Tag: Christian Pulisic

Picking the Ideal USMNT 26-man Roster

Picking the Ideal USMNT 26-man Roster

The United States Mens’ National Team roster for the World Cup will be revealed on November 9th, so instead of purely complaining about Gregg Berhalter’s roster decisions after the fact, I will put out my ideal 26-man roster ahead of time. This is not in any way a prediction, as we all know Tim Ream won’t make the roster despite being the captain of a team in the middle of the Premier League table, and this roster doesn’t include any of GGG’s inexplicable infatuation with Cristian Roldan, Paul Arriola, and Aaron Long. So, who do I have on the roster? Let’s start with my starting 11, and I will keep to the current USA formation of 4-3-3.

Attack:

ST: Ricardo Pepi, Groningen

LW:  Christian Pulisic, Chelsea

RW: Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund

Pulisic is the best player the USMNT has, while Reyna might be the single most talented player to ever put on the United States kit, but injuries have already been a real concern and he won’t even turn 20 until after the rooster announcement. At the top of the attack I put in Ricardo Pepi as the winner of the position most up in the air for me, more on that later. 

Midfield:

LCM: Weston McKennie, Juventus

RCM: Yunus Musah, Valencia

CDM: Tyler Adams, Leeds United

McKennie recently went down with a thigh injury but, by all reports, is expected to be 100% come November 21 when the USA take on Wales. Musah oozes talent but has been a bit inconsistent with Valencia and has yet to really show his talents translate to the USMNT, but I still have faith. There is no single player more irreplaceable to this squad than Tyler Adams as there simply is nobody in the system that does what he does. He isn’t the best player on the squad, but absolutely the most irreplaceable. 

Defense:

LB: Antonee Robinson, Fulham

LCB: Tim Ream, Fulham

RCB: Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC

RB: Sergiño Dest, AC Milan

Jedi is the guy left back, and he would be a top LB at an elite club if he could simply cross better. His runs from the the back are deadly, they just all seem to die on his crosses at the end. Despite that, he puts pressure on the opposing defense while defending well himself. Yes, Ream is 35 and hasn’t put on the stars and stripes in more than a year, but he wears the armband for Fulham, and does so standing next to Jedi meaning no player has more chemistry and can predict the runs better than he. Zimmerman has been a steady contributor even if his last couple appearances for the national team were a bit underwhelming. Dest has bounced around after plenty of transfer speculation away from FC Barcelona this summer, he landed a loan deal to Milan, where he has barely seen time. That said, he is the best offensive wing back and is a no-brainer to get the start. 

GK: Matt Turner, Arsenal

There has long been plenty of back and forth as to who deserves the #1 for GGG, but that seems to have been put to rest with Turner now playing for Arsenal and looking solid there. He seems to be the clear cut man at keeper for this squad. That said, he has been out the past two matches, a return Thursday would be a very good sign.

There are going to be 15 available substitutes this year, so here are my backups who should be on the roster and what position(s) they can play. 

Attack:

LW/RW: Brenden Aaronson, Leeds United

RW: Timothy Weah, Lille

ST: Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas

ST: Jordan Pefok Siebatcheu, Union Berlin

Aaronson is a guy I have a love/hate relationship with as I absolutely love his motor, but he feels so unpolished. There is growing sentiment for him to be a starter, but his energy, off the bench, in a climate like Qatar, that could be a genuine game changer. Weah is another guy who one could easily argue to start, and I wouldn’t be against it if Reyna moves back to midfield in place of Musah and Weah gets the start up top, but I can’t trust Reyna to go 90 in every match for an entire tournament. Having Weah available as a sub will be massive. Ferreira will likely be the 9 for this squad, but he plays more like a 10, and you can’t 0-0 draw your way into the knockout round, so I like him better off the bench, especially if the USA has a lead. Pefok has the second most combination of goals and assists on the team currently atop the Bundesliga, need I say more?

