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Three thoughts on the USMNT roster for the September friendlies

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.


  1. I’m actually a fan of MB (seemingly one of the few for some reason). Looking forward to his stint as the USMNT head coach – hee hee. I tend to agree with you about him.being done. However, I think he still may have a role to play. He is no longer MB90. The GC showed that. Versus Mexico he looked old…it was the end of a long tournament and he got old right in front of my eyes. That being said…his experience in places the US will have to play during Nations Cup and Qualifying could be valuable in a few different ways as the squad transitions to the younger guys.

  2. You made some very good points, Ives! Gonzalez & Ream were USMNT CB newbies, when Berhalter was on his way out the Nat team. I think, we will hear about Omar in every convo, in every camp for @ least, a whole year. Ream is from Missouri, so it’s tradition to have a player, sport the USA jersey in front of the home crowd. My biggest question, though it’s small compared to others, is Morales an 8?, or a 6? (Same, question, I have for Keaton Parks). I think, it depends on who’s playing with him. I’m excited, he got called in. Like most of us, I’ve been wanting to see him, and Alvarado back in USMNT.

  3. With Weah out. I was hoping Sabbi would get a look. Too bad he got injured during training. I’m also very high on Christian Cappis, I think he is way better than Roldan or Trapp.

  4. The Dest situation will be interesting. Ajax just qualified for UCL group stage and he’s been a very productive part of getting them thru the play in rounds so far and league play so far so unless his form drops we could see him racking up a fair amount of minutes in UCL this fall and that would certainly be baptism by fire if there ever was one. If he continues the form he’s showing the past 3 weeks he just might be our best options at RB for the future. Lot of ifs there but the table is set for him to really break out this season. Fingers crossed.

    As for LB, I’m a big believer in letting guys compete for these spots and we should keep calling up a carousel of options such as A. Robinson, Shaq Moore, Lima, FJ, Chandler, Dest, Cannon, Garza and anyone else showing good enough. We can’t keep penciling in players who are just mediocre, if their Pulisic or Brooks I’m good with them be penciled in but other than those two we have to have competition at the other spots and see what works. Annointing players ie Trapp or Lovitz as our permanent starters isn’t working time to open up the competition.

    • Come on Joe you’re better than that to stretch the truth. “Permanent starters” Trapp and Lovitz each started one out of six GC matches neither started half of Berhalter’s 12 matches.
      As for your LB rotation
      Garza: played 1/4 of FCCs matches been injured most of the year. In last 4 seasons he’s had 1 where he played more than 7 matches (28 yrs old)
      Cannon: has never played LB, right footed which doesn’t help (21)
      Chandler: Hardly played last 18 months due to injury played LB twice in his professional career also right footed (29.5 years old)
      Moore: played 15 matches above Spanish 3rd division yet to play for his new club in 2nd division (22)
      Robinson: Never played 1st team match for Everton, offensive minded LB routinely rates out as one of the worst LBs in Championship in defensive categories. He’s young though so he could improve (22)
      Lima: lost his RB spot to a converted winger, now looks like he might be losing his LB spot to a 19 year old Peruvian
      FJ: he’ll be 32 in December,
      Dest: played much RB in his career including this season, isn’t called to defend much for Ajax yet, CL group stage should tell more. If he can play there and be effective it’s his job to lose. At least until Gloster, Bello, or Kobe move him back to the right.

  5. Throughout JK’s time with the USMNT people complained that he was unable to settle on a consistent squad (players 1-15). JK was replaced by Arena who relied on players who were aging out and had clearly lost a step.
    Now we have Berhalter who is a disturbing mix of the two. He can’t seem to determine what the core of this cycles team will be, and is continuing to use players who are beyond their sell by date and/or shown they aren’t up to the international level.
    I get having a veteran presence with so many young players in the team, but just because they are veterans should not include automatic starting positions (Bradley, Ream); or continued call-ups when they’ve proven to be too low of quality to compete (Lovitz, Trapp, Omar, Baird, Morris, Roldan).

    Unfortunately I don’t see Berhalter changing his ways anytime soon. We’ll continue to see Old out of touch players and players not capable of moving this team forwards.

    • Arena was brought in to try to extinguish the full on dumpster fire JK had created. The complaints about JK were that he was 1. a crappy leader of men, 2. a tactical midget, and 3. did not know domestic players. ———————————————————————————All of those are accurate and true statements and mention nothing about some of his other enormous issues surrounding his narcissism, like splitting and destroying the locker room. Arena’s failure was that he was unable to right the sinking USMNT ship JK left us

      • It was obvious that JK had lost the locker room, note the collapse against C.R. But Arena was a horrible choice. And many many people said so at the time. Arena arrived with preconceived opinions, and relied upon the guys who had done it in the past. He refused, and still does, to accept the fact that the MLS guys were enough. No need to change. So in this case there is plenty of blame to go around, in my opinion. JK had many faults, but he also brought competition and expectation to the team. He fought the complacency of MLS leadership and some of the mls players, by saying challenge yourself. He lost the fight, thus Arena was brought in. Btw, how has Jordan Morris developed? Well at least he has good relationship with his dog.

