Euro 2020 and Copa America are getting into the latter stages, meanwhile CONCACAF’s Gold Cup is just about to get underway and thus Gregg Berhalter has announced his USMNT roster. He has been straight up when outlining the plans to differentiate between the Nations League, in the final of which they beat Mexico in an extra-time thriller, and Gold Cup. The first thing that jumps out at you is the heavy presence of MLS players and as previously mentioned, the absence of Pulisic and co shouldn’t come as a shock. So here is my reaction to the Gold Cup roster…
Where better to start than in goal and given that Zack Steffen is the big fish now, playing his football for Premier League champions Manchester City, there is a lot to live up too. We saw Club Brugge’s Ethan Horvath do just that against El Tri in that unforgettable night in Denver, he was subbed to replaced the injured Steffen and his highlight was of course that penalty save against Andres Guardado at the death. This duo won’t feature and so three others will get a chance, but it is hardly a trio of youngsters.
Matt Turner of New England is the finest that MLS has to offer along with maybe the Union’s Andre Blake and he could stake a solid claim for the number one spot at the Gold Cup. Turner will most likely be Berhalter’s starter at this competition but NYCFC’s Sean Johnson and Atlanta United’s experienced head of Brad Guzan certainly aren’t bad options either. Both have been extremely consistent over the last few years in MLS but Guzan’s inclusion in particular does beg the question, is there no one younger who deserves the chance? I guess not, the other names being spoken about were Tim Melia who himself is in the latter stages of his career and then RSL’s David Ochoa, but I’m sure Freddy Juarez will be happy to still have his goalkeeper in Utah.
Onto the defence then and again, as was expected, there are wholesale changes. The likes of Mark McKenzie and Sergino Dest featured in the Nations League and so a different kettle of fish have been afforded the shot at further silverware in the form of the Gold Cup. Adding to Guzan’s inclusion, Atlanta are represented by both George Bello and Miles Robinson in the defensive third making them, along with the Colorado Rapids, the most heavily featured team. Whilst the Five Stripes maybe haven’t been excellent to date this season, Bello’s desire to get forward and fulfil his defensive responsibilities at the same time has been a joy to watch. As for Miles, he speaks for himself really, what a player he is and he’s still so young!
The backline is where we get our first taste of external forces in shape of Reggie Cannon and Shaq Moore. The former plays his football in Portugal for Boavista having departed Dallas last year whilst Shaq, a fellow graduate of the famous Dallas academy, has spent his whole senior career to date over in Spain. They both operate best as right backs and it’ll be interesting to see how Moore in particular blends with the rest of the USMNT squad at the Gold Cup.
Elsewhere Berhalter has selected Colorado’s Sam Vines, Nashville’s Walker Zimmermann, NYCFC’s James Sands and DC’s Donovan Pines. Three of them are 23 or under with Zimmermann bringing a vast wealth of experience at a high level to the table, Vines along with Cole Bassett is at the fore regarding the Rapids’ young prospects. Sands has played in midfield occasionally to deputise following the departure of Alex Ring to Austin and his versatility has been spoken highly of by Gregg. A few names that haven’t featured are Aaron Herrera of RSL, the Galaxy’s Julian Araujo and Kyle Duncan of the Red Bulls plus Bayern-bound Dallas youngster Justin Che was in the minds of some people.
Next, to the middle of park which is MLS through and through, all six USMNT players play their football on home soil. Sebastian Lletget has been a mainstay really even when there is very little MLS representation, he’s been the man flying the flag. Joining him in the player pool and also bringing their own experience is Christian Roldan and Kellyn Acosta of the Sounders and the Rapids respectively. Roldan in particular is truly sensational for his club side and so to see him with just twenty caps next to his name is underwhelming really.
From three who are somewhat established in their own right to a triumvirate that are bright stars with many years to come. Starting with the defensive/holding role, a position that Tyler Adams plays so well when the full squad is present, we have Portland’s Eryk Williamson and San Jose’s Jackson Yueill. The pair have been in some sort of a battle for the deputy role for a while now and although both of their clubs haven’t been excellent this season, let the battle commence at the Gold Cup!
Leipzig’s new-man Caden Clark may not be in the squad but Gianluca Busio, the SKC superstar is, and he has garnered a lot of attention from Italy and elsewhere and rightly so. Busio can play in a multitude of positions and whilst he is great on the goals and assists front, he can operate out of a more reserved role just as well! The aforementioned Cole Bassett along with the recently recovered from injury Dallas man Paxton Pomykal are two players I would have liked to see for the USMNT but the absence of the latter makes sense really.
Finishing it off then with the goalscorers, the match-winners! I can’t pretend to know a whole lot about twenty-year-old Nicholas Gioacchini who plays his club football in France so zeroing in on the rest of the attacking pool. Two of the names, Paul Arriola and Daryl Dike, have played football on British shores recently with various success. DC’s Arriola along with Seattle’s Jordan Morris went on loan to Swansea but both of their spells were cut short due to injury. Whilst Morris is still on the treatment table, Arriola has been back in action in Washington and is ready to go for the Gold Cup. Dike on the other hand was a huge success in the Championship, his goals and huge range of goals no less were not only great to see, but they were key in Barnsley making a shock run to the playoff final under Valerien Ismael.
Staying in Europe with Schalke’s Matthew Hoppe, the young American being one of very few positives in a dismal campaign for the team from Gelsenkirchen. After their relegation, it seems certain that Hoppe will get a second chance at life in the Bundesliga as many clubs are rumoured to be interested in signing him. The last two names are both of the MLS; Gyasi Zardes of the Columbus Crew and the lesser-known Jonathan Lewis, who plays for the Rapids. Lewis’ inclusion has raised a few eyebrows given that he isn’t even a nailed-on starter for Robin Fraser, but no-one can argue with Gyasi’s selection. The Crew striker was integral in their winning of MLS Cup last year and has been one of the finest forwards in the USMNT player pool for a few years now!
As previously mentioned, the MLS’ heavy dominance of this Gold Cup roster is good to see, nineteen of the 23 players playing their football on home soil (this includes Dike who could be on the move away from Orlando very soon). As a big Mason Toye guy I would have loved to have seen the CF Montreal man feature for the USMNT, he’s had an injury to deal with but when he has played he’s been the stand-out forward ahead of Romell Quioto and Erik Hurtado. Also, having reported on New England’s loss to Dallas it would have been cool to see teenager Ricardo Pepi get the nod, the same going for his club teammate Pomykal, but this squad in general is acceptable for the Gold Cup!
To stay up to date with the USMNT and MLS world with WD Sportz, read my review of last week’s action from one of the best leagues in world football!