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
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
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
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
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
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.