The 2022 World Cup is set to kick off in 316 days, and the USMNT is currently on course to qualify for the tournament in Qatar.
With that in mind, there are a few players — some of them key to the first team, and others on the outskirts of the squad hoping to force their way in — who might benefit from a change of scenery during the January transfer window.
Who are those players, and what’s the likelihood they make said move over the next few weeks?
Sergiño Dest, Barcelona
Sergiño Dest was loosely linked with a move away from Camp Nou not long after the appointment of Xavi as Barcelona manager. Not a lot has changed in the subsequent weeks, as Dest is still struggling to grasp the new manager’s tactics and put in a consistent shift (as is the case for virtually every Barcelona player). He has battled injuries as well, keeping him out of the USMNT squad for World Cup qualifiers against Mexico (2-0 win) and Jamaica (1-1 draw) in November
Dani Alves is officially registered and available for selection after returning to Barcelona upon Xavi’s appointment. We will soon find out whether Alves, a longtime teammate of Xavi, was brought back to support Dest and other youngsters in their development, or to feature for the first team. Simply put, Dest is slated to start the USMNT first game at the World Cup in 11 months and there are far more questions surrounding him than there are answers.
Transfer need: 6/10 | Transfer likelihood: 4/10
Miles Robinson, Atlanta United
When World Cup qualifying began, Miles Robinson was one of a half-dozen players in the mix to be called into camp to play center back. Aside from trusty, reliable John Brooks (more on him in a moment), it was the USMNT’s most unsettled, worrisome position. One game into WCQ, it was already becoming clear that Robinson was ready to make a big leap.
He’s an incredibly emergency/recovery defender who’s also not half-bad with the ball at his feet. Robinson has played the entirety of his professional career in MLS, and his international profile has never been higher than it is right now. He’s 24 with four seasons of MLS experience under his belt. Clubs in the Premier League and Bundesliga were reportedly interested last month, but nothing new since then. Perhaps his stock will be even higher following the World Cup, thus Atlanta and MLS (who reportedly don’t want to lose Robinson now) can demand an even larger fee, but for the sake of the USMNT, a move before the tournament could be even better.
Transfer need: 7/10 | Transfer likelihood: 5/10
John Brooks, Wolfsburg
When World Cup qualifying began, Brooks was presumably locked into his starting spot as the lone center back with considerable international experience. Very quickly, though, it became clear that Brooks had lost a step (or two) on the field, at which point he fell out of Berhalter’s favor following back-to-back subpar performances against Canada and Honduras (his only two of WCQ thus far).
Then came more bad news: reports out of disharmony and “an attitude problem” back in Germany (below thread). With all of that in mind, Brooks seems destined to join a new club when his contract expires this summer, but one can’t help but wonder if he would be better served making that move six months earlier to afford himself time to acclimate before the first half of next season kicks off.
Transfer need: 8/10 | Transfer likelihood: ???
2/ It points out that Brooks has become the “problem child” at Wolfsburg, subbed off at HT in the 0:3 “horror performance” (Bild’s words) in Mainz & not picked at all for the crucial CL MD6 showdown with Lille.
— Derek Rae (@RaeComm) December 10, 2021
Antonee Robinson, Fulham
Aside from Dest playing out of position as an inverted wing back, there is
no one no one to play left back in the USMNT aside from Antonee Robinson. The 24-year-old is currently tearing up the EFL Championship, where he has appeared in 20 of Fulham’s 23 league games this season.
It’s not that Robinson being at Fulham isn’t working or serving him well, but he proved last season that he’s a Premier League-caliber full back. If Fulham don’t get promoted, Robinson seems a surefire candidate to move back up the ladder in the summer.
Transfer need: 5/10 | Transfer likelihood: 2/10
Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig
Anytime a club undergoes two managerial changes in the span of 12 months — let alone half that time — you have to worry not only for the overall direction of the club, but more importantly, how individual players will be viewed by so many different eyes and ideas. That’s the situation for Tyler Adams at Leipzig after Julian Nagelsmann left last summer and Jesse Marsch was dismissed in December. Inevitably, there will be players that the new staff won’t rate quite so highly, and that’s difficult to overcome.
There’s also the simple fact that Leipzig are still a selling club on a wider European scale. Sure, they spend plenty to bring players in, but it’s always with the idea that they’ll leave for more. Adams only cost Leipzig $3 million, meaning virtually all of his inevitable outgoing transfer will represent a massive profit made. You can quickly begin to understand why the club might be motivated, especially considering something of a rebuild will be required next summer anyway.
With all of that said, if Adams remains a constant starter when healthy (he has appeared in all but one of Leipzig’s last 11 games in all competitions), he’ll be best served finishing the season at RB Leipzig before re-assessing in the summer.
Transfer need: 5/10 | Transfer likelihood: 4/10
Weston McKennie, Juventus
Weston McKennie’s situation is quite similar to that of Adams, with the exception that Juventus (presumably) already have their first-choice, long-term manager (Massimiliano Allegri) in the job. If Allegri rates McKennie, he’ll stay and that’s that. If he doesn’t, you get reports like the one linked above (and not for the first time).
Like Adams, McKennie has featured more regularly (started three of Juve’s last four games and came off the bench at halftime in the other) in recent weeks, after returning from a minor knee injury.
Transfer need: 5/10 | Transfer likelihood: 4/10
USMNT players already completing transfers in January
Ricardo Pepi, Augsburg from FC Dallas
Ricardo Pepi will likely compete for playing time right away, for a side just one point above the relegation zone at the time of his arrival. Oh, and a side that has scored just 17 goals in 17 games this season (4th-fewest in the Bundesliga). It’s a sensible European stepping stone, though the $20-million price tag will also carry lofty expectations.
Daryl Dike, West Brom from Orlando City
Daryl Dike is also likely to compete for minutes right away, for a side desperate to increase its goals output (31 in 25 games – fewest among sides in the top-six of the Championship), only he’ll do it for a side trying to win promotion to the top division. Another sensible landing spot, and a seemingly fantastic fit.
James Sands, New York City FC to Rangers
James Sands is one of the half-dozen players in the mix for the center back rotation, and he saw playing in Scotland either as a slight upgrade on MLS, or (more likely) as a stepping stone to somewhere considerably larger than MLS. It’s an 18-month loan with an option to make the transfer permanent. If Sands impresses initially, the option will be exercised by the summer to allow him to move again within the year.