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Gregg Berhalter points to Brooks’ USMNT form for November roster omission


The most surprising omission from the November’s U.S. men’s national team roster wasn’t Sergiño Dest or the strikers left off, but rather it was John Brooks, the veteran centerback who not too long ago was considered one of the mos irreplaceable players in the USMNT setup.

The Wolfsburg centerback has had a roller-coaster few months for both club and country, and his struggles during September’s qualifiers, coupled with his injury absence from the October qualifiers, opened the door for some other central defenders to make their case for climbing up the pecking order.

Those factors led USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter to leave Brooks out for November’s qualifiers against Mexico and Jamaica, going instead with the centerback quartet of Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Chris Richards and Mark McKenzie.

Regarding John Brooks, it was a really difficult decision,” Berhalter said. “And a lot of it was based on how we felt his performance was with the team, the last time he’s been performing.”

Brooks struggled in the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Canada in September, then followed that up with a terrible 45 minutes as a starter against Honduras, a performance so bad it led Berhalter to pull him from the lineup at halftime of a match that went from 1-0 Honduras to 4-1 USMNT in the second half.

Brooks’ September woes carried over to his form at Wolfsburg, where he was in and out of the lineup for the month after those forgettable qualifiers. Brooks eventually settled back into a regular starting role, but that came as Wolfsburg was in the midst of a five-match losing skid that ultimately cost then-Wolfsburg manager Mark Van Bommel his job.

Brooks showed some more promising signs in his most recent performances, helping Wolfsburg post consecutive wins, in Bundesliga action against Bayer Leverkusen and in a UEFA Champions League win against Wolfsburg on Tuesday.

“We saw him play midweek in the Champions League against Salzburg, he had a good game, and he’s working his way back into form,” Berhalter said. “I don’t assume that this is going to be his last time in the national team. I’m sure he’ll be back. And it’s just about regaining your form and performing at a high level when you get the opportunity.”

Brooks responded to the omission from the November USMNT squad in classy fashion, telling Fox Sports he is ready to keep working toward a return to the national team.

“The decision to leave me out of this camp isn’t surprising, given some of my recent performances for the USMNT that aren’t up to my standards,” Brooks told Fox Sports. “My job now is to work hard to be the very best I can be. I feel great about this week’s Champions League performance and my recent play with Wolfsburg, and will keep building on my performance there, until I reach my goal of helping the USMNT reach the next World Cup.”

Berhalter praised Brooks’ reaction to being omitted.

“That’s all you can ask for as a player’s response, right,” Berhalter said. “Normally what players do is they start picking off other players and saying, Well, this guy is doing this, this, and all John did was take accountability for his own performance. “

Miles Robinson is expected to start in central defense in both qualifiers, leaving the spot next to him up for grabs between veteran Walker Zimmerman, who was outstanding in the October win against Jamaica, and Chris Richards, who was solid in his first World Cup qualifying start in the win against Costa Rica.

“Walker, we know is a valuable leader on the team,” Berhalter said. “We know he’s a guy that can perform at a high level. We’re gonna be looking for the same thing in this window, both on and off the field he contributes, and it’s important that our whole backline is aggressive, is able to move forward is able to condense the field, is able to build out a back. We put a lot of pressure on our backline to be good both defensively and offensively. Walker certainly shown that he can play that role.”

Berhalter believes he’s bringing a strong and versatile collection of centerbacks to camp, with all four having played in important matches for the USMNT.

“Chris Richards has been playing well for Hoffenheim,” Berhalter said. “They gave him off last week, we’ll be back in the lineup this weekend. He’s played a lot of minutes and been doing a good job. You know, we liked his performance, for the most part against Costa Rica, we thought he did a good job.”

“Regarding Mark (McKenzie), Mark has had World Cup qualifying experience, playing in a couple of these games,” Berhalter said. “And for him, he has that athleticism, he has the ability to cover the backline is a very good 1-v-1 defender, and we feel if we’re going to be pressing high, he’s a good player to give us cover in this camp.”


