Don't expect to see Christian Pulisic on the field for the United States at the Gold Cup. And don't expect many of the Americans' other first choice players, Bruce Arena told Sports Illustrated.
“I doubt it,” Arena when asked whether Pulisic would be on the Gold Cup team.
“It’s bad timing for [the Gold Cup], because the guys in Europe have gone through this long club season and now the World Cup qualifiers. They need a break. They have three weeks off, and asking them to come in for Gold Cup makes no sense. It would take three weeks to get them ready.”
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The U.S. start their Gold Cup on July 8 and, if they make it to the final, won't be done with the tournament until July 26. As Arena said, that would only give the European-based players three weeks off between now and the start of the Gold Cup. That's not a sufficient offseason.
After the Gold Cup, players would either have to report to their clubs for preseason, or if they take a break as FIFA rules entitle them to, they won't be prepared for the start of their club seasons. Neither is a good option and it makes taking a weaker squad to the Gold Cup completely reasonable.
To send a "B team" to the Gold Cup is not unusual. While the Gold Cups the year after the World Cup are taken very seriously, the ones the year before the World Cup -- which 2017 is -- are often not. The Americans and Mexico often send weakened squads to the tournament, and El Tri will be doing so this year, just like the U.S.
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When asked how many of the Americans' first choice players would be on the Gold Cup roster, Arena made it clear there would be few.
“Almost none. Very few. Maybe [Omar] González and [Matt] Besler. Maybe [Clint] Dempsey and [Jozy] Altidore at some point. [Darlington] Nagbe is a possibility."
All of those players play in either MLS or Liga MX, which have offseasons in the winter so they'd be able to get time off to rest before the World Cup, unlike the European players.
But sending a weakened squad to the Gold Cup isn't all bad. In fact, the Gold Cup prior to the World Cup has often provided fringe players an opportunity to jump into the first team and become impact players at the World Cup. Kyle Beckerman did so in 2013 and Stuart Holden did the same in 2009.
With a lot of the team's best players out for this Gold Cup, players like Kellyn Acosta, Dom Dwyer and Cristian Roldan could break through and become fixtures with the national team.
One unique aspect of the Gold Cup is team's are allowed to make six changes to their roster after the group stage. So some players may be with the team to start the tournament, then leave, while others may not be with the team in the beginning, but come in for the knockout stages.
That appears to be on the table at goalkeeper.
“I have to see in the next couple weeks how everyone is doing. We’re pretty sure [Brad] Guzan is coming in. [Tim] Howard can come in after the group stage. So we’ll have to name at least two other goalkeepers,” Arena said.
Jesse Gonzalez is reportedly in the process of switching from Mexico to the U.S. and could be one of those two goalkeepers. With the Americans in need of some younger backstops, adding him to the mix would be nice, while Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson and Joe Bendik are all under 30 years old and on the U.S. preliminary roster as well so they'll be available to challenge the Americans' incumbent goalkeepers.