The U.S. Men’s National Team will convene a full-strength squad for the first time since November, and given the fact the March friendlies against Jamaica and Northern Ireland will be Gregg Berhalter’s final chance to see his best options ahead of a busy summer and fall, the next camp will be a crucial one for players vying to secure their places in Berhalter’s plans.
There is an impressive number of Americans earning regular minutes in Europe right now, and many of those players are not only playing, but standing out on their respective teams. As a result, there is a good chance some very good national team candidates will be left off the March squad.
Could Berhalter choose to bring in some MLS-based players? Don’t bet on it. Not when the current MLS player pool hasn’t begun preseason and not when there are so many European-based options in the middle of their seasons.
The focus should be on the European-based contingent, and the March friendlies should offer a chance for some new faces to earn their first looks. Matthew Hoppe has cooled off after his torrid start to the year, but he is a good candidate for a look, while Daryl Dike’s red-hot form should earn him a call.
Will Berhalter bring in a veteran like Tim Ream despite Ream’s lack of playing time at Fulham? Given the lack of options in the 30+ age range, you could very well see Ream get one more call.
The rest of the team should be very young though, offering a good glimpse of the bright future the program is eyeing.
A big wild card in the building of the March USWNT squad is the potential impact that quarantine restrictions could have on the availability of players. With South American World Cup qualifiers recently postponed due to teams not wanting to release players due to the quarantines players could face, there could be situations where clubs choose to keep players rather than releasing them for friendlies.
If that happens, then the squad Berhalter ultimately winds up having available could look different than the ideal group he would bring in if he could have all of his best options?
For now, here is a look at the squad Berhalter could call in barring any unforeseen obstacles, injuries or club refusals of call-ups:
Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath, Chituru Odunze
Steffen is a lock, but Horvath’s recent COVID-19 infection leaves his availability in doubt, and given the lack of European-based goalkeeper options, we might just see an MLS goalkeeper called upon.
Teenager Chituru Odunze should earn another call. Though he isn’t seeing first-team minutes with Leicester City, Odunze has started earning minutes with Leicester City’s Under-23 team and is a bright prospect for the future.
Missed the Cut – Josh Cohen, C.J. Dos Santos
Sergino Dest, John Brooks, Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson, Reggie Cannon, Mark McKenzie, Matt Miazga, DeAndre Yedlin, Tim Ream
The biggest question in this group is whether Sergino Dest plays right back or left back. Dest is clearly a natural right back, but does Berhalter prefer a Reggie Cannon-Dest fullback pairing, or will we see the Dest-Robinson combination we saw in November?
At centerback, Chris Richards has catapulted himself from prospect on the fringes of the full team to a leading candidate to start alongside John Brooks. Richards has been very impressive since joining Hoffenheim on loan, and the sooner we see a Brooks-Richards tandem the better.
Matt Miazga gets the nod ahead of the likes of Erik Palmer-Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers, but you can make a strong case for both being in better form than the Anderlecht defender. Carter-Vickers has been playing well for Bournemouth and merits a look, while Palmer-Brown is someone who was pegged to take part in Olympic qualifying before an ill-timed injury derailed that plan.
Ream’s inclusion may anger some who don’t see the point of calling in a 33-year-old who isn’t getting minutes at Fulham, but at this point Ream would be as much assistant coach as actual starting option for Berhalter on a team made up mostly of players in their mid-20s or younger.
Missed the Cut – Erik Palmer-Brown, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Bryan Reynolds, Shaq Moore
Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, Yunus Musah, Duane Holmes, Owen Otasowie.
Will Yunus Musah accept another call-up? If so, then he absolutely should be part of the group again, and the aforementioned six is as safe a bet as there is on this projected squad. Otasowie is the one on the list not playing regularly, but he’s a top prospect who showed well in the November camp.
Julian Green’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis has sidelined him, making his already slim chances of earning a March call even more remote. Luca De La Torre has settled into a starting role for Dutch side Heracles and he should be on Berhalter’s radar. Taylor Booth’s loan to Austrian side St. Polten has opened some eyes, but he’s probably still not quite ready for a look.
Missed the Cut – Julian Green, Luca De La Torre, Taylor Booth, Chris Durkin
Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Daryl Dike, Paul Arriola, Matthew Hoppe
Berhalter doesn’t normally like to bring more than two strikers to camp, but it will be tough for him to limit his strikers to just two given all the candidates in the picture. Sargent is a lock, and red-hot Daryl Dike has to be called up. That leaves Matthew Hoppe as a fringe option. He has cooled off considerable since his impressive January run of goals, but he has continued to start for Schalke and Berhalter has expressed interest in taking a closer look. Could Berhalter pass on Hoppe to have another look at Nicholas Gioacchini, who impressed in November? Don’t rule it out.
And what of Jordan Siebatcheu, the American-born French striker lighting it up for Swiss side Young Boys? He has been contacted by Berhalter in the past, and given his recent exploits in Europa League, March could be a good time to have a look, though the striker pool is pretty loaded heading into the March friendlies.
In terms of wing options, Weah, Pulisic and Reyna are three obvious choices, though Reyna’s status is in doubt right now given his mysterious recent absence from action for Borussia Dortmund. Even before he was sidelined, Reyna was in the midst of a tough start to 2021, and has looked burned out at times. If Reyna isn’t available, then De La Fuente should be brought back in.
Could Tyler Boyd merit a look now that he has broken into the starting lineup for Turkish side Sivasspor?
Missed the Cut – Konrad De La Fuente, Jordan Siebatcheu, Nicholas Gioacchini, Aron Johannsson, Tyler Boyd, Emmanuel Sabbi, Andrija Novakovich,
What do you think of the squad? Who made the cut that you’re hoping to see in the March friendlies? Who missed out that you think absolutely should be called in?
Share your thoughts below.