The United States Soccer Federation and USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann announced the 24-man squad called into European camp this weekend, ahead of the friendly scheduled for March 5 in Larnaca, Cyprus against Ukraine. The news was very good for MLS fans as only two players from the league were called into participate with the National Team; those two being Clint Dempsey of the Seattle Sounders FC and Michael Bradley of Toronto FC.
The news of these two players being called into the mostly European-based squad, save for Club Tijuana defender Edgar Castillo, did not come as a surprise since Dempsey will finish off his loan with Fulham on March 1 so he will already be in Europe and Toronto FC does not play during the opening weekend of MLS. It is not the news that Seattle fans had hoped to hear since Dempsey will likely only have one training session with the squad ahead of the season opener with defending champions Sporting Kansas City.
For fans of other MLS with National Teamers, this news was sigh a relief. Their players can now focus on the opening weekend fixtures instead of having to make a round-trip flight to Europe for a match just three or four days ahead of said fixtures. It is a plus for the league as well guaranteeing that stars like Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Landon Donovan, Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson will be able to take the field for 90 minutes instead of being relegated to bench roles to account for recovery time.
The roster still looks very solid despite the absence of the MLS players will a good mix of players with international experience as well as a few young players who look to feature more in the next cycles of World Cup Qualifying.
Southampton Under-21 goalkeeper Cody Cropper was called up as the team’s third goaltender behind regulars Tim Howard of Everton and Brad Guzan of Aston Villa. Cropper just turned 21 and has been with Southampton for the last few seasons spending most of his time with the U-21s. He has a big 6-foot-4 frame and featured for the United States Under-20 squad at the U-20 World Cup in Turkey last June.
He does not have an official cap yet but this will be the second camp he has been called into; the first was before the Bosnia friendly last August. Great news for Cropper since the United States is in need of a long-term solution in goal.
Another one of the European young guns called in is Birmingham City center back Will Packwood. Packwood spent his youth career with Birmingham before signing on will the first team in July 2011. He made his first-team debut in August 2012 when two of the regular first team defenders went down with injury; occasionally featuring as a fill-in right-back.
A double-leg fracture kept him on the sidelines for most of 2013 before he reentered the Birmingham picture after eight months on the sidelines. Since his return, he has featured at center-back and has deservedly earned his first camp call-up from Klinsmann. It will be difficult for Packwood to crack the starting XI in the 2018 qualifying cycle but look for him to be a solid pick after that.
Cropper will more than likely not feature for Klinsmann on Wednesday but Packwood will probably see some time off the bench. Another interesting thing to watch will be if Klinsmann plays Packwood alongside John Brooks who is the other tall, young center back in camp. This could be the beginning of the next central defensive pairing to lead the United States into the future.