  1. Okay so is Tyler Boyd Black balled!???? Why Roldan!!!! Is it MLS favortism?? I do not get it! Also why is it taken Jesus Ferreira so long to get another call up!!!!?????? He has potential to play DIV in Europle like Bundesliga, or Ligue 1 France, or Dutch league . Beerholder fails us again! SMH!

  2. This is now the second time GB has left a starting Champions League player completely off the roster the first was with Pefok earlier. I’m fine with players not starting etc but to completely leave Champions League caliber players off our roster seems insane. If the same form standards applied to Arriola, Roldan, Lleget, Zardes, etc that would make things different. Those others all have the same thing in common in an MLS contract. I hate bringing up the past but this inconsistency in applying the same standards does exist and suggests a bias.

    Again not starting a Champions League player is one thing but completely leaving them off the roster and using form as a pretext while the same standard is not applied to multiple players with a MLS contract is setting my warning signs off again. At least we’re playing relatively well so far but this MLS bias does exist and it holds our NT back from being its best.

  3. Sometimes your roles on 2 teams are different. Sometimes your skill set suits you to one situation and not the other. Sometimes a player slacks many nights for club but shows up to play for the NT. He needs to learn the TwellmanWondo (or conversely, Jozy) lesson that club and NT form don’t connect as much as he thinks. Like I’ve said 20x lately, Landon and Dempsey didn’t have to fend off “Wondo form” to keep their jobs. Attentive people noticed which ones did the NT thing well. The form fanatics’ religious belief that Wondo offered something led to the Belgium miss. When I am playing NT games I want people with histories of consistently making NT plays. The scouting input of club form earns you a cap to begin establishing a NT track record to be recalled. Club form scouting should not be a replacement proxy for doing your NT job. In short, you shouldn’t be starting based on scouting. And, last point, I think there is a psychological element at play here he won’t admit. That a disappointed GB may suddenly start seeing what I was already seeing in the B.1 games, similar glitches. I am not a fan of psychological hot and cold, or the form rollercoaster. Try to see players for what they are over a longer run. Moore’s club situation hasn’t affected his NT play and getting 1 out of 2 games a week doesn’t mean you’re out of shape or rusty. He looks better than Yedlin for their common team. Duh, call the one who looks better. Quit playing the naive, “but I thought he looked better in Turkey” tangents.

  4. This would be easier to swallow if he applied the same standards to Lletget, Acosta, Roldan and Arriola and Mckenzie. Sure, Brooks stunk it up vs. Canada and Honduras, but who didn’t? Using that as the reason, Brooks may never get another shot. since club form seems to only be taken into account when convenient. At least the USMNT didn’t lose those games, something that can’t be said for those who stunk up the Panama game and yet everybody is back from that fiasco. Brooks’ form has improved for club. Mckenzie sits on the bench. I guess this is as close as we get to an acknowledgement from GB that he is responsible for the loss in Panama since he clearly isn’t holding the worst performers there responsible.

    • I personally think NT performance should trump other selection factors. How do you play for the team for which you are being chosen? Apples to apples. I also agree with your broader point that we should apply the same standard(s) to players. I might agree or disagree with specific examples — some are “mixed bags” vs others who “suck” — but it shouldn’t be this sort of status quo-protecting approach where Steffen has no problem sitting for club or looking rusty for the NT but then others with more marginal status who look fine for the NT get dropped for club issues that haven’t been following them here. Re Brooks specifically, have to disagree. That one has been a personal hobby horse like Ream.
      Brooks plays a marking position and can’t mark well. Brooks has more bad USMNT games than good. The coach seems to be waking up to it. I can’t complain about that. I feel like we’re inching towards rationality. There are still too many goofy or reflex choices — and most historic NT coaches while they’d have 1 or 2 weird ones had fewer inexplicable “favorites” — but there are fewer than before. That’s progress. If he wants to close quali out and actually compete in Qatar then he needs to figure out who is dependable or not.

