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USMNT November roster takeaways: Ferreira’s striker chance, centerback shakeup and more

Gregg Berhalter unveiled some surprises when the U.S. men’s national team roster was released on Thursday, both at striker and centerback, and as unexpected as some of his choices were, a closer look at them reveals some clues of what the USMNT coach will have his team do in November.

The exclusion of John Brooks from the squad was the most surprising of the omissions, but just as surprising was Berhalter’s decision not to bring any of Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok or Daryl Dike to serve as Ricardo Pepi’s backup at striker, choosing instead to bring in Pepi’s club teammate Jesus Ferreira, a far different kind of player than the target strikers who were left out.

When Berhalter noted that Tim Weah was another option if the team needed another striker, it shed more light on what feels like a clear desire by the USMNT coach to have more mobile options in the target role in his front three.

The same holds true at centerback, where both John Brooks and Tim Ream were left out, with younger and faster options in Chris Richards and Mark McKenzie being given the nod.

Sergiño Dest’s absence due to injury was a major development, but the calling up of Joe Scally helped ease some of the fears of the Barcelona player’s absence. Scally hasn’t played a single USMNT match yet, but his performances in the Bundesliga have him coming into his first national team camp with high expectations.

Here is a closer look at some of the key takeaways from the USMNT November roster announcement:

Striker shakeup paves way for Ferreira return

Photo by Michael Janosz/ISI Photos

When the question of Sargent or Pefok was answered with “Neither” in October, the belief was that Gyasi Zardes’ subsequent injury would pave the way for either Josh Sargent or Jordan Pefok to return in November. When Daryl Dike started scoring goals regularly for Orlando City again, the new question became “Sargent, Pefok or Dike?”.

Few would have expected Berhalter to answer that one with “None of the above” but that’s what he did, choosing instead to call up Jesus Ferreira as Ricardo Pepi’s primary backup at the striker role.

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise as some thought given Ferreira’s form in MLS, where he has compiled six goals and five assists in his past 13 matches. That, coupled with his impressive showings in limited opportunities with the USMNT gave Berhalter the confidence to bring him in ahead of the other more natural striker options.

“When you look at Jesus’ body of work with the national team, he’s been playing number nine,” Berhalter said on Thursday. “And we think in his performances, albeit against lesser opponents, we really liked what he did it the number nine position, really strong performances.

“We know he’s a guy that can link play,” Berhalter added. “We know he’s a guy that arrives in the penalty box. We know he’s a guy that leads the line defensively to build pressure. And he’s been an outstanding form and Dallas.

“We know he’s been playing more of an attacking midfielder role but Jesus has the type of intelligence, the game intelligence, that makes him able to adapt to a position very easily.”

Berhalter also mentioned Tim Weah and Christian Pulisic as alternative options to slot into the striker role if needed, with Pulisic having played as a false-nine for Chelsea in the past.

What is clear from this shift in approach to the striker position is an emphasis on having players in the number nine role who have the ability and willingness to press effectively from the front. Ricardo Pepi has shown in a short time not only his nose for goal, but also his desire to ability to press effectively, which is something neither Pefok or Dike are known for. Sargent is capable of providing pressure from the front, but his continued struggles with scoring goals has kept him off the squad this time around.

Centerback group gets younger and faster

A desire to field a quicker team was evident in Berhalter’s centerback choices for the November qualifiers.

For all of Brooks’ quality, there is no denying he is slow on the turn, and he was badly exposed in September’s qualifiers, leaving Berhalter to consider whether to tap into his younger and faster centerback options in the pipeline.

The fact that Tim Ream was also left off the squad is in line with this theory. Ream has been a regular call-up by Berhalter, but after pulling out of consideration in October for personal reasons, he has now been left out again despite being in very good form with Fulham.

Miles Robinson is the lock starter in the bunch, and should be expected to start both November qualifiers if healthy. Berhalter could then choose to start Walker Zimmerman against Mexico while Chris Richards starts against Jamaica.

Scally earns his first USMNT call

The last-minute removal of Sergiño Dest from consideration for the squad due to a back injury had to feel like an awful tease, losing an in-form player who was the USMNT’s best performer in the October window, but he can take some solace in other developments at the fullback position, starting with the arrival of Joe Scally.

Twelve straight starts in all competitions for Bundesliga side Borussia Moenchengladbach has Scally locked in and in excellent form, but this is still his first USMNT camp, and adapting could take time.

What is clear is that Scally’s play impressed Berhalter, who acknowledged in October that Scally nearly called up in last month’s window.

