United States national team qualifying options
With a triumph over Mexico in the finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the United States national team’s roster decisions for qualifying are more of a challenge than ever. Depth emerged from this tournament and could create some headaches for head coach Gregg Berhalter. Good headaches for sure but difficult decisions nonetheless.
A look at how the United States national team could look ahead of World Cup qualifying this fall with some impressive Gold Cup performances in the rearview mirror.
More from MLS Multiplex
- Javier Milei Elected in Argentina: Potential Impacts on MLS and Signings of Argentine Players
- Orlando City and New York City FC in the Battle for Matías Arezo; Grêmio Enters Negotiations! Who Will Come Out on Top?
- USA, Honduras, Panama, and Canada Close in on a Spot in the 2024 Copa America
- De Gea Turns Down Al-Nassr’s Lucrative Offer: Speculation Points to Possible Reunion with Messi at Inter Miami
- Messi’s Magnetic Impact in the United States
Starting Goalkeeper: Zak Steffen
The Manchester City goalkeeper is the incumbent starter and, given his experience with the national team, this likely won’t change. He does need regular minutes, something he doesn’t get a ton of with his current club situation where he is the backup.
Reserves: Ethan Horvath is coming off a tremendous Nations League Final but has struggled the past three years for regular minutes at the club level. That must change if he is to stay entrenched behind Steffen. Matt Turner is quietly knocking on the door as the No. 2 goalkeeper and, should Steffen struggle for minutes, would not be a bad option as this team’s starter.
Blasphemy I know but he looked great all Gold Cup and in MLS the past two years.
Starting Defenders: Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson, John Brooks, Sergino Dest
There is some flexibility in this group, which is a given because I’m still not sure style-wise that Sergino Dest is the written-in-pen starter that some think for the national team. In World Cup qualifying, especially on the road, having lockdown outside backs is more important than the offensive abilities, even if Dest is world class moving into the attacking third.
But for now, it is hard to leave a likely starter for Barcelona on the bench for the United States so Dest gets the nod here. On the other side, Antonee Robinson is the likely left back. Fresh off the Gold Cup, Miles Robinson currently gets the nod centrally alongside veteran John Brooks.
If Aaron Long returns for qualifying, he steps into a much more crowded central defense where he may not be a starter.
Reserves: Reggie Cannon, Matt Miazga, Walker Zimmerman, Shaq Moore
It was a solid if not terribly flashy showing on Sunday night from Cannon but he is a proven commodity. Moore emerged as a tremendous asset from the Gold Cup and, like Cannon, can play either outside back position in a pinch (although both are more comfortable on the right side). Miazga needs to shore-up his club situation for sure and Zimmerman, up till his injury in the Gold Cup, looked like a very solid option.
If Long does recover fully, he likely replaces Miazga on this list and challenges for a starting role.
Starting Midfielders: Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna
This core of players is still going to be Christian Pulisic on one wing with Gio Reyna on the other side. Tyler Adams lying deep and Weston McKennie the engine in the No. 8 role. In the center of it all is…who knows? The situation here is cloudy for the United States national team though certainly not lacking for candidates.
Sebastian Lletget has earned the trust of Berhalter in recent months but he was disappointing in the Gold Cup and has underwhelmed a bit in recent caps. Yanus Musah is a young, dynamic player for Valencia but he was the only field player to not feature in the Nations League. Come qualifying, however, his ability to counter-press along with his solid distribution as well as pace makes him a most intriguing central midfielder for the United States national team.
Reserves: Kelly Acosta, Paul Arriola, Brenden Aaronson, Tim Weah
Hard to think that Weah might not get the start here but the wide positions are deep for the United States. Aaronson can play centrally or out wide and is a hard-runner out of the midfield. Arriola didn’t have a great Gold Cup but he’s solid and dependable here. As for Acosta, he’s a jack knife player and proved his value (yet again) in the Gold Cup.
Starting Forwards: In this sort of 4-2-3-1 shape for the United States national team, the lone striker needs size and pace, combining a willingness for hold-up play with the ability to go 1 v. 1 on the counterattack.
Although he primarily played in a wide role, Hoppe has all the attributes for a center forward in Berhalter’s system. He can stretch the backline with his runs, he’s athletic enough to hold the ball under pressure and he proved at Schalke and in the Gold Cup that he can score at a high level.
Reserves: Josh Sargent, Daryl Dike
While Sargent’s club situation is a bit murky, he’s hard working and industrious even when not scoring, both good attributes in qualifying. Dike doesn’t appear fit or healthy and certainly hasn’t shown the same form he did while on loan this winter and spring in the English Championship. But he’s a physical specimen who makes good, intelligent runs and there is certainly a place for that on this roster.