Gioacchini, Soto braces enliven USMNT center forward discussion

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The United States men’s national team has a talent pool as deep as ever, though some positions give coach Gregg Berhalter a lot more ammunition than others.

Wingers, center midfielders, and fullbacks are as exciting as it gets, but depth in goalkeeping, center back, and center forward is significantly less at this stage in the World Cup qualifying cycle.

[ MORE: Three things we learned ]

Berhalter and others might be arguing about including center forward after Monday’s 6-2 defeat of Panama, which saw two young men score their first national team goals and braces.

The contrast was more stark when compared to Berhalter shoehorning midfielder Sebastian Lletget into the role in a scoreless draw against Wales last week.

With Werder Bremen not allowing Josh Sargent to leave Germany due to COVID-19 restrictions and Berhalter favorite Gyasi Zardes in preparation for the MLS Cup Playoffs, this camp presented a tremendous opportunity for Caen forward Nicholas Gioacchini and Norwich City’s Sebastian Soto.

Chance seized. And Berhalter did not play down what their performances meant to their short-term USMNT futures, as starter Gioacchini scored twice in the first half and Soto finished two Richy Ledezma crosses in a quarter-hour cameo.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT – Panama ]

“It was really important for both of them,” Berhalter said. “Sebastian, what a dream start to play that many minutes and get two goals. It was a good performance from him and Nicholas. We talked about the depth chart being limited, any chance you get you have to take it.”

Berhalter had mentioned nearly calling up in-form Hammarby veteran Aron Johannsson, while the use of Lletget up top against Wales shows that the coach wasn’t about to hand out too many chances to new boys against better competition.

When you consider that Weah is a center forward for club despite mostly wing work with the United States youth national team and that you can easily see Berhalter turning to Jordan Morris in a pinch, this was huge for two players on the periphery. Jesus Ferreira of FC Dallas started at CF against Costa Rica in his lone call-up, though he had tepid production in MLS this summer.

“We’re all hungry to play, hungry to start, hungry to prove and show what we’re made of,” Gioacchini said. “That’s true for all players no matter what their path was. … I was nervous, even for this game. I’m coming here not just to play well but to score goals and help the team win. That part of my head was occupied with nerves.”

[ ICYMI: Wales-USMNT recap, Player ratingsThree things ]

Gioacchini has three goals in eight Ligue 2 appearances this season, while Soto has five goals in seven matches on loan to Telstar in the Dutch second tier.

Who knows if Berhalter would’ve been wooed by more goals at those levels, so these braces can help reset the order of center forwards in the USMNT system.

What does it look like now, at least to Berhalter? Here’s a guess:

  1. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen
  2. Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew
  3. Timothy Weah, Lille
  4. Nicholas Gioacchini, Caen
  5. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC
  6. Sebastian Soto, Norwich City (loan to Telstar)
  7. Jordan Morris (Seattle – much higher at wing)

Next: Daryl Dike (Orlando City), Charlie Kelman (QPR), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), Aron Johannsson, (Hammarby), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers).

USMNT news: Werder Bremen won’t release Sargent due to COVID rules

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USMNT forward Josh Sargent will not be allowed to join up with the national team for friendlies against Wales and Panama, Werder Bremen announced Thursday.

The Bundesliga outfit says the Bremen health authority is mandating that players “returning from international risk areas must quarantine for five days.”

EDIT: U.S. Soccer has called up LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget to take Sargent’s place on the roster.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

Sargent, 20, has five goals in 12 USMNT caps. He’s become a regular starter for Florian Kohfeldt at Bremen, who’s taken points in five-of-six Bundesliga outings this young season while Sargent played all but 12 minutes.

From Werder.de:

“We spoke with our players and with the various associations. FIFA are releasing clubs from their obligation to make players available for international duty if they have to quarantine upon their return. We know that the players would like to join up with their teams, but we cannot take that risk this time, given the overall situation,” said SVW sporting director Frank Baumann.

The Yanks called up a bigger roster than usual and Gregg Berhalter has said he will not break up MLS playoff rosters for the European trip.

