1/21/22 USMNT vs El Salvador Thurs 7 pm ESPN2, vs Canada Sun 3:30 paramount, McKennie, Sargent on fire in Europe, Harmonica Pete dies

US vs El Salvador Thurs 7 pm ESPN2, @ Canada Sun 3 pm on Paramount+. 

So the next round of Qualification is here – and they include at home Thur, Jan 27-  7 pm on ESPN 2 vs El Salvador and former Westfield/Indiana U star Eriq Zavaleta in Columbus (we going!), Sun Jan 30 at 3:30 pm on Paramount+ @ Canada (coverage starts at 2 pm I think) and Tues, Feb 2 at 7:30 pm on FS 1 vs Honduras.  If the US can secure 2 wins and tie at Canada – qualification will all but be assured.  Two wins and loss in Canada will keep things interesting as Canada (16), US (15), Mexico (14) and Panama (14), Costa Rica (9) lead the way in World Cup Qualifying.  Anything less and things will get interesting – as only the top 3 teams qualify with the 4th team having a playoff to advance.  For those going to Columbus, join us with the American Outlaws Thursday pre-game at Brother’s Bar & Grill – we are headed that way around 2:15 pm.  

My pick for Starters vs El Salvador Thurs

Pulisic/Pepi/Aaronson

McKinney/Musah

Adams

Antonee R/M Robinson/Zimmerman/Dest

Steffan  (I start Turner vs Canada though-used to the cold)

US Full Roster for Qualifiers

GOALKEEPERS (4): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 26/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 13/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 22/1), Sergino Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 15/2), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 1/0), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 6/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 15/3), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 15/3), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 71/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 23/2)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 45/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 22/1), Luca De la Torre (Heracles/NED; 4/0), Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 28/8), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 11/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 30/0)

FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 15/5), Paul Arriola (DC United; 42/8), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 5/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 40/10), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 42/17), Timothy Weah (Lille/FRA; 18/2), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 66/14)

 US Goalkeeper Matt Turner to Arsenal? 

Huge news that American Goalkeeper Matt Turner is being wooed by Arsenal to be a backup and perhaps challenge for the top spot (man that would bring me full scale into being a Gunner).  Honestly I know this is a World Cup year and we don’t want to take a chance that both of our keepers (Turner and Steffan) are backups in the EPL. But Turner has to take the chance if he wants to make it big-time. Its been amazing that after years of having 2 to 3 starters in the EPL in between the pipes over the past 2 decades – that we can’t seem to place a starter in the EPL since Guzan left Villa. Perhaps it’s the requirement that keepers use their feet more than being great shot stoppers these days.  I happen to disagree with that – but that’s the way of the soccer world right now.  Let’s hope Turner can take this chance and work his way into the starting line-up soon.  Here he talks about how he feels at camp for the US.

Sad news that Pete DuPre, a World War II vet affectionally known as “Harmonica Pete” for playing the National Anthem at numerous US games passed away this week (read more) about this great veteran and huge US soccer supporter (here he was with the US ladies in 2019).  In Europe, McKinney scored again as he could arguably be Juventus’s best player over the past week even the past few weeks, and in the Championship

Antonee Robison scores for Fulham in 6-2 win – he and Tim Ream are playing 90 every game for the top team in the Championship by a mile.  Oh and Josh Sargent has scored his first 2 goals in the EPL today for Norwich @ Watford. Goal #1  (Wait Coach B somebody call up Josh and Bring him in for this next week).   Where the US Players are playing this weekend is in The Ole Ballcoach.    

McKinney has scored 2 goals for Juve this past week

Games to Watch this Weekend

Man United vs West Ham leads the weekend games on Saturday at 10 am on Peacock of course while they show New Castle vs Leads (who cares) on USA Network.  Everton’s free fall will probably continue as they host Aston Vila at 7:30 am on USA and Man City will certainly kill Southampton on NBC at 12:30 pm..  In Germany at 10 am Hoffenheim and American’s Chris Richards and newly Signed 18 year old Dallas right back Justin Che will host Dortmund (Reyna still  hurt).  Sunday Arsenal host Burnley at 9 am on USA before moving the good game Chelsea and Pulisic maybe? Hosting Tottenham in a top 4 Battle on Peacock!!  Germany gives us the All American line up with RB Leipzig and Tyler Adams hosting Wolfsburg and center back John Brooks at 9:30 am on ESPN+.   The African Cup Sweet 16 also starts up Sunday at 11 am and 2 pm on FuboTV, I hear, and finally American superstar midfielder Weston McKinney and Juventus travel to Milan at 2:45 on Paramount+. 