Midfield:

CM: Luca de la Torre, Celta Vigo

CM: Malik Tillman, Rangers

CM/LW/RW: Djordje Mihailovic, CF Montreal

CDM: Kellyn Acosta, LAFC

There is some availability concern for LDLT as it was announced he has a muscle tear and is out three weeks, that was 25 days before the Wales match, but I am choosing to be optimistic. If you want to feel good about what Tillman can bring, watch him weave through the Motherwell defense. If you don’t want to feel good about him, go watch all his UCL appearances outside of the one against Napoli. Mihailovic will be heading to AZ come January 1, and he is not in the MLS camp which means he will not be on the club, but he had the best MLS season of any American not named Brandon Vasquez. Accosta is probably the single best free kick taker on the squad, so he is an excellent option as a late sub with a lead as he is defensive focused in midfield, but also in need of a goal as he seems to be the only player capable of getting good ball into the box on a set piece. 

Defense:

LB/RB: Joe Scally, Borussia Monchengladbach

RB: DeAndre Yedlin, Inter Miami

RB/CB: Reggie Cannon, Boavista

CB: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Celtic

CB: Chris Richards, Crystal Palace

Scally might be the second best overall wing back, better than Jedi, but he can play both the left and right so he is an easy option to be one of the primary subs in this tournament. Yedlin will likely be the only player to make GGG’s final roster with any World Cup experience and technically would be here too, although Ream was on the roster in 2014, he did not get on the pitch at any point. Bringing that experience is huge, plus he has as feisty an approach as anyone, which certainly has its place. Cannon has looked good for Boavista, and has even seen minimal time at center back, so he brings versatility to the back line the squad really lacks. CCV and Chris Richards are both guys who have looked solid and could easily be the starting CB duo in a position group that is as interchangeable as there is outside of the 9 on this roster. Richards is still a week or so away from training, so he is yet another player with injury concerns as the roster deadline approaches.

Goalkeeper:

Ethan Horvath, Luton Town

Zack Steffen, Middlesbrough

Horvath has six clean sheets in the Championship while Steffen has been busy in goal with a questionable defense in front of him in Middlesbrough. Steffen was once the answer as the future GK for the club, but he very well may be number three at the end of the month. 

This is a roster I don’t think struggles to get out of the group and, depending on draw, could get a win or two in the knockout round. It is also a team who has struggled to but the ball in the back of the net, so that 0-0 draw through the group mentioned earlier is also within the realm of possibilities and missing the knockout round is possible. Overall, the expectation is getting out of the group, with winning the group the likely target and, frankly, I wouldn’t be satisfied without a trip to the quarterfinals.

USMNT Depth Chart: Attack

As we come out of another international break, we have decided to keep a running depth chart for the USMNT. It has become very clear Gregg Berhalter is running with a 4-3-3 with two wingers outside the number nine and a pair of central midfielders ahead of a defensive mid, with the right ride of those two central leaning slightly more attack focused. We will roll out our latest depth chart in a four-piece series, broken down in attack, midfield, wide defenseman, and finally central defense and keeper. Certain positions are a bit fluid (left center back and right center back the most fluid of them all) and we will not list the same player twice, even if most the right backs are also depth at left back.

Also included will be players deemed “For the Future” or FTF who are players still playing for youth versions of the USMNT, although a couple will have limited call ups to the senior side, worth keeping an eye on.

We will list the players with Name – Team – League – Country (for MLS it will be USA even if it is a club based in Canada)

With that, let’s start with the attack:

Summary: Pepi is the clear-cut number nine for the club, but behind him is a massive question mark. Pefok has had moments but didn’t get the call up multiple cycles in a row. Sargent has the potential but seems to have fallen out of favor some. Ferreira seems lost when on the pitch at the national level and Dike just isn’t there yet. It may come down to the veteran options of Zardes and Altidore. FTF features both Sanogo, who hasn’t had a senior appearance national or domestic yet but had a solid showing at the Revelations Cup in Mexico with the U20s and was on this year’s Next Generation list at The Guardian. Gomez has not made an appearance at any international level, but he has a pair of goals for third tier German side FSV Zwichau who is managed by former player that has a single appearance with the USMNT in Joe Enochs. Gomez’ brother will also show up in at the wide defenseman list, but both have options between USA and Mexico, and it may be important for the USA to get them committed rather than heading south.