Berhalter had more forward options on European rosters, but Lletget is a veteran with decent USMNT experience.

Andrija Novakovich, 24, is a regular starter for Serie B side Frosinone and 22-year-old Emmanuel Sabbi has been productive with Odense in Denmark.

Soon-to-be 30-year-old forward Aron Johannsson is scoring regularly for Hammarby in Sweden, while a Europe-based midfielder could gave been added in Greuther Furth’s top performer: Julian Green.

Follow @NicholasMendola

What Bundesliga team should I support: Find a club with this primer

What Bundesliga team should I support
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Must read preface: For close to a decade on several platforms — most recently this one — I’ve given prospective fans of the Premier League a guide to choose a team. So it seems natural to answer the question: What Bundesliga team should I support?

Look, in no way do I claim to give anything other than an opinionated overview that I believe to be a fair representation of clubs whose history far outlives even my fandom of the beautiful game. With the Bundesliga returning this weekend and holding the status as (my opinion) the second-most interesting top-to-bottom elite league in the world, I’m going to wade into similar waters.

[ MORE: Bundesliga standings ahead of return ]

By no means do I claim a massive breadth of knowledge on every top German club. In fact, I guarantee that Bundesliga diehards will find at least a handful of gripes in my comparisons (There’s only so long to write).

But people need to know what they are getting into, as I know personally of a fan or two now attached to insufferable clubs. ‘They’ had no idea that their love for a brown ale or clever nickname would lead to a lifetime of supporter misery.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Also, this is primarily an American site, and the Bundesliga has been welcoming to USMNT players and prospects for some time, so we’ll make those connections for you.

So without further ado, I submit to you my 2020 beginner’s guide to answering the question “What Bundesliga team should I support?” I know there are better routes to run in finding a club you love, but these are desperate times for live sports fans. Let us give you a head start.

It’s a great league. You’re gonna love it.

18. Paderborn — The up-and-down club

Top-flight titles: None
Formed: 1907
In top-flight since: First season back
American players: None, though Khiry Shelton was there until January.

PL comparison: Norwich City
Season so far: Looking likely to be one-and-done, a traditional yo-yo club who’s probably been a bit better than their standing.

17. Werder Bremen — The underachieving mainstays, with glory not too far in the rearview mirror.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Four (2004)
Formed: 1899
In top-flight since: 1981-82
American players: Josh Sargent, formerly Aron Johannsson
PL comparison: West Ham United with titles– Underachieving and fiercely supported. 

Season so far: A tremendous amount of talent has produced a whole lot of nothing. Hanging their hat on a match-in-hand, this decade could not have ended soon enough for a team that won a lot for a long time.

What Bundesliga team should I support
Werder’s Sargent (l) with Marco Friedl (Photo by Carmen Jaspersen/picture alliance via Getty Images)

16. Fortuna Dusseldorf — One of the country’s oldest clubs, trying to continue rebound

Top-flight titles and most recent one: One (1933)
Formed: 1895
In top-flight since: 2018-19

American players: Alfredo Morales, Zack Steffen (on loan)
PL comparison: Southampton — a ride to the lower tiers and back up.

Season so far: Nine of their 27 goals have come in three matches, and they’ve only managed five points from those outings.

15. Mainz — Weathering a storm in a relatively sunny period of the club’s history

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Three (1978)
Formed: 1905
In top-flight since: 2009-10
American players: None, formerly Conor Casey

PL comparison: Bournemouth — Instantly competitive once promoted but in tough waters right now.
Season so far: Swedish striker Robin Quaison has scored enough and in big spots to keep the mainstays just above the bottom three.

14. Augsburg — Slipping after a surprise UEL season in 2015-16.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 1907
In top-flight since: 2011-12
American players: None, formerly Michael Parkhurst

PL comparison: Burnley — Sometimes you wonder how they do it, but they find a way to remain.
Season so far: Won five of six in the middle of the season and that’s about the only thing keeping them kicking.

