Many were sent for the search engines when Gregg Berhalter named the United States men’s national team roster for November friendlies against Wales and Panama.
USMNT supporters learned plenty about Nicholas Gioacchini, Yunus Musah, and a series of debutants as the Yanks drew in Wales and pelted Panama in Austria.
[ MORE: Tyler Adams on Nagelsmann, Musah ]
A few weeks later, many will be sifting through the SEO to search an MLS-heavy roster for a Florida-based qualifier against El Salvador in nine days.
The roster may still grow, as Berhalter considers adding players from teams that exit the MLS Cup Playoffs before the match.
Just how inexperienced is this group?
Berhalter could cap up to 12 players for the first time in Fort Lauderdale, where the Yanks will hole up in a hotel for a hyper-secure affair during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two other players, Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie, have one cap each.
Six players are eligible to represent other nations, including Canadian-American forward Ayo Akinola, Nigerian-American striker Daryl Dike, and four Mexican-Americans.
It might be even younger if Sporting KC and FC Dallas are knocked out of the postseason at the conference semifinal level, making Gianluca Busio, Jesus Ferreira, and Brian Reynolds among those available for late calls.
Who are the most intriguing names?
Well, all of the dual nationals are interesting, though the United States is in the middle of such a talented generation that it doesn’t sound as many alarm bells when a USMNT-eligible player opts for another federation.
Let’s start with the young bucks.
- Cole Bassett, Colorado Rapids: The 19-year-old scored five times with four assists in his last 12 games with the Rapids, twice posting a goal and an assist in the same game.
- Ayo Akinola, Toronto FC: Prolific at the YNT levels, with 38 goals in 51 appearances between the U.S. U-20, U-17, and U-15 levels. Scored nine times in 16 MLS matches this season and remains eligible for Canada selection.
- Frankie Amaya, FC Cincinnati: Turned 20 last month and the Mexican-American midfielder already has 43 appearances for his MLS club.
- Chris Mueller, Orlando City: An absolute force in college at Wisconsin, where he had a 20-assist season as a senior, the Illinois native has improved in each of his three MLS seasons en route to a 9-goal, 6-assist run in 28 matches this season.
This is all without mentioning the well-publicized Aaronson as well as Djordje Mihailovic, who had seven assists for Chicago, and Daryl Dike and his eight-goal campaign for Orlando City.
There are also a couple of veterans carrying intrigue for two very different reasons.
- Paul Arriola, DC United: Yes, we’ve seen him plenty (33 caps_ but not since an ACL injury short-circuited a USMNT rise that saw him play in all but one match between the 2019 Gold Cup and CONCACAF Nations League group stage. Arriola is only 25.
- Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC: Again, a player we’ve seen a lot, but also the 2020 MLS Defender of the Year who has a big chance to firm up his status as part of the nation’s top center back pairing with Wolfsburg’s John Brooks.
How could the USMNT line-up versus El Salvador?
There are at least three and probably five names you can pencil onto the score sheet.
Walker Zimmerman will partner Aaron Long in the heart of the defense unless Berhalter is extremely antsy to see prolonged action from Mark McKenzie before the Union man (probably) heads abroad.
Bill Hamid is a national team veteran and his 30 years aren’t too many more than the combined life experiences of USYNT veterans CJ Dos Santos (20 years old, Benfica B) and David Ochoa (19, Real Salt Lake), one of whom has yet to start a senior match and the other with one MLS match and 26 in the USL Championship.
Sebastian Lletget is the only player returning from the November camp, where he was a last-minute fill-in for Josh Sargent. Berhalter’s willingness to play him out-of-position at center forward versus Wales shows a real affinity, and Lletget has rarely been below average in a USMNT shirt.
The rest? Aaronson seems likely to get a run in a playmaking position, but unless you think Kellyn Acosta’s 23 caps launch him right back into the XI, anything is possible.
Here’s our bet, though it’s ignorant of who may be added after the next round of the MLS Cup Playoff exits. We also admit some bias in the form of a relatively long affinity for Amaya and assumptions regarding Arriola’s fitness after a long-term injury and Berhalter’s apparent belief in including as much USMNT experience as possible on the pitch.
Also… seven A-names!
Araujo — Zimmerman — Long — Vines
— Amaya — Acosta —
— Aaronson —
Arriola — Akinola — Lletget