Coach Q&A : Arena on 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup Roster

The U.S. Men’s National Team roster for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup was announced on Sunday. caught up with U.S. MNT head coach Bruce Arena to get his thoughts on the group as he looks to guide the USA to its sixth confederation championship title.

The U.S. Men’s National Team roster for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup was announced on Sunday. caught up with U.S. MNT head coach Bruce Arena to get his thoughts on the group as he looks to guide the USA to its sixth confederation championship title. Give us your overall thoughts on the roster and the large contingent of domestic-players that are part of the U.S. squad for the tournament.

Bruce Arena: “It’s a good roster with a nice blend of experienced, veteran players and a good group of newcomers as well. There’s good balance at every position, we can play a number of ways and I think all these players have a desire to play for the U.S. and will be working hard. It will be a competitive camp, they’re going to be highlight motivated, very coachable and they have an opportunity to make a statement.”

“We have a large number of domestic players because our European-based players need a break. They had long seasons plus the June World Cup Qualifiers, so they needed a break and then they need to start their preseasons in July. That was the appropriate move, though we do have a few European-based players on our roster, obviously in Kenny Saief, Matt Miazga and Eric Lichaj, and some players coming from Mexico in Omar Gonzalez, Jorge Villafaña, Paul Arriola and Joe Corona. There’s a little bit of a mixture there, and I think it makes a lot of sense.” There are a number of guys on the roster that have been involved with the team since the beginning of the year, but haven’t received a lot of playing time. Do you see this as a good opportunity for them to have an extended look and make their own case?

BA: “Certainly there are some guys like Matt Besler, Dax McCarty and a little bit of the same case with Graham Zusi. They’ve been with us most of the year and haven’t had extensive minutes – Graham played a fair amount in March, but not too much in June. I think there’s a great opportunity for these guys to lock down roster positions for our games in September and October as well. It’s good to have them. As I said, the roster has a nice blend of experience and talented players with less experience. It makes for good competition, so I’m really looking forward to working with this group.” Dom Dwyer, Kenny Saief, Cristian Roldan and Kelyn Rowe are the newcomers to the group. Could you speak to their qualities and the reason you chose to bring them in now? 

BA: “Well they’re all good players for sure. We were fortunate that Kenny just recently received his clearance from FIFA. He’s a player that we observed with Gent in Belgium. He plays on the left side of midfield, a position where we can use some help, and he’s a good left-footed player from what we’ve seen. It’ll be interesting to see him in camp to see how he fits in with our group. Dom Dwyer as we know has had a very good number of years in M.L.S. He’s a proven goal scorer, a hard worker and a left-footed striker which we’re a little short of as well. He’s a very competitive guy, and I think he has a game that may fit in very well at the international level.

“Roldan and Rowe continue to be outstanding players for their club teams. Although they’ve never been capped before, they’re very good players in Major League Soccer. Roldan is more of a No. 6 or No. 8 type of player, and Rowe can play in a number of positions. They’re good players, and it’s great to have them in camp.” The interesting thing about the Gold Cup is that teams can make up to six roster changes following the Group Stage. How are you approaching that opportunity?

BA: “I will wait and see how the tournament develops before I make any of those decisions. We clearly have a number of players that we can consider bringing in and we will do that, but we want to see how we get through group play.” This will be your fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup. How have you seen the tournament evolve or change since first coaching the U.S. MNT during the 2000 edition?

BA: “I think the tournament has grown. It’s much more competitive today than it was years ago, and we have a bunch of good teams here. It’s a tournament where a number of teams are capable of winning. I think that’s a real positive for CONCACAF. In our case, we know we need to be on top of our game when we start playing on July 8 because we’re playing against a very good team in Panama.” Other than trying to win the tournament, what are you hoping to get out of this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup?

BA: “We want to continue to build on what we started in January and improve the program. Hopefully we find other players that can compete for spots for the camps in September and October, and then players that will continue to move forward and can possibly envision being part of our team in Russia in 2018.”