Gregg Berhalter named his USMNT roster for their February 1st friendly against Costa Rica. The youthful team brings a terrific level of excitement.
His tenure has been a frustrating one. A Gold Cup final defeat to Mexico, another loss to El Tri in which the disparity between the two teams was made most evident, a shocking defeat to Canada in one of the lowest points of the USMNT era since World Cup qualification failure.
There have been positive moments, as well as some encouraging individual developments, including the play of Cristian Pulisic, Jordan Morris, Sergino Dest and others. But on the whole, the Berhalter show has been an unexciting one. Perhaps until now.
After a turbulent January camp that saw several MLS stars stay at home and others return to their clubs amid fears of being in Qatar, the USMNT take on Costa Rica at Dignity Health Sports Park on February 1st. And Berhalter, without many of his European-based stars, has called up a squad that is stocked full of young, enterprising, exciting talent.
Of the 22 players named to the squad, only two players have more than 20 caps, Gyasi Zardes and Paul Arriola — the latter is only 24. 12 of the 22 have no international appearances whatsoever, while nine are 20 or younger. It is a remarkable showing of youth, inexperience and potential, one that the USMNT will look to use as their foundation under Berhalter.
The roster is stocked full with young talent. Players like Julian Araujo (18), Sam Vines (20), Brenden Aaronson (19), Christian Cappis (20), Brandon Servania (20) and Jesus Ferreira (19) are all a part of the squad and could yet be a part of Berhalter’s long-term plans for the senior team.
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More immediately, the looming Olympics is clearly having an influence on Berhalter’s thinking here. All of these players are eligible to play for the USMNT in the Olympics and will be vying for starting spots in the team over the coming months.
The January camp has long been maligned among American soccer circles. Given that very few if any of the European-based players are a part of the camp, the talent on show in the January camp is not close to the same level that it would be when such players are included. Very few of the players at the January camp will actually play key roles for the USMNT. So what is the point in having it?
Well, if there is a point to the January camp and subsequent friendlies, this should be it: the bleeding of young players into the international scene such that they can be given crucial senior experience and a foundation to build the future of the team upon.
The Berhalter era has not always been the most exciting, or impressive. And this is just a team selection in a meaningless friendly. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But it is nice to see a plethora of young players included and set to feature heavily. They are the future of the USMNT. So let’s see what they have.