13. Hertha Berlin — Spending big and crossing fingers.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Two (1931)
Formed: 1892
In top-flight since: 2013-14
American players: None, several former players inc. John Brooks

PL comparison: Aston Villa — Big city, big club, spending and trying to find its old mojo
Season so far: They’ve spent a lot, gone through a few coaches (one was Jurgen Klinsmann), and expected a lot more than 13th.

12. Eintracht Frankfurt — Well-supported and hoping to sustain success

Top-flight titles and most recent one: One (1959)
Formed: 1899
In top-flight since: 2012-13
American players: Timothy Chandler, formerly several others

PL comparison: Wolves — Productive academy, recent tastes of Europe, and hopeful of continuing their resurgence.
Season so far: Two losing streaks have sent them away from the reaches of European qualification. Still alive in the German Cup if it goes forward.

What Bundesliga team should I support
Timothy Chandler (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

11. Union Berlin — Progressive, driven, and back in the big time.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 1966
In top-flight since: 2019-20
American players: None, formerly Bobby Wood.

PL comparison: Everton — Big city vibes with a focus on the community
Season so far: Great at home but wretched away from the Stadion An der Alten Forsterei.

10. Koln — Fun. Like a live goat type of fun.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Three (1978)
Formed: 1948
In top-flight since: 2019-20
American players: None

PL comparison: Crystal Palace — A unique club with an unmistakable stadium experience, the fit misses the mark on past silverware but makes solid contract on the live mascot comparison. Goats and eagles are bit different though…
Season so far: A horrible first few months led to tremendous success with a 8W-3L run since mid-December. Capable of making a run to sixth if they can recapture the mojo.

9. Hoffenheim — Everyone’s enemy.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 1899
In top-flight since: 2008-09
American players: None, formerly several including Danny Williams

PL comparison: Chelsea or Man City before the silverware.
Season so far: Two hot runs of form does not a good season make. Not resembling the team that gave Liverpool a hard time in the UCL a couple of years ago.

8. Freiburg — Rise and grind (and grind and grind).

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 1904
In top-flight since: 2016-17
American players: None, formerly a few including Danny Williams

PL comparison: Watford — On occasion they’ll delight, but the footing never feels too solid.
Season so far: Bang average. About as middle of the road and inconsistent as you’ll find.

7. Wolfsburg — A roller coaster ride with the highest peaks.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: One (2009)
Formed: 1945
In top-flight since: 1997-98
American players: John Brooks and several former players including Claudio Reyna

PL comparison: Leicester City — a surprise title in 2009 and roller coaster since
Season so far: Won just twice between November and the end of January, but still capable of making Europe.

What Bundesliga team should I support
John Brooks (Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images)

6. Schalke — Often on the precipice.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Seven (1958)
Formed: 1904
In top-flight since: 1991-92
American players: Weston McKennie and plenty of former players

PL comparison: Chelsea — UCL regulars who’ve succeeded with several styles of play. Less league success though, but solid rivalries.
Season so far: There are questions about the club’s long-term prognosis in terms of their top talents, but David Wagner’s boys still have a chance to head back to Europe.

5. Bayer Leverkusen — Always the bridesmaids (or groomsmen. It’s 2020).

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed:
In top-flight since: 1979-80
American players: None, but several former including Landon Donovan and Frankie Hejduk

PL comparison: Tottenham Hotspur — A mainstay, but always on the precipice. Plus: One UCL runners-up season.
Season so far: As usual, entertaining and living near the top without sipping from the grail. A lot of top young players could leave soon, so is now the time?

4. Borussia Monchengladbach — Stylish, powerful, and a bit too “nearly.”

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Five (1977)
Formed: 1904
In top-flight since: 2008-09
American players: Fabian Johnson, and formerly Michael Bradley and others

PL comparison: Liverpool of 2018-19– Entertainers on the cusp of something more?
Season so far: Leaders for a while and boasting a very good squad that could still lay claim to the crown.

