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.
Aaronson just finished his season with Philadelphia ahead of a move to Red Bull Salzburg, and 20-year-old Benfica goalkeeper CJ Dos Santos is a Union Academy product who moved to Portugal in 2016 and has yet to make his senior debut.
At least six call-ups are dual nationals, including defenders Julian Araujo and Marco Farfan (Mexico), midfielder Frankie Amaya (Mexico), and a trio of strikers Ayo Akinola (Canada), Efrain Alvarez (Mexico), and Daryl Dike (Nigeria).
U.S. Soccer says Berhalter may add players based on who is eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs prior to the match. Count USMNT mainstays Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes as likely a part of that list.
Gregg Berhalter’s United States men’s national team will play at Inter Miami’s home in Fort Lauderdale for an evening kickoff that will seal the coach’s second year in charge of the outfit.
Goalkeepers: CJ Dos Santos (Benfica), Bill Hamid (DC United), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake)
Defenders: Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
The European season is back in full flow, Major League Soccer is hitting its stretch run, and we have USMNT calendar news.
Yet it’s the transfer market that’s inspired us to revisit our periodic ranking of the top 25 players in the USMNT player pool.
Sergino Dest looks destined for either Barcelonaor Bayern Munich, while Weston McKennie is off to Juventus and is currently learning midfield next to Adrien Rabiot, behind Aaron Ramsey, over Arthur, and under the watchful eye of Andrea Pirlo.
Where is the player pool now? As a reminder, here are 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 30-year-old Jozy Altidore, but most would rather have the Toronto FC man in a big spot right now.
22. Matt Turner, New England (NR) — Incredible season alert.
23. Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls (NR)
24. Tim Ream, Fulham (13)
25. Henry Wingo, Molde (NR) — Unsure where the Norwegian league rates in relation to MLS, but Wingo’s moved from non-regular with Seattle to starting right back on a team knocking on the door of the UEFA Champions League group stage. Plus I had like nine names I liked for spots 23, 24, and 25.
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Columbus’ resurgence this season has seen Zardes and Nagbe shine. It’s difficult not to place them higher than we initially planned.
Judging the center back pool has become fraught. Chelsea’s Matt Miazga and Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers are on a loan recycling program and have done well but we haven’t really seen them outside of the Championship. MLS regulars Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, and Aaron Long are good on inconsistent teams. After John Brooks, who knows?
Dropping out are DeAndre Yedlin, Jozy Altidore, Cristian Roldan, Ike Opara, Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Miles Robinson, Paul Arriola, and Jackson Yueill.
Small sample size, but if you’re the top rated player on Besiktas then you’re Tyler Boyd and you’re getting a higher spot than we anticipated when we started the post.
Last five out: Chris Richards, Bayern Munich; Duane Holmes, Derby County; DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United; Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt; Frankie Amaya, FC Cincinnati.
Keep an eye on: Ulysses Llanez, Heerenveen (loan from Wolfsburg); Cole Bassett, Colorado Rapids; Julian Araujo, LA Galaxy; Chris Mueller, Orlando City; Konrad de la Fuente, Barcelona; Indiana Vassilev, Burton Albion (loan from Aston Villa); Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas; Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC; Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders; Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC.
He turns 18 a month from Friday, and has a goal and an assist for the Rapids this season in 678 minutes. He can play across the midfield but is primarily a center midfielder, and made his debut last season for coach Anthony Hudson.
Freiburg has had American players Caleb Stanko and Zack Steffen on its books in the recent past, and USMNT centurion Paul Caligiuri played with the club from 1991-92.
Bassett obviously has a better chance of consistent playing time if he stays in MLS, but the challenge and lure of playing abroad is massive. With the success of more established American teens like Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, the call is loud.
Bassett will take some time to make the adjustment should he go, and may get a loan, but this time of year is a good time to move into a preseason camp.
Freiburg have made an offer for Colorado Rapids midfielder Cole Bassett. He turns 18 in July, so the transfer could be finalised next month. #SCF#Rapids96#MLS