The U.S. Men’s National Team roster for September friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay is out, and the shift towards a younger pool of players is in full swing.
Newcomers Sergino Dest, Miles Robinson and Paxton Pomykal join Josh Sargent as a quartet that will surely have USMNT fans excited about how they handle their opportunity to impress Gregg Berhalter.
The absence of long-time veterans like Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley opens the door for some players to make the case that they are ready to take over for some of the pool’s older options on a more permanent basis.
Here are some thoughts on the USMNT roster:
Pulisic should feature as a winger more in September
As much as Berhalter tried to downplay the significance of positions with regard to Pulisic’s deployment, it can’t be an accident that he was listed as a forward for the September friendlies after previously being listed as a midfielder.
Pulisic is playing exclusively as a wide player for Chelsea these days, and his qualities in that role are clear to see. Could it have convinced Berhalter to give him a long look there while he tests out some other options in the number 10 role alongside Weston McKennie? Sebastian Lletget and Cristian Roldan should benefit from that opportunity.
Berhalter does have a point when it comes to the reality that just because Pulisic starts out in a wide role that he can’t wind up spending time attacking centrally, but moving Pulisic into a wide role would allow Berhalter to start someone next to Weston McKennie in central midfield with a bit more defensive capability, and would also lighten Pulisic’s defensive responsibilities. That doesn’t mean Pulisic won’t defend when he’s in a wide role, but the battles that take place in the middle of the field are much more physically demanding, and pushing Pulisic into a more regular wide role can make it tougher for opponents to keep numbers around him to try and neutralize him.
The Bradley-Altidore absences are a good thing
Gregg Berhalter pointed to the MLS schedule, and Toronto FC’s busy schedule during the break, as the reason he didn’t call in Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Omar Gonzalez.
Schedule or not, now is the perfect time to look at some new faces at the striker and defensive midfield positions. Altidore and Bradley have nothing to prove in friendlies, and while some would argue both should be left out permanently due to their age, it’s tough to make the case for needing to see them before Nations League.
Altidore’s absence opens the door for Josh Sargent to compete with Gyasi Zardes and show he is ready to move ahead of the Columbus Crew forward in the depth chart. His lack if playing time at Werder Bremen isn’t helping his case in the short term, but he looked sharp in preseason with the Bundesliga club, and you can also argue that Zardes hasn’t exactly been in top form in recent months either (his double against FC Cincinnati on Sunday notwithstanding).
Bradley’s absence has made room for Alfredo Morales to make his well-earned return to the USMNT fold. That a player who has played regularly in the German Bundesliga for years wasn’t receiving regular call-ups was always a bit of a head-scratcher, but now he’ll have a chance to show he’s good enough to keep earning call-ups in the future.
Berhalter’s mention of Omar Gonzalez certainly raised some eyebrows because the 30-year-old is seen as being on the downward side of his career, and also because some exciting young prospects are rising up the ranks. Gonzalez has done well with TFC since returning to MLS, but with players like Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Matt Miazga and Aaron Long in the mix for playing time in central defense, Gonzalez shouldn’t really be in the USMNT picture going forward.
Can Dest be the answer at left back?
Berhalter’s decision to bring in Reggie Cannon, Nick Lima AND Sergino Dest suggests he’s ready to give a serious look to Dest and/or Lima at left back. Both are seeing starts at both left back and right back, and with the pickings being slim at left back at the moment in the USMNT player pool, Dest could jump into a prominent role with a strong camp.
Tim Ream is currently the top left back option, with Daniel Lovitz as the second choice. Ream is 31 years old and has shown himself to be a defensive liability at times, while Lovitz has offered very little on the attacking side in his USMNT appearances. If Dest can show that he has that elusive combination of strong defending and dynamic attacking quality, Berhalter could be convinced to bring him back when Nations League kicks off in October.