New USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter has a lot to consider regarding the player pool of his squad, and we’ve got a lot to consider about him.
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There’s little doubt that Berhalter is a heck of a coach, and there’s reason to believe he’ll thrive with the team.
But what does he really think about the quality of the stars in MLS, and overseas? And does his work with the Crew tip his hand at all in terms of how he’ll line up the Yanks.
Personnel will dictate what he sticks with, but what formation gets first dibs?
Berhalter operated in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 for most of this season, switching to the latter for the last 10 starting lineups of the regular season and three MLS Cup Playoff games.
Part of that 4-3-3 was very much akin to a 4-2-3-1, with Federico Higuain operating atop a midfield pyramid.
It’s worth noting that no teams beat Berhalter’s Crew more often than Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls (7). It’s not a stretch to say he’ll have respected impressions of Tyler Adams, Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Aaron Long, and their peers (Altidore, for example, has five goals and an assist in seven games against Berhalter).
Who has caught his eye abroad, aside from Pulisic, McKennie, etc? And is this an MLS litmus test?
When you consider the men from outside MLS set to star for the USMNT in future seasons, there’s little doubt about the new guard of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and John Brooks, but who else might Berhalter have admired in studying those who followed his career path and spent most of the careers abroad?
Experienced hands who could be in line for another or deeper run with the USMNT are Alfredo Morales, Eric Lichaj, Geoff Cameron, Lynden Gooch, and Emerson Hyndman.
A deeper look, though, raises the question of how many MLS players will get continued, deep assessments given how many USMNT players or prospects are in top European environments. For example, you could call up a 23-man roster based entirely on the continent and feel confident you’ve made few errors (assuming a transfer Steffen happens).
This isn’t a shot at MLS, who developed many of these players (I’ll denote that with a *). It’s rationality, and a compliment.
Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Zack Steffen* (Columbus->Man City – reportedly), Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin)
Defenders (8) : John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Matt Miazga* (Nantes), DeAndre Yedlin* (Newcastle United), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City), Shaq Moore (Reus), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Erik Palmer-Brown* (NAC Breda),
Midfielders (8): Geoff Cameron* (QPR), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Weston McKennie* (Schalke), Tyler Adams* (RB Leipzig), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Romain Gall* (Malmo)
Forwards (4): Bobby Wood (Hannover 96), Tim Weah (PSG), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Haji Wright (Schalke)
How big of a day is this for Wil Trapp?
The Columbus Crew defensive midfielder has already captained the USMNT eight times under Dave Sarachan. That’s 8-of-11 caps for a 25-year-old, and it’s been whispered that his continued inclusion may’ve been a sign Berhalter was coming for some time.
But is that simply connecting too many dots? Yes, Trapp was a mainstay for Berhalter with the Crew, but he’s often struggled to star when given the chance in a U.S. shirt at a time when few other players had the opportunity.
Trapp was the 12th-rated American defensive midfielder with more than 10 appearances in MLS this season, according to WhoScored. Taking away anyone not rated strictly as a holding or DCM, Trapp is behind six players: Russell Canouse, Sean Davis, Cristian Roldan, Tyler Adams, Jeff Larentowicz, and Benny Feilhaber. The first four are the same age or younger than Trapp, and 18-year-old Chris Durkin wasn’t far behind the Crew man.
Another thing to keep in mind, which is completely coincidental and speculation, is that Transfermarkt compares two American players to Artur, Berhalter’s preferred midfield mate for Trapp with the Crew: 23-year-old Kellyn Acosta of the Colorado Rapids and 21-year-old Keaton Parks of Benfica.
Will any other Crew players get a chance to shine?
Gyasi Zardes, 27, scored 20 goals while leading the Crew in minutes this season, but Berhalter has had success with any number of strikers in his system. Ola Kamara and Kei Kamara each had prolific seasons for Columbus.
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, 23, is already entrenched in the USMNT plans, whether he can outplay Ethan Horvath or not.
Aside from Trapp and the two above, there are not many other Americans under 30 who’ve seen many minutes under Berhalter since Ethan Finlay left town in 2017.
It’s also probably bad news for Kekuta Manneh, who washed out of Columbus and has yet to score for St. Gallen in Switzerland.