Matthew Hoppe’s hot January, which saw him score five goals in three matches, looked like it might be enough to earn a look from the U.S. Men’s National Team when the March friendlies rolled around. Unfortunately for the young Schalke forward, competition at the position coupled with restrictions that would have limited him to just one of the two friendlies ultimately cost him his chance.
Hoppe is one of several players who wound up in that sort of situation when the USMNT’s roster for the March friendlies was unveiled.
“He’s one of those guys that just from a numbers standpoint didn’t work out,” Berhalter said of Hoppe. “It’s highly likely that our striker will play 90 minutes in that game in against Jamaica, and we’ll have to make six other changes. He wasn’t going to get on the field.
“I had discussions with (Hoppe),” Berhalter said. “I talked about his progress at Schalke, I talked about some of the things we really liked with him. I also told him that what you know, we’re going to continue to monitor him and and hopefully get a chance to look at him before the World Cup qualifiers start.”
Berhalter also mentioned Jordan Siebatcheu as another player the team had considered bringing in, but the dual national from Young Boys was also limited to being available for just the first March friendly against Jamaica, which is expected to feature Josh Sargent at striker.
DeAndre Yedlin is another player who missed out due to only being available for the first match, but the Galatasaray fullback had done enough to be on Berhalter’s radar.
“This was a juggling act, this roster,” Berhalter said. “I wouldn’t read into the guys that weren’t on the roster because of the extenuating circumstances behind the roster.”
It was difficult not to read into some of the selections, particularly the inclusion of MLS players who are currently not in season. Kellyn Acosta, Sebastian Lletget and Aaron Long were all included despite there being European-based options available in the middle of their club seasons, such as Cameron Carter-Vickers, Mark McKenzie, Duane Holmes and Julian Green to name a few.
“The objective was to get our best possible team and preparations for Nation’s League and these guys are in it,” Berhalter said, referring to the MLS-based inclusions. “When we talk about Julian Green and Duane (Holmes), I had conversations with Duane and talked to him about things he could be doing better at times for Huddersfield. He’s playing on the wing, and we see him more central. So that’s something that again, that we’re going to work with. A lot of it was due to just the complications of who can come in and who can stay for both games and who can’t stay for both games, and we had to juggle that. So that was an issue.”
The competition in the USMNT midfield continues to grow, not only with the permanent inclusion of Yunus Musah, but also with the emergence of prospects such as Luca De La Torre. The former U.S. Under-20 World Cup midfielder is enjoying a breakthrough season with Dutch side Heracles, emerging as a regular starter and difference-maker in an attacking midfield role.
“Luca’s a great story of a guy just being patient, finding the level that he can compete at week in and week out, and he’s been doing a good job, you know, scored some goals is a big part of their midfield,” Berhalter said. “We know that our midfield has a lot of options, but it’d be nice to see him and hopefully he’ll be able to get on field.”