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Five fringe players who should earn USMNT callups in March


U.S. Men’s National Team manager Gregg Berhalter is going to have a hard time picking his squad for the March friendlies against Chile and Ecuador.

After MLS-based players were used in the January victories over Panama and Costa Rica, European players are expected to get called in for March friendlies against Ecuador and Chile.

Christian Pulisic, Timothy Weah, and Weston McKennie are among the players expected to be called in for games in March, but there are several players in Europe who are currently on the fringe and should be given a chance under the USMNT’s new boss.

Below is a look at a handful of players who should be called into March’s camp.

Duane Holmes

The second-tier of English Football may not have the most glamorous names to offer but it certainly does give players chances to improve their game and get noticed.

Duane Holmes has been an underrated player for Frank Lampard’s Derby County, putting in strong performances on a talented team. The 24-year-old has one goal and two assists in 18 matches but is a hard-working winger who has the ability to take defenders one-on-one.

Holmes has earned praise from Lampard numerous times this and is expected to see more playing time this season. His pace and skill with the ball could fit in nicely in Berhalter’s formation. Even if he doesn’t get starts right away, Holmes would be a nice option to bring off the bench against tired defenders.

Romain Gall

Romain Gall’s move to Swedish giants Malmo was expected to be a challenge, however the attacking midfielder has taken it in stride with consistent performances in the Allsvenskan.

In 2018, Gall scored 12 goals between time at Malmo and Sundsvall while also chipping in five assists. Gall’s versatility has seen him play in midfield and out wide for Malmo, which will give himself a nod above some other guys.

Due to the USMNT’s depth in midfield, the 24-year-old could find it tough to make the squad, but his playmaking and goal-scoring ability will give his former MLS head coach something to consider.

Emmanuel Sabbi

21-year-old Emmanuel Sabbi saw his production rise in 2018 with Danish outfit Hobro.

Sabbi became a regular starter for Hobro and increased his goal total from one to five, while totaling over 850 more minutes. A talented and skillful forward, Sabbi is a player who sometimes gets forgotten due to the league he plays in.

However, if given the chance he could be a live wire for the USMNT, as they try to piece together a starting offensive front for competitive matches later this year.

Lynden Gooch

If you want a hard-working midfielder then look no further than Sunderland’s Lynden Gooch.

The 23-year-old started off red hot for the Black Cats, who are seeking a bounce back up to England’s second-tier. Despite cooling off, Gooch has racked up 30 appearances this campaign while scoring six goals and adding seven assists.

At 5’8, Gooch may not be the tallest but he is a player that should work well in Berhalter’s plans as an aggressive midfielder. After not being called in since last May, it would add fuel to the fire for Gooch as well.

Shaq Moore

Since making his La Liga debut in 2017-18, Shaq Moore’s road has become a little bumpy.

Moore made nine appearances on loan at Reus Deportiu before seeing his spell terminated. He then returned to Levante where he is featuring for the club’s B team. With the USMNT needing a consistent option at left back, this could be Moore’s chance to shine.

While Antonee Robinson looks to get back into Wigan’s starting XI and recover from injury, Moore could etch his name into Berhalter’s current and future plans. A strong defender that’s still only 22, Moore has time to improve and prepare for the next step in his career.


  1. My sincere hope is that the best players are called in and there is no preference for MLS players. Skeptical because of Belhalter’s ties and what happened in the past.

    • I expect it to be a mix. I expect it to be “consensus” choices ie the people who were already liked by Sarachan, and taken by casual fans to be the future of the team, give or take maybe a sprinkling of January campers. If he has blind spots they will be (1) Crew players specifically, (2) January campers, and (3) conventionality. Personally I would bring in 30+ people with plenty of experiments because otherwise you’re basically picking the Gold Cup selection now, since he’s barely been coaching them and we may have few if any games after this but prior to the Gold Cup camp.

  2. I actually don’t see anything wrong with the 5 players mentioned. All 5 are as deserving or more so than many of the names that took part in the January Camp.
    The problem I potentially see happening is that Berhalter is going to call-up some of the MLS players who’ve already been in camp instead of calling in European players for Evaluation.

    I expect to see the following MLS players: Steffen, Lima, Zimmerman, Long, Bradley, Trapp, Arriola, Lletget, Zardes, & Jozy

    That’s 10 players from MLS, so if Berhalter calls in a total of 26 players that leaves 16 European guys.

    Brooks, Miazga, Yedlin, McKennie, Adams, Pulisic, Weah, Sargent & Wood are almost givens leaving 7 potential spots to be filled by the “Fringe Guys”:

    Horvath, Robinson, Moore, Holmes, Gooch, Green, Amon, Hyndman, Scott, Sabbi, Gall, Siebatcheu, Wright, Dest, etc….

    • Horvath isn’t a fringe player right now, he’s a lock. Morales should be as well as Chandler assuming he’s getting playing time by then. That leaves four fringe players in your scenario above. My money’s on Holmes, Robinson, Amon and maybe Green.