Summary: There is no more clear-cut number one at a position than Pulisic, but this may also be the deepest spot other than right back. Aaronson has been an every match starter, but I don’t have him in my top-11. He is a high effort player but lacks discipline and finishing skill at times. Against Mexico he too often found himself out of position, changing the USA shape from a 4-3-3 to a 4-3-2-Aaronson. Konrad has moments of brilliance but lacks consistency. Hoppe is a guy who could play center forward, but his time with the national team has been on the left side. He has future potential of being in the top 11, he just isn’t there yet. Lewis has only seen limited run but has fared very well in MLS, while Morris has a quality track record with the national team. Once fully healthy again he will likely climb his way up this crowded list. The FTF is Gutierrez and Toure, with Gutierrez a guy that looked good for the U20s in Mexico and has seen plenty of first team action with Chicago despite only being 18. Toure is the biggest dark horse to make the list at any position, he is on loan from the Rapids to the USL where he wasn’t even a regular starter, but when in he makes impressive runs and the raw ability is special.

Summary: Reyna has been battling injuries, but when healthy he provides an incredible winger option opposite Pulisic. That said, Weah took every advantage of this international break as he was arguably the best player on the field vs. Mexico, and he scored an impressive goal against Jamaica. Arriola has been a popular sub for Berhalter and is a poor man’s Aaronson for me, plenty of energy and effort, skill just isn’t there. Gioacchini is an interesting one for me as he has looked good for Montpellier, one of the rare loans up as he is under contract with Caen in the second level of French soccer. Gioacchini has proven he belongs in the first flight and could be a candidate to battle for one of the last spots on the World Cup roster. Cowell is the FTF here and could be argued is a center forward, he saw time at left wing with the U20s this break but also wore the 19 and played right striker while setting up a goal against Mexico. In the end, I think he is on the right side and is a future scoring threat as he was tied for second in goals for San Jose this season and tied for most games played, although over half his appearances came as a sub.

The All “You’ve Never Heard of ‘Em” of Soccer’s USMNT

After their dismal qualifying performance for the 2018 World Cup, resulting in them missing the tournament for the first time in decades, confidence in the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team was at an all-time low. The team’s on-field play was disjointed, they were dismally coached by Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena, and little hope sprung on the horizon. A few years later on, oh how much has changed. A string of positive performances under current coach Greg Berhalter, along with a flood of talented players making names for themselves in Europe and across the world has optimism once again coursing through U.S. soccer fans’ veins.

Recent friendlies have seen many players snag their first caps, and has thrown fuel on the fire of one soccer’s most fun guessing games: who are going to be the 23?

Well, some answers to this question are obvious. Everyone knows who Christian Pulisic is, the talismanic attacking midfielder currently kicking ass and taking names for Chelsea. Other young stars on the rise like Konrad De La Fuente, Sergino Dest, Josh Sargent, Weston McKinnie, and others are rapidly becoming household names.

But what if Berhalter wanted to really plumb the depths of the talent mine to round out the back end of the roster? He would probably schedule a friendly to audition a bunch of heretofore unknown players for those spots, wouldn’t he? Well, if WE were Berhalter, it’s what WE would do.

Here’s how that lineup might look.

Goalkeeper: Divine Imasuen

The United States has rarely been hurting for goalkeeping talent, which makes it weird that they kept running out Brad Guzan for so many games after the over overrated Tim Howard era. That being neither here nor there, the U.S. maintains a healthy stable of good goalkeepers, including but not limited to guys like Zach Steffen and Ethan Horvath. But if they ever wanted a, uh, intervention at the position, they might go with Divine Imasuen. The 19-year-old is currently contracted to Tennis Borussia in the German Regionalliga, which is somewhere between the 4th and 16th tier of German soccer. I’d say he was plying his trade, but it doesn’t look like he’s gotten on the field yet. Competition must be stiff up there in Tennis, wherever the hell that is.

