If U.S. Men’s National Team fans were hoping to see some players emerge in September as new lockdown starters for Gregg Berhalter’s team, they came away disappointed.
The loss to Mexico and draw against Uruguay gave Berhalter plenty of information on his player pool, but the matches lacked the type of breakout performance that left any of the pool’s new faces rising above the rest.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t some good showings, and some youngsters who impressed. The biggest positive about the September friendlies was the number of relatively new faces who did well with their opportunities to start.
Conversely, it wasn’t a great September for the veteran contingent, with several players failing to shake question marks about their standing on the USMNT depth chart.
Here is a look at the players who boosted their stock the most in September, along with those who watched their stock take a hit, either because of performance, or other circumstances:
Josh Sargent. The Werder Bremen striker came into the September friendlies with plenty of confidence and it showed. He looked sharp in the draw with Uruguay, and also showed more in his cameo against Mexico than Gyasi Zardes showed in his starter minutes.
Playing time at Werder Bremen will ultimately determine how quickly he develops, but even if the minutes are limited in the next month, he should be the number two striker option behind Jozy Altidore for the Nations League.
Sergino Dest. Two starts, one painful nutmeg, and plenty of evidence to support the idea that Dest is a future USMNT starter. He caught flack for being beaten badly on the first goal in the loss to Mexico, but that was the lone scar on an otherwise side first match. He then responded with another good showing against Uruguay. Concerns about his defending are exaggerated.
He still has things to learn, but his attacking qualities are top notch. The big question about Dest is whether the Dutch National Team will make a strong enough play for him to convince the Dutch-born defender to switch national teams.
Jordan Morris. After a lackluster showing in the Gold Cup final, Morris went into the summer looking like someone who could be phased out as a potential starter while players like Tyler Boyd and Paul Arriola moved past him.
Morris responded with a strong cameo against Mexico, and then a Man of the Match-worthy performance against Uruguay. His versatility and growing confidence with the ball is making him a good option, either as a starter or spark off the bench.
Sebastian Lletget. Injuries have been the one thing that has kept Lletget from growing into a much more prominent role in the USMNT setup, but he showed us in September why he remains one of the more exciting attacking options when he’s healthy.
His confidence on the ball, and creativity, is unique in the current player pool, and if he can stay healthy, he should be a candidate to start in the Nations League, which would allow Christian Pulisic to operate on the wing.
Tim Ream. Another player who left the Gold Cup final with a shaky national team future ahead of him, Ream was excellent against Uruguay, and added fuel to the idea that he should be a top centerback option for the immediate future.
Ream’s passing ability and leadership qualities make him the perfect alternative at left centerback for the oft-injured Brooks, at least until some younger options mature enough to replace him.
Reggie Cannon. The FC Dallas defender has gone from late injury addition to the Gold Cup roster, to starting four straight USMNT matches and looking like the lock starter at right back for Nations League.
Cannon had a decent showing in the September friendlies, not lights out, but also not bad enough to cost him the hold he has secured on the position. Gregg Berhalter is clearly a fan, and with DeAndre Yedlin still working his way back from offseason surgery, Cannon is looking like a good bet to start for the USMNT in October.
Miles Robinson. Though he didn’t start in either match, he showed some promise in both appearances, and the struggles of the USMNT centerbacks in those matches only served to make his appearances look better by comparison.
Jackson Yueill. Turned in a tidy showing in a sweltering night in St. Louis against Uruguay. At a time when the USMNT is in need of more technical defensive midfield options, Yueill did well to solidify his standing as an interesting prospect.
Gyasi Zardes. The Columbus Crew striker came into the September friendlies needing to impress to maintain his place on the striker depth chart, but a forgettable showing as a starter against Mexico, coupled with how much better Josh Sargent looked against Uruguay, left Zardes looking like a player who shouldn’t start at striker again any time soon.
Wil Trapp. The Mexico match was Trapp’s opportunity to show why he merits a continued spot in Berhalter’s setup, but he failed to stand out in what was admittedly a very tough matchup against an El Tri side that was set up to make things difficult for him.
Does this mean we’ve seen the last of Trapp with the USMNT? Definitely not, but his place in the setup should be on shaky footing, especially with Tyler Adams expected back for Nations League in October.
Aaron Long. Sometimes club form offers a sneak peak of what to expect during an international window, and in the case of Long, his post-Gold Cup struggles with the New York Red Bulls clearly carried over into some rough outings in the September friendlies.
Has the disappointment of having a potential transfer to England thwarted really put him off his game? It’s entirely possible, but for as much trouble as he had in the recent friendlies, he’s still very much a sure-fire starter in central defense. That said, Berhalter will be hoping to see him sharpen up before the USMNT takes on Canada in October.
Tyler Boyd. When Boyd went from impressing in the early stages of the Gold Cup to failing to appear in the final, there was a lingering mystery about just what had happened to the USMNT newcomer. The September friendlies figured to be his chance to reassert himself as a top wing option, but his overall showing wasn’t nearly as much of a needle-mover as would have been hoped.
Berhalter tried to put a positive spin on Boyd’s September by pointing out his role against Uruguay played more to his strengths than his role against Mexico. While that may be, and you can certainly argue he had some good moments against Uruguay, there is no denying that Jordan Morris had a better September, and therefore put some distance between himself and the Besiktas winger heading into the October Nations League matches.
Nick Lima. The San Jose fullback isn’t on this list because of his on-field performance — he helped set up the equalizer against Uruguay — but rather because the September friendlies reinforced the reality that Lima has slipped down the depth chart, falling behind Reggie Cannon after the two split starts at the Gold Cup.
Could the fact Lima is playing mostly at left back for the Earthquakes be hurting his standing with the USMNT? Could San Jose’s style, and how it showcases (or doesn’t showcase) Lima’s strengths be leading to a slide on Berhalter’s list? It certainly feels that way for a player who showed so much promise at the start of the year, and who still found a way to make things happen in his limited September minutes.
Walker Zimmerman. Much like Long, Zimmerman hasn’t been in his best form in recent months, and the reality is he wouldn’t have started against Mexico if John Brooks hadn’t been injured.
The result was a poor showing that leaves you wondering how centerback prospects like Ventura Alvarado can’t get called up. As things stand, and with Miles Robinson continuing to progress, you have to wonder if we’ll see Zimmerman with the USMNT again in 2019.
Brad Guzan. The Atlanta United goalkeeper’s showing against Uruguay wasn’t a great case for the veteran netminder having a place in Berhalter’s plans going forward. His distribution isn’t great, Sean Johnson remains ahead of him, and with younger options like Tyler Miller and Jesse Gonzalez to integrate, it’s tough to see Guzan returning.
Daniel Lovitz. The Montreal Impact left back is one of the best in MLS, but his USMNT appearances continue to underwhelm, and given the plethora of enticing young prospects in the pipeline at left back, you have to wonder when Berhalter will stop calling him in and start looking at the likes of Antonee Robinson and eventually someone like Chris Gloster.