      • Morales is a grass is greener guy. Anytime he has been in a US jersey he’s looked average at best. He’s always been the 8th or 9th best player on a bottom of the Bundesliga squad. Fortuna picked him up because he’s a veteran with a passport and low salary expectations. He was also benched by them for most of November and December with no official injury designation. We also need to see Chandler on the field before we even think about including him he hasn’t even played this season, he’s had two significant knee injuries in the last 18 months and at age 28 the thought that he’ll just return to previous form is ambitious.

      • Johnny, I’ve seen enough of Morales to know that he isn’t a savior, but I haven’t seen enough of him to know that he’s not better than everybody else that is currently playing the six role. He isn’t sitting on the bench now, and he’s actually been playing pretty well. He’s not the eighth or ninth best player. If I’m a new coach, I have to at least call the guy in for a look. I mean, we’ve had any number of guys over the years who have fit Morales’s profile, but have a lot more caps than he does. And if you’ll read my comment about Chandler again, you’ll see that I said, “if he’s getting playing time.” He’s on Frankfurt’s Europa League roster, so he must not be too far away.

      • I assume that based on his last game Horvath is comfortably in the 3 keeper set, however on his longer term performance that is questionable. To me he needs to show up and do the thing another 5 games for me to buy that he isn’t also the guy who lets Portugal goals trickle in through the 5-hole. I think he’s raw with shot stopping ability but also a penchant for parrying not catching, and brain farts, and time will tell. I’d like to see more keepers run through camp because I think Frei is better than some of these people. But the US right now is kind of pecking order obsessed and the team is almost decided before the games, as opposed to based on how people play when called up.

    • Horvath has returned to his starting role seems to be a little higher than fringe at this point
      Robinson has not returned to the field after injury but is expected back soon
      Moore playing Spanish 4th Division
      Holmes doing well in the Championship
      Gooch’s numbers have tailed off a little in League One one goal in last 2 months
      Green 1 goal 2 assists on a terrible team
      Amon 2 goals 2 assists seems to have been moved to the sub role
      Hyndman back with Bournemouth U23s after lackluster loan in Scotland
      Scott back with Chelsea U23s after a lackluster loan to Dutch 2nd
      Sabbi strong Aug, but opponents seem to have adjusted no goals since Sept.1
      Gall doing well hope he gets a call
      Siebatcheu his agent mentioned he’d be eligible a couple years ago no interest expressed since
      Wright has played 4 mins since the matched he scored in before Christmas, Schalke was playing their CM as a striker instead of Haji
      Dest is intriguing, I would imagine there will be a U20 camp that week that he might attend instead.
      How many of these guys have done anything this season to prove they should be chosen over the guys in January camp? They are fringe for a reason. I don’t think we will see Jozy yet because he will just be returning from his surgery and likely will need the rest, Bradley may be opted out as well with the CCL and start of MLS. We may also see some guys who didn’t get a runout in January like Canouse who flew from his honeymoon to camp.

    • Zardes is a waste of time as a striker in this formation, and I would like to see some new CB options. I think Brooks and Miazga can’t man-mark. I think until the USMNT starts flushing people — even name brands — for not playing well, it won’t progress much. You need to do that to hold both the coaches and players accountable, and to motivate people to perform when given the call. Right now it’s a little bit “rote” for a team that barely wins. The USMNT needs to handle selection like a 5th place team and not like a 1st place team. When we get back to winning then you can just xerox team sheets and give players passes on rough patches. But right now we need to ruthlessly sort who performs from who doesn’t. As opposed to who plays for Big Club FC or who is supposed to be good or who was on the U20s.

      • ” Right now it’s a little bit “rote” for a team that barely wins.”

        I’m curious how you can determine this based on a single call-up for a camp cupcake whose roster was selected by Berhalter from a very limited pool of players? A little presumptuous I think- waaaay early to render judgements or assess trends eh?

      • Are we going to pretend Sarachan didn’t have a year in charge and get the results he did? I get the coach is new but many of these conventional wisdom players have been on the field together and not gotten many results since Portugal. Your “but he hasn’t coached them up” is my “they aren’t so good they can compete with good teams without coaching.” I think by the end of the cycle there will be some new studs and some of the people “we” thought would work out will be marginal. So I will watch the call sheet closely to see if he just brings in Sarachan’s choices because to me that wasn’t quite working.

  3. Personally I’d run two different teams in and out on two different game days, to get as many people talent evaluated and system aware. I would like to see Efrain Alvarez, Frei, Laursen, Payne, Toljan, Pierie, Moore, Dest, Richards, some new defenders, Amon, Anel Sabanadzovic, de la Fuente, Holmes, Sabbi, Siebetchau, Gall, Saief, Tillman, Wright.

      • Under other coaches the lineups have often shifted dramatically friendly to friendly, I’m just saying literally run out two teams. I’ve seen Italy and England do this exact thing. A team plays LoN in italy. B team plays us in Belgium. I don’t think a couple practices more will matter much. What I want to see is them on a USMNT playing someone else. To me practice is more prep work and system immersion, games are real talent eval.

