Ranking USMNT Players Abroad in Fall 2020 by Tiers Part 2

Welcome back! If you missed it, check out Part 1 of this article here. For a quick summary, last time we examined the male Americans playing in lower leagues. Now we’re looking at the USMNT players who play in the Top 10 leagues in Europe, plus some of the best South American leagues.

Again some housekeeping: I am only looking at games that count towards the ’20-’21 season. In order to limit this already really long list, I am only looking at players who have received first team minutes (Sorry Alex Mendez fans, Jong Ajax won’t count). Additionally, I didn’t go any lower than 2nd division in any country (apologies to all of the Sunderland/Lynden Gooch fans out there). Lastly, I didn’t include a bunch of potential dual nationals because we don’t know what they might do (sorry Florian Balogun fans). These statistics are from December 28th approximately.

These tiers are generally in order from worst-to-best but you could argue the order for the bottom tiers. Within each section I generally listed the players in order from most-to-least interesting. This is kind of a “who is the best player in a vacuum” ranking while also being a “who improved the most between the summer and now” ranking. So, like, don’t take it too seriously? I don’t know I just do this for fun.

Player Name, Age (Club; Total appearances this season, Continental Cup mins, Domestic League mins, Domestic Cup mins if applicable)

Decent 1st Division League (Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, Brazil, and Argentina)

  • Matt Miazga, 25 (Anderlecht; 10 app, 900 Juniper League mins)
  • Reggie Cannon, 22 (Boavista; 11 apps, 964 Primeira Liga)
  • Johnny Cardoso, 19 (Internacional; 11 apps, 477 mins across all competitions)
  • Alan Sonora, 22 (Independiente; 12 apps, 563 mins across all competitions)
  • Luca de la Torre, 22 (Heracles Almelo; 12 apps, 730 Eredivisie mins)
  • Chris Durkin, 20 (Sint-Truiden; 13 apps, 784 Juniper League mins)
  • Erik Palmer Brown, 23 (Austira Vien; 11 apps, 990 Austrian Bundesliga mins)

This is a bit of a grab bag section for all of the guys who play in non-Top 5 Leagues. I would argue that all of these leagues are a step up from MLS. Miazga has played well on loan from Chelsea to Anderlecht. EPB is technically still a Manchester City player but has been on loan for 4 straight seasons, similar to Miazga with Chelsea. Gotta wonder when either of them will find a permanent home. Cannon has impressed at Boavista, grabbing the attention of Portuguese giants Benfica in just 9 games. Cardoso is one of the first Americans to ever play in Brazil. Honestly, I’ve barely seen him play but getting minutes in Brazil at 19 usually leads to good things. I don’t know much about Sonora either, but again seeing minutes in Argentina at his age is a good sign. It’s nice to see Luca de la Torre get regular-ish minutes after riding Fulham’s bench for a few years. Only one assist in over 700 minutes is disappointing though. Lastly, Chris Durkin is quietly stacking up mins in Belgium. I think he has more defensive bite now than when he played in the 2019 U20 World Cup.

Good Situation, Small Sample Size

  • Tim Weah, 20 (Lille; 15 apps, 111 Europa League mins, 212 Ligue 1 mins)
  • Richard Ledezma, 20 (PSV; 6 apps, 25 Europa League mins, 93 Eredivisie mins)
  • Konrad de la Fuente, 19 (Barcelona; 2 apps, 19 UCL mins).
  • Zack Steffen, 25 (Manchester City; 4 apps, 90 UCL mins, 270 EFL Cup mins)
  • Owen Otasowie, 19 (Wolverhampton; 3 app, 112 EPL mins)
  • Ethan Horvath, 25 (Club Brugge; 2 apps, 90 UCL mins, 90 Juniper League mins).
  • Chris Richards, 20 (Bayern Munich; 7 apps, 129 UCL mins, 89 Bundesliga mins, 15 DFL Super Cup mins)

All of these guys have around 300 mins or less but they are on good teams who either play Champions League, Europa League, or in a Top 5 League. Horvath and Steffen are both backup keepers and will naturally be limited barring injuries to the starters. But goalkeepers hit their prime later so I’m not too concerned. And, recent rumors have Horvath on the trading block. Otasowie got his first EPL appearance and start in the closing weeks of 2020. From what I saw, he looked raw, but with a few moments of skill. Ledezma tore his ACL, which derailed a breakout year for him. Weah had a ton of cameo appearances out of precaution after he lost most of last year to injuries. Last few weeks his minutes for Lille have been trending in the right direction. Richards saw an uptick in mins for Bayern, but it seemed to be more “out of necessity due to injuries” than “he beat out other players in practice”. Konrad barely makes the cut here as he mostly still plays with Barca B. His appearances in UCL were cameos in games where Barca was leading. Hopefully he will see more meaningful minutes soon.

