Gregg Berhalter has named his roster for the USMNT Nations League debut, a competition former U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann recently derided as “a waste of time,” in conversation with ESPN’s Herculez Gomez.
With the Americans facing opposition like Cuba and Canada, Klinsmann’s central point, that the U.S. – as well as Mexico and Costa Rica– will find it hard to raise their level of play against teams of this level, is hard to argue.
Still, that is not Berhalter’s fault. However, it could become his problem if the U.S. does not impress this month, with young and improving Canada a potential banana peel.
No Sergino Dest
The big news emanating from this roster reveal is the absence of rising Dutch/U.S. international fullback Sergino Dest just days after Dest met with Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman. Dest featured in both of the recent U.S. friendlies in September and Berhalter has made it clear that he wants the 18-year-old to pledge his future to the Stars and Stripes.
Berhalter has recalled a couple of trusted players just back from injury layoffs in DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Miazga, and wisely reinstated Toronto pair Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, having left them out to concentrate on Toronto FC duties in September.
Is Berhalter’s roster construction too conservative?
Those were easy calls for the coach but some of his moves raise the question, is Berhalter too loyal and too conservative with his roster callups?
All coaches need to display a certain amount of loyalty, otherwise, how can any manager expect that same loyalty in return. That said, that admirable trait can descend into its less desirable offshoot – stubbornness.
We’ve all seen a coach that makes otherwise sound tactical decisions, yet continually selects one particular player that causes everyone to throw their arms up and cry, “oh no, not again.”
By now you know where we are headed, Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes. Yep, Berhalter has selected the favored duo from his Columbus days even as their inclusion becomes more and more difficult to justify.
Now, it may not matter all that much because Trapp remains behind Michael Bradley while Berhalter has included both Jozy Altidore and Josh Sargent in the forward line, and both should be preferred over Zardes.
And it is Cuba and Canada.
Still, what message does it send if Berhalter sends out Trapp and/or Zardes versus Cuba, simply because he trusts them in his system?
That loyalty/stubbornness can be read as timidity when we look at the inclusion of defenders Daniel Lovitz and Walker Zimmerman. Zimmerman has shown flashes against lower-ranked CONCACAF teams but has not been excelling for FC Dallas. A pair of more intriguing options might have been Cameron Carter-Vickers who is playing for Championship strugglers Stoke and Erik Palmer-Brown, on loan to Austria Wien from mighty Manchester City and surely worth a look.
More egregious is the omission of fullback Antonee Robinson with Montreal Impact defender Daniel Lovitz receiving the call in his stead.
Having struggled defensively in previous U.S. outings, Robinson was rightly bypassed in recent U.S. camps but the dynamic flanker is currently in good form for Wigan in the English Championship and has a considerably higher ceiling than Lovitz.
Berhalter has shown some inclination to roll the dice as the selection of 18- year-old Philadelphia midfielder Brenden Aaronson suggests but matches against Cuba and Canada would have seemed to be a good opportunity for Berhalter to boldly kick off the post-Trapp/Zardes era.
USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC; 61/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 8/0), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Düsseldorf/GER; 16/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 8/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 8/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 13/2), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 10/0), Matt Miazga (Reading/ENG; 17/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 36/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG; 59/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 11/2)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 150/17), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 11/2), Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 15/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 32/13), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 16/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 20/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 3/0)
FORWARDS (7): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 115/42), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 28/5), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 4/0), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas/TUR; 7/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 35/6), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 9/2), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 53/10)