“If you look at what’s changed from month to month, he’s he’s played in another, another five Bundesliga games, a Cup game,” Berhalter said of Scally. “They beat Bayern Munich 5-0, he had an assist the other day. And this is what we’re looking at is how is the player performing. When we see him going against (Leroy Sane), or Alphonso Davies on the side, he’s being tested, and he’s standing up to these tests. And for us it was just gathering enough information.

“He’s a young player, we wanted to see him performing consistently at a high level and he’s done that.”

As high as expectations may be for the 18-year-old, the presence of veterans at both fullback spots should ease some of the pressure on him. To be clear, Scally hasn’t been called in with the expectation of starting, but a good showing in camp next week could help him get on the field in November and earn his first cap.


  1. So did Ream and Brooks all of a sudden get slower in the past 2 months since the Gold Cup? It seems to be that it doesn’t take a highly paid expert to determine whether or not your centerbacks are fast enough to play in the qualifiers, yet here we are switching up in the middle of the tournament. I am curious if other teams are overhauling as well or if it just us.

    • I am wondering the same thing. After watching parts of several Fulham games, Ream seems in good form. He is very accurate on his passing. He is not perfect, but in the most recent match against Blackburn, he was better than Robinson, who gave the ball away very cheaply a couple of times trying to dribble forward–just touching it too far ahead of him. I quit watching when Blackburn went down to 10 men, so this is just based on first half action.

    • Who’s switching? Brooks hasn’t played in any of our last three games. Ream hasn’t played in any of our last five games.

    • Look listen and learn …Greg berhalter is not a good enough coach to the usmnt he is. Making to many mistakes believe me there’s a lot of stars and stripes or should I say there’s many but he just can’t make them shine …pulisic and many more but he just stick with the ones that really don’t shine …

  2. I am not so sure rhat Scally won’t start vs Mexico. It is not so much that he has started at his club, but rather the top quality players he has defended effectively. I do not think that facing Mexico is any tougher than defending against Bayern.

    • I’m not so sure Scally *shouldn’t* start versus Mexico by virtue of that reasoning, but I just don’t see it. I think Berhalter tends to be more conservative than that in his decision making and expect Yedlin to get the start.

      It may come down to whether we play three centerbacks with wingbacks or a traditional back four. Scally has played most (if not all?) of his minutes as a wingback. If we play a back four, we might want to make sure we play the most defensively sound option at our disposal.

      • Dest started his first cap, Reyna started his first cap, Musah started his first cap. Started Pepi in his first cap. When talented players have been available he’s thrown them right in.

      • According to Transfermkt 540 mins as a FB, 600 as a WB. Of course 450 minutes at FB came before Oct. 1., but I doubt he forgot how in a month.

      • Those are interesting numbers. I’ve seen most of him at wingback and he really seems to get forward well. But if he seems to be equally adept in both roles, I’d certainly say he’s got a strong case to start against Mexico.

        The “But it’s CONCACAF” argument tends to factor less into consideration in a home match in Ohio than it would in, say, Guatemala City.

    • “I do not think that facing Mexico is any tougher than defending against Bayern.”

      It could be, if you don’t have your BMGladbach teamates with you.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’ll be fine but don’t underestimate the culture shock he’ll be facing having the likes of Acosta, Lletget and Ariolla supporting him as opposed to what he is used to.

      BMG is a pretty well oiled machine.

      This USMNT is not.

      • Honestly though his BM squad would handle any team ever in the history of the USMNT, including our A lineup. At least the one that beat Bayern not the one that lost to Hertha, Union, and Augsburg.

    • I pointed out the same thing in the past about Antonee Robinson when Fulham was in the EPL. Whether it’s Liverpool, Man City, or Bayern, no team in CONCACAF and no players in CONCACAF approach the quality of those teams or players like Sane, Lewandowski, Saleh, etc. There are some people here who think the level of competition a player is exposed to week in and week out isn’t that important. That makes no sense to me. I think the main thing holding Scally back would be his lack of playing time with the team and his lack of exposure to CONCACAF DIFFICULTIES.

      • I agree, especially for a defender, the measure of success is the quality of the players you defend effectively. Any of the US candidates can defend in the MLS quite effectively, but, how many have been successful against the likes of Sane or Davies? Right now, Scally seems to be facing the best and doing well. He may not have the attacking prowress of Dest, but he is defending better. I don’t think he would hurt the US defensively. Feel free to wonder why Yedlin is no longer in England.; the Turkish league is not the Bundesliga.
        Of course it would be nice if Scally at least knows a little bit about his teammates, that is the only reason he might not start vs Mexico. it is a “home” game so some of the CONCACAF issues are reduced.

