The United States Men’s National Team wrapped up their annual January camp with Saturday’s friendly against Korea Republic at the StubHub Center. This camp was put in place a few years ago to give domestic National Team hopefuls an opportunity to train with Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff during the Major League Soccer offseason.
Barring any unforeseen injuries, most of the starting XI already looks pretty set including the goalkeeper position which will belong to Tim Howard as long as he wants the job. That may not be for much longer, though, as he turns 35-years-old on March 6 making this likely Howard’s last World Cup appearance for the United States. Normally around this age is when goalkeepers will retire from their national team to focus on their club commitments.
Brad Guzan of Aston Villa has had the backup goalkeeper role for the last few years now and appears to be the front-runner to replace Howard. At 29-years-old, he seems like he would be a good bet for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying cycle, but the questions start coming up after him on the depth chart. Who will be the future of American goalkeeping?
Judging by the call-ups to the January camp as well as for Gold Cup duty last summer, it looks as though Klinsmann has his sights set on either Sean Johnson of the Chicago Fire or Bill Hamid of DC United as the American goalkeeper of the future. While both of these players are quality goalkeepers in their own right, they just are not National Team No. 1 worthy right now.
Johnson is 24-years-old while Hamid is 23-years-old so they have the youth on their side to be a good long-term fixture for the National Team; their problem is that they are still playing in MLS. When Tim Howard was 24 he signed with Manchester United, and when Brad Guzan was 23 he signed with Aston Villa. No goalkeeper has ever started a FIFA World Cup match for the United States while playing in MLS during a World Cup year since the formation of the league in 1996.
One of the intriguing players who could make an impact for the USMNT in the future is 20-year-old Cody Cropper who currently plays on the Southampton Under-21 squad. Cropper was called into the National Team camp when they played in Bosnia last August and also started all three matches at the 2013 Under-20 World Cup in Turkey, although the squad did not make the knockout round. His strengths are in shot-stopping and communication, according to his Southampton FC player bio.
He will turn 21 in just a few weeks, but looking down the line he will be 25 for the 2018 World Cup and 29 for the 2022 World Cup. He will surely receive more looks from Klinsmann in the coming years, especially if he plays well enough to earn a spot on a club’s first team somewhere in Europe.