Next week the USMNT will begin CONCACAF Nations League play against teams Cuba (10/11) and Canada (10/15). These games will be Gregg Berhalter’s first real test after the disappointing Gold Cup where we lost to Mexico in the final. Cuba is a team that should not pose much of a threat as they have been outscored by 14-0 in their last three games with Canada this year. I will not, however, write them off after we showed our ability to lose to less than stellar teams when it matters, see Couva 2017. Canada, on the other hand, could pose a much more challenging game for the US, as they have some very young and exciting attacking players. Jonathan David, a New York City native born to Canadain parents, is lighting up the Belgian league with 10 goals in all competitions. They also have Alphonso Davies who has slightly fallen down the pecking order at Bayern Munich, but none the less can pose a dangerous attacking threat to our disorganized backline.
The Roster came out this morning to upset and panic amongst USMNT fans as key names a lot of us wanted to see were not there. Heres the full Roster
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) October 2, 2019
Many well-respected journalists think this roster is an absolute disaster with a lot wrong, but it’s important to also find the good. First thing is that Berhalter included some young names that we are still all excited to see get to play for the USMNT this cycle. Names like Sargent who is making waves at Bremen right now, Aaronson who starts for the second-place team in the east, and Yueill who looked good against Uraguay last month and could be a future replacement for Bradley.
We also have three of our best players called up in Altidore, Pulisic, and Mckennie. While Pulisic might be out of favor at Chelsea at the moment he is still by far our best-attacking player bar none, Mckennie is back to be the engine of our midfield doing the hard work, and if Jozy is healthy we could have our best striker back to score goals.
We will also get to see Zack Steffen who is lighting up the Bundesliga with his play and hopefully that confidence will help him fix his form for the National Team.
This roster is not perfect, however, as there are still players on here that should not be getting called up anymore. These players include Roldan, Lovitz, and Baird. These players have shown us that they can bring absolutely nothing to this team and actually might hinder us in some areas. I think Berhalter should have used these Roster spots on younger prospects who are competing at a similar level and have higher ceilings. Players like Richie Ledezma, Paxton Pomykal, and Miles Robinson who have bright futures ahead of them and can impact the USMNT more now than any of the aforementioned players.
The most glaring omission from this list has to be that of Sergino Dest. Dest can be classified now as our best defensive player/prospect at the moment whether that be on the wing or in the center of defense. He currently plays for the best team in the Netherlands, Ajax, and has established himself as a regular starter in Eredivise and the Champions League. He has the choice now to become a prominent member of the USMNT senior team or fight his way into the Dutch team. While this has left our fanbase on the verge of a meltdown, I dont think this is the Federations or Berhalters fault, as we have given him an express pipeline to our senior team. Any decision he makes now is on him and we will have to respect it either way. Let’s just hope he decides soon as I dont know how much more of this yoyoing the USMNT Twitter can take.
There are other players that have been called up that just leave me scratching my head at this point and I can’t see any logical reason to call them up anymore. These players are Will Trapp and Gyasi Zardes of the Columbus Crew, Greggs former coaching gig before the USMNT job by the way. While I like to give Berhalter some benefit of the doubt in his roster selections with players like Baird and Lovitz, players like Trapp and Zardes are inexcusable to me. Both play for a team in MLS that isn’t even in contention for a playoff spot and have been in spotty form at best. Ther inclusion on this roster signals to me that Berhalter just has guys he can’t separate his own personal feelings from. This is something that I think is problematic as we have much better players languishing around our pool waiting for their callups and most of them are more deserved and in better form. The fact that Berhalter picked Trapp over a player like Duane Holmes that has been nothing but stellar in his appearances for the USMNT and has been very good/consistent at Derby County makes me lose some of the trust that I placed into Berhalter.
I think Berhalter has made a huge misstep in selecting his roster for these upcoming games. Many have been clamoring for change for more call ups for more deserving players and that just hasn’t been the case with this roster selection. Berhalter has backed himself into a corner with these games by making the roster selections he has. He has to come out of these games against Cuba and Canada with absolute dominant performances where his game plan is met to a T. If there are any cracks at all his leeway with this fanbase has just run out and I dont know if there will be many names in his corner if results dont go his way. I dont know if I fall into the line of thought that Berhalter and the US Federation as a whole is just a promotion agency for MLS, but each window under Berhalter begins to shift my thinking. His ability to select a team that can qualify us for the 2022 World Cup has been thrown into doubt for me. I hope Berhalter is ready to face the consequences of his selections and we will see maybe this will be the best team the US has ever fielded. Tune into this week’s games and find out.