Sebastian Lletget

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USMNT’s Holmes injured, Mihailovic re-added to Gold Cup squad

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The hits just keep on coming for the United States men’s national team, as Derby County midfielder Duane Holmes has withdrawn from the Gold Cup roster.

Holmes, 24, earned his first two caps this month but “reaggravated a left quadriceps strain” which hampered the end of his season with the Rams.

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Djordje Mihailovic will take his place. The Chicago Fire midfielder was sent back to Illinois following the tune-up friendlies, but will jet back to the fold before Tuesday’s tournament opener versus Guyana.

The U.S. is painfully thin in terms of creative midfielders, with Tyler Adams (right back, we know), Sebastian Lletget, and now Holmes out of the mix.

They do have that Christian Pulisic cat, though, and we imagine he won’t be out wide much.

USMNT 23-man roster for Gold Cup

Goalkeepers: Sean Johnson, Tyler Miller, Zack Steffen

Defenders: Reggie Cannon, Omar Gonzalez, Nick Lima, Aaron Long, Daniel Lovitz, Matt Miazga, Walker Zimmerman, Tim Ream

Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Weston McKennie, Djordje Mihailovic, Christian Pulisic, Wil Trapp, Cristian Roldan

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Paul Arriola, Tyler Boyd, Jonathan Lewis, Jordan Morris, Gyasi Zardes.

What counts as Gold Cup success for USMNT?

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The United States men’s national team has the good and bad fortune of playing in CONCACAF, which means it will qualify for every nearly World Cup by showing up and playing within a standard deviation of their average.

The same is true for their chances at making deep runs in the Gold Cup. Since 1985, the Yanks have qualified for 11 of 16 Finals, winning six. Only twice has it finished worse than a third place game appearance, not once since 2000.

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So that’s why looking like a pile of lukewarm leftovers against Jamaica and Venezuela shouldn’t change perspective on this month’s tournament. Not only are Gregg Berhalter’s men at home, but the path to the final gives them three games to prepare for a true knockout round test and — should they find their footing — two more before meeting Costa Rica or Mexico.

That said, the U.S. may well finish second in the group and get smoked by Honduras or Jamaica in the Round of 16. Falling behind both Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in the group stage would be inexcusable and could see Earnie Stewart canning a coach far earlier than expected, though the reasons utilized would be injuries to Tyler Adams and John Brooks.

However, if the reason is because Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes are starting over healthy Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore in meaningful matches, well…

Anyway, let’s deal in potential. This is the best possible XI you could cull from the United States’ roster.

Steffen

Lima — Gonzalez — Miazga — Lovitz

McKennie — Bradley

 Pulisic — Holmes — Boyd

Altidore

This is no mere superiority complex: That team, even with Berhalter’s suspected removal of Holmes, Lovitz, and Boyd to play Arriola, Roldan, and Ream, is enough to crush Guyana and handle T&T en route to a group-deciding match with Panama.

The next round isn’t so simple, which is why finishing a tournament history-worst seventh or eighth isn’t out of the question. Honduras or Jamaica will be a challenge at the back, and both have the horses to press a suspect possession team (Hopefully Bradley will help alleviate those concerns).

Prediction after prediction has the United States in the final. And I think the probability points to that. Losing to Jamaica twice on home soil within a month would be really bad, and neither Honduras nor Panama had better World Cup qualifying runs than the Yanks. Honduras, to its credit, was young, but Panama only finished above the U.S. via a goal that did not cross the line. CONCACAF.

As for the other side of the bracket, even second-choice Mexico is too much for this U.S. team (though anything can happen over 90-120 minutes) and Costa Rica. El Tri will be waiting in the final, even having to work out the kinks under Tata Martino.

My main worry is the depth already being tested in this tournament. In my above lineup, Lima and Holmes is only in because Sebastian Lletget, DeAndre Yedlin, and Tyler Adams are unavailable. And Zardes and Jordan Morris as the back-up options to Altidore at center forward present less attraction than Josh Sargent, Bobby Wood, and even Tim Weah.

The over/under for matches at the Gold Cup is four, with a push being a legit probability for the first time in a while. Under or a push would be a monumental, unavoidable, and inexcusable departure from the plan for 2022 World Cup qualification.

Which way would you bet? Oddsmakers still have the USMNT as the second-favorite to win the whole thing, closer to favorites Mexico than third-best Costa Rica. One site even has El Tri and the U.S. as joint favorites.

That’s something. And adding Pulisic and McKennie is huge. Should we be hesitant because Berhalter’s half-strength Yanks looked terrible against Jamaica and Venezuela? Probably not, but let’s wait until we see the lineups against Guyana and T&T.

USMNT set for Gold Cup warmup against Jamaica

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After the Baby Yanks secured a defining comeback victory over U-20 World Cup tournament favorites France, it’s not the senior team’s turn to take the field, albeit with significantly less at stake.

The USMNT faces off against Jamaica on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET in a pre-Gold Cup friendly that will feature a majority of the Gold Cup squad but not the entirety. Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams are not currently with the team, although Gregg Berhalter confirmed in his press conference Tuesday afternoon that Pulisic will join the group on Thursday, while Adams will take part starting one week from today.

[ MORE: US U-20 side tops World Cup favs France 3-2 ]

Otherwise, the 28-man squad will get a chance to show Berhalter why they should take part in the summer CONCACAF tournament, with Berhalter required to trim the squad to 23 by midnight after the game. With Pulisic and Adams joining late, that means Berhalter will have to make a total of seven cuts from the current group, and the team will then get one more friendly against Venezuela before the Gold Cup begins.

