Potential United States men’s national team players have just under 11 months to get or stay in Gregg Berhalter’s good graces ahead of 2022 World Cup qualification.
The USMNT will begin its CONCACAF Octagonal run in June 2021, giving the Yanks boss plenty of time to take a look at what is perhaps the deepest talent pool in program history (though he’ll likely have the roster fairly settled for the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals and final in March 2021).
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We haven’t seen the U.S. men since a Feb. 1 friendly versus Costa Rica, a roster with very few regulars on the field. Paul Arriola, Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Gyasi Zardes, Reggie Cannon, and Sebastian Lletget were the veterans, while a few young bucks like Jesus Ferreira and Uly Llanez made an impression.
So really it’ll be almost a year between the CONCACAF Nations League finale in November 2019 and the next USMNT match, with Berhalter saying he’d like the U.S. to play in the October and November international windows.
Let’s call it October: That’s 11 months between serious, full-team matches. Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams were injured for Canada and Costa Rica, so make it a full year for them. Zack Steffen was also missing in November and Giovanni Reyna was yet to even meet Erling Haaland, yet alone set him up for big goals; The American teen had a whopping 10 Borussia Dortmund U-19 matches under his belt.
Fifteen of Berhalter’s 23 players for the romp over Canada were from Major League Soccer. Most of the European-based players have had impressive or at least decent campaigns this season. John Brooks, Tim Ream, Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent, and Sergino Dest fall in the former category, with Tyler Boyd, Alfredo Morales, and DeAndre Yedlin in the latter.
Then you’ve got Reyna, who has been a revelation for Dortmund and Antonee Robinson who nearly went to AC Milan and is promising to answer the USMNT’s long-suffering left back position.
Timmy Chandler’s been a fixture for Eintracht Frankfurt as has Julian Green at Greuther Furth and Duane Holmes at Derby County.
Matt Miazga’s loan away from Chelsea to Reading saw regular playing time, while Cameron Carter-Vickers’ loan to Luton Town helped save their Championship status.
Young Indiana Vassilev was regularly on the bench for Aston Villa, while injuries have plagued Timothy Weah at Lille and Ethan Horvath had to deal with Belgian hero Simon Mignolet coming home to unseat him at Club Brugge.
Then there are curiousities like Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch, Austria Wien’s Erik Palmer-Brown, and Llanez at Wolfsburg.
That’s not to mention two classes of MLS players.
First there are mainstays like Jozy Altidore, Morris, Jackson Yueill, Michael Bradley, Zimmerman, and more.
Then there’s the bevy of MLS players — cough, Ayo Akinola — who have about four matches in their locker right now and will have a big sample size sure to attract Berhalter come October.
So what could a 23-man team look like right now? We’re comfortable going there and also knowing that’s it’s a wildly silly proposition considering we’re 2.5 months from decisions.
If they don’t qualify this time, they should fold up soccer here.
Remember, we’re guessing what Berhalter will do, not saying Player X is better than Player Y.
Goalkeepers: Zack Steffen (Man City); Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Sean Johnson (NYCFC)
Defenders (9): John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Sergino Dest (Ajax), Tim Ream (Fulham), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Aaron Long (RBNY), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham)
Midfielders (8): Weston McKennie (Schalke), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Jackson Yueill (San Jose), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
Forwards (5): Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas)Follow @NicholasMendola