(See where all the American’s overseas are playing below). 

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 21

3 pm  USA                            Watford vs Norwich (Stewart)

Sat, Jan 22 

7:30 am  USA                      Everton vs Aston Villa

9:30 am ESPN+                   Hoffenheim vs Dortmund

10 am USA                           Newcastle vs Leeds

10 am Peacock                   Man United vs West Ham

12:30 pm NBC                     Southampton vs Man City

Sun, Jan 23

9 am  USA                             Arsenal vs Burnley 

9 am  Peacock                     Cyrstal Palace vs Liverpool

9:30 am ESPN+                   RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks) 

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Sweet 16 – Game 1

11:30 Peacock?                  Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham 

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Sweet 16 – Game 2

2:45 pm Para+                    Milan vs  Juventus (McKennie)

Thurs,  Jan 27

7 pm ESPN2                         USMNT vs El Salvador (Columbus) WCQ

7 pm Para+                          Jamaica vs Mexico WcQ

8 pm Para+                          Honduras vs Canada

Sun,  Jan 30

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Quarters – Game 3

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Quarters – Game 4

3 pm Paramount+/Telemundo    USMNT @ Canada

Tues,  Feb 2

7:30 pm FS1                        USMNT vs Honduras

2022 SheBelieves Cup schedule

Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif.
#16 Iceland vs #22 New Zealand, 8pm ET – ESPN
#1 USWNT vs #24 Czech Republic, 11pm ET

Feb. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USWNT vs New Zealand, 3pm ET – ABC
Czech Republic vs Iceland, 6pm ET

Feb. 23 in Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs Czech Republic, 6pm ET
USWNT vs Iceland, 9pm ET – ESPN

USA 

Weekend Guide to US Players overseas Viewing

Who Starts Thurs?  – S&S

USMNT January qualifying roster: questions and possible solutions ASN

US Roster – SBI Soccer

Sources: Arsenal keen on USMNT’s Turner

Chill index could be ‘high risk’ for USMNT game

USMNT progress report: How McKennie, Pulisic and European stars measure up

McKennie continues strong run, Pepi starts, EPB impresses and much more

Orlando to host USMNT’s March WC qualifier

Capacity cut in half for USMNT trip to Canada
WWII veteran ‘Harmonica Pete’ DuPre dies at 98; USWNT pays tribute to ‘dear friend’

VAR added for CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers

LAFC trade for USMNT’s Acosta from Rapids

Leeds United reportedly have £15 million offer for USMNT attacker Brenden Aaronson rejected
Sources: Belgian side Brugge eyes Chicago GK
  Jeff Carlisle

James Sands “gelled quick” in positive Rangers debut SBI

Antonee Robinson caps off latest Fulham rout with sublime strike

Hoffenheim signs Dallas’ Che on 18-month loan

State of the USMNT Ahead of Next World Cup Qualifiers

USWNT great Michelle Akers hopes NWSL coaching gig opens doors

 EPL

Chelsea vs Tottenham live: How to watch, stream link, team news, 

Liverpool beat Arsenal, get Chelsea in Cup final
Jota, Liverpool’s depth shows Arsenal how far they have to go
James Olley
Unvaxxed Madrid, Chelsea stars face UCL exile
  James Olley
Dropping points becoming the new normal for Chelsea
  ames Olley
Ralf Rangnick reaction: De Gea heroics, Ronaldo sub anger, Man Utd 

Antonio Conte: Tottenham’s only season target is to ‘fight’, give 

WORLD

Ivory Coast send reigning champions Algeria crashing out of Africa Cup of Nations
Aubameyang ‘completely healthy’ after heart scare

FIFA set to enforce limits on player loan transfer system

Abraham puts Roma in Italian Cup quarters after Lecce scare

‘I won’t give in to blackmail’ – Dembele responds to Barca

Athletic Bilbao stuns Barcelona in extra time
Messi left out of upcoming Argentina squad
Adriana Garcia

Arsenal eye USMNT, New England Revolution keeper Matt Turner — sources

12:18 PM ET  Jeff Carlisle James Olley

Arsenal has submitted an offer to the New England Revolution for United States men’s national team goalkeeper Matt Turner, sources confirmed to ESPN.

