Ahead of a pair high profile and highly challenging friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter released his 26 man roster today. The US manager followed up the release with a phone press conference.
Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen, and a returning John Brooks headline the squad.
In selecting this roster, Berhalter had to balance Major League Soccer’s policy of playing through the international break. The former Columbus Crew boss made it clear that he is none too pleased with the situation, saying he’s “disappointed with MLS choosing to play in the FIFA window.”
Berhalter noted that he did not call in Toronto threesome Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez because TFC is facing two matches during the international break. That second Toronto match seemed to govern Berhalter’s decision to leave the TFC players behind while selecting several other MLS players with conflicts. For example, NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson will miss the team’s September 7th match versus New England.
Berhalter was also asked to clarify the Darlington Nagbe situation. Or more specifically: did the Atlanta midfielder turn down an opportunity to be included in this roster as well as the Gold Cup squad?
After speaking of his admiration for Nagbe as a player, the coach turned Artful Dodger for this one. Berhalter declined to reveal the details of private conversations, while also speaking broadly on the subject of any player’s dedication to the team.
While stressing that he was not speaking about Nagbe, Berhalter noted “that he (Berhalter) is not the type of guy that says you’re done,” meaning that Nagbe or any player could be welcomed back into the team, because he takes, “every case on an individual basis.”
So, who did Berhalter select? Front and center are young guns Josh Sargent, Sergino Dest of Ajax, and Paxton Pomykal of FC Dallas. The latter pair were teammates on the recent U.S. U20 World Cup team that impressed in getting to the quarterfinal before falling to Ecuador 2-1.
Sargent impressed for Werder Bremen in the preseason but has struggled for playing time once the Bundesliga campaign began. Berhalter is hoping that Sargent can recapture some of the preseason momentum.
Pomykal has had a breakout season for FCD while Dest has been seeing time at both fullback positions for the 2018 Champions League semifinalists in the Eredivisie.
From the sound of Berhalter’s remarks, Dest is the more likely of the two to see the field over the two friendlies. The coach expressed a willingness to play the Dutch/American on either flank, as Ajax have done. That versatility may make it easier to get the 18 year-old on the pitch, with Berhalter saying he is, “really intrigued by how he (Dest) sees the game.”
As for Pomykal, the coach made it sound as though the Dallas man was in for a look-see, saying he wants to see, “how he (Pomykal) copes with the demands of the national team setup.”
Another young player to get a look is Miles Robinson, the Atlanta center back of whom Berhalter says, “form pushed [him] into the team.”
Not as young, but in the same boat as Robinson is 29 year-old Alfredo Morales of Fortuna Dusseldorf. Of Morales, Berhalter said, “I feel really good about calling in a guy that’s playing really well for his team.”
USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
GOALKEEPERS (4): Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas; 0/0), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 60/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 8/0), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER; 15/0)
DEFENDERS (9): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 37/3), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 6/0), Sergiño Dest (Ajax/NED; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 7/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 11/2), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 8/0),) Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 35/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 10/2)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 9/2), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 14/3), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER; 13/0), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 15/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 19/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 1/0)
FORWARDS (6): Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 3/0), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas/TUR; 5/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 33/5), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 31/13), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 7/2), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 51/10)