Defender: Jonathan Campbell

Jonathan Campbell. He even sounds like a defender, right? John Brooks. Timothy Chandler. Jonathan Campbell. Would you even ask the question? Campbell is a veteran of sorts at age 29. Deep MLS fans may even remember the time he spent with the Chicago Fire from 2016 to 2018, and his cup of coffee in 2019 with the Seattle Sounders. Campbell supposedly announced his retirement in May of last year, but joke’s on you morons. The interwebs tell me he’s currently lacing them up for Svay Rieng in the Cambodian C-League. If my wild dreams of a Jonathan Campbell Disney movie-type late rise to stardom have any chance of becoming reality, I really hope there’s not a Cambodian A or B-League…

Defender: Rayan Holland

No, that’s not a typo, presumptuous grammar snob. You think I don’t know how to spell Ryan? That isn’t even this guy’s name. Anyway, Holland. He was born in England, but for some reason that I assume involves at least one of his parents, he has U.S. National Team eligibility. And a good thing he does, because if his recent performance for Kettering Town of the English National League (a mere four tiers below the Premiership) are any indicator, a call-up could happen at any moment. I may or may not have made some assumptions about those performances, because it’s impossible to find any information on his play, but come on. Rayan Holland! What a name!

Defender: Tom Tom Johnson

If you’re wondering why Johnson’s first name is Tom Tom instead of just Tom, or Thomas, or Tommy, so am I. Imagine being a 25-year-old from New Jersey, and having to introduce yourself with a name that sounds like something your grandma puts in your birthday card accompanying the wool sweater she knit you. Well, grandma can be proud of lil’ Tom Tom because he’s representing Rincon in the Spanish Autonomicas Division. I don’t know anything about Rincon, or Autonomicas for that matter, except that it’s below the Tercera Division, which my high school Spanish gives me reasonable confidence in asserting it’s well below the Primera Division as well.

Defender: Leo Krupnik

This is funny because Krupnik is old enough to have been born in the Soviet freaking Union!!! At 41, he’s still younger than me but whatever. While I can’t find any statistics on him after 2015, he’s still apparently somehow with Maccabi Umm Al Fahm in the Israeli Liga Bet. If the name sounds familiar to you, it’s because Krupnik actually had a fairly long, if a bit undistinguished, career in pro soccer, including a brief stint with the New York Red Bulls in 2009. And if you think 41 is too old to have a shot at making your international debut, well then you’ve clearly never seen Dennis Quaid in The Rookie. Jimmy Morris may have been about 36 when he cracked the big leagues with the Devil Rays, but Quaid was at least 60 when he played the part.

Midfielder: Mukwelle Akale

I had a whole litany of funny things to write about Akale, who is from Minneapolis and currently patrols the wing for Pafos in the Cypriot first division. That means it’s in Cyprus, you uncultured cretin. Turns out, I’m the dingus and the joke is on me. If Akale ever did get that call up to the senior team, it would only be his first time representing the senior team. That’s right. Akale has represented the U.S. at the U-17, U-18, and U-20 levels. *throws jokes into trash can*

Midfielder: Nehemia Perry

Perry is a 27-year-old of Jamaican descent but American eligibility who patrols the midfield for St. Andrews. No, not that St. Andrews. Not the other St. Andrews either. This St. Andrews is in the Maltese Challenge League. This is noteworthy because I was today years old when I found out that the Malta has multiple tiers of professional soccer. The Challenge League is not in the top one. To be fair to Perry, the limited statistical availability for Maltese lower league soccer still confirms he’s logged a few minutes for the team, even smashing home a goal. And can you say that you have scored a goal in professional soccer? Yeah, I didn’t think so, so shut up.

Midfielder: Athanasios Scheidt

In case you wondered, Scheidt’s name is pronounced shite. I know this, because I understand the basics of enunciation, and in the off chance I’m wrong, it means that God hates us and we’re all doomed anyway. Scheidt was born in Germany but apparently has at least one American parent, which passes the sniff test because we’re known as a country in which parents name their kids some pretty weird ass shite. See what I did there? Your new favorite player with the name Athanasios earns that distinction over all the other Athanasiosi by playing for Radomiak Radom in Polish I Liga. Or maybe it’s the 1 Liga? Who the hell knows, but it’s not the Ekstraklasa, which is evidently the top tier in Polish soccer.

