Bruce Arena has his team for the Gold Cup (begins July 7 on the FOX networks). It's an experimental squad, with the United States boss opting to leave many of his top players at home and instead getting a look at some newer faces. That's extremely valuable, as Arena tries to find players who could feature at next year's World Cup.
These 7 young (or inexperienced) players are in prime position to show out at the Gold Cup and make the trip to Russia next summer:
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Acosta got his first ever World Cup qualifying start earlier this month against Mexico and after a shaky first 35 minutes, the 21-year-old put on a clinic. He's been one of the better central midfielders in MLS for a little while now, but has really taken a step forward this season and is making his case as the league's best in the middle.
Acosta is expected to be the linchpin of the U.S. midfield at the Gold Cup and with a strong showing there, could be a regular starter with the first team by September's World Cup qualifiers. He's not just a guy who can use this Gold Cup to make the World Cup roster -- he could use it to start a rise to becoming a U.S. star by next summer.
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Arriola has had a nice year for Club Tijuana, reviving a career that looked to be languishing. The 22-year-old is still far from a star, and there's reason to think he'll never be a regular starter for the national team, but he's a dynamic wing player who is responsible defensively, as well as an asset going forward. Capable of playing in the midfield or as a wingback, he has a specific skillset that can be very valuable in certain match-ups. That's why we saw Bruce Arena turn to him against Mexico.
If Arriola plays well in the Gold Cup and establishes himself as someone Arena can trust, he could be on next year's World Cup roster to be used when match-ups dictate.
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Dwyer isn't exactly young at 26 years old, but he's been one of MLS's most consistent strikers for years. The only reason he hasn't played for the national team before is the English-born forward was not a U.S. citizen, but he is now and Arena is using the Gold Cup as an opportunity to see him at the international level.
Dwyer has proven himself to be adept at running in behind defenses, finding space in the box and finishing rather clinically. He's not going to blow you away, but he does fit the prototype of bench striker who can win you matches with late goals, and that's a role that every World Cup team needs. If he can carry over his MLS form to the U.S., watch out.
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If you'd have asked people whether Morris would be on the World Cup team back when he was the unicorn college player on the senior national team and scoring against Mexico, they'd have all said yes. But Morris is in his second professional season now and has yet to make himself a U.S. regular. He's been a part of some teams, but has also been left off the roster a couple times.
Now Morris will get his chance in the Gold Cup and if he can prove he's capable of a bigger role, he might become that player people envisioned he would be a few years ago. Bruce Arena has spoken highly of Morris, praising his speed and athleticism, especially as an option off the bench, but he'll get to be more than a sub in this tournament.
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Roldan is a good two-way central midfielder and, at 22 years old, is part of a deep crop of young Americans at the position. While Acosta has rightly gotten the attention both in MLS and with the national team of late, Roldan has also taken a huge step forward since the start of last season and established himself as a very good MLS player. He helped the Seattle Sounders capture MLS Cup in 2016 and now he's going to get a chance to prove himself at the international level. If he can carry his form over, he could very well force himself into the first choice senior team. You don't find many central midfielder as smart and tidy on the ball as Roldan.
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Saief was born in the U.S., but moved to Israel when he was four years old and previously played for the Israeli youth teams. However he said he wanted to play in the World Cup and at the highest international level, so he filed for a one-time switch to be eligible for the U.S. FIFA approved it and now he's an American national teamer.
Saief plays for Gent, where he's been used on the left, right and centrally. The 23-year-old has experience in the Champions League and Europa League, to go along with the Belgian league, and provides the U.S. with a dynamic attacking midfielder. His ability to play on either wing, where the Americans are sometimes short on strong attacking players will keep him in the mix for the World Cup team if he can transition to the international game.
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Villafana isn't young at 27 years old, but he just got his first cap earlier this year so he's new to the U.S. national team, not that you could tell. By March he was starting in World Cup qualifiers and, by the end of the month, he looked like the team's best left back. Steady defensively and capable going forward, he gives the U.S. what they need at left back, which is no small feat considering the team's struggles at the position for decades.
Villafana is still new to the team and, as good as he's been, needs to prove that he can keep playing at that level. The Gold Cup is another opportunity to do so. If he does, he very well may be the team's starting left back in Russia next year.