3. RB Leipzig — Like Hoffenheim. On steroids.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: None
Formed: 2009
In top-flight since: 2016-17
American players: Tyler Adams

PL comparison: Man City — Not perfect as City has a massive history, but the nouveau riche vibe is heavy in the German consciousness and the club is helped by its club relationships. A wealth-fueled rise from nothing to pure power.
Season so far: The title charge has stalled due a series of draws, but still very much alive with Timo Werner’s clock ticking.

2. Borussia Dortmund — Relatively successful monster hunters.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: Eight (2012)
Formed: 1909
In top-flight since: 1976-77
American players: Giovanni Reyna, formerly a few including Christian Pulisic and Jovan Kirovski

PL comparison: Arsenal — Stylish football but slip-ups in big spots as of late. Talent procurers and producers of the highest order
Season so far: The season pause came at a terrible time for red-hot Dortmund, who is riding Jadon Sancho to another title charge. Can they end Bayern’s long run?

1. Bayern Munich — Monsters.

Top-flight titles and most recent one: 29, including the last eight
Formed: 1900
In top-flight since: 1965-66
American players: None, formerly Landon Donovan and Julian Green

PL comparison: Manchester United — The best-known team in the league from a worldwide perspective, ruthless competitors who almost always spend.
Season so far: A slow start has kept the field of title chasers five-deep, but Hansi Flick’s side has spread its wings and will win again if it can navigate a tricky-enough fixture list with three of the four chasers left on the docket.

What Bundesliga team should I support
(Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)

Americans Abroad: USMNT trio McKennie, Sargent, Miazga score

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A trio of staple U.S. men’s national team players scored over the weekend, making it one of the most productive weekends for Americans abroad this year.

Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent scored a goal apiece in Bundesliga action on Saturday. The 20-year-old forward scored three minutes into Werder Bremen’s eventual 2-2 draw, while the Schalke midfielder scored his team’s lone goal in the 20th minute.

Over in England, after a few months of instability, Matt Miazga registered his second goal with a Reading shirt.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — Pulisic, who is recovering from an adductor injury, is getting closer to full recovery. Chelsea boss Frank Lampard mentioned that the American star took part in an  “in-house game” prior to the Blues’ bout against Everton.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin remained in the bench in Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Southampton on Saturday.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic —  The fullback remains sidelined as he continues to recover from an injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes also remains sidelined as he continues to recover from an injury. There’s no timeline on his return either.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old scored and played 90 minutes in Reading’s 3-1 in win over Birmingham City.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — Lichaj is out for the season with an ankle injury.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender was sent off against Preston North End on Saturday.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 82 minutes in Fulham’s 1-1 draw with Bristol City.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luton Town (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Carter-Vickers started and played 90 minutes in Luton’s 0-0 draw with Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

Bundesliga

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt Just weeks removed from a stellar, two-goal performance, Chandler wasn’t called on the bench in Frankfurt’s 4-0 loss to Bayern Munich.

John Brooks, Wolfsburg – The 26-year-old defender started and played all game in Wolfsburg 0-0 draw with RB Leipzig.

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie started, played 90 minutes and scored a goal in Schalke’s 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen is out with an injury, while Morales was left on the bench in Fortuna’s draw with Mainz.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  Sargent played 87 minutes and scored a goal in Werder Bremen’s 2-2 draw.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams was left on the bench.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach — Johnson, too, was left on the bench on Saturday.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest started and played all 90 minutes in Ajax’s 3-1 win over SC Heerenveen.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker started and played 77 minutes in VVV Venlo’s 3-0 loss.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah is out for the remainder of the season.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu didn’t feature for Rennes on Sunday.

Honorable Mentions

Dillon Powers, Dundee United — Powers played 90 minutes and scored a goal in Dundee’s 1-1 draw with Patrick Thistle on Saturday.

Aron Johannsson, Hammarby — The striekr played 90 minutes and scored a goal in Hammarby’s 4-0 win over Sundsvall on Sunday.

Joel Sonora, Arsenal de Sarandi — Sonora played 12 minutes and scored a goal in Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Aldosivi on Friday.