Projected USMNT lineup

— Steffen —

— Lima — Gonzalez — Miazga — Lovitz

McKennie — Bradley — Roldan

Zardes — Altidore — Arriola

The friendly will be most important for Berhalter’s defense as he looks for his best center-back pairing and full-back combination moving into the Gold Cup. The new USMNT head coach has spent the better part of his tenure to this point experimenting with the roster, but now is the time to get the back line minutes together. The absence of injured defensive duo John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin will be felt, and Berhalter must determine how to fill the holes. Most likely, new Toronto FC central defender Omar Gonzalez will pair with Matt Miazga in the middle, with Nick Lima on one side and either Tim Ream or Daniel Lovitz on the other.

In the midfield, with Adams yet to join the squad, Christian Roldan could see time in the middle alongside regular starters Weston McKennie and Michael Bradley, while Wil Trapp could see time as well. Berhalter has experimented with Djordje Mihailovic in the middle of late, but the 20-year-old is still raw and his club performances with the Chicago Fire have been spotty recently. Duane Holmes could get a look off the bench as well with Berhalter looking to decide if he merits a Gold Cup place.

If Berhalter looks to play a midfield diamond with Roldan at the top, he could pair Gyasi Zardes and Jozy Altidore in the striker role, with Josh Sargent and Jordan Morris waiting in the wings. More likely, Berhalter will stick with his favored 4-3-3, although the roster lacks wide attacking players with just Zardes, Paul Arriola, Tyler Boyd, and Paul Arriola serving in that capacity. That would see Altidore playing point of attack with support from Zardes and Arriola.

The squad will take on Jamaica who has reached the Gold Cup final in each of the last two editions of the tournament. Andre Blake is the most recognizable name manning the net, while MLS fans will recognize Darren Mattocks and Kemar Lawrence down the left flank as well. Bayer Leverkusen youngster Leon Bailey mans the midfield after a fantastic club season that saw him score five Bundesliga goals in 29 appearances, and he could pair with fellow 21-year-old Peter-Lee Vassell in the middle  who already owns 10 international caps and five goals at his young age.

United States roster

GK: Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Tyler Miller (LAFC); Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew/Manchester City)

DEF: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes) Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Tim Ream (Fulham), Antonee Robinson (Everton), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC).

MID: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes).

FWD: Jonathan Amon (Nordsjaelland), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Tyler Boyd (Vitoria Guimares), Joe Gyau, (Duisburg), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew).

Jamaica roster

GK: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), Amal Knight (UWI), Dwayne Miller (Syrianska)

DEF: Shaun Francis (Louisville City FC), Michael Hector (Sheffield Wednesday), Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising), Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls), Damion Lowe (IK Start), Alvas Powell (FC Cincinnati), Jamoi Topey (Bethlehem Steel)

MID: Leon Bailey (Bayer Leverkusen), Andre Lewis (Portmore United),Tyreek Magee (Harbor View), Alex Marshall (Cavalier SC), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United), Peter-Lee Vassel (LAFC), Devon Williams (Louisville City FC), Je-Vaughn Watson (OKC Energy FC)

FWD: Brian Brown (FC Reno), Maalique Foster (Rio Grande Valley Toros FC), Darren Mattocks (FC Cincinnati), Shamar Nicholson (Domzale), Dever Orgill (Ankaragucu).

Berhalter releases 28-man USMNT roster for pre-Gold Cup camp

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Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams are not yet aboard with the U.S. National Team, but Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are in the fold as Gregg Berhalter named a 28-man roster for a pre-Gold Cup camp that culminates with a friendly against Jamaica on June 5.

Altidore’s appearance is significant given the 29-year-old has not appeared for the United States since the fateful loss to Trinidad & Tobago to eliminate the U.S. from 2018 World Cup contention. Also notably in the fold is midfielder Weston McKennie who has struggled with injuries down the stretch of the season but finished the Bundesliga campaign strong with three straight 90-minute appearances. The 20-year-old could have been rested for the camp ahead of what is expected to be a significant Gold Cup contribution, but instead he has been called in by the head man.

Without Pulisic and Adams, who are both expected to have a significant role in the upcoming Gold Cup, the current 28-man roster will need at least seven cuts to reach the 23-man limit required by the tournament.

Also not on the roster is goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who struggled early this season with Atlanta United, although the team’s defense has since locked things down. Instead, three other domestic shot-stoppers were named to the list in NYCFC’s Sean Johnson, LAFC’s Tyler Miller, and Columbus Crew’s Zack Steffen who has already said goodbye to the MLS club before a summer switch to Manchester City.

Those who could be on the edge with cuts coming could be midfielders Duane Holmes, Djordje Mihailovic, and Jackson Yueill; forwards Jonathan Amon, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Gyau. The full-back depth is a mixed bag, with no clear frontrunner yet between Antonee Robinson, Nick Lima, and Daniel Lovitz. Meanwhile, in central defense, it’s likely that at least one of Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga, Walker Zimmerman, Omar Gonzalez, or Aaron Long will be dropped to give the final roster four. Tim Ream is a versatile defender who could fit into either category, potentially an advantage for the Fulham defender coming off a tough club campaign.

DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks will miss the Gold Cup entirely, left off the preliminary roster due to injury. Yedlin had groin surgery after a late-season injury with Newcastle, while Brooks injured his knee and missed Wolfsburg’s final two games of the season.

United States Men’s National Team roster

GK: Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Tyler Miller (LAFC); Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew/Manchester City)

DEF: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes) Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Tim Ream (Fulham), Antonee Robinson (Everton), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC).

MID: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes).

FWD: Jonathan Amon (Nordsjaelland), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Tyler Boyd (Vitoria Guimares), Joe Gyau, (Duisburg), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew).

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

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Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

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  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.