USMNT roster offers up surprises
Even diehard U.S. national team fans might not be overly familiar with all of the names on Jurgen Klinsmann's latest roster.
Ahead of next week's friendly in the Czech Republic -- the American squad's first of the 2018 World Cup cycle -- Klinsmann picked 22 players, many of them young and intriguing.
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While six of the invitees are uncapped, plenty of the usual suspects are there, too, including regular starters Jozy Altidore, Alejandro Bedoya and Fabian Johnson.
But with the MLS regular season entering the stretch run, and with more than half of the 2014 World Cup team now playing in the domestic league following Jermaine Jones' recent move to the New England Revolution, the coach was forced to cast a wider-than-usual net. That means the return of one-time regulars like Brek Shea and Tim Ream, the inclusion of several green Europe-based prospects (plus Julian Green), a few guys who are playing in Mexico and, for the first time in almost 20 years, according to one report, a current collegian.
With no shortage of storylines to choose from, here's a quick look at five of Klinsmann's most interesting but lesser-known selections.
Greg Garza, D, Club Tijuana (Mexico)
The 23-year-old Texan just began his third season with the Xolos where, following the departure of former national team reserve Edgar Castillo (to Atlas), he's now the Liga MX club's starting left back. There are questions about whether Garza has the athleticism to be a regular at the international level, but he's naturally left-footed, tactically sound, responsible defensively and is a decent passer out of the back. And with few other viable left back options in the U.S. player pool, Garza will position himself for future call-ups if he impresses next week.
Emerson Hyndman, M, Fulham (England)
The grandson of former FC Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman turned 18 in April, but the former U.S. under-17 standout still managed to crack the Cottagers' first-team roster during the preseason and has started two of the second-tier club's four league games. What the diminutive player (5-foot-5) lacks in size, he makes up for with skill. The hard-working Hyndman is a superior passer, as evidenced by an 89 percent completion rate in his Aug. 9 professional debut. He can get forward and score, too, like he did with Fulham's U-18 team against Chelsea in May's FA Youth Cup final.
Joe Gyau, F, Borussia Dortmund II (Germany)
This is the 21-year-old Gyau's second senior team invite -- he was named to Klinsmann's squad for the 2012-ending friendly in Russia, although he didn't play. But the speedy winger did make his Bundesliga debut for Hoffenheim late last season, appearing twice off the bench. That apparent progress was part of the reason his summer transfer to German titans Dortmund -- where competition for playing time is fierce -- seemed ill-advised. But Gyau, the son of former U.S. international Phillip Gyau, seems content to develop methodically under the keen eye of manager Jurgen Klopp at one of Europe's leading clubs. Earning his first cap in Prague would be another step forward.
Jordan Morris, F, Stanford University (NCAA)
According to TopDrawerSoccer.com, Morris is the first college player to receive a call-up since Ante Razov in 1995. (U.S. Soccer was still trying to confirm this as of Thursday evening.) The strong, speedy Seattle Sounders academy product impressed Klinsmann in May in a scrimmage against the U.S. squad, when the Americans' pre-World Cup prep camp was held at Stanford. He also received high marks from assistant coach Tab Ramos, who worked with Morris with the U-23 team earlier this month. "We felt like this was a good opportunity to introduce him to the senior team," Klinsmann said.
Rubio Rubin, F, Utrecht (Netherlands)
The Mexican-American from suburban Portland moved to Europe earlier this year after spending time with the Timbers academy and U.S. U-17s. He signed a four-year pro contract last month, and made his Eredivisie debut Aug. 17, going the distance and showing off his crossing ability (and almost scoring) in a 2-1 win against Willem II. Rubin didn't play in Utrecht's next game, against Dutch power Feyenoord, and he seems like a long shot to see significant action against the Czechs, but there's no question his career is off to a promising start.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.