Four years after his World Cup heroics and two past his post WC hiatus, the United States has yet to find a worthy heir to the player dubbed “The Secretary of Defence”. In last few months, the United States seems to be calling up a different flavour of the day keeper from Major League Soccer to understudy former Everton number one Tim Howard. Although the United States, and specifically MLS, have a deep pool of goalkeepers, no-one has yet been able to step up as the definitive successor to Howard. Perhaps Bruce Arena and the USMNT team just aren’t looking in the right place.
In a recent interview with Front Row Soccer, New York Cosmos coach and sporting director. Giovanni Savarese provided an alternative suggestion for Arena. The former MLS and Swansea player suggested that maybe his starting goalkeeper, Jimmy Maurer, get a cap for the United States National Team.
Jimmy Maurer has played under Savarese for the Cosmos since 2013. In that time he has developed into one of the best keepers in the NASL, the United States’ second division. Maurer has been a key part of the Cosmos’ back to back NASL Championships in 2015 and 2016. A 2014 NASL Best XI winner and one of the constants at the top of league’s Opta stats, Maurer is a great shot stopper, especially late in games. He is also confident on the ball and not afraid to start play from the back. He is an especially strong penalty stopper, as he was the hero in the shootout against the Indy Eleven to give the Cosmos their most recent title.
However, as the United States soccer pyramid does not have promotion and relegation, Maurer has only been able to go up against MLS sides in a handful of fixtures in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Like the FA Cup, teams across divisions take part for a qualifying spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. When the Cosmos played cross-town rivals New York City FC in the Open Cup in 2015, Maurer infamously stepped up in the shootout to give the Cosmos both the win and of course bragging rights.
Yet, at the end of the 2016 season, the Cosmos nearly ceased to exist. Due to financial trouble and questionable ownership, the club was not able to pay staff and players. The entire Cosmos roster was released. Fast forward a few months, and under a new owner, Rocco Commisso, and the returning Giovani Savarese the Cosmos began to rebuild their roster looking to bring back as much of the Championship winning side as possible. At this point, Maurer approached a crossroad in his career: return to the Cosmos or try a new frontier in MLS? Ultimately Jimmy chose to return to New York, citing his belief in Savarese and his love for the 5 Points, the New York Cosmos’ supporters section.
Although he’s has a cosign for Savarese, who was strongly considered to coach MLS sides this offseason, the stigmata of playing in the second division (and the inability for the Cosmos to be promoted into to the MLS) may prevent Jimmy Maurer from getting a chance to play for his country. In addition, the Cosmos suffered an early upset in the US Open Cup by fourth tier Reading United AC, so they will not face off against MLS rivals this year. Since the league’s return in 2011, only one NASL player (Miguel Ibarra of the then NASL Minnesota United) has been called up to the national team. The odds may be against Jimmy Maurer for a national team cap, but his quality performances can’t possibly be ignored forever.
In an interview with Sky Sports, former Chelsea star Joe Cole (who played for the formerly NASL Tampa Bay Rowdies) stated that although the league is a “mishmash” in terms of talent, “There are some players, you think, he’s got a chance here”. Maybe Bruce Arena and the rest of the United States National Team’s coaching staff can give Jimmy Maurer the chance to prove himself at international level.
UPDATE: After this article was originally written, The New York Cosmos sent Maurer to FC Dallas on a one-match loan. Dallas will use him as cover for Jesse Gonzalez, who is currently with the US National Team for the Gold Cup.