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23 for 2022: Projecting the USMNT World Cup roster (January Edition)

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The year U.S. men’s national team fans have been waiting for ever since their team missed out on the 2018 World Cup is finally here, and while the trauma of missing out on the previous tournament might make some fans wary of looking too far ahead, USMNT supporters have plenty of reason to believe their team will be in Qatar when action begins in November.

The Americans are off to a good start in World Cup qualifying, and while there is still work to be done, Gregg Berhalter’s side is a clear favorite to secure a World Cup berth, and could get very close with a strong showing in the next set of qualifiers, starting January 27 against El Salvador.

SBI is bringing back an old tradition where we project the USMNT World Cup roster each month leading up to the tournament, to give fans a sense of where the team stands, and to highlight the players we can see playing their way into the picture.

The projected USMNT World Cup squad isn’t meant to be the 23-man roster that would make the tournament if it began today, but rather a look ahead at how we see the roster coming together with the remaining months ahead, and factoring in how the player pool is evolving.

There are plenty of things that can change between now and November, from injuries to the emergence of new players, and the loss of form and/or playing time, but SBI will provide a monthly projection to offer a sense of where things stand as we get closer to the 2022 World Cup.

Here is the January edition of SBI’s Projected USMNT World Cup squad:


Goalkeepers


Zack Steffen, Matt Turner, Sean Johnson

This trio is locked in right now, and as long as Ethan Horvath is stuck on the bench at Nottingham Forest it is unlikely this group changes if it stays healthy.

The big debate will continue to be whether Steffen remains the top choice or if Turner can overtake him. Sean Johnson is coming off a career year and has solidified his place in the top three.

Missed the Cut: Ethan Horvath, Bill Hamid


Defenders


Sergiño Dest, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Antonee Robinson, George Bello, Chris Richards, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin

There are plenty of good battles to be fought in the coming months in the defensive positions. Central defender is pretty wide open, with John Brooks currently on the outside of Berhalter’s plans. He remains part of our projection because we see him playing his way back into the picture and Berhalter will want to have at least a couple of players with some World Cup experience.

It won’t be easy though, not with a wave of young talents making their own cases, such as James Sands and Mark McKenzie. Aaron Long will eventually be back fully healthy and could play his way back into the conversation too.

DeAndre Yedlin makes the cut as the second right back, behind Sergiño Dest, though Joe Scally’s emergence will definitely put pressure on that spot. Yedlin’s World Cup experience has to be seen as a plus, and if he is still playing at a high level come the fall, that could give him the edge as one of the veterans Berhalter calls on.

Could Jonathan Gomez be a wild card as a left back? He’s heading to Spain to join Real Sociedad, and while making the jump to a La Liga first team is a steep one, Scally’s success in Germany has shown us that it isn’t impossible for an American teenager to find success as a fullback in Europe.

George Bello gets the nod as Antonee Robinson’s primary backup at left back, but Sam Vines might actually have the current edge with his consistent minutes for Royal Antwerp. The Bello-Vines battle will be a good one to follow, especially if Bello winds up making a winter move to Europe.

Missed the Cut: Joe Scally, Reggie Cannon, Mark McKenzie, James Sands, Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, Sam Vines, Jonathan Gomez


Midfielders


Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Gianluca Busio, Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta

The starting trio of McKennie, Adams and Musah is pretty set, but the other spots in midfield are very much open. Busio has found success in Italy, but it hasn’t translated into many USMNT minutes yet. Lletget and Acosta have settled in as Berhalter favorites, but can they hold off younger options in the pipeline, like Richie Ledezma, Alex Mendez and Cole Bassett if they start to thrive in Europe in the coming months?

Something else to consider is that there are some top options capable of playing in midfield or on the wing, such as Gio Reyna and Brenden Aaronson, so the midfield pool has to contend with the potential competition coming from the winger pool. If enough in-form wing options emerge, Berhalter could choose to slide an Aaronson and/or Reyna into midfield spots.

Missed the Cut: Luca De La Torre, Richie Ledezma, Cole Bassett, Alex Mendez, Tanner Tessmann


Forwards


Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Ricardo Pepi, Brenden Aaronson, Tim Weah, Daryl Dike

Most of these names are easy to see being locked in if healthy and in form, but we know how tough it has been for that group to stay healthy, so depth will be important as we get closer to the World Cup.

The striker position is one to watch intently, with Josh Sargent struggling to score goals and Daryl Dike completing a move to West Bromwich Albion. If Dike can continue to score goals in England, he will put himself into contention to be Ricardo Pepi’s primary backup for the USMNT, and even potentially challenge to start if Pepi struggles with his move to Bundesliga side Augsburg.

Sargent could very well still play his way back into the picture, not only as a member of the team but as a potential starter again, but he needs to start scoring goals for Norwich City. Jordan Pefok is also a player who shouldn’t be written off, particularly if Dike and Pepi don’t thrive with their new teams.

