With new boss Gregg Berhalter officially at the helm the USMNT gets ready to kick off their January camp that concludes with two friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica. Berhalter released his 27- man (soon to be 28) roster this week and I absolutely hate it.
Traditionally this camp is heavily weighted with MLS players – seeing as their season is over – while our guys playing abroad are in the middle of their current campaigns. That being said having ALL 27 players come from the MLS and 3 from the Columbus Crew (where Berhalter coached the Crew through the end of this season) terrifies me. Arena did the same thing in 2017, which helps the point I am making rather than detracting from it.
With the ousting of Bruce Arena and Sunil Gulati (former US Soccer President), American fans hoped that the ways of the past were finally changing and a new dawn was rising on American Soccer.
Sadly, with many qualified, new, young candidates (shout out Kyle Martino) the federation elected Carlos Cordeiro, who served as Vice President under the previous regime. His first action item was to hire a new coach, a search that spanned over a year and led to the appointment of an MLS manager. Not exactly the swift action or massive shakeup supporters and players alike called for.
Furthermore, Berhalter’s brother, Jay, is one of US Soccer’s highest ranking officers (COO) and hired the new GM, Earnie Stewart, ex-teammate and friend of Gregg’s. I am a believer that it is only nepotism if you suck, so here’s to hoping he doesn’t suck.
Since our failure to make it to Russia, I have been baffled by the squad selections and lineups the US has put out. To the public, the federation says we are going young, we are changing things up, giving new faces a chance – and then we bring on Bobby Wood as a substitute. Listen, I love Bobby Wood, but we know who Bobby Wood is (supersub that gets after defenders with his speed and strength but leaves something to be desired with the technical ability to change the game for 90 minutes).
We DON’T know who Sargent or Weah are yet on the national level. A perfect example of this is the inclusion of Michael Bradley and Gyasi Zardes in this camp who have a combined 182 caps and will be 35 and 31 respectively when Qatar rolls around.
The upcoming friendlies have zero impact on any competition. There is no argument for needing veterans around. With the massive player pool the US currently boasts which is filled mainly with unproven talent, why are we trotting out older players that we know well? I have no interest in winning either of these games if it means 90 minutes and a goal (which would only be his 7th in 41 appearances) from Zardes.
Christian Ramirez and Jeremy Ebobisse should be out there running around until their legs fall off. Bobby Wood should never come on for Josh Sargent in the 62nd minute of a friendly against Italy. Our young squad, particularly the MLS players, look lost on the pitch and who can blame them? Tyler Adams is an amazing talent but there is a difference between going up against the attack of Minnesota United and trying to slow the absurd pace of Lingard and Sancho. Why did Julian Green take 62 minutes of potential growth for Adams?
US Soccer needs to decide if they are trying to win friendlies or trying to build a squad that makes noise in the World Cup – and then put together squads that represent that goal.
The only potential upside we could derive from this camp would be an emergence of one or two MLS players that look talented enough not to be MLS players much longer. I would love nothing more than a 23-man squad headed to Qatar with zero MLS players. My highest hopes this January lie in Reggie Cannon (D/20yo), and Mark McKenzie (D/19yo) as we are still plagued by a suspect at best back four.
Best of luck to the squad this January and congratulations to each player for getting to represent their country as I can imagine no higher honor for an athlete. Let’s hope that during the next international break the Americans abroad come home and take over. It is what we need, and the only way we will succeed going forward.