ESPN television analyst Taylor Twellman first reported on the potential deal Thursday.

A second source with knowledge of the discussions added that the proposed transfer fee is comparable to the £5.5 million ($7.5 millon) Manchester City paid for Zack Steffen back in 2019, a deal that potentially reached £7.3m ($10m) with add-ons.MLSSoccer.com first reported the proposed fee for Turner.If the deal is consummated, Arsenal anticipates Turner having a “significant role” with club, a key factor ahead of the current New England keeper’s expected participation in the 2022 World Cup.

The expectation is that current backup goalkeeper Bernd Leno will depart at some stage, potentially leaving Turner to compete with Aaron Ramsdale for the starting spot. A deal for Turner would enable Arsenal to allow Leno to depart this month. Leno lost his place to Ramsdale, a £32m ($43.6m) summer signing from Sheffield United, earlier in the season and has made just four appearances since Aug. 28, all in cup competitions.

However, sources have told ESPN that a combination of Leno being overlooked for Arsenal’s Carabao Cup semifinal against Liverpool and the club’s third-round exit from the FA Cup has led to the German pushing for a move away from Arsenal this month. Sources have told ESPN that Newcastle United could be a possible destination for the 29-year-old, while Inter Milan has previously expressed an interest, and Leno has also been linked with a move back to Germany.

Arsenal has three promising young goalkeepers on their books in Arthur OkonkwoJames Hillson and Karl Hein but views Turner as someone with more experience who is ready to be a competitive understudy to Ramsdale.

Turner has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the last several years. In 2016, he went undrafted and signed as a free agent following a successful trial. Following a pair of loan stints with second-tier side Richmond Kickers, he took over New England’s starting spot in 2018 and has been a mainstay ever since, making 107 league, cup and playoff appearances. He was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2021, a campaign in which he was also named the MVP of the MLS All-Star Game.Turner has 13 appearances for the U.S. national team — all in 2021 — and backstopped the U.S. to the Gold Cup title while winning the Golden Glove award as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Gearing up for international work

Last weekend before the “real” matches start.  By jcksnftsn  Jan 21, 2022, 9:28am PST

It’s the last weekend prior to the international break, the USMNT roster should be released shortly, and there are a good number of games to keep an eye on this weekend for players who are being called in, as well as some of those who might be on the fringes. Here’s what the weekend has in store:

Saturday

Brest v Lille – 11a on beIN Sports

The best news of the week for the USMNT might have been the return of Tim Weah to the field on Wednesday. Weah saw 22 minutes as a sub off the bench in his first action in six weeks. His return to the field was a welcome sight for fans of the USMNT heading into the upcoming matches. Weah has been a key contributor for the team recently, including scoring the team’s only goal against Jamaica and picking up the assist in the opening goal for the team’s 2-0 win over Mexico. Weah was being used heavily by his club prior to injury and while it looks like they are taking the prudent approach of easing him back in, their transfer activity would seem to indicate that they have plans for him to fill a significant role.

Other notes:

  • Pellegrino Matarazzo’s Stuttgart are in a tight relegation battle, with just five points separating their current 17th place position (and automatic relegation) and 11th place Bochum. This weekend at 9:30a on ESPN+, they will face 6th place Freiburg, who are coming off a 4-1 win over Hoffenheim.
  • Julian Green and Greuther Fürth are in serious relegation trouble, though they have drawn three straight matches to jump from four to seven points. This weekend, they face Mainz, who are solidly mid-table with 27 points. The match will be played at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Ricardo Pepi picked up his first start last weekend and while it wasn’t exactly what he would’ve hoped, Augsburg did pick up a point against Frankfurt. The task gets a bit tougher against third place Bayer Leverkusen at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Indications are that Borussia Dortmund plan to hold Gio Reyna out through the international window, but Chris Richards has started five of the past six matches for Hoffenheim. The two teams face off at 9:30a on EPSN+.
  • Joe Scally has returned for Borussia Mönchengladbach, who are themselves dangerously close to the relegation zone and gave up three goals as they were eliminated from the DFB-Pokal by Hannover on Wednesday. ‘Gladbach now face a Union Berlin side that has a top four finish in their sights. This match will also be on ESPN+ at 9:30a.
  • Matthew Hoppe has a handful of minutes from Mallorca’s past two matches amidst rumors that the club would like to send him out on loan to get more playing time, but they apparently are having trouble finding a taker in the Spanish second tier. Mallorca face Villarreal at 10:15 on ESPN+.
  • Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio have done a bit of a switch, with Tessmann now seeing more minutes as Busio’s have been reduced. Venezia face Inter Milan at noon on Paramount+.
  • Konrad de la Fuente’s Olympique de Marseille side face Lens at 3p on beIN sports. Konrad missed the clubs last match with a “knock” and his return is unknown.
  • Yunus Musah has seen an uptick in minutes recently with four straight starts across all competitions. Valencia face Atletico Madrid at 3p on ESPN+.