The winger positions could be a crowded bunch, with Jordan Morris a very strong candidate to challenge for a place if he can stay healthy and regains his pre-injury form. Konrad De La Fuente is an intriguing prospect who has shown glimpses on the club level, but has yet to make a real statement with the USMNT. There is also Matthew Hoppe, who is struggling for consistent playing time, but has the talent to make a surge up the depth chart if he can start earning some regular minutes.

Missed the Cut: Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok, Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Konrad De La Fuente, Cristian Roldan, Paul Arriola, Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes


What do you think of this 23-man roster? Who missed the cut that you would want to see on the team? Who made the squad that you are happy to see included?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. I have a fix for all this. 4 4 2 with Pulisic as a second forward. We have midfield players who can cover a lot of ground. Play them in a line and move Pulisic up.
    Pulisic Pefok
    Reyna Musah Mckennie Aaronson
    Dest Robinson Richards Adams
    Steffen

    Reply
    • I fine with this but Adams for Musah. For me…Adams must be on the field. People hate the 442 but but keeping it simple is often the best medicine.

      Reply
    • I like Aaronson, but I rate Weah higher…especially if you’re advocating a 4-4-2 where you need/want some speed down the touchline.
      Personally, I’d prefer a 4-2-3-1 as I think it aligns more to the strengths of our player pool. It’d get Pulisic, Reyna, & Weah on the field together in places where their talents can best influence the game. McKennie can still be a threat as a late runner and/or dribbling out of the midfield when in possession but provides defensive coverage for our outside backs who still struggle with consistency while defending.
      This also gives us some great options off the bench who can be rotated without a significant drop in talent…Musah, Aaronson, Busio, Morris/Konrad, Scally.

      Reply
      • Like the feedback. My primary reason for 4 4 2 is to get Pulisic further up the pitch and cover for him in midfield, where we have depth. I would prefer the 4 2 3 1 if not for our striker problem, which is what this post is about.

  2. The USMNT striker pool seems to mirror Chelsea’s at the moment. There are some pretty quality bodies that should be producing that are not. Is it the system or them simply not producing. Pepi started off like a shot but like Sargent has cooled off in the nat’s shirt. We are hearing the same things about him as we have in the past with Sargent – great work rate, being in the right places, etc. Dike also started out on fire and then cooled. It should be interesting seeing how these guys all pan out over the next months. I’m in real WAFO moment with all of them. At least one will hopefully emerge as a consistent threat – if not you know who may sneak a roster spot and we will have heads blown all over the plac (hint: rhymes with bassy bardess)

    Reply
    • WAAAAY too early to say Pepi and Dike have “cooled off” or “dropped off” any.

      I got the sense Pepi was showing he was 18 and showing late-season fatigue there towards the end of the year Dike hit the wall this summer after not having an offseason because he was on loan in England and then getting a knock in Gold Cup…he sputtered along for awhile, got a bit of a break, healed up, and started finding the back of the net again.

      Sargent’s problem is he has no nose for goal, never has. Pepi and Dike are natural finishers. I really don’t see them as equivalent talents.

      Players don’t stay hot for 12 straight months, and they do tend to hit the wall late on in the season. If they don’t get a break that slump will almost invariably come at some point during the playing season. This is a big part of why that World Cup-every-two-years thing is insane.

      Reply
      • It’s not WAAAY too early. It’s what has happened. Like facts, man. I’m not saying it’s forever but with a snapshot in time – which is right now – ZERO of the strikers are in good form except maybe Pefok.

    • My 2 Cents…
      Pepi – It’s expected that an 18 yr old will go through some ups & downs. When he’s hot he’s possibly our best all around option. I’m hoping he’ll have service at his new club, because if he doesn’t he might go cold.
      Dike – Had a few knocks this season which slowed his production. He’s more the traditional target man poacher, so he’s not going to create his own chances. That said for the physical CONCACAF region and for a late game change when we need a goal I like him as an option. When healthy he adds a little something that the others don’t. But we loose some of the interplay ability.
      Sargent – Lacks service & confidence in front of goal with his club. Otherwise has all the intangibles we’d want in a CF (high press, connectivity, off ball movement). I still believe that with the US A-Team he could be very effective and if he gains confidence with the US it could help his production at the club level.
      For the January window I’d bring all 3…Give Pepi the start away against Canada. Give Sargent the start at home against either El Salvador. If he does well start him against Honduras in the 3rd match as well. If he does poorly sub him out for Pepi. Dike gets mop-up minutes in the 2nd & 3rd matches if we’ve got the game in hand.

      Zardes is out of season and has been a poor performer as of late. I see no reason for him to be in the January squad at all.

      Reply
      • This article is projecting the WC squad for this Nov…if the decision was to be made today. None of the strikers are in good form.

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