This is the U.S. Men’s National Team squad everyone wanted to see. For months, Dave Sarachan’s selections walked the line between safe and bold, opting for a combination of familiar faces and young upstarts that usually created a unique blend.
With a clash against Bolivia looming, though, Sarachan unveiled a squad loaded with promise and one featuring a number of players that could and should be vital pieces for years to come.
Christian Pulisic is the obvious headliner, leading the way for a roster filled with talented foreign-based stars. The average age of the squad is just 22 years old and the team features only two players born before 1990. Seven players are looking for their first caps and squad includes nine players that would be age-eligible for participation in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“We’ve been really happy to see the progress of a number of our players abroad this season,” Sarachan said. “Guys like Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Weston McKennie, Andrija Novakovich and Antonee Robinson have all received valuable minutes and experience in good environments this season. For them, the timing of this game is excellent, given that they are all coming off very solid seasons for their clubs and should be in good form. Fitness will not be a factor, so I think the timing bodes well for this particular camp and game against Bolivia.”
“As I’ve talked about throughout this process, the theme is to offer opportunity to this younger generation of talented players that have potential down the road with the program,” Sarachan added. “We’ve had first-time call-ups in every camp since November, and this is another extension of that. We’re going into the Bolivia game with newer faces along with a few familiar players as well. Overall, these types of games provide great chances for players to bank key minutes in international matches.”
While players like Miazga, Carter-Vickers and McKennie have rapidly gone from prospect to regular, the squad features several new faces looking to make the full leap to the senior level. Among the two more surprising are Alejandro Guido and Matt Olosunde. The two haven’t broken through with Club Tijuana or Manchester United, respectively, but both remain intriguing prospects for the future. Olosunde, in particular, is one to watch given his pace, size and skill at the fullback position.
Keaton Parks and Josh Sargent were certainly expected. Sargent, joined only by Novakovich and Timothy Weah as options atop the field, is likely in line for his first cap after joining the group earlier this year. Parks, meanwhile, broke through at Benfica this season and will now look to battle it out with a crowded group in central midfield. With this roster, though, that group is a bit light with MLS options like Cristian Roldan, Marky Delgado, Wil Trapp and Darlington Nagbe not involved. Because of that, Parks could certainly see time alongside someone like McKennie.
While newcomers are a highlight, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the squad are some of the returns. After helping stave off relegation with Greuther Furth, Julian Green has jumped back into the picture while Lynden Gooch is back in the fold despite a tough season for Sunderland.
Pulisic still provides the most intrigue, though. The Borussia Dortmund star hasn’t been with the group since the loss in Trinidad & Tobago, and his integration alongside future cornerstones like McKennie will be an aspect to watch over the next few months and years.
“It’s no secret that Christian has a very bright future for many years to come with the U.S. Men’s National Team,” Sarachan said. “The opportunity to have him a part of any group that we assemble is very important, not just for him personally, but for this group going forward.
“It’s very good to have Christian back in the mix. It’s been a number of months and I think when you can add the quality he provides to any team, that’s a big bonus for the program.”
It remains to be seen what this roster will look like in the coming weeks. Sarachan says he expects “numerous changes” following the Bolivia match as he takes travel consideration, MLS schedules and European post-season fatigue into play.
However, at least for one match, the U.S. will be going with youth, and that provides a bit of excitement to the upcoming friendly.
“Like all of the matches we’ve played since November, the expectation is that the players respond well to the challenges they’ll face on the day against a team that will punish your mistakes,” Sarachan said. “The hope is that we continue the form that we have already shown in terms of being aggressive and not allowing a lot of time and space to the opponent, all with the hope that we have the freedom to create good chances and come away with a positive result.
“Given the way the roster has come along for the Bolivia game and those who will be available for Europe, I think it’s developed well and I’m looking forward to getting started with the group that we’ve finalized for the opening of our camp in Philadelphia.”