Sustained Success in a Top 5 League (England, Spain, Germany, France, or Italy)

  • Tyler Adams, 21 (RB Leipzig; 16 apps, 109 UCL mins, 701 Bundesliga mins, 104 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Christian Pulisic, 22 (Chelsea; 12 apps, 175 UCL mins, 605 EPL mins)
  • Josh Sargent, 20 (Werder Bremen; 14 apps, 1010 Bundesliga mins, 175 DFB Pokal mins).
  • John Brooks, 28 (Wolfsburg; 12 apps, 1008 Bundesliga mins)

These guys play in Top 5 Leagues, and they are good players, they simply haven’t made significant improvements since the summer. Pulisic has been slowed by injuries but looks great every time he plays. Notably, Pulisic started 2 games for Chelsea in the last week. Sargent is now a regular starter for Bremen but hasn’t done much in that time (3g 2a in ~1300 mins). Adams has been in the rotation for Leipzig and looks comfortable without being flashy. John Brooks is just a known quantity at this point. An overall good centerback who has the occasional error. Now, these guys are not necessarily worse than the players in the next tier. They just sustained a level of success rather than raised their game in some way. I don’t want to undermine what these guys are doing. It is not easy to continuously play at a high level.

Significant Improvement in a Top 5 League (England, Spain, Germany, France, or Italy)

  • Gio Reyna, 18 (Dortmund; 22 apps, 407 UCL mins, 887 Bundesliga mins, 138 DFB Pokal mins, 19 DFL Super Cup mins).
  • Weston McKennie. 22 (Juventus; 15 apps, 295 UCL mins, 591 Serie A mins
  • Sergino Dest, 20 (Ajax –> Barcelona; 19 apps, 450 UCL mins, 77 Eredivisie mins, 743 La Liga mins)
  • Yunus Musah, 18 (Valencia; 15 apps, 961 La Liga mins, 35 Copa Del Rey mins).
  • Antonee Robinson, 23 (Fulham; 15 apps, 1080 EPL mins, 270 EFL Cup mins)

This group is exciting to say the least. Yunus Musah broke onto the scene in this his first professional season. While technically still not committed to the US, I suspect the multi-national Musah will play for the Stars and Stripes going forward (knock on wood). Robinson may not be playing his first pro season, but it is his first EPL season and he has been up for the challenge showing well in Fulham’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool. The USMNT starting LB spot is his to lose. McKennie and Dest both moved to bigger clubs (you could argue that Dest’s move was more lateral, but I digress) and are regular starters in their respective new homes. McKennie’s goal against Barcelona in the Champions League was one for the ages. Quick reminder: Messi and Ronaldo were on the field and 22 year-old American Weston McKennie had the best goal of the game! Gio Reyna takes the cake though. His goals + assists per 90 mins are top 30 in the Bundesliga (top 25 if you don’t include penalty goals) and the kid turned 18 last month. Unreal. People are talking about him as one of the best teenage soccer players in the world, and rightly so.

Thanks for reading! Have any questions or qualms with how I organized this? Then leave a comment below or yell at me on Twitter @BeardedJack!

Ranking USMNT Players Abroad in Fall 2020 by Tiers: Part 1

Hello all! It has been a hot minute since I wrote about soccer. Graduate school will do that to you. Enough about me though. 2020 has seen the rise of many young US Men’s National Team (USMNT) players balling out for large clubs in Europe. Thus, I wanted to check in to see how all of them are doing. For the most part, I will be looking at their minutes, games played, assists, and goals (mostly all available at https://fbref.com/en/ with some help from https://www.transfermarkt.us/). Here in Part 1, we will mostly examine the Americans in lower leagues. Come back for Part 2 to read about Christian Pulisics of the world.

First some housekeeping items: I am only looking at games that count towards the ’20-’21 season (some Scandinavian leagues play a summer schedule so I counted their whole 2020 regular season). In order to limit this already really long list, I am only looking at players who have received first team minutes (Sorry Alex Mendez fans, Jong Ajax won’t count). Additionally, I didn’t go any lower than 2nd division in any country (apologies to all of the Sunderland/Lynden Gooch fans out there). Lastly, I didn’t include a bunch of potential dual nationals because we don’t know what they might do (sorry Florian Balogun fans). These statistics are as of December 28th, approximately.

These tiers are generally in order from worst-to-best but you could argue the order. Within each section I generally listed the players in order from most-to-least interesting. Overall this is kind of a “who is the best player in a vacuum” ranking while also being a “who improved the most between the summer and now” ranking. So, like, don’t take it too seriously? I don’t know I just do this for fun.

Player Name, Age (Club; Total appearances this season, Continental Cup mins, Domestic League mins, Domestic Cup mins if applicable)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Cameron Carter-Vickers, 22 (Bournmouth)
  • McKinzie Gaines, 22 (Hannover 96)
  • Nick Taitague, 21 (Shalke)
  • Alex Mendez, 20 (Ajax)
  • Chris Gloster, 20 (PSV)
  • Cameron Harper, 19 (Celtic)

According to FBref, none of these players have made an appearance for their first team so far this season. There are a million other names that could be here, with the increasing number of Americans in European academies, but these are the ones who (I feel) are closer to 1st team minutes The most notable name here is Cameron Carter-Vickers who recently moved to Bournemouth and reportedly has a nagging ankle injury keeping him out of the squad.

Okay-to-Bad Situation, Small Sample Size (Various Leagues)

  • Ulysses Llanez Jr., 19 (Heerenveen; 5 apps, 95 Eredivisie mins)
  • Matthew Hoppe, 19 (Schalke; 3 apps, 111 Bundesliga mins)
  • Timothy Tillman, 21 (Gruether Furth; 12 apps, 141 2.Bundesliga mins, 74 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Charlie Kelman, 19 (Queens Park Rangers; 3 apps, 42 EFL Championship mins)
  • Tyler Boyd, 25 (Besiktas; 4 apps, Turkish Super Lig 315 mins)
  • Jonathan Amon, 21 (Nordsjaelland; 1 app, 26 Danish Superliga mins)
  • Joel Sonora, 24 (Talleres Cordoba; 8 apps, 156 Argentina Superliga mins)
  • Matko Miljevic, 19 (Argentinos; 1 apps, 45 Copa Sudamericana mins)
  • Sebastien Saucedo, 23 (UNAM; 3 apps, 141 Liga MX mins)
  • Brendan Hines-Ike, 26 (Kortrijk; 4 apps, 360 Juniper League mins)
  • Desevio Payne, 25 (FC Emmen; 2 apps, 32 Eredivisie mins)
  • Dillon Powers, 29 (Dundee United; 8 apps 290 SPL mins)

These are guys who would be in one of the higher tiers if they were were seeing significantly more minutes. Llanez and Kelman just arrived to their new respective teams this fall, and may still be adjusting. Both regualrly feature on the bench but have been rarely selected as substitutes so far. Might be harsh to put Hoppe here since Schalke play in the Bundesliga, but you would understand if you saw Schalke play at all this year. It’s not pretty. Amon just recovered from 13 months of injury and will likely jump into the “Good in a Not-So-Good League” tier if his regular minutes resume by the spring. With the rise of other wingers in the pool (Gio Reyna, et al.), Tyler Boyd probably isn’t relevant to the USMNT anymore.

Good in a Not-So-Good League (Scandinavian Leagues, Poland, Switzerland, and Scotland)

  • Haji Wright, 22 (Sonderjyske; 12 apps, 690 Danish Superliga mins)
  • Emmanuel Sabbi, 22 (Odense; 13 apps, 956 Danish Superliga mins)
  • Jordan Siebatcheu, 24 (Young Boys; 17 apps, 71 Europa League mins, 434 Swiss Super League mins)
  • Aron Johansson, 30 (Hammarby; 22 apps, 1343 Allsvenskan mins)
  • Christian Cappis, 21 (Hobro; 10 apps, 869 Norway’s 2nd Division mins)
  • Mix Diskerud, 30 (Helsingborg; 28 apps, 2428 Allsvenskan mins)
  • Romain Gall, 25 (Orebro/Stabaek; 18 apps, 585 Allsvenskan mins, 373 Eliseserien mins)
  • Henry Wingo, 25 (Molde, 25 apps; 366 Europa League mins, 1213 Eliteserien mins)
  • Ian Harkes, 25 (Dundee United; 17 apps, 1411 SPL mins)
  • Kenny Saief, 27 (Lechia Gdnask; 11 apps, 826 Ekstrklasa mins)

This section kind of speaks for itself. These guys may look good on paper but you have to consider the context. The Scandinavian leagues, Polish League, Swiss League, and the Scottish Premiere League (outside of Celtic and Rangers) are arguably worse than MLS. Sabbi’s Goals + Assists per 90 is .47, Johansson’s is .80, and Wright’s is .91. My shorthand for those numbers is around .50 is “good for their league” and closer to 1.00 is “they should play in a better league”. I would love to see Wright get a chance to be on the U-23 Olympic roster next year. Harkes, Saief, Gall, Wingo, and Diskerud couldn’t cut it in MLS and that’s why their leagues make this list. Diskerud is 30 now? Woof.

2nd Division Heroes (2nd Divisions of France, England, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, and Germany)

  • Sebastien Soto, 20 (Telstar; 10 apps, 542 Eerste Divisie mins)
  • Nicolas Gioachinni, 20 (Caen; 15 apps, 1135 Ligue 2 mins)
  • Julian Green, 25 (Greuther Furth; 15 apps, 931 2.Bundesliga mins, 178 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Andrija Novakovich, 24 (Frosinone; 12 apps, 660 Serie B mins, 36 Copa Italia mins)
  • Duane Holmes, 26 (Derby County; 15 apps, 600 EFL Championship mins, 55 EFL Cup mins)
  • Matt Olosunde, 22 (Rotherham; 11 apps, 614 EFL Championship mins)
  • Shaq Moore, 24 (Tenerife; 19 apps, 1648 Segunda Division mins)

These guys are all playing about as well as they can given that they play for a second division team. All of the young guys here should continue to prove themselves for the rest of the season and hope for a transfer upwards in the future. Notably Soto has been lighting up the Dutch 2nd division with 6g about 540 mins. Novakovich also has 5g +2a in under 700 mins. Green is arguably the best player on the best team in the 2. Bundesliga right now. If they get promoted I would love to see how Green plays against Bundesliga competition. Holmes had a small injury limiting him this fall.

Declining Veterans (Used to regularly play in Top 5 Leagues at some point)

  • Tim Ream, 33 (Fulham; 6 app, 450 EPL mins, 90 EFL Cup mins)
  • DeAndre Yedlin, 27 (Newcastle; 6 apps, 185 EPL mins, 270 EFL Cup mins)
  • Geoff Cameron, 35 (Queens Park Rangers; 18 apps, 1560 EFL Championship mins)
  • Timmy Chandler, 30 (Frankfurt; 5 apps, 55 Bundesliga mins, 19 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Eric Lichaj, 32 (Faith Karagumruk; 10 apps, 736 Turkish Super Lig mins)
  • Alfredo Morales, 30 (Dusseldorf; 8 apps, 382 2.Bundesliga mins, 110 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Bobby Wood, 28 (Hamburg; 10 apps, 96 2.Bundesliga mins, 13 DFB Pokal mins)

In some ways I think this is the most controversial section, especially putting it in the bottom half. Suffice it to say that if any of these guys want to stay in the USMNT picture, they need to find a new club where they can earn playing time. In my personal opinion all of Ream, Morales and Wood should consider a move to MLS. Lichaj just got to Turkey this fall, otherwise he would also be an MLS candidate. Yedlin and Chandler could probably move elsewhere in Europe and still get starting minutes but it will likely be a step down, perhaps similar to what Cameron is doing in the English second division. And to be clear Cameron is not in the USMNT picture these days, nor should he be. *Late edit*: Yedlin started the last two games for Newcastle, and he is on the young side of this group. Perhaps I was too hasty placing him here. I hope he proves me wrong and continues this run of form!

Thanks for reading! Come back for Part 2 later this week. Have any questions or qualms with how I organized this? Then leave a comment below or yell at me on Twitter, @Beardedjack

USMNT vs. Guyana Review

The USMNT won 4-0 late on Tuesday night against Gold Cup debutantes Guyana. While the US men won, the performance was short of dominant. Against a Guyana squad which consists of players who just barely meet the minimum requirement to be called “professionals”, the US could have played better. To define Guyana’s talent level more exactly, a majority of their players play in the 4th or 5th divisions in England, or the 2nd or lower divisions in the US. While the USMNT won, most would have hoped for a more convincing win.

With that said, here were my thoughts from the night, player by player, from best to worst performances:

  • Tyler Boyd was the Man of the Match, scoring his first and second goal ever for the US. He was consistently threatening making runs in behind the defense, and whipping in dangerous crosses. Additionally, he had a few field shifting long balls to Arriola on the other side that changed the angle of attack. Those are the types of passes that Head Coach Gregg Berhalter loves.
  • McKennie showed the grit and fight that this team has been missing of late. He tracked back to defend, he muscled guys off the ball, and he wasn’t afraid to commit a foul or two. The US desperately needed that. McKennie was also a huge threat in the final third, which I haven’t seen from him in past national team performances. Again, with the caveat that this team is the worst team at this tournament.
  • Lima was a terror up and down the right side of the field for the US. There were very few attacks coming down his flank and he added substantially to the attack as an overlapping fullback. He’s making a good argument that he should be the full-time starting right back even when DeAndre Yedlin is healthy.
  • Arriola continued to work hard down the left wing, getting into dangerous spaces. He’s been vocal about wanting to score more, as he missed a few sitters in recent friendlies. He put one away tonight, but probably wished he could redo one or two other opportunities.
  • Steffen contributed more with his feet than his hands, as the US built out of the back. He didn’t have any shaky moments like he did in the last two friendlies. He only needed to make one save on the night and he did so handily.
  • Bradley was solid *enough* defensively, and pinged a few of those Pirlo-esque long balls which he has become known for. I emphasize “enough” because it looked like Bradley was just barely able to snuff out the attacks from this Guyana team. Won’t be as easy as this tournament progresses.
  • Pulisic looked dangerous but lacked the final product for most of the game. He had a few progressions in the final third that were quite impressive, as one would expect from the $70 million man. However, none of these moves ended in a goal or an assist. And it’s not just that he wasn’t in the boxscore, it felt like he wasn’t all that close. His best chance was a point-blank shot that went straight at the ‘keeper. Maybe I’m being tough on him, but as the most talented player on the field, the bar is higher for Pulisic.
  • Long and Zimmerman both had decent outings, taking care of business defensively, and keeping the ball moving in possession. Zimmerman had one or two errant passes, but he was also asked to make tougher passes as Guyana started cutting off the simple pass to Bradley. I don’t believe Long had a single misplaced pass on the night, but as the middle centerback in what was essentially a back 3, he was just shuttling the ball between Zimmerman and Ream for most of the night.
  • Ream was asked to play similarly to Zimmerman trying a few passes centerbacks usually don’t try. Similarly, a few of them didn’t come off, which led to dangerous counters the other way. Ream also had a few defensive lapses that were less than ideal.
  • Zardes had a very Zardes performance. He made good runs, his positioning was great, he had some good hold-up play here and there, but his first-touch failed him at times, and he struggled to find the back of the net except for twice: one goal called back for offside and another that was an unintentional rebound off of his face.
  • For both Ream and Zardes, they gave performances we are used to. Not horrible, but definitely not ideal. Like a solid 4/10. Zardes is the backup, so I’m more okay with that. Finger’s crossed Jozy is fit for the rest of the tournament. With Ream … maybe Daniel Lovitz is less error prone? Yikes …
  • The substitutions (Roldan, Mihailovic, and Trapp), all had a mixed 20-30 mins. I think each one had a moment they made me go “Hey, this looks better than what we saw in those friendlies last week”, but then also had a moment that made me go “Yeahhh, but these guys are coming off the bench for a reason”. Might be a real problem that the US doesn’t have many dangerous options off the bench. Also might be a problem that we used 2 subs to limit the minutes high injury risk players, and then the third because a guy got injured.

One last note on the style of play and Berhalter. This game looked more like a Berhalter team than the previous two friendly losses. It shows that the team had a full week of practice together. They probably only have a day or two of practice sessions before the next game Saturday. How well this team gels, and executes Berhalter’s game plan are perhaps the most important “process goals” of the coming month.

The boys are up against the dreaded Trinidad & Tobago next, on Saturday. T&T lost to Panama earlier on Tuesday 2-0. If Panama take care of business against Guyana earlier on Saturday, T&T will be playing to stay alive in the tournament. USA will be playing for some redemption after their last loss to T&T knocked them out of World Cup Qualifying.

USMNT 2019 Gold Cup Preview

The USMNT start their Gold Cup defense against Guyana on June 18th, followed by a long-awaited rematch against the dreaded Trinidad & Tobago on June 22nd, and rounding out the group stage against recent World Cup debutantes Panama on June 26th. All games will be in English of the Fox Channels and in Spanish on the Univision channels.

Berhalter named a 40-man roster and then a 23-man roster. Now that the 23-man roster has been announced, only injury related changes can be made. Any player switched into the 23-man roster must come from the 40 man roster and the switch must be made at least 24 hours before the first game (so before June 17th at 10 PM for the US).

The 40-man roster was mostly expected. There are the young stars (Pulisic, Adams, McKennie, Sargent, Steffen), some members of the Old Guard (Bradley, Altidore, Omar Gonzalez, Guzan), some Berhalter favorites (Trapp, Zardes, Lima, Lewis), some players forged in MLS (Long, Zimmerman, Roldan, M. Robinson, Baird) a few European journeyman (Ream, Miazga, CCV, Holmes, A. Robinson, Horvath) and some curious call-ups (Fossey, Gutman, Gyau, Boyd, Amon). Check out the full list here. Notable absences include Brooks and Yedlin (both injured), Weah (who is with the U-20’s at the U-20 World Cup), and lastly, Novakovich, Wood, K. Accosta, Delgado, Hamid, and Fabian Johnson (presumably not in the plans for Berhalter).

Then Berhalter named a “Summer Training Camp” roster which mixed some fringe senior team players and some U-23 eligible players (The Olympics is a U-23 competition, and the US has not qualified in the last two cycles). Then Berhalter named a 29-man roster of players who would train for a friendly against Jamaica. This friendly was essentially used as a tryout for the final 23-man Gold Cup roster which came the next day.

Before I breakdown the final 23-man roster, I want note the odd “Summer Training Camp” roster. I believe this camp served two purposes: 1. Introduce the Berhalter system to some players who have yet to play in it, and 2. Provide an opportunity for U-23 players to train with senior national team players. I like the idea of U-23 players getting tested against some older guys, and I like the idea of some older guys getting more reps with Berhalter. All in all, I’m about this summer camp. Since then, there is a U-23 roster training in Utah while the senior team bounces around the country in the Gold Cup. Definitely like the U-23 team getting together early and often to learn Berhalter’s systems.

Now to the official Gold Cup Roster (Club;Caps/Goals):

Players replaced due to injury are crossed out

GOALKEEPERS (3): 12-Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 7/0), 22-Tyler Miller (LAFC; 0/0), 1-Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 10/0)

DEFENDERS (8): 14-Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 10/1) [Replaced by Reggie Cannon], 3-Omar Gonzalez (Toronto FC/CAN; 50/3), 2-Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 4/0), 23-Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 6/0), 16-Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 5/0), 19-Matt Miazga (Chelsea/ENG; 14/1),
13-Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 30/1), 5-Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 7/2)

MIDFIELDERS (6): 4-Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 145/17), 20-Duane Holmes (Derby County/ENG; 2/0) [Replaced by Djorde Mihailovic], 8-Weston McKennie (Schalke/GER; 9/1), 10-Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 25/10), 15-Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 11/0), 6-Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 17/0)

FORWARDS (6): 17-Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 111/41), 7-Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 23/3), 21-Tyler Boyd (Vitória Guimãres/POR; 1/0), 18-Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 4/0), 11-Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 28/5), 9-Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 45/7)

The internet believes the most notable omission here is Josh Sargent. Berhalter defended his decision saying he like Zardes more than Sargent right now and that Sargent could gain more from getting a full preseason in with Werder Bremen. I don’t love Sargent being left off but I’m not outraged by it either. I think Amon also had a good shot at making this team which is relatively thin on quality wingers.

Against Venezuela on Sunday, the team got smacked with a 3-0 loss. They were missing Bradley, Pulisic, and Adams while Altidore only played the second half. Those are 4 of the US’ 7 most important players (the others being Steffen, Brooks, and McKennie). Plus this was Aaron Long’s first game back from a month of injury. I’m not trying to make excuses for the US, as a 3-0 loss is unacceptable in most cases, but there are some reasons as to why the team might have under-performed. And luckily, none of the United States’ group stage opponents are ranked top-30 in the world like Venezuela currently is (Stu Holden, on the call for the USA v. VEN match, wasn’t giving that Venezuela team enough credit; they defeated Argentina earlier this year for a reason). I believe that the team will look a lot better after a full week of practice together.

Pulisic joined this group late, and did not play in the Venezuela warm-up game. Adams and Holmes, two of the more exciting prospects, left camp due to injuries. Since the first Gold Cup game is against minnows Guyana, I would not be shocked if a few starters on this team rest. So here is the team I expect Berhalter to play against T&T and Panama in the 2nd and 3rd games:

Altidore

Arriola – Pulisic – McKennie – Boyd

Bradley

Ream –  Miazga – Zimmerman – Lima

Steffen

I’m pretty convinced Bradley has to start over Trapp, and Altidore has to start over Zardes. We might see Long in for Zimmerman, if Long get’s up to speed. Otherwise I think this is Berhalter’s ideal starting XI for this tournamnet. Remember this is Berhalter’s special formation where Lima joins Bradley on the defensive midfield line in attack, and the wingers push high to the forward line with Altidore. Although, without Adams in that hybrid RB/CM position, we might see a totally different structure on the field.

I am interested to see how this group plays against some CONCACAF teams in official competition. However, I would like to see a similar line-up with a few tweaks in order to put out best players in their best positions. Given this roster, I want to see Pulisic pushed out wide, where he played regularly for Dortmund. Without Holmes or Lletget on the roster, I guess I’m putting Mihailovic or Roldan where Pulisic is currently. I’d also like to see McKennie play deeper in the midfield. I believe McKennie plays best when he is transitioning the ball from defense to attack. Playing him deeper in the midfield allows him to do that. Lastly, I would put Adams in the defensive midfield, where he has played for RB Leipzig, if he were healthy and on this roster. For now, Bradley will do.

A good time to try something new/different would be in the US’s first game against Guyana. I know we shouldn’t be experimenting in an official competition, but I think a slightly experimental lineup could still roll the Guyana team. Specifically this is a set-up I’d like Berhalter to try (if not in this tournament, at some point):

Altidore

Pulisic – Mihailovic/Roldan – Boyd

Bradley – McKennie

Lovitz –  Miazga – Zimmerman – Lima

Steffen

Notice I also swapped for Lovitz at LB because I see him as more of a natural LB than Ream, and in this set-up, I wouldn’t have Lima push up making the back-4 into a back-3. We might see some experimentation like this in the group stage. It’s hard to project who will play in the knockout round, as roster decisions will likely be based on form in the group stage. Maybe Tyler Boyd lights the world aflame, or Long comes back into form, or there’s some catastrophic injury that changes the whole set-up.

Come back after the Group Stage and the Final for reviews of the USMNT’s performance!

Where Do the U-20 World Cup Players Go Next?

The US Under-20 team lost to Ecuador in the quarterfinal of the U-20 World Cup on Saturday. The Baby Yanks put up a decent fight but the South American champions were made of sterner stuff. In all honesty, this was the only game I watched, so I cannot speak in-depth towards many of the overall tournament performances. However, I feel confident that I can asses where the players from this tournament will fit into future national teams.

2021 U-20 World Cup Cycle

Every year Tab Ramos is sure to include at least a few players in his U-20 squad who are age eligible for the subsequent U-20 World Cup Cycle. This year there were four players:

Ulyses Llanez – Llanez played well with his few minutes in this year’s tournament. He recently joined Wolfsburg and might struggle to crack their lineup for regular minutes in the ’19/’20 season. He has a better chance in ’20/’21 leading up to the next U-20 World Cup. Wouldn’t be shocked if he’s breaking into the senior team at that point ala players like Tyler Adams who skip playing the U-20 tournament a second time.

David Ochoa – Plays for RSL 2nd team in the USL Championship. Might be able to play for RSL if 39 year old Nick Rimmando retires soon. Definitely won’t be in the conversation for U-23 or senior team at this age. Very few GK’s would be.

Julian Araujo – Currently starting with LA Galaxy in MLS. He has a chance to play with the U-23 team in this Olympic cycle but would have to beat out the likes of Reggie Cannon, Serginio Dest, and Kyle Duncan who are all playing at a similar level. Also might skip out on the 2021 U-20 WC if he’s breaking the senior team roster.

Konrad de la Fuente – Play’s for Barcelona’s U19 team and occasionally appears for Barcelona B. Hopefully he continues that trajectory and is starting to crack Barcelona’s first team in 2021 (unlikely, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed). Again, could also be cracking the senior team roster by 2021 if everything goes right.

Need More Minutes with Their Club

This group likely won’t be in any immediate plans on either the U-23 team or the senior team, but they may figure into the picture eventually if they play well for their club team:

CJ Dos Santos – Plays for Benfica’s U19s currently and recently signed an extension with the club through 2023 so he’ll be there for a good while. Also not in the U-23 or senior team convo.

Chris Durkin – Durkin will get minutes where he can behind Russell Canouse at DC United. There were rumors he might be on the move this summer before this U-20 World Cup but I have a feeling his price has dropped after his poor performance at the tournament. He might figure into the U-23 picture because we are shallow at defensive midfield in that age group. However, after this tournament I am not looking forward to more Durkin in a US shirt.

Brandon Servania – Playing for FC Dallas’ 2nd team in USL League 1. Honestly I hope another MLS team trades for him because he needs to play at a higher level in the coming years. At Dallas he’s behind someone at the depth chart …

Edwin Cerrillo – Despite not playing in this tournament, Cerillo has started for Dallas to start the 2019 season. Hopefully that continues and Jason Kreis likes him a little more than Tab Ramos did. If so he might make the U-23 roster (as might Durkin or Servania because our U-23’s might be shallow at defensive midfield).

Matt Real – Currently on Phildelphia’s depth chart at fullback but not getting many minutes. I don’t see Real figuring into any national team picture much in the future.

Aboubakar Keita – Playing with the Richmond Kickers in USL League 1. I also do not expect much from Keita in the near future at the international level.

Justin Rennicks – Perhaps Bruce Arena will take a liking to Rennicks’ never-say-die fighter mentality. I bet New England is going to undergo an overhaul and that might be a ripe opportunity for Rennicks. But he won’t figure for the U-23’s or senior team any time soon, barring a meteoric rise.

Brady Scott – Was playing for Koln’s U-19 side until he was injured earlier this year. Whether he gets back into the groove or not I doubt he’ll figure into the U-23 or senior team in the near future.

U-23 Olympic Team

Olympic Qualifying starts in late 2019/early 2020 and the US should definitely draw from this pool of players to stock that roster.

Serginio Dest – Currently plays for Ajax’s 2nd team in the Dutch 2nd division but he has already signed a first team contract. We have options at right back at the U-23 level, as mentioned above, but I don’t think any of them are necessarily better than Dest at this point.

Alex Mendez – Mendez’s stock surprisingly went down this tournament. He’s been playing for Freiburg’s U-19’s in Germany and I think he needs to get first team minutes soon or else he’s going to fall behind his peers physically. If he does get those minutes, he has a chance to compete for one of those 8/10 spots in the U-23 team.

Richie Ledezma – First things first, Ledezma has to stay healthy as he has been injured for PSV’s youth teams for most of the last year. He would be competing with Mendez for an 8/10 spot in the U-23 team. Remember both McKennie, and Pulisic are U-23 eligible so they probably own the starting spots there. And someone later on this list might be ahead of Ledezma and Mendez …

Mark McKenzie – McKenzie fell out of favor this season at Philadelphia so he needs to earn his spot back there first. His teammate Trusty is also U-23 eligible and they will be competing with each other for the CB4 spot on the U-23 roster behind Cameron Carter-Vickers, Miles Robinson, and Chris Richards (spoiler).

Sebastian Soto – Soto saw a few minutes for Hanover at the end of this Bundesliga season. With Hanover dropping to the second division, I would expect Soto to enter the regular rotation at striker. If he performs well, he might surpass Jeremy Ebobisse on the U-23 striker depth chart. It’ll be tough for him to surpass Sargent who will hopefully (likely?) be playing a good chunk of minutes in the league above Soto. Although, I think those two players are more comparable than most people would like to admit.

Senior National Team

These are players who might start getting call-up for the senior team as soon as our CONCACAF Nations League games in the fall.

Chris Gloster – Since the USMNT hasn’t had a good LB in a decade, Gloster could get fast-tracked right to the senior team as he was one of the most complete players for the US at the U-20 WC. I also think he’ll definitely be involved with the U-23’s

Paxton Pomykal – So if Pulisic and McKennie are the first choice 8/10’s I think Pomykal has a good argument for the 3rd spot behind them. Although, Holmes may prove me wrong at the Gold Cup in the coming weeks. Holmes isn’t U-23 eligible so I fully expect Pomykal to be on that roster.

Chris Richards – Richards is going to play with Bayern Munich II in the German 3rd division next season. He has trained with the first team sporadically, and I am interested to see if that becomes more frequent. He’ll be in the U-23 picture for sure, and might get a few senior team call-ups before that.

Timothy Weah –  Has already appeared for the senior team and definitely fills a need for a dangerous winger. He is still a PSG player but I would expect him to either get sold or loaned somewhere else for this season.

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