U.S. SOCCER

USMNT Roster Analysis: The New, the Old and the Blah

Christian Pulisic of The USMNT | Photo by Jorge Galvez for The Stoppage Time | March 25, 2017
USMNT Roster Analysis: The New, the Old and the Blah

The latest squad for the USMNT friendlies against Mexico and Paraguay is out and it’s full of talking points.

USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION:

GOALKEEPERS: Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC)

DEFENDERSJohn Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Sergiño Dest (Ajax), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Tim Ream (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC)

MIDFIELDERS: Weston McKennie (Schalke 04), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS: Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake)

New Faces 

Over the past months, there’s been a clamor for some of the talented Under-20s who were getting first-team minutes, some at a very high level, to be brought in. Four names in particular seemed to consistently chirp through the feeds of American soccer Twitter. Sargent, Weah, Pomykal and most of all, Sergiño Dest.

The Dutch-American full-back has been getting game time for Holland’s best club, in both the Champions League qualifiers and the Eredivisie and there’s been genuine fear he could be the target of Dutch interest. But with Sergino conspicuously absent from both the senior and U-21 iterations of the latest Orange rosters, the path was clear for his first USMNT call-up.

Weah, playing for Champions League side Lille, suffered a muscle pull in training this week and was omitted.  Sargent was finally called in after being snubbed for the Gold Cup, and Pomykal, hands down the best American midfielder in MLS this season, was also called up.

Other new faces include Fortuna Dusseldorf’s 29-year old midfielder Alfredo Morales and San Jose’s defensive mid Jackson Yeiull. A lot of people are high on Yeiull, so it will be interesting how he performs. Miles Robinson has been a top 5 defender in the league and is another deserving call-up. He’s young, mobile and strong, but Berhalter likes defenders who can split lines with passing and my guess is he’ll need to improve that aspect of his game.

Other players called up for the first time under Berhalter are Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and Atlanta’s Brad Guzan.

Key players missing 

Jozy Altidore of the USMNT | Photo by Jorge Galvez for The Stoppage Time | March 25, 2017

Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley have been left off for Toronto’s chase to the play-offs, but the fact that Berhalter mentioned Omar Gonzalez by name when saying why the Toronto players were left off is worrying.  Injuries have taken Miazga, Adams, Yedlin, Weah and Holmes out of the equation, and it’s interesting to think what this squad would have looked like if they had been available. Paul Arriola was also left off this roster, which sources tell me is for family reasons.

Some people were clamoring for Darlington Nagbe to be given a look, but the news broke yesterday that he has refused several call-ups already, and that seems to be the end of his brief international career.

Same old 

For a vast majority of the fan base, there’s a disappointing element to this squad. There’s a group of players that clearly aren’t up to the international level, and yet continue to get called up. Lovitz, Trapp, Baird, Zardes and Roldan make up that group. All but Baird were at the Gold Cup, and all were disappointing.

You could perhaps make a case for Zardes’ inclusion considering Jozy’s absence, but using these friendlies to have a look at players like Wood or even Soto might have been a alternative idea. We all know what Zardes offers, and frankly, it isn’t much. Roldan has never looked comfortable in Berhalter’s system, Trapp is a traffic cone in midfield and Lovitz is a mid-tier MLS left back with no real upside. As for Baird, a player that isn’t even a regular starter for Real Salt Lake, the fact that he was brought in is disappointing. My guess is that if Arriola and Weah are available though, he doesn’t get this look. Fingers crossed for Ully Llanez and Gio Reyna to break through sooner rather than later.

Gyazi Zardes of the USMMT and Jorgen Skjelvik of the LA Galaxy | Photo by Jorge Galvez for The Stoppage Time | July 9, 2018

Some people will point out that the only reason these players are included is because we have no other options. That simply isn’t true. Antonee Robinson provides a pace and attacking ability Lotivz never has, Joel Sonora, who’s starting in the Argentine Primavera, could easily have replaced Roldan, and Brandon Servania is already better than Trapp in every department. But Berhalter likes guys who understand his system, even if it sometimes comes at the cost of actual ability. I would have happily seen Wood or even Soto over Zardes, but scoring tap-ins in MLS is apparently better than benching it in the Bundesliga when it comes to Gregg’s view.

The Verdict 

Fans will be happy that Berhalter has brought in some promising young players, but too much of the squad still have no business playing for their country. How much playing time is dished out over two games will tell you a lot about how seriously Berhalter is taking the youth transition, and one can only hope this is a gradual phasing out of the old guard rather than token selection of a few of the next generation.

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U.S. SOCCER
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Former soccer coach, now a writer. Hoping for the US Men to win a World Cup in my lifetime.

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