USMNT Roundtable: Berhalter, Dest, and the future

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A passionate, perhaps even fiery bit of conference call USMNT small talk prior to a Wednesday’s staff meeting inspired us to bring the conversation to the ProSoccerTalk space.

It started with a hot USMNT topic: Whether there’s real danger of Ajax starting right back Sergino Dest throwing his years of history with the USMNT youth development program away to focus on earning a place with the celebrated Dutch national team, so we’ll start there.

Sergino Dest has two caps for the United States and a longstanding history with the youth national team set-up. He is not 19 until March and starting at right back for Ajax.

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being no danger of his leaving for the Netherlands and 10 being he’s going to reject USMNT for the Oranje before Gregg Berhalter can cap-tie him next month, what do your rate his chances of being a USMNT player well into the future and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: 5/10. He starts for Ajax at right back and he should be the USMNT’s long-term full back in that area. No questions about it. But the fact the Netherlands are already sniffing around says a lot about his talent, plus Dest probably wasn’t best pleased with being chucked in at left back by Berhalter.

The Dutch national team needs some cover in full back areas and Ronald Koeman isn’t scared to promote young players quickly. I think we’ve seen Dest in a USMNT jersey for the final time, and that is why I’m giving this a 5/10. If there wasn’t the possibility of losing him to the Netherlands, it would be a 9/10.

Nick Mendola: 6/10. We have to hope that Dest is a bit myopic and excited about the prospect of latching onto a starting spot for a half-decade or more. While the 18-year-old is still a bundle of potential, he’s also played in six matches between the Eredivisie and UEFA Champions League for the biggest club in the Eredivisie. Put into perspective: He turns 19 in November, and is a regular contributor to a Starting XI with national team starters for the Netherlands, Argentina, Mexico, Serbia, Morocco, and Cameroon. Also, they haven’t lost a match he’s played this season.

If I’m Dest and have interest in the Netherlands, am I willing to bet on myself at the expense of not playing in the CONCACAF Nations League? Really it comes down to how often he’s envisioned himself a USMNT player, and how long he’s willing to wait out Holland, because Ajax isn’t a place where careers go to die. Rather, it’s often the platform that launches them to even bigger places. The Dutch team’s starters this break were Denzel Dumfries wide in a 3-5-2 and Joel Veltman, a CB a Ajax, in the 4-4-2. It’s not a long jump to Dest.

Kyle Bonn: 3/10. He’s simply not good enough to play regularly for the Netherlands right now, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll develop the defensive consistency to ever be an option for them. He starts now for the United States because full-back remains, along with DM, a position of horrid depth for the national team, but he has a long way to go for a spot with the Netherlands. He has lots of promise, and that may cause the Dutch federation to try and turn his head, but I think he sticks with the U.S.

Dan Karell: 3/10. Obviously this is similar to the Jonathan Gonzalez situation, except the main difference is Dest has actually been capped. Yes, Nick, he’s been played on the wrong side of the field for him, but the U.S. coaching staff clearly values him and wants him to know they’ll find a way to get him in the lineup one way or another. The Netherlands, though they do often cap a lot of young players, can’t do that. Plus, as of today, is Dest ahead of Denzel Dumfries or Hans Hoteboer, another recent Netherlands call-up? Probably not.

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Which player in the pool is the most difficult to replace? You cannot say Christian Pulisic.

Joe Prince-Wright: Tyler Adams. He is so solid and reliable that he is the kind of player you don’t realize how good he is until he’s gone. For Gregg Berhalter, Adams’ intelligence on and off the ball is particularly important. He plugs gaps defensively and is good enough on the ball to get attacks going. The USMNT need Adams to be fit over the next few years if they’re going to make the 2022 World Cup.

Nick Mendola: I want to say John Brooks, but his recent injury history means they’ve been “replacing” him for so long that he barely qualifies as an answer to the question. As the architect of this question, I’ll cheat in response and say there is not one player outside of Pulisic who answers this question well (yet. Let’s hope Josh Sargent, Weston McKennie, or Dest change my mind).

