The USMNT will convene for Gregg Berhalter’s second camp in charge of the national squad as the international break temporarily brings a halt to most club competitions.
Leading towards international friendlies against Ecuador and Chile five days apart on Thursday and next Tuesday, the camp will provide Berhalter another opportunity to see what the national team talent pool can potentially provide him and get a look at players he will have to make decisions on ahead of more high-leverage matches. There will be experimentation, Berhalter has confirmed, and players will get a chance to make an impression.
With some players involved in aforementioned tinkering while other players sit in precarious club situations, who stands to gain the most this camp, and who could be facing their last chance to make an impression?
Most to gain
1) Tyler Adams
The former New York Red Bull midfielder has enjoyed a positive start to life in the German top flight, and could bring his good form back to the national team camp. That’s not the focus of his national team situation, however.
Gregg Berhalter confirmed that he will experiment with Adams at right-back during this week-long stretch, a curious idea with the possibility of Adams being minimized at his best midfield position in Berhalter’s setup. Many are predicting Berhalter to eventually settle on a 4-3-3 formation, which could force him into a different role. When asked if moving him out wide could minimize his ball-winning strengths, Berhalter didn’t sound terribly convinced of the idea yet, but was hopeful the coaching staff will eventually be rewarded for their creativity.
“This is the beginning phases and we want to test it and we want to see how it looks and we want to see how he adapts and what it gives our team overall,” Berhalter said. “When you’re looking at the profile of a Michael Bradley or a Wil Trapp – a very controlling player – and you have the dynamic guy next to him in Tyler who can come inside and still be influential from that position, we think it’s exciting and we want to take a look at it. It may not work exactly as we have planned and we have to adapt but in theory it’s something worth trying.”
Adams, therefore, could gain a lot this camp. While he’s already a bright young talent with a clear place on the squad no matter the eventual formation used in games that matter, Adams could stamp his place in a team in a position of weakness should the experiment pay off.
With the comeback from his brutal 2017 injury finally complete having appeared in the last four national team matches off the bench, Sebastian Lletget could be primed for his first national team start in over two years, and this is the perfect chance to show off his usefulness to the new boss. Lletget has started the 2019 MLS season well, a completely dominant force in the Galaxy’s 3-2 win over Minnesota United on Saturday, completing 77/83 passes in a creative attacking role and scoring the eventual winning goal.
Lletget is a perfect fit for the 4-3-3 as a controlling winger who can pinch inside and cause havoc on and off the ball, or use his speed to create space and deliver a cross from the flank. If he performs at a high level this camp – and he should see ample time on the wing given the makeup of the roster – it could be a breakout point for the 26-year-old in the prime of his career during this World Cup cycle.
3) Jordan Morris
Morris has not made an appearance for the USMNT since January of 2018 due to injury, but now he’s back in the fold. It couldn’t come at a better time, with Morris in excellent form to start the 2019 MLS season. The 24-year-old has three goals and an assist through the team’s first three league matches amidst a perfect start for Seattle.
With Josh Sargent and Tim Weah both involved in U-23 Olympic qualifying, this seems the perfect opportunity for Morris to re-insert himself into the USMNT forward conversation in front of the new boss.
Most to lose
1) Tim Ream
With Fulham floundering towards relegation in the Premier League amidst a historic defensive calamity, Tim Ream has been at the center of the Whites’ struggles at the back. At 31 years old and the next World Cup still three years away, it’s possible that this is Ream’s last opportunity to state his case at the national team level. He was Fulham’s best player just a year ago in their promotion campaign, rock solid at the back for essentially the entire season, but as he finds life difficult in the English top flight, anything short of a perfect camp could see Ream flushed out of the setup.
Anything gained by Tyler Adams in this camp would be DeAndre Yedlin’s loss. The incumbent first-choice right-back suddenly has competition from an experimental adversary, and that could mean Yedlin finds himself in no-man’s land. Berhalter said that they would push Yedlin further up the field into a winger role to accommodate Adams, but a player being moved from his natural position to make way for an experiment is never a good sign.
Yedlin has plenty to gain by performing well in his new role, but he has more to lose should it go poorly and Adams succeeds. The Newcastle defender has worked hard on his defensive abilities over the past few years, to some marketable improvement, and so the experiment is understandable but at the same time somewhat puzzling. Should Adams make the switch with ease, Yedlin could find himself without a clear role in Berhalter’s potential 4-3-3 setup.
3) Gyasi Zardes
Still without a national team goal since 2016 and just one assist in that same timeframe, Gyasi Zardes is slowly slipping down the USMNT pecking order as others continue to step up. He has been deployed out wide continuously at the national level despite finding renewed success in a striker role at Columbus, and it’s clear it’s a weakness for him. It feels like the 27-year-old has reached a breaking point with the USMNT, and if he continues to fire blanks up front and be plagued by poor touches and questionable on-ball decision-making, he won’t be part of the 2022 World Cup conversation for much longer.
GK: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas).
DEF: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Ramirez (LAFC), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC).