D.C. United have occupied first place in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference since last summer. The Black-and-Red haven’t been dominant, but they’ve been really good for a really long time.
And yet as the U.S. Men’s National Team congregates in Washington D.C. this week for a friendly against Peru, United won’t be represented on the American roster. It’s not as big a snub as the absence of D.C. players at the MLS All-Star Game this summer, but there’s certainly a national team case to be made for a few of Ben Olsen’s key contributors.
At some point you ask what more Hamid must do to break back into the national team. Minor injuries have been largely responsible for his lack of U.S. run since late last year, but Hamid's performance in MLS has more than earned him a spot among America’s top three goalies. Hamid’s resume doesn’t match Brad Guzan or Tim Howard's, but the 24-year-old is far more accomplished than Sean Johnson or William Yarborough - the presumed third goalies for this camp.
After a career-season in 2014, Kitchen broke into the national team picture with a pair of appearances earlier this year. His central midfield position is a crowded one, but time is certainly on the 23-year-old’s side. Critics knock the lack of offense in Kitchen’s game (three goals and one assist in 28 appearances this season for United), but that’s not really his priority.
The second-year pro has battled some injuries this season, but he’s been solid when healthy. Birnbaum, who made his national team debut against Chile in January, is as aggressive in the air as you’ll find in MLS - and can be a real threat in the opponent’s penalty area. Central defense has been a disaster zone for the United States since last summer’s World Cup, so the 24-year-old is in a prime spot to earn more opportunities.
There may be aspects of his game that aren’t yet ready for international play, but Kemp delivers some of the best left-footed service in all of MLS. In fact, Columbus’ Waylon Francis is the only MLS defender with more assists this season than Kemp’s five. Outside back isn’t exactly the most-settled position on the U.S. roster either - evidenced by DaMarcus Beasley’s continual retirement/unretirement - so the University of Maryland product my not have to leapfrog many others end up in Jurgen Klinsmann's plans.
Yes - Rolfe has had a shot at the national team, but the 32-year-old is arguably having the best season of a very-distinguished career. He’s already tied a personal-best in goals (9) with six matches still to play. Rolfe also provides something that doesn’t grow on trees in American soccer: Explosive playmaking ability. He can set up those around him, beat defenders one-on-one, and hit one of the best distance shots in Major League Soccer.
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