      • What you’re missing is this will be like a camp of maybe a week and change. Now Gold Cup you have a month to stare at players and train them how to system play. But for a week, pfft, you might as well get a bunch of people in and out to get some toe in the system water, and get them in games. And then next thing you know it’s Gold Cup and you need to come up with some reliable options, and we may not have many games at all between March and then.

    • I don’t think many coaches agree with your feelings on practice and I definitely got the impression that Berhalter doesn’t based on his first camp. In reality there just aren’t that many people that are bad in practice that turn it up in games, just like there aren’t many average players in the 4th division that turn it on and star at the international level. Does it happen once in awhile sure, but most of the time the guys that play well in their league and play well in training are the guys that play better in games. It also sets a terrible message, you can be crap for your team and not work in practice but we’ll still play you in matches because hey everybody deserves a chance. Why would anyone try in practice then?

      • When you cut Acosta after he scored in the last set of games you’re almost saying you care more about practice than games. I care more about games than practice. And regarding my idea of 2 teams, we routinely do a variant of this at Gold Cup. A more experimental unit is called for the group stage. We then bring in the studs for the playoff rounds, plus the better players from the group round. And we have historically often run out two nearly distinct lineups for two friendlies in one international date. I am just saying that for a team that needs to get a bunch of unproven players under the new coach’s eyes, my method gets more players past him faster. You wouldn’t do this with a drillled veteran unit where you knew who played what and you got results already, but that’s not us.

    • Some of the problems of the last couple of cycles have been constant lineup changes, positional switches, etc. to the point where many of the players believed it affected their ability to develop chemistry together on the field. Some of that was injury related, and that part will always be an issue, but developing on-field chemistry is going to require us using many of the same players in the same positions game to game. From listening to Berhalter’s interviews, I believe he shares this perspective, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see less and less “fringe players” as time goes on. Team chemistry was a big part of why the USMNT used to be able to play and compete with some of the best teams in the world. Fact is, we are further from competing with the best teams now than at any point in the last 10 years.

      • No, the problems of the last cycle are developmental quality and talent. We produced very few Pulisics and Steffens, and instead many Miazgas and Nagbes. What you see as constant turnover is a team with mediocre personnel struggling for an answer but basically going in circles within the known pool. If there was an error it was not being experimental enough, knowing for example CB and LB sucked. They would call the same names over and over. People like Zimmerman and Parker and Opara barely/never got tried. But it was always going to be tough because the core of the 2014 team got old and both JK and BA never quite found what a good 2018 team looked like.

      • IV the US still had far more talent than any nation in the region outside of Mexico. Talent wasn’t the issue as to why we didn’t qualify. The ability of the managers to plan, adjust tactics and motivate the players was the issue.

  4. (1) Why didn’t we schedule games in Europe for what will presumably be a Euro heavy call sheet? Isn’t UEFA LoN over? (2) Why didn’t they schedule more modest competition for what will be “test” games for players’ quick study of the Berhalter system?

    • We just played two Concacaf opponents, will play 3-6 more this Summer, and then have the Nations League in the Fall . African Cup of Nations I believe is in session or qualifying anyway next window, Euro 2020 qualifying, and we’ve played almost all of S. America, that would leave Asia but would likely mean West coast matches which are harder travel for our Euro based players. Honestly, if the squad can’t get up to speed by the GC semis we have bigger fish to fry. Plenty of “modest” games in the back half of 2019.

      • Are you suggesting LoN will be soft? Really. It will be Hex/semi level. Which is hard enough for this bunch. Quit treating the team like it is already winning. The team needs to be tested for talent and fit to scheme and you don’t do that lining up tough opponents all the time. We ruined last year for us this way and we’re right back at it now.

      • IV I don’t understand, we have to play as many people as possible so we see how they respond in agame but we should schedule such easy opponents that anyone would be successful. Those two ideas seem in conflict.

      • I didn’t say so easy anyone can be successful, and at that point there is no tension in the concept. There is a lot of room between say Puerto Rico and Chile/Ecuador. Canada, Jamaica, Cuba, Central American teams, 2nd or 3rd tier Europe. You need to calibrate the games where the system can be implemented and we can make distinctions among players. If the games are too hard, as with last year, it actually cuts the opposite way and we get so beat up it is hard to discern beyond a couple people who should be retained. You can’t field teams of the 2 people who could handle Colombia, so to speak.

      • I think some of you are still engaged in a delusion like this is a world cup team. This is a team that missed Russia and whose high water mark is drawing France in a game they may not have played 100%. Y’all need to dial down the current schedule to a point they can prove we can win against a decent team again — we couldn’t even close out Peru — and then ratchet it back up to a hard schedule. But it’s like you’re doing a schedule for a world champion for a team that didn’t even qualify. How about we treat the team like it is and not what we wish it would be.

      • All those Concacaf teams are unavailable they have League of Nations qualifying. Yes we could play Venezuela but that’s about as weak as you could get. Also a lot of those lower level teams don’t play friendlies because they don’t have the budget. USMNT isn’t like college football they don’t have the budget to pay small nations to come play.

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