The United States men’s national team pool both showcased its star quality and the limits of its depth over the past two weeks.
Both the USMNT and the U.S. U-23 team told both stories in different ways.
While Jackson Yueill showed that MLS can produce and develop leadership, grit, and skill, the U-23s were largely poor over 360 minutes that saw them second-best to Costa Rica, Mexico, and Honduras while even with the Dominican Republic until late.
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Gregg Berhalter’s senior team might’ve been playing a Jamaica team that didn’t know itself well and a Northern Ireland that was far and away its B-team, but Christian Pulisic and Sergino Dest shone brightly while the midfield’s missing key components in Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie saw the unit operate a step below its preferred standards.
But in ranking the top 25 players in the pool, you realize just how good the Starting XI could be by World Cup qualifying and — yes, we dream — winter 2022 in Qatar.
Imagine Berhalter means it with a back three. He could start Zack Steffen behind John Brooks, Chris Richards, and Walker Zimmerman with Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson at wingbacks whether it’s a 5-2-2-1 against a powerhouse or a 3-4-3 against a lesser size. Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie could run the heart of the pitch with Yunus Musah, Giovanni Reyna, and Christian Pulisic in attack.
And imagine if a center forward develops!
Or just use this guy, apparently:
TAKE A BOW, SERGIÑO DEST!
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 25, 2021
So, no, the Olympic failure isn’t the end of the world even if it’s a big stepback for the young kids developing and the marketing of their brands this summer. A team with Pulisic, McKennie, and Dest could make a serious run. Instead, Mexico and Honduras will get that valuable experience.
But the senior team could still be deadly with the potential to win the Nations League and the Gold Cup, all before World Cup qualifying begins this fall.
Anyway, on to the rankings.
Before we go any further, here’s a reminder of how we sort the talent with some ground rules:
- The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
- Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one that could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
- Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Konrad de la Fuente is a better long-term prospect than Gyasi Zardes, but the Columbus Crew forward is currently better prepared for the stage than the Barcelona youth.
- Finally, if you’re breaking a tie between players… ask which you’d be more upset to hear was unavailable for a USMNT camp.
Top 25 USMNT players – March 2021 – post-U23 Olympic qualifying, and USMNT’s Jamaica and Northern Ireland friendlies (previous ranking)
1. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (1) — His show-stealing performance versus Northern Ireland reminded everyone what it’s like to see him as a focal point.
2. Weston McKennie, Juventus (2) — We wait for Switzerland in May (at least) before we see the McKennie-Adams-Musah midfield
3. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (3)
4. Sergino Dest, Barcelona (5) — A back three with Dest and Robinson as wingbacks gives the USMNT a whole new level.
5. John Brooks, Wolfsburg (4) — Still waiting on his partner. Chris Richards?
6. Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (6) — The way he finds the ball in advanced spaces is wonderful.
7. Yunus Musah, Valencia (9)
8. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (8)
9. Zack Steffen, Manchester City (12) — Sharpness hasn’t left him despite playing seldom behind Ederson
10. Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC (11) — Best MLS player in the pool, at least while Jordan Morris recovers from injury, was missed in the backline.
11. Timothy Weah, Lille (13)
12. Antonee Robinson, Fullham (16) — See Dest at No. 4.
13. Chris Richards, Hoffenheim on loan from Bayern Munich (23) — Looks good in a back three for club. Will still be just 22 when World Cup begins in 2022.
14. Reggie Cannon, Boavista (7)
15. Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy (18) — He just delivers for the NT, yes even taking into account the competition.
16. Jackson Yueill, San Jose Earthquakes (NR) — One of the few stars from the Olympic qualifying run.
17. Matt Miazga, Anderlecht on loan from Chelsea (17) — Playing a lot under Vincent Kompany
18. Julian Green, Greuther Furth (20) — Destined to be one of the great unanswered questions of this era.
19. Brenden Aaronson, Red Bull Salzburg (NR)
20. Daryl Dike, Barnsley on loan from Orlando City (NR)
21. Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew (15) — Suddenly seeing a lot of competition at CF.
22. Nicholas Gioacchini, Caen (14)
23. Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls (22) — Can his passing stand up at the next level?
24. Bryan Reynolds, AS Roma (NR) — Serie A and USMNT debut in same month? Not too shabby.
25. Hassani Dotson, Minnesota United (NR)
Last five out: Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Jordan Siebatcheu (BSC Young Boys), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Luca de la Torre (Heracles)
Dropped out from last ranking: Tim Ream (Fulham), Sebastian Soto (Norwich City), Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen), Richy Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)