Nottingham Forest defender Eric Lichaj earns US national team recall

Forest City Ground

The former Aston Villa full-back has not featured for Jurgen Klinsmann's side since November 2013.

After two-and-a-half years out of the picture, Eric Lichaj has finally been brought back in from the international wilderness.

On Sunday, US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named his 40-man preliminary roster for next month’s 2016 Copa America Centenario, and the Nottingham Forest full-back was one of the surprise inclusions on the list.

His call-up comes after a strong season with Forest which has seen him make 42 Championship appearances, recording one goal and two assists, but he now faces a battle to make the final cut.

Klinsmann’s final 23-player roster is due to be announced on May 20 ahead of their tournament opener against Colombia on 3 June at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, and the Chicago-born defender will have to fight off some strong competition to secure one of the full-back spots.

He is likely competing with Timothy Chandler, Brad Evans and fellow utility man Kellyn Acosta to join projected starters DeAndre Yedlin and Edgar Castillo in the squad, and with centre-backs Geoff Cameron, Michael Orozco and Tim Ream also capable of shifting out wide, Klinsmann is not short of options at the position.

Lichaj, 27, has earned just 10 USA caps since making his international debut in October 2010 while on Aston Villa's books, with only two of coming after Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley as head coach in the summer of 2011.

His only previous call-up under the German was in November 2013 following a two-year absence from the setup, when he featured in friendlies against Scotland and Austria, before a run of injuries prevented him from contending for a place in the 2014 World Cup squad.

Having been one of an increasingly small number of Americans playing regularly in a reputable European league over past few seasons, fans, the media and even fellow professionals have continued to express bewilderment over his ongoing absence, but for his part the Forest right-back has maintained a diplomatic approach when discussing his exile.

Speaking to American Soccer Now in February, Lichaj said: “I don't think I've been overlooked. They've watched a few games and nothing has come of it. Maybe they didn't like what've they've seen or I didn't fit into the style that they wanted to play.

“I would love to play for them again and I've always enjoyed it. I can't put too much focus on it because if I was really desperate for that, it might take away from what I am doing here at Nottingham.

“I am doing well and if I keep improving hopefully I get recalled to see if the U.S. manager wants me. At the moment he doesn't so I can't complain, I just have to keep improving to see if I can get back in there.”

Now that call-up has finally come, the former Villa man has a valuable opportunity to put himself back in Klinsmann’s plans for the foreseeable future.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch