It’s safe to say that the US Men’s National team isn’t exactly thrilled with its current performance in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers. Despite sitting second in qualifiers, they lead Canada by just a single point and fourth-placed Panama by only three. Considering only the top three teams are guaranteed to qualify, this is far from stable ground.
Manager Gregg Berhalter hasn’t exactly inspired confidence with the team’s performances, notably a 1-0 loss to a Panama side ranked 69th in the world. The United States are ranked 13th. Several of his roster decisions have been criticized, with the likes of Sebastian Lletget and Paul Arriola receiving call ups despite struggling at club level.
Because of this, I decided to choose who my final 25 players for these World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Jamaica would be, based on form throughout the year.
Matt Turner and Zack Steffen unsurprisingly both received call ups, with the goalkeepers likely to share time between the sticks. Turner has been one of the MLS’s top goalkeepers this season, leading the New England Revolution to the Supporters’ Shield whilst also winning the Gold Cup this summer with USA. Steffen, meanwhile, was the goalkeeper for the United States in the CONCACAF Nations League, which they also won. Steffen’s lack of games as Manchester City’s backup goalkeeper remains a concern, but he is undoubtedly one of North America’s best goalkeepers.
Sean Johnson has had many call-ups these past few years, and again makes the squad for this one. However, I would’ve instead selected Brad Stuver, the goalkeeper for newly-created Austin FC. It’s been a poor opening season for Austin, as they won’t make the playoffs, but Stuver has been one of few bright spots for Austin. Stuver has one of the top save percentages in the MLS (73.2), the joint-most saves in the MLS (129), and one of the highest PSxG (Post-Shot Expected Goals) rates per 90 minutes.
The defense selected by the US was Reggie Cannon, Mark McKenzie, Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson, Joe Scally, Sam Vines, DeAndre Yedlin, Walker Zimmerman. However, Mark McKenzie and Reggie Cannon have struggled for game time (Cannon due to injury), and there are better players currently available than Zimmerman.
Take Auston Trusty, for instance. Barring one match, Trusty has played every single minute of the Colorado Rapids season as Colorado are currently third in the Western Conference. Trusty averages almost two tackles and blocks a match, with almost three interceptions and successful pressures a match. Zimmerman trails Trusty in all of those categories.
John Brooks was a surprising exception, but his club Wolfsburg have hit a rough patch in the season. Still, it’s a very harsh exception to the side, especially as Brooks and Wolfsburg’s form have started to pick up. Wolfsburg have yet to win a game that Brooks has not played this season.
Cameron Carter-Vickers has been efficient for Celtic, playing every single minute of the Scottish side’s season thus far, Europa League included. He’s a very versatile defender as well, which would be important seeing as qualifiers require a lot of depth.
Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams, Gianluca Busio, Sebastian Lletget, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Cristian Roldan were the original selection for the midfield. (Usually Gio Reyna makes the roster, but he is injured.) This is where I disagree the most with Berhalter. Acosta and Lletget have struggled for game time at their clubs, whereas Cristian Roldan simply isn’t the most productive player at his position.
Djordje Mihailovic has been outstanding for Montreal this season, scoring four and assisting fourteen goals for the Canadian side. Mihailovic creates almost four and a half shots per game, and would add a lot to a stale US offense.
Sean Davis is one of the MLS’s top defensive midfielders, having played every single minute of New York’s season so far. He’s played more than Acosta, won more tackles, blocks, and more interceptions per 90 minutes than Acosta.
As a Philadelphia Union fan, it pains me to put two RB New York players in midfield. However, it’s more than a little surprising that Clark doesn’t have a single international appearance considering he was just 17 when he secured a move to RB Leipzig (who he is now on loan from). Clark has missed quite a bit of time this season due to an Appendectomy, but has still led New York to a playoff position. Clark has more goals per 90 than Roldan, more goal-creating actions, and more defensive success all-round.
Brenden Aaronson, Paul Arriola, Jesús Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi, Christian Pulisic, and Tim Weah were the original choices of Gregg Berhalter, with nothing really controversial here besides Paul Arriola. In 19 games, Arriola has just six goals and two assists, several injuries, and several early substitutions.
Konrad likely missed the cut because he has struggled to settle into life at Marseille, starting just under half of Marseille’s games. However, de la Fuente has shown flashes of potential and has created more chances per 90 than Arriola.
At the end of the day, the US has one of the best, biggest player pools in the world. Clubs across the MLS, notably FC Dallas and the Philadelphia Union (Paxten Aaronson soon!), but also the likes of RB New York and New England Revolution, have started to focus on youth academies and developing young players instead of recruiting aging stars. Well, outside of Inter Miami, anyway.
However, Gregg Berhalter will continue to draw critics unless he begins to include more variety in his selections. The United States have now lost several players to rival nations (mainly Mexico) and that will only increase if he continues to pick the same underperforming players that he does.
Anyone you think that I missed? Let me know in the comments!
Image Courtesy of Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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