Could Union standouts become leaders of USMNT rebuild after missing World Cup?


If you’ve eeen living under a rock, or just don’t pay attention to soccer, you wouldn’t know that USA will not play a part in the upcoming Men’s World Cup. The Yanks failed to qualify for the first time since 1986. After qualifying for seven straight World Cups, USA failed to make the tournament after a disappointing loss to Trinidad and Tobago on the last day of qualifying. 28 years of progress lost. Now the team is looking to rebuild. Needing a new head coach, a new federation president and an installment of new players, this team lacks leadership needed to instill a change. Could Union standouts become leaders of USMNT rebuild?

USA vs Portugal. Two teams heading in two very different directions:

The USMNT play their first match after their World Cup debacle today against European Champions Portugal. Portugal is pushing to get their fringe players a chance to make their World Cup roster. There’s no Christiano Ronaldo in this one, due to the birth of his daughter, so you wont see him out there! Just because CR7 isn’t there don’t think that this Portugal side doesn’t have loads of talent. The players playing in this friendly are fighting for a chance of a lifetime! Play well, make the World Cup roster; play bad, and enjoy watching your country in June.

Here’s a look at the Portugal side:

Portugal Roster

Anthony Lopes (Lyon/FRA; 4/0), Beto (Goztepe/TUR; 11/1), José Sá (FC Porto; 0/0)

Antunes (Getafe/ESP; 12/0), Edgar Ié (Lille/FRA; 0/0), Kevin Rodrigues (Real Sociedad/ESP; 0/0), João Cancelo (Inter/ITA; 5/3), Luís Neto (Fenerbahçe/TUR; 15/0), Nélson Semedo (Barcelona/ESP; 7/0), Pepe (Besiktas/TUR; 90/5), Ricardo Ferreira (Braga; 0/0)  Ricardo Pereira (FC Porto; 2/0)

Bernardo Silva (Manchester City/ENG; 19/2), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting; 0/0), Danilo Pereira (FC Porto; 25/1), João Mário (Inter/ITA; 29/0), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow/RUS; 9/2), Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton/ENG; 2/0)

André Silva (Milan; 17/11), Bruma (RB Leipzig/GER; 0/0), Éder (Lokomotiv Moscow/RUS; 33/4), Gelson Martins (Sporting; 13/0), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia/ESP; 3/0), Rony Lopes (Monaco; 0/0)


As for the US side there are a lot of players getting their first call ups. Players who succeeded on the youth national team level received the call. Also, players who haven’t had a chance in a while are getting a look. Sprinkle in some veterans, and that make’s up this US squad. This is a different US side. There’s no Dempsey, Bradley or Howard. A lot of the older regime has been factored out. The wonder-boy wont feature either; Christian Pulisic has already solidified himself as USA’s star. He’s spending his international break writing for the players Tribune about the World Cup disappointment. This squad lacks a leader, so who will step up?

Here’s a look at the US’s youthful squad:

United States Roster

Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas; 0/0), Bill Hamid (Midtjylland/DEN; 3/0), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 1/0)

John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 32/3), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sheffield United/ENG; 0/0), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 13/1), Matt Miazga (Vitesse/NED; 3/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 26/1), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX; 14/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 48/0)

Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; 16/1), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union; 65/2), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG; 2/0), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 0/0), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution; 3/1), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town/ENG; 22/2)

Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution; 26/3), Dom Dwyer (Orlando City SC; 3/2), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union; 2/0), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; 0/0)

Bedoya & Sapong have the chance to solidify leadership roles for USMNT:

Some of the Union’s 2017 bright spots were captain Alejandro Bedoya, and hungry striker CJ Sapong. They both find themselves in key positions with the National team. Bedoya has the most caps out of anyone on the roster. While there are younger players who may be better at his position, (Tyler Adams & Weston McKennie), Ale is the veteran who can instill the right mentality for this side. His grittiness on the field, and his say-it-like-it-is nature off the field makes him the perfect captain moving this team into the future.

The youthful players learning from him would work wonders for the US. Bedoya’s not a star player, he’s a hard worker. That’s what these young players have to learn to do; work hard, and get results! He may not be around in 2022 for the next World Cup the US can play a part in. However he should be the captain during this rebuild. Will he though? We’ll have to wait and see.

One of the players who has already benefited from Bedoya’s leadership is striker CJ Sapong. He had a career year, breaking the Union’s single season goal record with 16! He now looks to make a name for himself on the national stage. He’s only been called up twice before. Now 28 years old, he’s poised to solidify himself as a hold up striker for the USMNT. Many view Sapong as a poor-man’s Jozy Altidore.

Sapong plays similarly to Jozy, but he’s a lot better in the air. He will win crucial balls and hold the play up to start attacks. He also is clinical when given the chance as his recent form suggests. Now he gets the chance to become a leader for a team who needs one at the front. His work rate and outgoing personality make him the perfect person to lead from the front!

These Union players are ready to become leaders within their national team! Here’s what they had to say about playing with USA during this crucial time:

Other storylines:

there are some interesting other storylines that are going to come from this match as well. Will interim head coach Dave Sarahan impress against a superior side?  Sarahan has a to make the US look decent while the federation looks to start fresh. Will he do a good job in starting that process? Who will play as the center back tandem? The centerback position has two vets, and two rooks. Who’ll feature, will there be a mixing of veterans and rookies?  Who will win the goalkeeper job? Three inexperienced goalkeepers head into this friendly who will get the job today, and will that starter be the guy moving forward? We’ll all have to watch the game to find out!

USA takes on Portugal today at 3:45pm EST on Fox Sports 1. Let’s see if the US can start the rebuild! if they can’t today they’ll have another chance in 2018…

Peace out USMNT/Union fans!


Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports