The U.S. Men’s National Team Gold Cup roster is a week from being revealed, and the long list of names on the preliminary roster has turned into a long list of players pushing hard to secure the final places on Gregg Berhalter’s 23-man squad.
It has been known for some time that the USMNT Gold Cup squad would be predominantly made up of MLS players, but with Berhalter including eight foreign-based players on the preliminary list, there is even more pressure on the fringe MLS-based prospects to step up their performances as the June 30 deadline draws closer.
There are MLS players who are pretty much locks to make the Gold Cup squad, such as USMNT regular Sebastian Lletget, long-time pool options Cristian Roldan and Kellyn Acosta, and expected contributors such as Matt Turner and Miles Robinson, but then there are several fresh faces who made the preliminary roster and are enjoying good runs of form as we head toward decision day.
Here is a look at the players who have done the most in recent weeks and months to strengthen their cases, and those players who have seen their chances of being part of the Gold Cup squad diminish more recently.
Gold Cup stock rising
Gianluca Busio. The Sporting Kansas City midfielder gets better by the week, and as much as transfer rumors swirl, he isn’t leaving MLS before the Gold Cup, and with Berhalter looking for central midfield alternatives, Busio has given him enough reason to give him a call-up.
Caden Clark. You might expect Clark to be on the stock falling list due to his recent appendectomy, and the reality that it could wind up costing him a chance to be on the Gold Cup squad, but the reality is his play had put him squarely on the Gold Cup radar and he still might find his way onto Gregg Berhalter’s team.
Julian Araujo. Competition is fierce at right back in the USMNT player pool overall, and in the Gold Cup player pool, but Araujo has continued to improve in 2021, and his status as a dual national with interest from Mexico should have Berhalter dialing him up soon.
Hassani Dotson. One of the bright spots of the failed U.S. Olympic qualifying tournament squad, Dotson has established himself as a regular starter for Minnesota United and he brings a combination of dynamism and versatility that could make him an ideal person for the end of the roster.
George Bello. Natural left backs have long been difficult to find in the USMNT player pool, but there are some very talented teenagers making their mark in MLS at the position, including Bello, who has settled into a regular starting role for Atlanta United and looks more and more like someone for Berhalter to bring in for a closer look. He has the speed, attacking qualities, and improving defense to eventually challenge for a national team place, and the reality is if not for Atlanta United blocking multiple national team opportunities for its players, Bello might have had more national team looks by now.
Kevin Paredes. If Berhalter is going to be looking at using wingbacks at the Gold Cup, then he might like what he has seen from D.C. United teenager Kevin Paredes as a left wingback for DCU. The 18-year-old is quick and can threaten getting forward, but he’s also still pretty raw in the grand scheme of things, and he’s probably still behind Bello in the left back pecking order, and Bello has also had a strong 2021 season so far.
Gold Cup stock falling
Cade Cowell. Absolutely red-hot when the MLS season began, Cowell has since cooled off, and with the strong competition at the forward position, Cowell feels less like lock than he might have been a month ago. That being said, the lack of wing options in the pool, coupled with his ability to play out wide should keep the 17-year-old on Berhalter’s radar.
Henry Kessler. One of the top rookies in MLS in 2020, Kessler earned a USMNT call-up and eventually took part in the Olympic qualifying tournament. He had his struggles there, and has since found himself losing a once rock-solid grip on a starting role with New England. His size and passing skills will keep him on the radar, but the Gold Cup now feels like it’s slipping away from him this time around.
Paxton Pomykal. It has been grueling road back from injury for the once high-flying prospect, who seemed destined for great things in 2019, but has spent much of the past two years dealing with setbacks. He has been earning some regular minutes off the bench for FC Dallas, but he has yet to re-establish himself as anything close to a 90-minute player, and may have to look ahead to 2022 before he can fight his way back into the national team picture.
Jonathan Lewis. Berhalter loves a fast winger, and his interest in Lewis is well documented, having given the Rapids winger multiple call-ups during his tenure. This year started out with Lewis showing well with the USMNT, scoring two goals in a romp over Trinidad & Tobago, but he didn’t parlay that into a strong season with the Rapids, or a good showing with the Olympic qualifying team. He still shows flashes at times, and even scored a goal last week coming off the bench, but it’s tough to see Berhalter bringing him in again given his relative lack of minutes in 2021.
Chase Gasper. The Minnesota United left back isn’t on this list because he’s had a bad season — the truth is he’s been pretty steady — but what he hasn’t been is very dynamic and in a competition at left back where the likes of George Bello and Sam Vines (and more recently Kevin Paredes) have shown dynamic qualities, Gasper has looked more like a player with significantly less upside than the other left backs in the pool
What do you think of these lists? Who has impressed you this season that you can see being a surprise inclusion? Who do you think has played their way out of the picture?
Share your thoughts below.