With the Jurgen Klinsmann era of the U.S. national team in the rear view, the coach's favoritism and idiosyncrasies will no longer be a factor. That could open the door for players to get a chance with the national team, increase their playing time or find a better role. Here is a look at who is set to benefit from the removal of Klinsmann as coach.
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He's been an automatic starter under Klinsmann, but he has been asked to play attacking roles that just aren't the best fit for him. Bradley prefers to play in a deep-lying position and under a new coach, he may be able to stick to what he knows and not be forced to do so much of the playmaking that he has struggled with under Klinsmann.
After Klinsmann's firing was announced, his tweet – simply a wide smiley face – said it all. Feilhaber and Klinsmann are two big personalities that did not get along. As long as Klinsmann was coach, Feilhaber was not going to get a chance. But in terms of untapped attacking talent in the central midfield that could play for the USMNT, Feilhaber is at the top of the list.
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There seemed to be something of a disconnect between Nagbe and Klinsmann. Nagbe reportedly turned town a call-up to a pair of friendlies in October, which didn't seem to bode well for his future, given Klinsmann's track record of not seeming to like when players weren't fully committed. But less than 24 hours before Klinsmann was fired, he insisted Nagbe would be back on the team. Whatever the situation with Nagbe was, it turned into 'A Thing' and a fresh start with a new coach will probably be best for him. Nagbe is an excellent passer and good in transition, so a new coach may see more reason to make Nagbe feel valued.
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A new coach probably isn't going to need Feilhaber, Nagbe and Nguyen, on top of players the USMNT already has in their midst, like Sacha Kljestan. But if a new manager is willing to take a fresh approach, including a hard look at MLS, Nguyen can be a contender for a central midfield spot.
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Things were actually already pretty good under Klinsmann for Kljestan. After a long-time stint as a snub, the midfielder finally started getting called up. He didn't feature in the USMNT's last two qualifiers, but he was on the bench, which is pretty remarkable given how far out of the USMNT picture Kljestan seemed to be even a few months ago. But the upside for Kljestan is that there's a chance he could actually start games, particularly if a new coach thinks differently of what Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones bring to the table.
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He has actually been one of the best goalkeepers the USMNT has had available in recent years, but Klinsmann was firmly settled on choosing between Tim Howard and Brad Guzan. Hamid has never broken beyond the third goalkeeper spot and he hasn't even been called up lately, but with Howard injured and Guzan's declining form, there's a spot for him to make a case under a new coach.
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He's been asked to play as a left back under Klinsmann and at various youth international levels, but for FC Dallas he's been a standout defensive midfielder. Now there is a chance that Acosta can start being utilized in the position he knows best.
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The Nottingham Forest fullback has long been on the list of Klinsmann snubs to the point it was barely considered a snub anymore. But Klinsmann, at the same time decrying the lack of fullbacks developed in the United States, also seemed to limit his options at the position. Lichaj was called in for an especially useless friendly against Puerto Rico in May, where he was solid as a substitute, but he deserves a look against real competition, or at least in more training camps. Now, it looks better than ever that he could get that chance.
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Villafana recently was demoted and has not been starting at Santos Laguna lately, but even when he was starting and looking good earlier in the year, he never got any attention from Klinsmann. He also didn't get any attention when he was excellent in helping the Portland Timbers win the MLS Cup last year. Villafana is a quality player who has a good work rate, strong 1v1 skills and ability pushing forward in the attack. The USMNT doesn't have a ton of outside backs in the player pool – Klinsmann preferred to ask players who normally play other positions to fill the fullback role – and Villafana could now get a look if he gets back on track.
One of the best centerbacks in MLS, Hedges won the Defender of the Year award for 2016 and he was a finalist last year. The Americans have a very good centerback duo in Geoff Cameron and John Brooks. But with Cameron injured lately and Brooks utterly falling apart last week in Costa Rica, it highlighted that you can never have too many central defenders. Hedges was capped once last winter and he hasn't been back since, but now he probably has a real shot at another call.
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