Midfielder: Ben Sippola

Remember this guy? No you don’t, you damn liar. I mean, sure, there’s an off-chance you were a die-hard Columbus Crew supporter circa 2011, and knew his name from the occasional appearance on the substitutes bench. But let’s just be honest with one another. You weren’t a Crew fan in 2011, you’ll never be a Crew fan, and I had a third thing I wanted to say here but my train of thought got derailed. The 33-year-old Sippola currently is on the roster of Torslanda in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer. I can’t find any stats for him after 2013 so he might just be a coach. But it’s more fun to think of him out there whipping crosses and snapping fibulas in sub zero temperatures.

Forward: Arda Bulut

Bulut currently smashes goals into the back of the net for Karacabey Belediyespor in the Turkish second division. Yes, I absolutely copy and pasted that team name, because the chances of me typing that out without a typo that changed it’s meaning to goat humper or something embarrassing was close to zero. Also, Bulut has really only smashed in one goal. In 70 career minutes. Wipe that smirk off your face. It’s one more goal than you’ve scored.

Forward: Dion Acoff

Listen, man. You can’t go out there and bag goals for an Icelandic powerhouse like Throttur Reykjavik without being a badass on the pitch. Or maybe you can. Maybe you just have to be kinda good at soccer. And Acoff might be, because the 29-year-old from Fontana, California sees semi-regular playing time with Iceland’s biggest soccer club and has netted 16 career goals for them.

Substitutes Bench

Goalkeeper: Brian Schwake

The 19-year-old Schwake still has his whole career in front of him. If he doesn’t suck, it could be a long one. He does, however, play for Linlithgow Rose in Scotland. Heard of them? If not, that’s because they play in the Scotland Feeder Leagues. I don’t know what a Feeder League is, but it’s likely several levels below the Premiership, which is home to storied clubs like Rangers, Celtic, Dundee United, Hibernian and others.

Defender: Stephen Payne

Shaun accused me of writing too many homer articles. And while he’s right about that, I’m passive aggressively clapping back by including as many Southern California guys as I can. Payne was born in Riverside, which I just now noticed could just as easily be in Nigeria as it could in California, but whatever. He’s logging full-time minutes for Vilaverdense in the Portuguese Campeonato de Portugal Prio. That’s a few levels below iconic clubs such as Benfica, but hey, how many minutes are you logging in pro soccer? In Portugal? Where smoking hot women basically grow on trees? Exactly.

Midfielder: Faris Abdi

Hey look, another Southern California kid! Abdi is 21 years old, which low key sucks ass for him because he plays for Al Quadisiya in Saudi Arabia, and rumor has it if you drink alcohol there they lop off body parts. Abdi started his career in 2019 with Austin Bold in the U.S., and while I can surmise little more about them apart from being in Texas, my feeling is he shoulda stayed there. Dude could be getting druuuuuuuuuuuuunk right now.

Midfielder: Lee Nguyen

Remember this guy? This time I believe you. Why? Because Nguyen has logged more than 20,000 minutes of MLS soccer in his career. Those days are behind him as he currently plays for Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam. Fun fact, in the off chance that Nguyen did somehow get a call up to the National Team at age 33, it wouldn’t be the first time he did. From 2007 to 2016 he was capped by the U.S. nine times. In his prime, he was a heck of a player.

Forward: Maki Tall

Standing at 173cm, Tall is anything but. I’m clearly running out of jokes and I also don’t have any idea how many feet and inches that translates to. I only know my German parents used to say, roughly translated, “that guy is nearly two meters tall,” to anyone over six feet. 173cm is not two meters. At least it freaking better not be, otherwise I’ll throw my laptop in my non-existent swimming pool and go to bed. Tall is 25, was born in Washington D.C., and plays for Francs Borains in Belgium. They’re an amateur team, which I assume means they’re in a tier well below teams that are…well, in a professional league.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. I would remiss if I didn’t credit Soccerway.com here. Without that amazing website and its innumerable soccer rabbit holes to jump down, it would have taken me years to write this article, and I’ve have damn quit after 45 minutes.