Gregg Berhalter called up a larger-than-normal U.S. men’s national team roster for upcoming World Cup qualifiers, but that extra size wasn’t enough to keep several prominent names from missing the cut.
There were some absences due to injury (Gio Reyna) and Covid (Gianluca Busio), but there were others that are down to Berhalter’s preferences, and some of those could be best described as surprising.
The John Brooks omission wasn’t that surprising this time around now that the novelty of his status as an outcast has worn off. It was still a surprise to some given his improving form at Wolfsburg, but it has become clear that Berhalter is focused on other central defense options, meaning Brooks is looking at a tough road back.
Another player who has been waiting for a return is Josh Sargent, and his omission from the latest USMNT roster had been public for a matter of minutes before Sargent scored his first two English Premier League goals to end a lengthy goal drought.
Something to consider before diving into the biggest names missing from the latest USMNT roster is that there could be some cases of players who were left out due to their Covid situation, whether a recent infection or incomplete vaccinations. Gianluca Busio was identified as one player who was originally called in only to have a COVID positive rule them out.
Here is a closer look at some of roster decisions Berhalter made, and the potential logic behind some of the choices:
Mark McKenzie over John Brooks
John Brooks has been in better form for Wolfsburg, and has started four straight in league play, though Wolfsburg has continued to struggle. The steady playing time hasn’t done enough to convince Berhalter to bring him back into the fold, sticking with McKenzie, who has made the most of his opportunities with the USMNT.
If there was a surprise, it was because of McKenzie’s lack of playing time at Genk before this past weekend, when he made his first start of the new year. Ultimately, Berhalter hasn’t forgotten that Brooks struggled against Canada and Honduras last September, and decided McKenzie is a better fit as a quicker defender.
Is this the end for Brooks as a USMNT player? Berhalter is continuing to be diplomatic about things, but it feels more and more like Berhalter is okay going with younger and more athletic centerbacks, and it will take Brooks recapturing his dominant form of a year ago to force his way back into the USMNT picture.
Reggie Cannon over Sam Vines
These two don’t play the same position, but clearly if Vines had been called in over Cannon, then Dest could focus on playing right back. Cannon’s return shouldn’t be all that surprising given the fact he has re-established himself as a regular starter at Boavista, where he has been playing well.
You can make an argument that Vines could have been called in ahead of Yedlin given Yedlin’s recent lack of playing time at Galatasaray, which he is expected to leave this month, but Berhalter wasn’t about to leave Yedlin’s experience off the roster. He has called on Yedlin in multiple situations where he has come through with solid outings.
Brooks Lennon over Joe Scally
Scally’s rapid rise at Borussia Moenchengladbach was one of the stories of the Fall, and his integration into the USMNT was highly-anticipated even though he is still just 18. Unfortunately for Scally, he contracted Covid early in January, and it kept him out action.
In steps Brooks Lennon, who took part in December and early-January USMNT camps and showed enough to earn a call-up as an extra fullback on a roster with a total of four players who are right backs.
So why would Berhalter go with Lennon over Scally? Scally has the edge in versatility, and you can make the case for him being better defensively, but Lennon has better attacking qualities, and Berhalter would most likely be looking for some attacking punch off the bench and could use Lennon as a late-game option.
Jesus Ferreira over Josh Sargent
This decision wasn’t that surprising given Sargent’s goal-less rut prior to Friday’s outburst, and Ferreira’s inclusion in the November USMNT qualifying roster, but it still merited scrutiny even before Sargent’s brace.
Not having a true striker backup in November was a bit puzzling, though clearly Berhalter wanted to have another chance to look at Ferreira as a false nine. Ferreira’s return for the full January squad suggests Berhalter liked what he saw, and the inclusion of Gyasi Zardes as a more traditional back-up striker gave Berhalter some additional cover to continue his experiment.
