Taking stock of the U.S. national team's January camp roster omissions
When it comes to the U.S. national team January camp, using the term "snub" for those not included on the roster is nitpicking at a pretty high level. The majority of the players called into the camp traditionally are on the fringe of the national team picture to begin with, and Jurgen Klinsmann is already forced to expand his player selection to a great degree with the amount of European- and Mexican-based players who are unable to be called in.
Even so, a few of Klinsmann's January omissions certainly raise some questions. Here's an XI of players whose absences are a mild surprise as those called in strive to make their case to be late inclusions for this summer's World Cup journey in Brazil:
CARLOS BOCANEGRA, Chivas USA
Is Bocanegra's absence a true snub based on his play since returning to MLS, or is it a bigger-picture sign? Is it a final signal that his best days are far beyond him? Does it signify a long-standing rift between him and Klinsmann after he was stripped of the U.S. captaincy and dropped from the regular national team rotation entirely? Is it a sign of respect that Klinsmann doesn't want to degrade him by making him go through the January camp ringer?
Either way, it certainly would appear that any chance that the 34-year-old Bocanegra, a USMNT All-Time Best XI defender, had at going to a third World Cup is over. He's based in Los Angeles as a member of Chivas USA, and the U.S. men will be training at StubHub Center for two of the three legs of the camp. Doesn't take much to read between the lines there.
KELYN ROWE, New England Revolution
Rowe was one of Major League Soccer's breakout players in 2013, and at 22, fits the bill for a player worthy of a January camp look. After turning in seven goals and eight assists and displaying a lethal shot from distance, Rowe presents the kind of attacking spark from the midfield that the USA does not exactly have overflowing in its player pool.
AMOBI OKUGO, Philadelphia Union
Okugo, who also has Nigerian eligibility due to his parents being born in the African nation, consistently displayed solid performances in central defense for the Union in his second season since being moved to the back line from central midfield. Okugo, who suited up for the USA in 2012 Olympic qualifying, has long been touted as a "January camp guy," and he must be wondering what else he has to do to seize Klinsmann's attention.
JACK MCINERNEY, Philadelphia Union
McInerney took MLS by storm in the opening months of 2013, scoring 10 goals in the first 14 games of the season before enduring a lengthy drought after his CONCACAF Gold Cup call-up. He ended the season with two goals in his last three games, but it's evident there's more for the 21-year-old forward to do in order to earn a recall, even to the January camp.
TONY BELTRAN, Real Salt Lake
Beltran emerged as a fullback option for Klinsmann in 2013 and was called upon for the Gold Cup. With so many MLS fullbacks called into this camp, Beltran's omission would certainly figure to signal that he did not do enough to remain on Klinsmann's immediate radar and that others have earned the chance to move up the pecking order.
CHRIS SCHULER, Real Salt Lake
Schuler was unable to be under consideration for this camp, because he had postseason surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle following MLS Cup, but it's worth noting that his playoff performances for RSL placed the 26-year-old's name firmly on the USA radar. Will he have a chance to break through prior to the World Cup? The March FIFA date would figure to be a last hail mary.
DILLON POWERS, Colorado Rapids
The reigning MLS Rookie of the Year is coming off a stellar campaign and had the type of season that typically merits a January camp call-up. With central midfielders Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Benny Feilhaber, Luis Gil and Dax McCarty all called in ahead of him, Powers will have to bide his time and likely turn his attention to the 2018 cycle.
COREY ASHE, Houston Dynamo
Like Beltran, Ashe is a fullback who has been called in by Klinsmann in the past, was on the Gold Cup roster (until being replaced for the knockout stage) and seemed to be on that next tier of players at the position. So much for that. With left backs Chris Klute, Seth Sinovic and Michael Harrington called in ahead of him, Ashe will have to prove his worth in league play all over again.
WILL BRUIN, Houston Dynamo
Proven to be a bit of a streaky pro whose finishing touch is not always on the mark, Bruin took part in last year's January camp, was on the Gold Cup roster and had an eight-goal, seven-assist season for Houston. There are just too many other proficient options at forward at the moment for Bruin to make a return appareance.
ALAN GORDON, San Jose Earthquakes
OK, so the 32-year-old Gordon's chances of cracking Klinsmann's deep rotation of forwards were always going to be slim-to-none, especially with the manager casting an eye to the future with this camp. That had not stopped Klinsmann from turning to the Quakes' late-game hero in the past, though, including for the last two vital semifinal round World Cup qualifying matches and as an addition for the Gold Cup knockout stage.
JUAN AGUDELO, Unattached Agudelo was initially included on Klinsmann's preliminary roster (and the live link that U.S. Soccer released before correcting the error), but his omission is clearly a product of him sorting out his club situation. After his proposed move to Stoke City fell through due to being denied a UK work permit, Agudelo's sole focus is on finding a new team. Had he remained in MLS for another season, one would think that he'd have been a surefire inclusion.