      • I mean like one easy, “solve it at the source” solution to the analytical problem others and I have noted — how to assess players with variable apparent performances but at different clubs at different levels of play — is put the weight on controlled, common team NT performance. I don’t have to compare the Spanish first with the Spanish second with the Turkish league with the Portuguese league, in light of their performance in those leagues, etc. I just pick the 2-3 ones who looked best for the NT on the same field. Leave the club analytical complications to scouting new players whose relative worth on the NT field isn’t yet known. But if Moore looks better than Yedlin for the NT I don’t care if Moore is part timing in the Spanish second and someone starting in Turkey in theory should be better. I have the direct NT comparison that departs from theory. Go with praxis over theory.

  5. IF I got to pick the formation and the players, I’d go 3-5-2 with Richards, Zimmerman, and M Rob. My wingbacks would be Jedi and Yedlin with Adams and McKennie holding the center midfield and Aaronson as the CAM with Pulisic and Pepi at forward.

  6. I actually have no problem with Brooks not being called in. He has been in really poor form since the start of this season on both club and national. However, why do Arriola, Roldan, Acosta, McKenzie and Lledget get automatic calls when all of those guys have been poor national and club level. Roldan actually been good for Seattle but only has 1 assist for the USMNT in the many games he has played. Acosta I will give a break cause he has at least played a couple of good games in the gold cup and nations league finals. McKenzie and Arriola are trash

  7. Delatorre has impressed every time he’s been given a few minutes. What about giving Sonora, Tillman, Tessman, and definitely Morris when he’s healthy a chance in midfield. Roldan and Llegett seem to be in slow motion ?

  8. We need midfield depth that can provide that can cover for Adams and provide a line breaking pass. Roldan, Llegett and Acosta are not the answer and yet they keep taking up valuable cap space.

  9. Well, Brooks did not do well in his last games for the USMNT and he did not do well in subsequent games at Wolfsburg. I would have been disappointed if he had been called in and even more upset if he played. Players need to be held accountable for their play. I don’t mean a benching for one bad outing, but Brooks had more than a couple bad games in quick succession. I wold not write him off, but rather wait for him to get his stuff together before calling him up.
    I am less enchanted with Roldan. He just seems a step too slow and has too little to offer at the international level. He is just fine against less talented teams, but better teams like Mexico, even El Salvadore are a bit much for him.
    I really think overlooking Dike is a mistake I would take him over Ferreira.

  10. GB is so arrogant. Why does he always try to get cute like this? They will never gel as a team if they can’t establish a core. Brooks is the definition of core. You have a solid veteran who started in the friggin champions league exactly two days ago. And you think you know better “based on recent form”? Come on. Would Italy leave Bonucci off the whole roster after a couple of bad games? Of course not, because why would you change your back line every game!! Who does that? And how was Ariola’s “form”? If we based call-ups on recent USMNT form we would literally not have a team to put on the field. Because of this crap coach.

    • When were Bonucci’s last two bad games? And when were they as bad as Brooks has been for club and country recently? I am also surprised, and I regularly criticize GGG, but I get this one.

      • I don’t know, really – it was a hypothetical. I think you need a core. Luckily, and oddly, defense hasn’t been our problem lately, so we might get away with it in the short term, but all the constant tweaking is getting annoying.
        I also find it troubling that GB praised him for his positive public comments – as if there were anything else he could say. What’s he going to do, call BS on camera? That praise was just an affirmation of his own power, a lot like what I used to get from my double-speaking corporate overlords.

      • That’s nice. Jamaica, at the time arguably the worst team in the Octagon.

        Big deal. A broken clock is right two times a day.

      • Arriola is fine at times but he’s has no business starting over Weah, Hoppe, Dela Fuente. And Choacini ! All those players can do more in the final third. For example score and assist.

      • Btw Arriola did not have a very good game vs Jamaica. He made one good run and got fouled before getting the ball. Thats all he did. Weah came off the bench and had way more of an impact then Arriola against Jamaica . What a false statment to say that Arriola had a very good game lol. What a joke

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