We are a week away from the U.S. Men’s National Team submitting its final 23-man roster for the Concacaf Gold Cup, and while we went through the exercise of trying to project the squad earlier in the month, there are a few reasons to go through the exercise one more time.
For starters, Concacaf has done away with its recent tradition of allowing roster changes after the group stage. The USMNT benefited from that rule on its way to the 2007, 2013 and 2017 Gold Cup titles, but will not have that luxury this time around.
The elimination of knockout round roster changes comes as a surprise, especially considering Concacaf’s decision to have teams submit up to a 60-man preliminary roster. It was mistakenly believed that the large preliminary roster would be better-suited to allow teams the flexibility of dealing with injuries and/or COVID-19 outbreaks, but instead, the large preliminary rosters will be rendered irrelevant in a week once final rosters are set.
The reality is the old roster change rule was a clear benefit to Concacaf powers Mexico and the United States, which both boast the kind of deep player pools (relative to Concacaf) to be able to take full advantage of being able to bring in reinforcements for the knockout rounds, whereas the rest of Concacaf rarely took advantage of the rule.
Berhalter will have to make do with 23 players he chooses one week from now, which could alter his decision-making process. Will he gamble on someone like Jozy Altidore, who hasn’t been playing and is injury-prone, when he won’t be able to replace him? Will Berhalter be less inclined to bring in more young prospects now that he won’t have the luxury of replacing them for proven veterans when the knockout rounds arrive?
Berhalter’s inclusion of several European-based player also adds some mystery to the squad, as we are left to ponder which of the Americans Abroad are realistic options. Julian Green, Matthew Hoppe and Reggie Cannon have all been identified as players who stand a very good chance of taking part, while Cameron Carter-Vickers and Erik Palmer-Brown would definitely add some quality to the centerback selection.
With all that in mind, here is a look at the 23-player USMNT Gold Cup roster we could see Berhalter call up when rosters are due to Concacaf on June 30:
Projected USMNT Concacaf Gold Cup roster
Matt Turner, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid
When neither Turner or Johnson were included in the Nations League setup it seemed clear they would both be part of the Gold Cup. Turner has continued to play well in 2021 after his breakout 2020 and looks like the favorite to start.
Who will be the third goalkeeper? The USMNT’s group stage matches are all being played in Kansas City, which would make Melia a reasonable pick. Not just for convenience’s sake, but because Melia has earned a look as one of the top MLS goalkeepers for several years.
Unfortunately for Melia, Bill Hamid is also in the conversation, and Hamid has been part of Berhalter’s setup many times before.
And what do we make of Brad Guzan’s inclusion? The veteran goalkeeper could be given a shot to make a run at the starting role, but would Guzan be interested in serving as a third goalkeeper at this point in his career?
Missed the Cut: Brad Guzan, Tim Melia
Reggie Cannon, Sam Vines, Julian Araujo, George Bello, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Erik Palmer-Brown, Cameron Carter-Vickers
The Reggie Cannon inclusion is a surprise, but given his desire to leave Boavista, having him take part in the Gold Cup makes plenty of sense, even if it makes a crowded right back pool even more crowded.
Now, if Cannon winds up not taking part, you have the in-form Aaron Herrera as well as European-based Shaq Moore, who has become a regular starter for Spanish second division side Tenerife and hasn’t had a USMNT look since 2018.
Centerback is particularly interesting, with European-based options Erik Palmer-Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers getting their chances to show they can compete for a spot in Berhalter’s top four central defenders. The Gold Cup would allow them to compete against MLS standouts Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman, and potentially boost their stock as they seek summer transfer/loan moves.
If Berhalter can’t secure Palmer-Brown and Carter-Vickers, he has some other promising options, including NYCFC’s James Sands, who is definitely worthy of a place, and Auston Trusty, who merits a look given his MLS form and standing as one of the few true left-footed centerbacks in the pool.
Justin Che is a promising prospect, but it’s a long shot for Berhalter to include the 17-year-old as one of his four central defenders.
Missed the Cut: Aaron Herrera, Kyle Duncan, Shaq Moore, Justin Che, James Sands, Auston Trusty
Sebastian Lletget, Julian Green, Kellyn Acosta, Jackson Yueill, Cristian Roldan, Gianluca Busio
The Julian Green inclusion is surprising only in that he is set to begin his season with newly-promoted Bundesliga side Gruether Fürth, but it is clear if Berhalter brings him to the Gold Cup it is with an eye towards giving him a chance to show he can earn a role in World Cup qualifying. If Green is open to a Gold Cup inclusion —and all signs point to that being the case — it speaks volumes about his desire to play his way back into the USMNT picture.
The rest of the midfield group consists of veterans, though you have to think Berhalter can find room for Busio, who is in outstanding form, and could be poised for a summer transfer to Europe.
If Berhalter isn’t ready to include Busio, then Eryk Williamson would be a worthy option, though his exclusion from the U.S. Olympic qualifying squad makes you wonder where he stands in the USMNT pecking order.
Missed the Cut: Johnny Cardoso, Leon Flach, Eryk Williamson, Cole Bassett, Djordje Mihailovic
Daryl Dike, Matthew Hoppe, Paul Arriola, Cade Cowell, Rubio Rubin, Caden Clark
We have long assumed that Daryl Dike would take part in the Gold Cup, but given all the striker options at hand, you have to wonder if Berhalter might let Dike have a break given the long year he has had between MLS, national team duty and his loan to Barnsley.
If Dike is part of the squad, then he’s a player who could be the showcase striker, but reports have Matthew Hoppe playing a role in the Gold Cup also. Whether Hoppe will operate purely as a striker, or be used in a wide role to give the team an added wing option, remains to be seen.
If Dike and Hoppe are the strikers then that means veterans Jozy Altidore and Gyasi Zardes would be ruled out. Altidore’s exclusion wouldn’t be the biggest shock given the fact he isn’t playing with Toronto FC, where he is essentially in exile while he waits a move away from the Canadian club. Zardes’ exclusion is more surprising, though it shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Zardes might not still have a part to play in World Cup qualifying. Berhalter knows Zardes all too well, and doesn’t need a Gold Cup to convince him that he can call on Zardes if he needs him.
Another option for Berhalter if he chooses not to bring in Dike is Nicholas Gioacchini, who impressed in the November friendlies.
The wing options are a bit thin, with Arriola the only pure winger in the group. Rubin has played on the wing before, and his excellent MLS form coupled with Guatemala’s attempts to lure him away from the USMNT picture would make including him for the Gold Cup a sensible maneuver. Caden Clark isn’t a traditional winger, but he can operate in that role in Berhalter’s 4-3-3 system, much like Brendan Aaronson has blossomed in that role.
If Berhalter finds himself wanting other wing options, then Corey Baird and Chris Mueller are the best of the rest of the natural wing options available.
Missed the Cut: Jozy Altidore, Gyasi Zardes, Nicholas Gioacchini, Corey Baird, Chris Mueller, Jeremy Ebobisse
What do you think of this group? Who made the cut that you were happy to see included? Who missed out that you feel should have made the team?
Share your thoughts below.