The U.S. Men’s National Team’s roster for its upcoming friendly against Switzerland might have felt a bit anti-climactic considering it isn’t the roster for the highly-anticipated Concacaf Nations League, but a closer look at the the roster revealed on Thursday helped provide some clues about what we should expect on Monday when the Nations League roster is revealed.
Whether a hint at how Gregg Berhalter might account for the loss of Aaron Long, and potential absence of Tyler Adams, or even a look at what he may do with his abundance of striker options, the 27-player squad chosen by Berhalter provides plenty of insight into how he sees his current options.
Here is a closer look at some of the storylines from the USMNT training camp squad called in to face Switzerland:
Julian Green’s chance
There are few midfielders who have enjoyed better seasons than Green’s current campaign with German second-division side Greuther Fürth. He has been one of the best players on a Fürth squad that has already secured a top-three finish, and could potentially win the 2. Bundesliga if results fall their way. At the very least, Fürth will have a chance to play in a promotion playoff, giving Green and his team a shot at moving up to the Bundesliga.
Whether or not Fürth gets the job done, Green has already shown more than enough to justify Berhalter finally calling him in. In fairness to Berhalter, Green might have earned a call sooner if not for being sidelined by COVID-19 back in March, just before the USMNT’s March friendlies. After overcoming what reportedly was case that was not asymptomatic, Green eventually worked his way back into the starting lineup and continued his strong season.
Berhalter is on the look for central midfielders who can play in the Dual-10 roles in his 4-3-3, and with those roles functioning more like dual-8 roles, a player with Green’s ball possession skills and improved work rate could be a perfect fit in Berhalter’s system.
Unfortunately for Green, along with not being on the provisional roster for the Nations League, he could very well miss out on this camp and the Switzerland friendly if Fürth winds up playing in the Bundesliga promotion playoff. Even if he winds up missing the camp, the fact he has been called in shows he is on Berhalter’s radar, and under consideration, which is a major step for a player was starting to look like he might never get another call-up.
The Tyler Adams contingency plan
When word hit earlier this week that Tyler Adams would return to the United States for rehabilitation of a back injury, the immediate thought was that the Nations League was out of the picture. Gregg Berhalter clearly hasn’t given up hope, but he is also preparing contingencies.
Kellyn Acosta and Jackson Yueill both earned call-ups, and while it may still be the case that one of them misses out on Nations League if Adams can recover in time to play, there is also now the possibility that Acosta and Yueill both make the Nations League team and spend the next two weeks fighting it out to see who is Berhalter’s starting defensive midfielder in Denver in June.
Whether Adams can recover is being figured out over the next handful of days, before Monday’s deadline to submit the Nations League roster. The USMNT actually has until June 2nd to make a roster change related to an injury, so Adams could be named to the roster and then given more time to recover, but then be replaced if his back injury fails to heal in time to be available to play.
Acosta has the advantage over Yueill at the moment, having shown some good things in the March friendlies. He is also one of the few players who A) plays regularly at altitude, which is a plus given the Nations League is being played in Denver and B) has played in a meaningful game against Mexico, the USA’s likely opponent in the Nations League final barring an upset or two.
Yueill isn’t very far behind Acosta, and he wasn’t part of the March friendlies due to his participation in Olympic qualifying, where Yuiell was one of the few bright spots for the Americans.
The most likely scenario would be to name Adams and Acosta to the Nations League roster, and replace Adams with Yueill if Adams is unable to recover in time.
The centerback picture after Long’s injury
Aaron Long’s recent ruptured Achilles injury has shaken up the USMNT’s centerback position, but the pecking order at the position hasn’t really changed in the wake of losing a projected starter.
Matt Miazga is expected to be the frontrunner to replace Long as the starter, and is called up, while Tim Ream remains an option for the Nations League roster due to the need for a left-footed centerback to back up John Brooks. Long was capable of playing on the left, more so than other right-footed central defenders like Miazga might, but with him out, Ream’s stock has suddenly received a boost, and his chances of being on the Nations League roster are high.
The question becomes which central defender will be the fourth if Brooks, Miazga and Ream are the first three? Mark McKenzie is on the Switzerland camp roster, and has earned consecutive starts for Belgian side Genk, with one final match set for Sunday.
The other player in contention is Miles Robinson, who more than likely was not released by Atlanta United for the Switzerland match, which is being played outside the FIFA window. Given Atlanta United’s track record for refusing to release called-up players it doesn’t have to release, don’t be surprised if Robinson still gets the nod when the Nations League roster is announced on Monday.
The striker situation
As things stand, the only striker who is assured of a place on the Nations League roster, if healthy, is Josh Sargent. That means there is a very long list for basically one spot, or two if Berhalter gives in and brings a third, which he generally doesn’t do.
Daryl Dike and Jordan Siebatcheu figured to be fighting it out for a place on the Nations League squad, and both are included in the Switzerland camp, though Dike could potentially miss out if Barnsley can overcome its current first-leg deficit against Swansea in the League Championship promotion playoff.
Berhalter will make his decision before camp begins, and as much as Dike feels like the obvious pick after the run he enjoyed on loan at Barnsley, Siebatcheu impressed quite a bit in the March camp, and is coming off an outstanding season for Swiss champions Young Boys.
There is also Gyasi Zardes, who Berhalter included on the provisional roster and who knows his system better than any other striker.
If Berhalter only brings two strikers, then pairing Sargent with Siebatcheu, and leaving Zardes and Dike for the Gold Cup, is a very real possibility (and would lead Siebatcheu a step closer to being cap-tied). Siebatcheu may also have an advantage from playing his club soccer in Switzerland, where he regularly plays at altitude, which would give him an edge at Nations League, which is being played at altitude in Denver.