Weston McKennie

Associated Press

USMNT ready for final Gold Cup tuneup

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The United States has one final tune-up for the Gold Cup as the 23-man tournament squad gets set to face Venezuela on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. ET in Cincinnati.

A lackluster performance on Wednesday resulted in a 1-0 loss to Jamaica, the first loss under new head coach Gregg Berhalter. A number of fringe players saw time in that game, but with Berhalter’s camp over and his Gold Cup roster set, so it’s likely there will be less experimentation this time around, instead hoping to give the first-team squad a chance to gel.

That likely means the re-introduction of Jozy Altidore plus Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are now available as well. The biggest name of all will not be present, however, as Berhalter has already confirmed he will rest and preserve Christian Pulisic to keep him in top shape for the meaningful matches. Michael Bradley is also not available as Berhalter hopes to protect the 31-year-old from a recent hamstring injury, and while he’s been a full participant in practice, he did not play against Jamaica and will again be held out.

These two teams met in a 2017 Gold Cup tuneup at Rio Tinto Stadium in a match that saw Pulisic score a 61st minute equalizer to secure a 1-1 draw. Yet that game seems a lifetime ago, as just two of the starters from that game and four of the 19 players who saw time are on the current roster, including the 20-year-old Chelsea attacker.

Berhalter will want to see a much more organized and electric attacking display to give fans hope ahead of the Gold Cup, and while Josh Sargent’s omission from the squad is a head-scratching decision that could sap the attack of a late-game option, it’s not likely to affect the overall game plan for Sunday or throughout the tournament.

Predicted lineup

— Steffen —

— Adams — Miazga — Long — Lovitz

— McKennie — Trapp — Holmes —

— Morris — Altidore — Lewis —

The head man will want to get a mix of players on the field while still deploying the same tactical approach he will ask of his players in the Gold Cup and hope as many first-team players as possible can be on the field. Still, with a long summer ahead, it’s unlikely he will take too many squad risks. Omar Gonzalez played the full 90 minutes against Jamaica and could sit in favor of Aaron Long. Tyler Adams has been excelling in midfield since his move to the Bundesliga, but the USMNT has shown no signs of detouring from the plan to play Adams at right-back at the international level.

Berhalter may look to again deploy Tim Ream after playing just 60 minutes against Jamaica, but the 31-year-old is a known quantity and the coach could look to give Daniel Lovitz another chance to prove his worth against a difficult opponent. With Bradley out, Wil Trapp is again the man in the middle, without any fitness worries knowing that Bradley will take over once the Gold Cup arrives. McKennie is back in the fold while Duane Holmes should get another chance after proving one of the few bright spots against Jamaica.

Paul Arriola got 72 lackluster minutes the last time out, and Jonathan Lewis will have an opportunity to show what he can do out wide, with Jordan Morris possibly taking over on the other side. It’s possible that Morris could start the game on the bench with the aim of coming on to spell Jozy Altidore in the second half, in which case Tyler Boyd could see his name in the starting lineup.

Whoever starts at the back for the United States will have the tall task of marking MLS superstar Josef Martinez, a player coming off a record-breaking club season last year and – slow start aside – is back on track this year as well, with six goals in his last five matches for Atlanta United. He will likely be supported on the flanks by Real Salt Lake winger Jefferson Savarino and Jhon Murilla who plays in the Portuguese top flight. In the middle for Venezuela is a familiar face in Yangel Herrera, a midfield destroyer formerly of NYCFC who played the last six months at Spanish side Huesca on loan from Manchester City.

Venezuela is coming off a pair of disappointing performances and has won just once in its last five matches, a surprising 3-1 victory over Argentina in March. They dropped 3-1 to Mexico last time out on Thursday in Atlanta in Gerardo Martino’s return to Atlanta, wasting an early 1-0 lead via Murillo. Before that they drew 1-1 with Ecuador, again coughing up a first-half lead.