      • Gary, your comments seem to lack some fundamental understanding, I’m sorry to say. Do you really really think the people of Brazil are excited about not having won a World Cup in close to 20 years? Their players all play in the best leagues around the world, against the best competition, week in and week out. What gives? Member when you were a kid and Pele was at Bayern Munich, and garrincha was playing for Liverpool? Yeah, me neither

      • Dennis, I’m really curious why you would put home, in home game, in quotation mark? Do you think more Mexico fans might be in Cincinnati, for a World Cup qualifier? Tix for the Mexico game in cincy are more than double what they were in Columbus

      • “There are some people here who think the level of competition a player is exposed to week in and week out isn’t that important.”

        That’s not really the point.

        I’m more concerned about who Scally plays WITH, not against.
        Defense is a team game . And that’s what people should be more concerned with .

        For example , Manchester United’s Wan Bissaka is a fantastic one on one defender. But his manager and many of his teammates have only a rudimentary interest in defense. Consequently Man U’s defense sucks.

        If you start Scally at right back vs Mexico, will he be a quantum leap improvement over Dest? I doubt it. As an individual defender he’ll probably be just fine.

        But its probable that he’s doing well in Germany because he’s fit in well into a fine defense.

        The USMNT does not have a fine defense.

        Is Scally the kind of guy who raises the game of everyone around him? I don’t know but I would not expect too much from a right wingback, his primary position with BMG:

        Right Midfield 7
        Left-Back 4
        Right-Back 2

        Most players don’t really raise up this USMNT: usually they are brought down to it’s level.

        Scally should be just fine. He plays for a good team and has a good manager in Germany. He’s probably an upgrade over Kik Pierie.

        Just don’t expect too much from Joe.

      • Dikranovich,yes, I expect more Mexico fans than US fans to be in the stadium in Cincinnati. The price of the tickets will not discourage Mexican fans any more than US fans and might have the effect of selecting the most rabid fans to attend.

      • Well, I said that one thing holding Scally back would be lack of playing time with the team. There is a mention of Dest. He isn’t available for this game and I did not nor would I advocate putting Scally ahead of Dest. In fact, I don’t even advocate putting him, ahead of Yedlin. I was addressing whether or not he deserves to be called in and if he should get some playing time, not if he starts or displaces the other RB options. I guess I have to spell everything out since a lot of people want to read things into my comments that aren’t there. Finally, to compare US players and the US team to anything Brazilian in any way is ridiculous. You could say the same thing about Argentina, too. If you are going to compare, show me where one of those top teams plays a player from their lesser domestic league ahead of a player playing regularly in a top 4 league. Examples would be Holland, Argentina, and Brazil. Doubt you can find an example.

      • Everton Ribeiro plays for Flamengo and has played in most of Brazil’s matches in 2020 and 2021. Gabriel Barbosa also plays for Flamengo and has 3g for Brazil this year in Copa America and qualifiers. He did play a season and half for Inter and Porto playing 10 matches between the two but has been back in Brazil for awhile. Hulk for Brazil played 6 mins in Sept. after a long career all over the world but back in Brazil at 35. Daley Blind but of course he had a stint in England. Davy Klaassen would probably be considered the Sebastian Lleget of the Netherlands but he is at Ajax after being at Everton and Bremen. Steven Berghuis another attacker for the Netherlands played all but one season at the Eredivisie. So it’s not common but it’s not unheard of. I’m sure you could find some instances with teams like Denmark, Sweden, Scotland .

      • “There are some people here who think the level of competition a player is exposed to week in and week out isn’t that important”. Gary, those are your words. That’s what you believe. What does it even mean? Does it mean Pepi should not be playing over Sargent because one is playing against MLS competition while the other against EPL talent

        The Dutch have one major trophy. They won it the same year the #2 team in Holland won the top European club trophy. When MLS teams start winning continental club competitions, we are going to see our country do the best she’s ever done in a World Cup. Check out how many Asian club championship South Korean teams have won, and see how many of those revolve around 2002. Pretty much every World Cup is won by a nation whose domestic league has concurrently had a continental champion.

        Gary, Dennis thinks more Mexicans will be in the stands in cincy than USA fans. Maybe we need to get more young American players over to Europe and that will get more US fans into the stands🙃. Where, I’m not sure!! It’s as if there are USA “fans” that don’t want the USA to succeed. It’s very weird, and frankly disheartening. We need to forge ahead, in spite of this.

      • “show me where one of those top teams plays a player from their lesser domestic league ahead of a player playing regularly in a top 4 league. Examples would be Holland, Argentina, and Brazil. Doubt you can find an example.”

        The most famous example is Neymar.

      • Vacqui: I didn’t include Neymar because he was obviously on the way up. That’s why most people don’t complain about Pepi. People like to lavish praise on Tata but he left of Lainez and included several LigaMx players so it’s not just the US.

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