If you’re looking for reasons to be glad Bruce Arena is back in charge of the USA, there’s plenty of reasons - for example, tactical stability, or his established and increasingly transparent way of looking at the game, or his stout refusal to overlook in-form domestic talent.
Case in point: New Chicago Fire midfielder Dax McCarty, a guy who never seemed to get a serious look with the national side during the long slow decline of the Klinsmann years. Dax’s case for inclusion has continued to get stronger over the last several years, but despite consistently dominant play at a lynchpin position in a system tactically similar to the USA’s attempted style, he remained on the outside. Meanwhile, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones have taken turns being shoehorned into a role at which neither excels; in those rare times when a true 6 was used, it was the increasingly decrepit Kyle Beckerman who got the call.
Meanwhile, Dax kept doing his thing, even after a shock trade landed him with a Fire side he’d never dreamt of leading, and today, his reward: Dax McCarty will dress to represent the USA in a World Cup qualifier. McCarty has six caps, but all have come in friendly competitions.
McCarty is one of 14 MLS players on the 24-man roster for the crucial games at home against Honduras (Fri., March 24) and on the road in Panama (Tues., March 28).
Hot (Time) Take
I’d love to believe that Bruce is gonna be super smart and play Dax for 180 minutes during these games, but we’ll probably see Michael Bradley again struggling with himself to stay home in that 6 role.
Bruce, if you’re reading this, PLAY DAX. If you were lining up against Argentina or France or something, I’d understand being leery of playing Dax, but you’ve seen the guy play - do you really think Honduras or Panama are going to play too quickly for him to anticipate? Because I don’t. I think he’ll eat their lunch if you let him. And I’ve really only watched him intently for maybe 10 games. Ask Red Bulls supporters - I’m sure they’d tell you the same. Hell, ask Jesse Marsch. You know that m**herf**ker is cold-blooded.
Two games into the 10-game hexagonal tournament, the USA are dead last on the table; anything less than four points from these two games would be kind of a disaster. C’mon, USA, show us something.