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The five position battles that will shape the USMNT Nations League roster


The U.S. Men’s National Team will be unveiling its final Concacaf Nations League roster in the coming days and while Gregg Berhalter is sure to have a good idea what the team will look like, there are several difficult decisions he could still be wrestling with.

The depth of the USMNT’s 40-man preliminary roster is impressive, particularly along the defense, and at striker, making for some choices that are too close to call.

SBI recently projected the final 23-man USMNT roster for the Nations League, and while there aren’t likely to be many surprises among the final picks, there are a handful of position battles that could have Berhalter needing every minute before the deadline to help him make his final picks.

Here is a look at the position battles that could determine how the final USMNT Nations League roster shakes out:

Matt Turner vs. Sean Johnson

John Dorton/ISI Photos

Zack Steffen is the starter but the back-up role will go to whichever of the two MLS standouts Berhalter settles on. In theory, he could bring both, but with Ethan Horvath available as a bench option, Berhalter would be more likely to only bring one of the MLS goalkeepers in order to let the other one continue with his club team.

Johnson has more experience, but Turner has been with the team more recently and had a better 2021 MLS season. Berhalter could be tempted to bring both though, so don’t rule out that possibility, especially given Horvath’s lack of playing time for Club Brugge this season.

Chris Richards vs. Miles Robinson

John Dorton/ISI Photos

Two top centerback prospects are matched up against each other here but the reality is there are more than two vying for the available central defender spots. If we are correct to presume that John Brooks, Aaron Long and Matt Miazga are settled into the top three of what is likely four centerback roster spots, then that leaves one for a younger option.

Richards is wrapping up a breakout loan stint with Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, though he has recently been sidelined by an injury that snapped a run of 12 straight club starts in all competitions. If Richards can recover quickly, then he should get the nod, but if not, then Robinson is a good candidate as someone Berhalter likes in central defense.

DeAndre Yedlin vs. Bryan Reynolds

John Dorton/ISI Photos

The right back position is an interesting one because Sergiño Dest is the top option but Berhalter prefers him at left back with Reggie Cannon at right back. That leaves the back-up right back spot up for grabs, with the veteran Yedlin having long been seen as someone who Berhalter didn’t quite rate as a fullback for his system.

This brings us to Reynolds, who has earned three starts in the past month for AS Roma after making his USMNT debut in March. The teenager is an exciting prospect, but Yedlin has the experience to step in and start if needed, and can play both as a right back and right wingback. Another wrinkle to consider is the fact Reynolds has seen time at left back for Roma, versatility that could have Berhalter curious about how it might translate to the USMNT.

Jackson Yueill vs. Kellyn Acosta

John Dorton/ISI Photos

Tyler Adams is the first-choice defensive midfield option when healthy, but the spot behind him on the depth chart has been up in the air for a while, especially given Berhalter’s aversion to considering Weston McKennie for a deeper-lying midfield role.

Yueill is a player Berhalter has long coveted, and the San Jose Earthquakes midfielder has only become sharper as he has evolved playing under Matias Almeyda. That said, Acosta has seen his USMNT stock rise faster in the past year more than any other midfielder, and his showing in the March friendlies may have nudged him ahead of Yueill. Of course, with Adams currently sidelined by an injury,  Berhalter would have no problem bringing both Yueill and Acosta if Adams is unable to take part in Nations League.

Daryl Dike vs. Jordan Siebatcheu

John Dorton/ISI Photos

This might be a surprising inclusion given the perception among many USMNT fans that Dike has catapulted himself into contention to be the starting striker, but the reality is Josh Sargent is very much still the first-choice striker and Dike is very much still in a competition to make the squad among a deep crop of strikers.

There is no denying Dike’s impressive run at Barnsley has propelled him from fringe striker option to very good striker option, but he isn’t the only European-based striker coming off a goal-filled season. Siebatcheu scored 12 goals for Swiss League champion Young Boys, and he enjoyed an impressive debut with the USMNT in March.

If Berhalter still sees Gyasi Zardes as the number two striker behind Sargent, then we are talking about whether or not he even brings a third striker, which is something he hasn’t always done. Bringing Siebatcheu, who has wrapped up his season already, rather than Dike, who is still finishing up his loan at Barnsley, and will be due to return to Orlando City, makes more sense if we are talking a third striker role, which would likely mean few minutes.

If Berhalter decides to bring just two strikers, then we could see him go with a Sargent-Siebatcheu pairing, and leaving Zardes and Dike with their MLS teams, which would also leave them as good options for the Gold Cup.

Which players would you pick in these position battles? Who would be your four centerbacks for the Nations League? Which strikers would you bring?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Pulisic and Steffen will miss the friendly due to the Champion’s finals.
    Richards, Adams, Seabatcheu are injured. Dike may be playing the finals for promotion. Sargent may be playing relegation games. This Switzerland friendly may be an interesting one.

  2. The Acosta Vs. Yueill battle is the one that has me most concerned about our depth at the position. Both Acosta & Yueill have glaring weaknesses in their game that teams the caliber of Mexico will ruthlessly exploit. They’ll be fine against most CONCACAF opponents who’ll afford them time & space by playing a low block and look to hit on a counter attack. But they’ll be exposed whenever the opponent presses in our defensive 3rd.
    I am also concerned with Yueill’s ability to handle the speed of teams like Jamaica on the break. Some of that will be mitigated by playing a little deeper and taking the right angles to buy time for McKennie to get back…but it’s still a worry for me.
    Richards Vs. Robinson isn’t much of a competition. If healthy it’s Richards every day…all day. Robinson is a nice safety net in the depth chart, but isn’t in the same category as Richards.
    Dike Vs. Siebatcheu is more about coaches tactics. Siebatcheu is more of a direct replacement for Sargent. A possession oriented CF where he doesn’t have to change anything in the way the team approaches the game. Dike is a different type of CF…more of the traditional Target man who’ll bang it out in the box or go direct on goal more than run the channels to make space for the 2nd & 3rd attackers.
    Not that interested in the other “battles”. Yedlin is only buying time. Reynolds will ultimately overtake him…just a question of when. Johnson Vs. Turner is another that is only buying time. Both are capable back-ups, but neither are going to pressure Steffen for the starting spot.

    • Especially concerning since Adams is out for RBL again this week. Manager’s quote was “he’s got so many problems he definitely won’t play” when asked if Tyler was available.
      Yueill’s lack of athleticism is overhyped. People see the blonde hair and pale Minnesota complexion and just assume he’s slow. He’s not Tyler Adams but he’s a far cry from Wil Trapp.
      I’m a big fan of Reynolds, I said after his first game replacing Cannon he’d be in Europe soon. I was actually right, which surprised even me. If I need a match today I’d probably take Yedlin but that’s only if both Cannon and Dest are unavailable at RB. So if it’s whose the 3rd RB and they aren’t likely to play unless it’s to sub on for an attacker for 5 mins to kill off the clock Reynolds.

  3. I think GB will go with 7 in the back. I see him taking 3 CFs.
    Why are we picking players because of “experience”. These young ones already have experience in the Champions. Experience the older ones only dream playing.

  4. Please, no more Zardes! I would prefer virtually anybody else. For center back, keep an open mind on Mark McKenzie who is strong, smooth, and smart (but as a Union fan, I may be biased).

    • The constant anti-Zardes memes show a total lack of critical thinking. Of the other forwards mentioned, probably none are as fast as Zardes. Zardes is also good in the air. When we play most CONCACAF teams they will play bunker defenses. There are 2 basic ways to counter that. You can have speedy forwards to get behind defenders or you can bring the ball down the flanks and cross for a forward to try and head the ball in. Zardes is good on both those types of attack. Under Klinsmann Zardes played winger so he can also fill in there. Zardes probably plays more defense than any other attacker. He is often helping out the midfielders on defense. Finally, over the last 3 years he has scored more goals in MLS than any other American. There is a reason he has almost 60 caps over the last 6 years (and that’s with losing a year due to injuries).

  5. Zardes scores off of his face against minnows. His first touch is atrocious. There’s no reason for him to even be in this discussion. Beerholder’s stubbornness in using him needs to be called out. I’d rather see Cade Cowell in there. He’s already better than Zardes will ever be.

    • It’s almost like you think scoring of his face was a bad thing. As well as holding beer is a bad thing. Josh, both these things are positives. I’m beginning to worry about you after all these years.

    • How do you NOT call in the player with the most goals scored with his face into the team? Has Pulisic ever scored with his face off the crossbar? Has Reyna? He just adds another dimension. If USMNT is ever up four goals in the first half and must get that fifth and deciding goal in the first 45, he’s your man

    • When Dempsey’s face was broken in the 2014 Cup in Brazil, he knocked it in with his d!ck instead.

      You use what’s there. Style points are for the guys on the couch.

  6. If Barnsley makes the promotion final, and Bremen has to go to the relegation playoff, Siebatcheu is our best European based striker available vs Switzerland and he makes the team by default.
    I hope to see the return of Yedlin. He and Brooks can pass on invaluable knowledge to the young players on what it takes to win in CONCACAF. AAAND he can still play.
    Horvath deserves a shot. He looked good for the US in the past. A good game against Switzerland and maybe that earns him a transfer to a club team where he could start. Yea he is a back up, but he is a backup to the number 1 goalie in Belgium. For some reason that is held against him.

    • I believe Horvath’s contract is up at the end of the season, so a transfer isn’t required. A good performance in a game or 2 could boost his ability to find a new club where he’ll have a chance to start again.

    • There is a theory that it’s not Horvath’s club situation but in fact that Berhalter doesn’t think he is as good as Steffen. That would seem to be confirmed by Steffen being played by Man City and Horvath only playing when Mignolet had Covid. Brugge tried several times to replace Horvath before they signed Minolet so it isn’t as if he was playing outstanding and just got replaced by a local favorite.


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