Commentary: Growing US presence in Europe a great sign
As the United States national team's blog points out, all 18 players on Saturday's game day roster are based in Europe. (Brek Shea and Heath Pearce, the only two representatives from Major League Soccer, will join the squad in Philadelphia after their club match over the weekend.)
But there's a more important observation rooted in this statistic: Almost every man called into the American camp is playing regularly for his club side across the pond.
Oguchi Onyewu and Jonathan Spector are the only players relegated to the sidelines, and both have at least a semblance of an excuse. Onyewu moved to one of the best squads in the world (AC Milan), while Spector (West Ham) is mired in the type of slump all footballers go through occasionally.
Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa) and Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) aren't regulars for their respective teams, but all three have seen time during the season and sit within striking distance of more.
The 20-year-old Altidore will get on the field when (if?) he finishes the chances he's been creating for over a year. The Lichaj plans to work his way into the defensive line for Gerald Houllier's lineup as the campaign progresses. Guzan only sits because he's buried behind one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Brad Friedel, but he should land a starting gig soon enough, whether for the Villans or another club.
The other 13 players on the US roster have their names penciled, if not penned, into the starting XI on their European clubs.
As we've seen in the past, getting to Europe is one thing. Scoring playing time is another issue entirely, but increasingly one that's vital to earn a call.
DaMarcus Beasley, Ricardo Clark, Jay DeMerit and José Francisco Torres were left off the American roster at least in part because they weren't playing on their club sides.
On the other hand, the shouts that Bob Bradley should extend a training camp invitation to Mikkel Diskerud stemmed directly from his strong form at Stӕbek. (Well, that and the desire to cap-tie him before he changes his mind.) The midfielder missed out, but he's a virtual lock to join the January camp.
This time around, it's 18 guys, 17 European clubs, and lots of minutes. That's a far cry from the 2006 World Cup roster when 11 of the 23 men hailed from Major League Soccer teams. (Due to the MLS playoff push, Bob Bradley left potential Nats with their club sides, but only Landon Donovan is a lock to make the full US team.)
The American presence in Europe continues to grow and that's a great sign for the future of the Stars and Stripes.