by Carlos D. Mojica (@CD_Mojica) | Photo by Jorge O. Martínez
As you probably already know, this year’s USMNT January camp features a lot of new faces. While some of these faces belong to MLS standouts like Ethan Finlay and Marc Pelosi, others belong to young prospects that are not as well-known to the average soccer fan.
With this in mind, I have compiled a quick dossier on the new players in Klinsmann’s squad, highlighting some of their strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. So what do these players bring to the team and what should you expect from them? Read below to find out.
Fatai Alashe (SJ Earthquakes, Midfielder). In his debut season, Alashe quickly became integral to the ‘Quakes plans. In fact, his debut season was so impressive that Alashe was among the three finalists for the 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year award.
What does he bring to the team? Alashe’s work rate is nothing short of impressive, as is his versatility, with the youth being as effective on the attack as he is on defense. While Alashe was an undisputed starter in midfield for San José when fit, he also played as a makeshift center back on a few occasions.
Ethan Finlay (Crew SC, Midfielder). Finlay rose to prominence in 2014, a season in which he finished as joint top-scorer for the Crew SC with 11 goals and six assists. He followed this up by scoring 12 goals and more than doubling his assists (13) in 2015.
What does he bring to the team? Finlay is a speedy winger who is capable of sending pinpoint crosses or cutting in from the left. Although his speed troubles defenders, his finishing needs refining and his first touch can sometimes let him down. While he’s relentless on the attack, his defensive work rate is sometimes lacking. A much awaited addition to the squad.
Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart, Forward). Having been a part of the U.S. youth soccer system since 2011, the Hertha BSC product finally made his debut in the Bundesliga last season for VfB Stuttgart, but it was short lived. Since then, Kiesewetter seems to have been cutting his teeth in the lower German divisions.
What does he bring to the team? Like Finlay, Kiesewetter brings pace to the table, and he is able to speed past defenders with ease. As a result of his time in the German divisions, Kiesewetter is also strong on the ball, something is sometimes hard to find in young players. With that said, he has yet to truly crack the VfB Stuttgart first team.
Eric Miller (Montreal Impact, Defender). After starting in 18 matches and notching an assist for the Montreal Impact in 2014, Miller started in only six games for the team last season.
What does he bring to the team? Honestly, I’m a bit surprised to see Eric Miller called up to the senior side. As noted above, Miller has not been getting regular minutes with Montreal Impact, instead spending time with FC Montreal in the USL. Perhaps Klinsmann knows something we don’t.
Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps, Defender). Parker suited up for the Whitecaps 15 times last season, starting on 14 of those occasions. The St. John’s University standout also made seven appearances for the Whitecaps’s USL side, Whitecaps FC 2.
What does he bring to the team? Despite standing at 6’2”, Parker is a quick and agile defender who started 79 out of 80 possible matches during his time at St. John’s University. A hard worker, Parker has leadership qualities that may serve the American squad in the future.
Marc Pelosi (SJ Earthquakes, Midfielder). The German-born player had his four-year stint with Liverpool affected by a terrible leg break, and joined San José this past summer. Although Pelosi was called up to the senior U.S. side in January of last year, he did not feature in any matches.
What does he bring to the team? Pelosi, whose left foot received praise from former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, took no time to fit in with the Earthquake’s midfield this summer. At just 21 years of age, his ability to learn quickly means Klinsmann might be able to mold him into a valuable piece for the U.S. National Team. One to keep an eye on.
Matt Polster (Chicago Fire, Defender). A product of the Chicago Fire’s U-23 team, Polster had an easy time slotting into the Fire’s senior side despite being in only his rookie season. In fact, Polster was also a finalist for Rookie of the year in 2015.
What does he bring to the team? Like Alashe, Polster is also a versatile player who saw time at right back, center back, and midfield for Chicago Fire last season. Great in aerial duels, Polster can be a bit too aggressive on the tackle which led to ten yellow cards last season, good enough for third most in the league.
Khiry Shelton (NYC FC, Forward). Although 2015 was Shelton’s first year in MLS, the Colorado native had previous experience with Austin Aztex and with Lane United in the USL. He was also a standout with Oregon State, where he notched 10 goals and 12 assists.
What does he bring to the team? In New York Shelton has had the chance to learn from David Villa, one of the most lethal strikers of all time, which is never a bad thing. Despite playing 17 matches for NYC FC, Shelton only started seven of them, but he did manage to score a goal and provide an assist. Far from being the finished product.
Tony Tchani (Crew SC, Midfielder). Tchani has improved by leaps and bounds under the tutelage of Gregg Berhalter. Once seen as a liability, Tchani has become a key cog in Berhalter’s Crew SC and is now an undisputed starter when fit.
What does he bring to the team? Tchani’s footwork is very impressive for a player his size (6’4”) and last season he added goals to his arsenal, scoring a personal best of five goals. At Columbus Tchani has formed quite the partnership with Wil Trapp, a player who will also be at the camp. It’ll be interesting to see if Klinsmann chooses to partner Tchani with Trapp in midfield, even if it’s only for a few minutes.