A win isn’t necessarily a must for the United States with the important matches to come, but an improvement from the Jamaica defeat is required to give the U.S. any kind of confidence and good vibes heading into the tournament this summer that will define Gregg Berhalter’s early head coaching days and set up the squad to begin vital World Cup qualifying on a high.

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).

McKennie on Pulisic: ‘He’ll be great for Chelsea’

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Weston McKennie is expecting big things from his USMNT teammate and close friend Christian Pulisic in the Premier League.

No pressure then…

The duo have played together throughout the U.S. youth national teams and in recent years have locked horns in the Bundesliga for German giants, and fierce rivals, Schalke and Borussia Dortmund.

Pulisic has one more game left for Dortmund — who he rejoined on loan for the rest of this season after his $73 million transfer to Chelsea in January — and he’s scored in each of his last two Bundesliga games to give them a chance of winning the title on the final day (they trail leaders Bayern Munich by two points).

What a perfect way that would be to end his five-year stay at the Westfalenstadion.

Speaking to our partners at Sky Sports, McKennie has high hopes for Pulisic once he arrives at Chelsea after his

“Christian is the type of player who likes a challenge and likes to experience new things as well,” McKennie said. “I think he’ll be a great signing for Chelsea. He may not get it right away, he may get in and play you never know, but I think he’ll be helpful for them in any way that they use him. I’m excited for him and I know he’s excited to start that next chapter of his career and make an even bigger name for himself.”

Fans of the USMNT are looking forward to having their superstar playmaker pit his wits against the Premier League’s best week in week out, and Pulisic will be eager to hit the ground running after a stop-start 2018-19 season for club and country as injuries stalled his progress.

Pulisic may miss some of Chelsea’s preseason due to his expected involvement for the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer, but he is likely to cut short any summer break to set the tone for what he hopes is a very successful career at Chelsea.

With Eden Hazard on his way out, Pulisic will be expected to help pick up the slack and lead Chelsea in the PL and UEFA Champions League next season and beyond.

An incredible challenge awaits the Pennsylvania native.

Wagner or not, Schalke’s next manager hire big for USMNT

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Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie may get a manager who’s represented his same national team.

Former USMNT striker David Wagner is reportedly in “very advanced” talks to take the helm of the Bundesliga outfit.

[ MORE UCL: Spurs-Ajax recap | Eriksen reacts ]

Wagner, 47, was the Borussia Dortmund II manager before taking the job at Huddersfield Town and guiding the Terriers to the Premier League, but left the club in January en route to relegation.

Now with Schalke having dodged relegation and beaten rivals Borussia Dortmund this weekend under interim boss Huub Stevens, who himself has led the club on two other occasions.

The German-born Wagner won the UEFA Cup during a short stint as a player at Schalke, and was capped eight times by the United States.

But the move, whether Wagner or not, is significant for American soccer.

McKennie doesn’t turn 21 until the start of next season, and already boasts 44 Bundesliga appearances, a half-dozen Champions League matches, and six more German Cup slots.

He’s played in every central midfield position, as well as right back, right mid, and even a little center back and center forward. McKennie is one of the most industrious and experienced young players in USMNT history, but how much of his experience at the club level will even matter to Gregg Berhalter?

I mean, look at his positional usage at Schalke this season via Transfermarkt (right).

This could also become a David Alaba situation. The Austrian has played the majority of his Bayern Munich career as a left back, and then a center back. Yet the 26-year-old has only recently made the move to left mid or left back for Das Team, having been a center midfielder in World Cups and EURO tournaments.

So perhaps Wagner takes over at Schalke, and slots McKennie at right back. Does Berhalter think at all about whether Tyler Adams should go into the middle role and McKennie play a more natural right back? Or does Berhalter say Adams is his right back and McKennie a center mid, end of story?

Also, Wagner was a Danny Williams fan, so perhaps he’d consider the option of an All-American midfield with McKennie and Williams. Half-kidding aside, Schalke’s next manager and their intention for McKennie will be one of the more intriguing and important moves for the future of the U.S. midfield.