10 MLS Players That USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann Should Be Monitoring
With another World Cup cycle beginning, U.S. men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has a busy few years ahead of him.
Several in-form MLS players would be excellent additions to the USMNT in this cycle. L.A. Galaxy winger Sebastian Lletget has been tremendous since signing with the defending champions. Dax McCarty has also thrived with the New York Red Bulls this season.
We will list other potential call-ups in this slideshow. They have to be under 30 years old as of December 31, 2015, so players such as Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan will miss out, and those who haven't been with the USMNT since the January 2014 camp will receive extra consideration.
Here are 10 MLS players Klinsmann should be monitoring for potential call-ups.
D.C. United center back Steve Birnbaum received a call-up to the USMNT January camp this year. He earned his first cap against Chile that same month but hasn't featured for the national team since.
Klinsmann has given young center backs Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks several chances to shine in 2015. They haven't been convincing to this point, but Klinsmann continues to omit the likes of Sporting Kansas City's Matt Besler.
With Stoke City's Geoff Cameron waiting in the wings, it's unlikely that Birnbaum will receive a call-up in the near future.
Due to Birnbaum's participation at the January camp and earning a cap in 2015, he misses out on this list. However, he deserves a mention thanks to his exceptional form for MLS' top team.
FC Dallas center back Matt Hedges was also at the January camp and won his first cap against Panama in February. However, the 25-year-old definitely deserves more games.
Hedges is strong in the air and reads the game well. USA's current center backs, Alvarado and Brooks, struggled with one-on-one defending through the majority of the Gold Cup.
Positional awareness and tracking forwards' runs are two crucial aspects of defending. Hedges is strong in both categories. In fact, Dallas has conceded just 10.9 shots per game, the fourth-lowest amount this season, according to WhoScored.com.
Hedges should be more involved with the USMNT considering how consistent he's been with Dallas this season. However, because he has represented the country in 2015, he misses out on this list.
D.C. United's midfield stalwart Perry Kitchen also joined the USMNT at the January camp. Other promising midfielders, such as the Columbus Crew's Wil Trapp, were also on the roster.
Trapp will likely find himself back in the fold, but D.C.'s incredible season gives Kitchen a leg up. The 23-year-old has formed a solid partnership with Davy Arnaud and has flourished this season.
Kitchen is a tenacious player with great vision. He would definitely help the USMNT at the heart of midfield with these qualities.
Kitchen's involvement with the USA in 2015 keeps him out of the top 10. However, if he continues to thrive with D.C., it will be tough to ignore him.
Justin Morrow is one of the older players listed in this top 10, but the Toronto FC defender would be a valuable addition to the U.S. men's national team.
He has been deployed in all three positions in TFC's back line this season. He has performed well on both flanks and as a center back, which means the U.S. would have a player who can play anywhere on defense.
He was integral to the San Jose Earthquakes' Supporters' Shield win in 2012 and was named to the All-Star team that same year. He's replicated that form for Toronto and has been one of the most consistent defenders in MLS over the last few seasons.
Klinsmann added Morrow to the roster in 2013, but he earned just one cap. Given the USMNT's issues at full-back, the 27-year-old would be a dependable option. Klinsmann should pick up the phone and give him a call if he wants more stability out wide.
Another suitable option at full-back would be D.C. United's Taylor Kemp. The No. 17 pick at the 2013 MLS SuperDraft has been one of the most underrated defenders in MLS this season.
Kemp has gradually earned more minutes over his three years with D.C. He made just eight appearances in his rookie campaign before starting 12 games last season.
The 25-year-old has eclipsed that number already. He's started 17 games at left-back for D.C. and would be excellent for the U.S. in the same position.
He has also recorded five assists, the second-highest total for a defender. Only the Columbus Crew's Waylon Francis (six) has more.
Kemp can contribute to the attack and will track back to help defend. Klinsmann should admire that versatility.
Maurice Edu was once a regular starter for the U.S. men's national team. Now, the Philadelphia Union designated player is nowhere near the USMNT picture, but he should be, given his experience.
Since moving to center back in the second half of the 2014 season, Edu has been consistently excellent at the heart of the Union defense.
He was always an effective defender when he operated as a holding midfielder, but he's improved since moving into a deeper role. He's averaging 2.5 tackles, 1.9 interceptions and 3.3 clearances this year, per WhoScored.com.
Those defensive attributes and experience would help Ventura Alvarado and John Brooks. Edu would be 32 at the 2018 World Cup, but with 46 international caps, he would be a calming presence on the big stage.
