Klinsmann's U.S. squad to face Puerto Rico has no shortage of subplots
The 22-man roster U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann named on Monday for Sunday's friendly match at Puerto Rico may be under-strength, but that doesn't make it any less intriguing.
Klinsmann did not have access to the full contingent of players he'll have available for next month's high-profile Copa America Centenario; those in MLS and whose Mexican or European clubs still have games to play are not available for Sunday's matinee in Bayamon. But plenty of familiar faces were among those summoned, as were a few lesser-known youngsters who could become national-team staples in the months and years to come.
Joining surefire Copa starters like Alejandro Bedoya, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson -- all veterans of top European leagues -- are several players who are either long shots to make the final 23 for the U.S.-hosted tournament or who weren't on Klinsmann's 40-man preliminary list at all.
Yet in what is essentially being treated as a glorified scrimmage arranged to keep players ticking after long club seasons, U.S. fans can be excited to see potential international debuts from the likes of Paul Arriola and Fabrice "Fafa" Picault.
The pair are among six players not eligible for a place on the Copa roster (as are once-capped Emerson Hyndman and World Cup goal scorer Julian Green), they could become candidates for places when World Cup qualifying resumes in September. Arriola and Picault have earned their invitations.
Former U.S. U-20 standout Arriola, who plays for Club Tijuana, started the final eight games of the Liga MX campaign after breaking into the Xolos lineup in March. New York City-born Picault, of German second-division club St. Pauli, finished his season with four goals in his last eight Bundesliga 2 games.
Meantime, others will be hoping to use this week of training in Miami to make their case for inclusion on the Copa America squad. Those players include defenders Eric Lichaj, Matt Miazga, Michael Orozco and Tim Ream, and midfielders Perry Kitchen, Alfredo Morales and Danny Williams.
Catching Klinsmann's eye won't be easy, though. The training sessions at Barry University are expected to be light this week and with the submission deadline for the final Copa roster looming on Friday, its safe to assume that Klinsmann has already settled on his squad.
Still, Sunday's game isn't meaningless. Scoring would help forward Bobby Wood, who just signed with Bundesliga side Hamburg after a 17-goal season for second-tier Union Berlin, as he tries to transition to a starting role. Given Monday's news on Jozy Altidore, who will miss the Copa America because of a hamstring injury suffered playing with Toronto FC over the weekend, Wood's performance will be scrutinized closely.
The entire starting back line for the Copa could get a valuable first rep together, assuming Brooks, Cameron, Johnson and Yedlin are the coach's preferred back four, although presumed left-back Johnson's status is unclear after he missed Borussia Monchengladbach's final two games because of a groin injury.
And who between veterans Brad Guzan or Tim Howard gets the nod in goal, and what will that say about the pecking order when the real matches begin?
For a friendly game against the world's 152nd-ranked team, there's certainly no shortage of subplots.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.