Kyle Bonn: Michael Bradley. Yep, I said it. As we’ve seen with Wil Trapp, the United States player pool has struggled mightily to produce a holding midfielder that can cover the back line and also distribute forward. While Bradley isn’t at his best defending, he’s far better than teacher’s pet Trapp, and he can distribute with the best of them, something the US sorely misses with Bradley off the pitch. He’s indispensable for this squad, partly because he can still ball – despite what people say about him – and partly because the player pool is so absurdly thin at maybe the most important position in the modern game.

Dan Karell: It’s gotta be Tyler Adams or really, Michael Bradley. Many USMNT fans have wanted Bradley and Jozy Altidore to be banished from the national team after playing a role in the team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but in the case of both, and really with Bradley, there hasn’t been a better player stepping up. From 2013-2015, it was hoped that Trapp could be that player, but in 2019, after a few years of stagnation with the Columbus Crew, it’s clear Trapp isn’t good enough to push Bradley out the door.

Adams (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Which USMNT player is getting too much abuse from the fans and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: Probably Gyasi Zardes. Has he got the best first touch? No. Is he the best finisher on the planet? No. But he works hard, in my opinion he is better suited out wide and then cutting in to impact the play and he is a handful when on form. Zardes isn’t as bad as he’s being made out to be.

Nick Mendola: It’s Zardes. He’s a place holder as we wait for Josh Sargent to climb up to Jozy Altidore’s level, and fans can’t help but judge him. Honestly, he should be getting these call-ups right now and his status as a former Crew star under Berhalter makes it a bit too easy to claim he should be further down the depth chart. Put plainly, the USMNT center forward pool has no one else beyond Altidore, Sargent, and Tim Weah. Bobby Wood and Andrija Novakovich have stalled, and Aron Johannsson hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

Kyle Bonn: Jozy Altidore. Michael Bradley gets a close second here (see above) but Jozy quite frankly receives a TON of abuse for the leading goalscorer in U.S. history. For a player who has given so much to this national team and been a consistent provider of not just goalscoring but also a team-first attitude, the crowd who slights him is vast. It’s simply not fair. While Josh Sargent is the future of the striker spot with the national team, Jozy Altidore is still the best option when healthy and fit.

Dan Karell: Is there any one player? Will it ever end? It’s probably Gyasi Zardes and Wil Trapp. At this point, both players hit their ceiling a while ago and there’s no point in complaining about them, we know what they can, and can’t, do. Perhaps Jordan Morris has gotten a little too much stick too. The man is coming off a torn ACL and when a lot of his game was predicated on speed, it’s not easy to find that old speed/form back again after a major surgery like that. Fans just assume you return to 100% and it just never works like that.

Zardes (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Which player currently outside the USMNT picture should be getting a look?

Joe Prince-Wright: Danny Williams is an interesting character and seems to have that nasty streak the USMNT are missing in midfield. With his experience in the Bundesliga, English Championship and Premier League, I’d say he’s worth a shot in central midfield. If his injuries calm down, the likes of McKennie and Adams could have a true destructive force alongside them who they can work off.

Nick Mendola: Hmmmm. We’re another few weeks of solid Julian Green performances from his being the answer, and there’s an argument to be made he’s already the answer. Johnson is a good shout, but is he like Nagbe and not interested in playing under Berhalter? I’m going to stick with Green. He’s 24, a top player in the 2.Bundesliga, and has goals against Belgium and France on his resume. How is he not one of the 40-some players to get a call from GB?

[ RELATED: Julian Green thriving at CM ]

Kyle Bonn: Fabian Johnson. A regular starter for a top-half Bundesliga side isn’t even in the mix. That’s absurd. He hasn’t really produced the consistent career many expected from him about 6 years ago, but given Berhalter’s struggles to find consistency in the lineup, it’s maddening that Johnson has all but been forgotten. And Josh Sargent needs to become a regular in this squad. Now. Not just for friendlies.