New England Revolution defender Andrew Farrell moved to center back this season after A.J. Soares' departure. It was tumultuous in the first few weeks, but Farrell has settled since then and is enjoying another great campaign.
The No. 1 pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft can also play at right-back if necessary. Since rosters are composed of 23 players, adding a versatile defender could save a spot or two on the squad.
Farrell's stats are also impressive. He's a solid defender, averaging just over two tackles and three interceptions per game, according to WhoScored.com. The 23-year-old is also a decent passer from the back and can be involved in buildup play.
A few defenders will be competing with Farrell, but the dependable defender has never been capped. It's odd that he hasn't been considered to this point, but now is the time for him to receive a USMNT call-up.
Matt Miazga is a virtual lock to join the U.S. under-23 squad for Olympic qualifying, but Klinsmann must cap the New York Red Bulls defender as soon as possible.
The 20-year-old has been highly touted for a few years now. He's even being referred to as the best defender the U.S. has ever produced, according to Doug McIntyre of ESPN FC. Talk about high praise.
McIntyre stated that Miazga hasn't ruled out representing Poland, his parents' homeland. His rapid rise over the last few months certainly gives him options.
His performance against New York City FC's David Villa has surely turned heads. Villa has 14 goals this season and is Spain's all-time leading scorer. Miazga limited the Spaniard to just two shots on target in three games. The striker did not record a single goal or assist.
If that doesn't impress Klinsmann enough, the U.S. may pay for it in the future if Miazga ends up playing for Poland.
A few rookies have shined in MLS this season. San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Fatai Alashe isn't as publicized as Orlando City SC striker Cyle Larin, but he's been exceptional.
The 21-year-old was chosen fourth in this year's draft and has started 18 of San Jose's 22 games. He's averaged over two tackles and two interceptions per game, per WhoScored.com.
The Earthquakes midfielder participated at the Toulon Tournament for the under-23 squad this summer. Alashe scored against Costa Rica in his first taste of international competition.
Alashe will surely be added to the U23 roster for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. If the U.S. makes it to the 2016 Games, he will likely play in Rio de Janeiro as well.
That experience at the Olympics will be valuable. Alashe will compete against some terrific players and is only going to improve. Klinsmann should be watching him over the next year.
Harry Shipp may not be thriving in 2015 compared to his first season, but he's a player who can create scoring chances. The U.S. men's national team needs players like him, especially in matches when the opposition sits deep against the USA.
The homegrown player's touch and composure in the final third are all quality traits. At just 23 years old, Shipp still has plenty of time to earn a call-up to the U.S. men's national team.
The Fire's woeful campaign probably doesn't bolster Shipp's chances. However, he's a calm and technical playmaker who is only going to get better.
Columbus Crew winger Ethan Finlay is one of the in-form players in MLS this season. He is tied for the league lead in assists with 12 to go with seven goals in 2015.
The 25-year-old was supposedly eligible for a Canadian passport thanks to his father. However, the country's laws prevent Finlay from obtaining citizenship, according to American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta.
This leaves the door open for Finlay to represent the U.S. The Crew forward has pace and technique and is quick on the ball.
Finlay would be able to unlock opposing defenses with those smooth touches and dynamism. He would be a huge upgrade over DeAndre Yedlin, Graham Zusi, Joe Corona and Gyasi Zardes on the flank.
There have been several big-name arrivals in MLS this summer. The L.A. Galaxy brought in two marquee players in Steven Gerrard and Mexico international Giovani dos Santos. However, the signing of Sebastian Lletget might be the best move the Galaxy have made all season.
The 22-year-old forward has dominated for Los Angeles in the 11 games he's played. He already has six goals and one assist thus far.
Lletget's ability to expose holes in the opposing back line makes him a valuable winger. He's quick and gives the Galaxy another valuable goalscorer.
Klinsmann has few viable options out wide. Adding Lletget will not only bolster that position but alleviate the pressure on Clint Dempsey, who has been the main scorer for the USMNT in recent matches.
If there's one MLS player who deserves a U.S. men's national team call-up, it's New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty.
There's a desperate need for a proper holding midfielder on the USMNT. McCarty would be the perfect candidate for the role.
He's a tireless worker who can cover ground, break up onrushing attacks and execute a killer pass. The USA had Kyle Beckerman at the Gold Cup, but at 33 years old, the RSL midfielder is slowing down.
McCarty can easily replace Beckerman during this World Cup cycle. The 28-year-old has arguably been the Red Bulls' best player and has to earn a call-up in the near future.