Key takeaways on USMNT roster; projecting the XI

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The USMNT squad for their friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay in September has been announced and there’s plenty to unpack.

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Gregg Berhalter’s 26-man squad includes plenty of promising youngsters, while he also left out veterans Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.

Below we take a look at the key takeaways from the roster announcement.

Bradley, Altidore overlooked
These omissions will make a lot of headlines initially, but don’t be surprised if Berhalter left Bradley and Altidore out because Toronto FC needs them for a playoff push. TFC play FC Cincinnati and NYCFC during the international break and head coach Gregg Vanney will be a relieved man that he has two of his stars ready for MLS action. Although, it could be a sign of things to come as both Bradley and Altidore had mixed displays during the Gold Cup this summer. Expect both of these players to be named in future squads but maybe, just maybe, this is a glimpse of the future for the USMNT. Bradley is 32 and Altidore turns 30 soon, and the high-pressing style that Berhalter wants doesn’t really suit either of them.

Even more youngsters get a chance
Sergino Dest, Paxton Pomykal, Miles Robinson are all ready to play for the USMNT. That is what Berhalter has said during this roster announcement and all three can expect to get minutes. Dest is an intriguing prospect at Ajax and he is able to play in a range of positions defensively. He and Pomykal played during the U-20 World Cup this summer and the FC Dallas midfielder has been sublime for the Texas side this season with his strength on the ball matched with superb calmness and creativity in possession. As for Robinson, he is another good young central defensive option for Berhalter following his breakthrough campaign with Atlanta United in MLS. After giving so many young players an opportunity to impress over the past 18 months, there are plenty more ready to step up from the U-20 squad who did pretty well at the World Cup this summer.

Left back spot open
It is clear that left back is a problem area for the USMNT. Tim Ream has tried his best to plug that gap but is much better at center back, while the likes of Dest, Nick Lima and Daniel Lovitz could all compete for minutes at left back in this camp, but that isn’t their natural position either. There is no real left back in this squad, which highlights the problem, and it is something Berhalter has to figure out to give his defense a better balance. Having John Brooks return from injury as the left-sided center back is a huge bonus, and he will help whichever youngster gets the nod to play alongside him.

Pulisic should play out wide
Christian Pulisic has been played all over the place over the past 12 months but he should be played in his best position, which is on the left. That allows him to cut inside and cause havoc, while he also has the space he needs to take on defenders one v. one and get attacks going. Playing him as a No.10 is just fine, but with Pomykal a promising talent in that position, Pulisic is better suited to a wide role, just as he’s shown for Chelsea in the opening weeks of the Premier League season. Weston McKennie will hold things down in central midfield, and the trio of Pomykal, Pulisic and Tyler Boyd have a great mixture of power, pace and creativity behind a central striker.

Projected lineup for USMNT v. Mexico, Uruguay

—– Steffen —–

—- Cannon — Long — Brooks — Dest —-

—- McKennie —- Morales —-

—- Boyd —- Pomykal —- Pulisic —- 

—– Zardes —–