Dan Karell: It’s kind of hard to say, because the players that are constantly missing but would normally make it are always injured. John Brooks. Matt Miazga, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah, McKennie/Pulisic in the past. Perhaps one player who deserves another look – for me – is Jonathan Lewis. He’s always injected some energy and pace late into matches and I really think he can be a game-changer. He just has to leave the smoldering crater that is the Colorado Rapids.

Mix Diskerud, just for his flowing locks of hair…kidding! He’s been injured since the summer, but I’d love to see Duane Holmes get a run out there from the start. Another player I’m excited that is finally back is Sebastian “Da Boy” Lletget. He’s dynamic, great under pressure, and a talented 8 that should help the U.S. out. It will be interesting to see whether he tries moving abroad this offseason or signs a new deal in MLS.

FBL-NED-USA-FRIENDLY

Is the USMNT on the right path? Why or why not?

Joe Prince-Wright: Not yet, and they are a long way from getting to a point where I’m saying ‘you know what, I can see the light and I like it.’ Berhalter’s philosophy is clear and it is worrying these group of players haven’t picked it up. And that is the main problem. He isn’t getting the chance to drill these tactics into the same group of players day in, day out. The US are trying to possess the ball but a lot of the players being selected don’t seem to be as comfortable on it as they should be. At what point does Berhalter say: ‘my fundamentals aren’t working with the squad I have at my disposal?’ Probably never. And that’s the biggest issue facing the USMNT in the months ahead.

Nick Mendola: The program is moving in the right direction, from the youth levels upward, but whether Berhalter’s program is on the up will lead you to the antacid aisle. I’m leaning toward no. It’s only been nine months, but the signs of progress are only when compared to his first month on the job. Saying the side is better than it was under Bruce Arena or Jurgen Klinsmann would be an unfair comparison (Their best players, like Pulisic, are simply maturing).

I think it’s probable the Yanks will not fail to qualify for another World Cup in our lifetimes unless CONCACAF is combined with CONMEBOL. It’s really, truly difficult to put together our population, resources, and confederation and be left with failure in Couva (Something that, still, needed a ghost goal for Panama to knock the Yanks out of the running). But if you put this team in a “Group of Death” right now, I’d mark them down for a first round exit and at least one extremely ugly loss.

My hope is health and a general manager. Berhalter needs counsel in who he calls up, and someone willing to tell him when he’s letting his ego override reality (Out-of-form MLS players probably shouldn’t get the call over in-form ones from any league, for example). And we’d like Berhalter a whole lot more if Tyler Adams and John Brooks had been available to him for more than a handful of combined matches.

Kyle Bonn: That’s probably not a question that can be answered in one or even two parts. The USMNT is on the right track given there is still time before World Cup qualifying, and Berhalter is looking to find what players fit not only his vision, but also fit together as more than a sum of the parts. In addition, the youth talent is probably at a higher level than we’ve seen with this federation in a LONG time, there is little debating that.

The performances, however, paint a picture that the process is likely to take longer than the U.S. has time for. Berhalter at this point needs to take what’s in front of him and transition quickly from a performance-based coach to a results-based coach. The experimentation period is almost over. Time to start acting like it.

Dan Karell: Yes. Fans are fickle and have short memories. Remember when Mexico almost didn’t qualify for the 2014 World Cup? Mexico in 2013 was AWFUL. Meanwhile, the U.S. were in a really good spot. We had Michael Bradley, Tim Howard (and Brad Guzan), Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron in their prime, and there was also Clint Dempsey, Herc Gomez, and Jermaine Jones. While Dempsey and Jones were on the way down, they were still star players who you could count on for goals or securing a result.

Could Matt Miazga, Aaron Long, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah and Josh Sargent develop into those stars? Sure. But they’re not there now, and it may take 2-3 years. For Mexico, it’s taken a few years for Raul Jimenez and Hector Herrera to grow into World Class stars, and they have more players than ever playing and testing themselves in Europe, with others right on their tails in Liga MX. It’s cyclical in nature. The U.S. is at the bottom of the roller coaster. Only one way to go. Up! 
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)