Sunday

RB Leipzig v Wolfsburg – 9:30a on ESPN+

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig face off against John Brooks and Wolfsburg in a matchup that features two Americans and perhaps the two most disappointing Bundesliga sides this season. Wolfsburg came into the season off a 2020-21 campaign that saw them qualify for Champions League action, but have stumbled mightily. They fired their manager in late October and replaced him with Florian Kohfeldt. Shockingly, Kohfeldt hasn’t seemed to be the answer either. Wolfsburg won their first two fixtures after he replaced Mark van Bommel, but haven’t won a match since and they currently sit dangerously close to the relegation zone. The club snapped a six-game losing streak when they drew with Hertha Berlin last weekend, but failed to find the back of the net yet again in the scoreless draw. They have scored just three goals in their past seven matches.

While Wolfsburg’s season has been bad, it’s possible that Leipzig’s has been even more disappointing. The club had dreams of challenging Bayern Munich for the league title, but halfway through the year that dream is over, and they now must work themselves back into a Champions League qualifying position. The team has won their past two league matches and currently sit in seventh place, three points back of Hoffenheim for that final Champions League spot.

Other notes:

  • Richy Ledezma and PSV take on Ajax at 8:30a on ESPN+ in some top of the table Eredivisie action Sunday morning. Currently, PSV hold a one point lead in the standings.
  • Nicholas Gioacchini and Montpellier face Monaco at 11:05 on beIN Sports. Gioacchini continues to see substitute minutes on a regular basis for his club.
  • Chelsea FC have seen their dreams of a league title disappear with their loss to Manchester City last weekend, but can put some ground between themselves and Tottenham for Champions League positioning when the two clubs meet in a top five matchup at 11:30a on Peacock. Christian Pulisic was an unused sub in the team’s 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday and should be fresh and ready to go against Spurs.
  • Weston McKennie remains the most in form US player, and his Juventus side have a crucial matchup with second place AC Milan on Sunday at 2:45p on ESPN+. Currently, Juventus trail Atalanta by a point for fourth place.
  • There is the opportunity for a US v US matchup in La Liga on Sunday afternoon when Deportivo Alavés face FC Barcelona at 3p on ESPN+. However, Matt Miazga could be in trouble after his awful gift to Real Betis on Tuesday, and Sergiño Dest needed Barcelona to go into extra time before he was able to see the field as a left winger.

USMNT January qualifying roster: questions and possible solutions

The USMNT January qualifying roster probably won’t contian many surprises but there are complicated questions regarding the form and fitness of players as well as COVID concerns. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta looks at the issues in various areas of the field and looks at what he thinks will be the roster. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA  JANUARY 19, 2022

IN A FEW DAYS, United States national team manager Gregg Berhalter will announce his roster for the upcoming January World Cup qualifiers. Not too many surprises are expected and the roster should be based heavily on the October and November windows along with possible inclusions from the December and January camps.There is also a contingent COVID plan that the team has to have in the event that a number of players test positive. Late inclusions into the squad will probably have to be domestically based given the geographic proximity.With the format reverting to a three-game window, a roster size between 26-29 is what I am expecting. Here is a look at the considerations with the roster fast approaching

GOALKEEPERS
Unless there are late injuries or COVID issues, this area of the field seems rather set as Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, and Sean Johnson should be the call-ups.The standby list could include U.S. U-20 standout Gaga Slonina, Ethan Horvath, and even veteran Brad Guzan should be on the list if a late keeper is needed (although Horvath might be available to be added late given that he’s based abroad).

