot. Cameron Carter-Vickers has had a poor two months and the likelihood he plays first team minutes the rest of the season after being recalled by Tottenham is questionable. Matt Miazga is playing well but will likely face another loan next year. Erik Palmer-Brown does not even know where he will play in 2018.

Zimmerman, 24, isn’t young and isn’t old. He has just one cap but played well in that appearance. Now playing under Bob Bradley with LAFC, he could force himself into the mix in central defense.  

CJ Sapong (forward, Philadelphia Union)

The forward pool right now is loaded with holes. Jozy Altidore was a key part of the recent national team’s failure to qualify. Clint Dempsey is approaching being too old and Juan Agudelo has never been able to seize his many chances. Bobby Wood is having a tough season at Hamburg and there are still questions about his constant lingering knee issues. 

While other positions like central midfield have rising young players aiming to take a bigger role, there are no young forwards building strong cases. Josh Sargent is highly talented but has yet to play a professional game. 

With this situation, players who are in their later 20’s might see an expanded role with the team until the younger generation steps into the professional game. Sapong, along with Jordan Morris and others, might fill that role as players who won’t be in the picture for Qatar but could be very useful helping the team get there.

Brooks Lennon (winger, Real Salt Lake)

The U.S. national team needs wingers and Lennon will have an interesting opportunity. Paul Arriola has more experience but Lennon had a decent year in 2017. As a 19-20 year-old for Real Salt Lake in 2017, Lennon played in 25 games (15 starts) for a total of 1,525 minutes. He scored 3 goals and notched 4 assists.

For the 2017 U-20 team this past year at both the World Cup and World Cup qualifying (CONCACAF Championship) tournaments, Lennon played in 11 games (all starts) for 946 minutes. He scored 6 goals and added 4 assists.

Those numbers weren’t earth shattering but it was a positive first step of a professional career. Lennon should be a part of the U-23 team in a few years but if he has a good camp, he might make his way into the player pool.

Marco Delgado (central midfielder, Toronto FC)

The 2015 U-20 World Cup veteran Marco Delgado, 22, had a very good season in 2017 where he started for MLS champions Toronto FC. In MLS Cup he had a very good game against Seattle where he outplayed his counterpart Cristian Roldan – who is also involved in this camp.

With Jonathan Gonzalez leaving the program, there could be open spots in backup central midfield roles. With a strong camp, Delgado can begin to get settled into the international game and perhaps earn additional call-ups under the next coach to continue making his case. 

Justen Glad (central defender, Real Salt Lake)

Justen Glad, 20, is one of the more exciting debutants in this camp. Despite missing a large portion of last year due to international involvement with the U-20 World Cup and injury, Glad has still amassed over 4600 first team minutes for Real Salt Lake in his career – a lot for his age.

Glad has been one of the best young players in MLS for the past two years and he did not disappoint for the U.S. U-20 team in 2017. Like Zimmerman, Glad can rise in the pecking order with the current uncertainties of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Erik Palmer-Brown.

Glad has the talent to potentially grab a backup central defender spot on the U.S. team and this camp could be an important time to take his first international steps.

Tyler Adams (midfielder/right back, New York Red Bulls)

Tyler Adams, 18, is one of the best young players in MLS and last November the New York Red Bull product did not disappoint in his national team debut, a 1-1 draw against Portugal.

Adams is a tough player to read because finding a position for him can be difficult. In the midfield he typically roams the field with a lot of freedom. That will be tough to accommodate on the international stage. He could possibly play right back where he played for the Red Bulls and was effective pushing into the attack.

Adams will likely have a spot on the national team moving forward but in this camp he must continue to assert himself and prove he can translate his success with the Red Bulls and U.S. youth national teams over to the full national team.

Zack Steffen (goalkeeper, Columbus Crew SC)

Zack Steffen, 22, has potentially the most to benefit at this camp. While many players are contenting for backup spots on a first-choice U.S. squad, Steffen could very well end up being the next number one goalkeeper for the U.S. team.

With Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Nick Rimando having been the top three goalkeepers for many years on the U.S. team, a complete upheaval of the position is needed. Steffen has always been a top prospect. He was stellar at the youth level, the University of Maryland, and the U.S. U-20 team. Last season he excelled for Columbus down the stretch and into the playoffs.

If Steffen can carry his 2017 form into this camp, his stock could potentially soar.

Post a comment