It was easy enough to write off Sargent’s exclusion to his lack of goals before Friday, but the fact he was continuing to earn starts should have earned him a call-back, even if he has spent more time in a wide role for Norwich City lately.
If Sargent can build off his recent goals, then a March return is well within reach. After all, it was just a year ago when he was the USMNT’s first-choice striker.
Gyasi Zardes over Daryl Dike
This one seems silly to point out now after Dike’s recent injury, which will keep him out for two months, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Zardes was called up ahead of Dike before the injury.
Did Dike deserve a look after an outstanding MLS season and quick integration into the West Bromwich lineup? You can absolutely make an argument for it, but it is also fair to assume Berhalter preferred to go with Zardes’ experience and greater familiarity with the USMNT system. This despite Zardes not playing much in the final quarter of 2021 due to injury.
Dike’s injury will cost him his chance at finally making a World Cup qualifying appearance, but he is very much a player who will be eyeing a jump ahead of Zardes on the USMNT depth chart as we draw closer to the World Cup later this year.
What did you think of these roster decisions? What player were you must unhappy with being left off the USMNT squad? Which of these decisions do you consider to be the least controversial?
Share your thoughts below.
berhalter mentioned that one criteria was vaccination status based on a canadian travel restriction.
in terms of the switchers, we have to signal interest and then they respond. sometimes it takes time. i was pushing pefok as far back as 2018 when sarachan apparently asked after him, as well as the tillmans and others. pefok took a couple years. i bring up signaling because my sense of this coach is he doesn’t make special effort to secure a dual national unless they put up a fuss and he is receptive. this is not a “cap and forget” type who ties down players strategically. under klinsmann i am sure the tillmans would have been chased and capped regardless of their longer term NT prospects.
John Brooks has proven he’s not a fly-in-for-qualifying-window kind of player. However, give him a camp and tournament and he’s dominant.
Stating the obvious. 5-10 years could we have imagined having folks starting in tope leagues in Europe and not making the US roster. I could not have.
DD is out for a while with injury issues. Josh Sargent just scored two goals in one EPL game. I’m not sure your other guys are even Eligible to play for the USA
Your right dike is out, but zardes was picked before the injury happened. Sargent should be in there, he deserves it but apparently Ferrara deserves it more? And yes they. Are all eligible to play for us.
Technically Tillman is not because he has not filed a switch but it would just be a matter of pushing paperwork. I haven’t heard anywhere he’s interested in that though. He represented Germany at UEFA Youth tournaments.
I’d agree it’s probably time to bring Sargent back in but you can’t use his 2 goals after the roster submission to justify it. He was off form and has a newborn at home I could see why USMNT would say see you in March recharge with the fam this window.
I can understand Brooks Lennon being invited for his offensive abilities. But leaving a player as versatile as Scally off completely, especially with only one true left back is nuts.
John brooks for McKenzie I guess I can see. Brooks is so slow and got caught so badly last time he played for us his passing quality is not worth the defensive liability on quick countering teams.
Zardes over DD to me seemes inappropriate. DD was playing for his club and in good form zardes is not. Pretty easy.
I would have rather seen tessman and or Timmy Tillman take Sebastian or Roldans place. Neither of them provide enough to merit another look and should not come close to our World Cup roster but these guys are in mid season form and playing well.
Scally had covid and missed more training than the typical 10 days and since has had two short sub appearances. You can infer that it hit him a little harder, That’s all speculation though and it was over the holidays so maybe that isn’t it at all.
Dike had one sub appearance before the roster came out and of course suffered a significant injury in his 2nd appearance. Zardes was better (marginally) during GC and the two had near identical stats in the same league. Dike can give the spectacular, Zardes gives you the consistent his high isn’t as high but his low isn’t as low as Dike’s off nights.
I have no idea why Roldan and Lleget are there. I don’t think either Tillman has filed a switch though. With unlimited roster why not bring Tanner and maybe Sonora though. I guess Sonora hasn’t played for month and was blocked by his club from December camp.