Much like we said in the Switzerland – USWNT preview, the idea of players U.S. men’s national team who “need” to “step up” is a lot different than in years past.
Consider that a couple of years ago we’d see an MLS hotshot like Gyasi Zardes jump into the spotlight and immediately daydream of seeing him with the national team. Or we’d hear of Jozy Altidore getting disciplined by his new Toronto FC coach and wonder if that would affect him — not his place — with the U.S. program.
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In other words, it was about a player stepping up their performance to drive the national team. Now, with oodles of options abroad and at home, it’s about players who need to step up to keep their current status or at least their place in the team ahead of World Cup qualifying.
Below are five such cases.
DeAndre Yedlin — At 27 (29 at the start of Qatar 2022), this is likely Yedlin’s last chance to make a World Cup roster even if Sergino Dest, Bryan Reynolds, and Antonee Robinson all fail to pan out. The ex-Newcastle man still has the pace and the goods, and he’s grown in positional awareness, but the constant motor and consistency in getting back after forays up the field has to be better.
Antonee Robinson — The Fulham man is going to wind up in another Premier League or other European home but is still finding his national team shoes. It’s far too soon to brand him a Timmy Chandler as invaluable to his club but never quite clicking on the national team, but it’s not an improbability if his days don’t improve in red, white, and blue.
Julian Green — He scored in extra time of a World Cup as a teenager but — if we’re honest — perhaps he’s been branded with a scarlet LD by the U.S. Soccer old guard just because Jurgen Klinsmann called him into a World Cup in place of top three all-time USMNT talent Landon Donovan. That’s really the only explanation for Berhalter pretty much ignoring one of the two best players on a 2.Bundesliga side while calling up lesser or equal division also-rans in his place (at least up until he helped Greuther Furth back into the Bundesliga). He’s one of those players — as we saw when Dave Sarachan played him — who could become a regular but may only get one or two chances to show it.
Daryl Dike — He took the Championship by storm on loan from Orlando City and is a powerful item in the shop window, but he’s going to have to standout in a crowded, talented, and hungry class of forwards that includes a Schalke forward the same tender age and with a similar transfer status.
Ethan Horvath — It’s not the Club Brugge man’s fault that he lost a starting goalkeeper battle when a Belgian national teamer and Liverpool veteran decided he wanted to go home to a bigger club than his youth Sint-Truden. Yet with Steffen missing this game and Berhalter knowing what Steffen was able to do for country while No. 2 at a bigger club, he better hope he at least seals the start against Switzerland over Leicester academy prospect Chituru Odunze and Real Salt Lake’s David Ochoa.