      • JK did not bring competition to the team, he brought in players he liked. Was Julian Green brought in because he won some competition for his spot? Hell no. Timmy Chandler? Hell no. Brad Davis? I could go on and on. And then he’d deploy his favorites in the dumbest lineups and formations, tactics that were literally stupid (like pressing in friendly games because we had 6 subs, but then in international competitions go away from the pressing becasue he only had 3 subs and dudes would get tired. What an idiot. And then folks would get all excited about these friendly results. How about building a team of players who believed in the USMNT? He did the opposite of that, too.—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-If you haven’t read this yet, you should

      • Clearly, JK left us in a deep hole losing our first two qualifiers. HOWEVER, all we needed was a friggin’ tie @T&T. Arena lost AT HOME to CR and couldn’t manage a single road win in four chances. JK was replaced EARLY ENOUGH in qualifying that we still should have easily qualified. Arena is responsible for us missing Russia.

      • JK had many faults, but he was also at the helm of the team that got out of arguably one of the most difficult WC groups ever for the USA (Ghana, Portugal, Germany). He also got good the team to a semifinal in the Copa America. Both are no small accomplishments.
        Plus a bunch of other historical performances (1st victory ever vs. Mexico in Azteca ; 1st victory vs Italy (away too) are the 2 that come to mind.

        Of course there were debacles along the way, including during a GC, but overall, I would say the JK cycle was pretty positive.

        When they replaced him (which was probably the right move given the behind the scenes drama), there was still plenty of time to fix the situation, but as others said Arena was an awful choice, and the rest is history. I don’t blame JK for our missed WC, I blame Arena and the players.

        Despite some nitpicking on player selection from Berharlter – always happens with fans! – I will stand behind the team and hope he can steer us to great things, but so far a bit disappointed by his tactical acumen – severely out coached the final vs Mexico; being too loose with playing players out of position …. I’m not yet convinced, but I sincerely hope great results will soon make me change my mind!

    • it astounds me that JK gets respect of any kind from American fans. JK’s tenure was anything but positive, and created, after his 5.5 year guidance with complete control over everything, the ridiculous mess we are still attempting to extricate ourselves from. Arena had the helm for a year after the 5.5 years of JK, after JK PROMISED 2018 would be the big coming out party for our USMNT. Something he completely and utterly failed to accomplish…period. In fact, indisputably, he accomplished the opposite. Did you read the article I posted for all of you JK defenders?

    • @Mat, we beat Belgium the same way we beat Spain 5 years earlier to snap their winning streak, not because of some tactical or technical or spiritual advancement from JK. In fact, Bob Bradley was roasted alive here on this board for his victory vs. Spain because of HOW the USMNT did it, namely through crazy D effort and great goalkeeping. Still, it was always a 2 cycle plan with JK at the helm of everything with promises from him to deliver big in 2018. Those who bought that swamp land helped condemn the whole program to our current state, and Arena failed in his 1 year stint to right that ship. ——————————————————@ Super Nintendo, the USMNT went 3 Ws, 3 Ds, 4Ls in that quali. 2 of their losses, in their first 2 games, were under JK, who went 0Ws, 0Ds, and 2Ls in his promised breakout USMNT World Cup campaign before being relieved of command with cause, including losing at home to Mexico, barf. Arena failed by going 3Ws, 3Ds, and 2 Ls, including the massive fail in T&T, a result needed because of the hole left by JKs tenure to start the qualifying

  6. Alfredo Morales….you must remember that Abby Wambatt didnt think he was American enuf…now that she has moved on….Alfredo can move back in…

  7. I know Dest played primarily LB in preseason but he has played RB every game so far this season. He’s been good so I wouldn’t want to mess anything up by changing him back to LB, let him compete with cannon and lima.

    • ?% Agree!!,
      I’m not a pro- athlete, nor was I even a high school athlete, but I am left-footed and understand futbol. When pressed, right footed players, (US specifically), instincts on the left side of the pitch, is to get the ball, on the right foot, putting the ball closer to the defender. When fundamentally, you’re taught to keep your body between the defender and the ball. However, a left footed player, on the left side of the pitch, (In all the time I’ve watched this sport), doesn’t automatically turn inside, towards the CBs, or to the defender. (ie, Marcelo-Brasil, Monreal, Alba- Spain, A. Robinson-USA). Not saying, a right footed player can’t be an accomplished LB, or that Ream (natural CB) is the answer, but a 30-40 yard diagonal pass to RW, or center mid, is a lot more difficult for a right footed player. Jaylin Lindsey(KC), who is injured, is the 1st player, I’ve seen to make this transition look easy. (Dest, whom I like @ RB, is the 2nd). Lichaj and Chandler are serviceable, but in today’s game, (USMNT specifically), the team needs a player, who can be sound defensively AND get forward. …. It seems some of us, want a square peg, in circle position. …but not you hat trick!!

  8. I’m still waiting to see a lineup that is considered full strength, with a blend of youngsters and veterans. I want to see Brooks, Johnson, AJ, and even Mix play with the new guys…

    • Mix? What is this, 2014…? I’d like to think we have a little bit more depth and do not to call in some overrated player plying his trade in the J-League, but that’s just me.

      • If you don’t like Mix, fine, but:

        1) I was just naming some folks I’d like to see. There are plenty more names I didn’t put down.

        2) The J League is very comparable to MLS, and I believe they actually spend more on their club players. I would need to look up that info again, though…

  9. I think I speak for a lot in saying no need to see Bradley after friendlies either. Toronto is barely making the playoffs ( if they do ) for a reason, he trails every play constantly. I am not a Bradley hater, so he has talent left over, but his nat team days have passed.


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