 FULLBACKS

 Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson are the likely starters. Robinson is in outstanding form for Fulham and is a lock. Dest is in a murky time with Barcelona but has played well for the U.S. national team and has a big role under Berhalter. It seems very unlikely he is dropped.The backup positions seem less clear and there are concerns over a bunch of options. Also, Berhalter might call more than four fullbacks – opening the door for other options.
On the right side, DeAndre Yedlin has lost his starting spot at Galatasaray  but still boasts a ton of experience. Meanwhile Reggie Cannon is playing for Boavista but as a right central defender in a 3-4-3 formation. The one other option that is in the mix on the right side is Brooks Lennon who started in December and is involved in the January camp.n the left after Robinson is very much up in the air – as Berhalter recently said there is an opening. Sam Vines has been ahead of George Bello since the start of the Gold Cup and it’s hard to see that being changed. Vines has enough experience with the team and is playing regularly enough to predict he will go.Uncapped Joe Scally seems like a safe bet given that he is playing and the experienced veterans are not. He should be added as cover on both the left and the right side.With Dest, Robinson, Vines, and Scally that makes four I feel good about. There is a bit of a battle between Yedlin and Lennon, but Yedlin should probably make it due to his experience and that makes five.The wild card here is DeJuan Jones. Berhalter singled out the athletic New England Revolution fullback as having a strong camp so far. That comes on the heels of a great season. Jones is right-footed but typically plays on the left side.Could Jones replace Vines? It is entirely possible. Jones also seems like a guy who could be added if there is a positive COVID-19 test among the fullbacks. I don’t have him in right now (with the above mentioned five making it) but it will not surprise me at all if he sneaks into the roster – either initially, or if there is a need for an addition during camp.

 CENTRAL DEFENDERS

 There are a lot of questions in central defense – both in terms of the number of players Berhalter will take and the players Berhalter will take.Chris Richards, Walker Zimmerman, and Miles Robinson have been starters in key games for this team since October. It’s hard to see that changing despite MLS being in offseason.The big question is whether John Brooks will return to the team. Berhalter cited his tough run of form for being left off the November. While Wolfsburg’s is in a nosedive, Brooks has actually played decently – not great, but a slight improvement. I think given that Brooks is in-season, he will probably be called back.In terms of other possibilities, Mark McKenzie and Tim Ream are probably the next two out. If Berhalter goes with five central defenders, Ream makes the most sense now since he’s playing regularly right now and playing regularly. McKenzie’s playing time has been too inconsistent lately.This will probably chance in the months ahead. Erik Palmer-Brown is having a resurgence in France. Aarn Long is near his comeback. James Sands is in the mix too although it looks as if he is a midfielder for Rangers at the moment. Cameron Carter-Vickers continues to be steady in Scotland.For now, we’re saying Brooks, Zimmerman, Robinson, and Richards get the call for January.In terms of COVID contingency, I think Henry Kessler and Austin Trusty are on standby as both are domestically based and have been with the team recently.

 MIDFIELD

 First, how many midfielders will Berhalter take? The best guess is seven or eight. The first three are very easy to nail down.Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Yunus Musah are locks if healthy. McKennie has been the best American player in the game since Pulisic lifted the Champions League trophy and he’s responded very well to adversity after being dismissed from the U.S. camp in September.

Acosta is a logical backup for the No. 6 or No. 8 and if he is playing well in camp, he will go. Gianluca Busio has also had his stock rise this year, even before joining Venezia from Sporting Kansas City. His minutes might be on the decline at Venezia lately but he’s in the mix.That brings us to five. The remaining spots are tougher to predict. We also don’t think Gio Reyna will make this roster and be an option.There is always a debate over Luca de la Torre, who is starting and playing well for a Heracles team that is hoping to avoid a relegation battle. For this camp, given the season, we think he’s in.Even when the U.S. team was playing with many backups at the Gold Cup, Roldan was typically coming off the bench (he didn’t start vs. Canada, Jamaica, Qatar, or Mexico). In World Cup qualifying, he’s a bench option too. He has a defined role of being an energy sub off the bench – no matter the situation. It’s a well-defined role and one he’s embraced. I think he’s in.If Berhalter wants to take one more midfielder, will he take Sebastian Lletget? Possibly although his role has been declining (he was an unused sub in November and wasn’t in the squad vs. Costa Rica in October) and we’ve seen with Berhalter that players slowly fade out.If it isn’t Lletget and Berhalter wants to take one more midfielder, who are the other options? Maybe Cole Bassett who scored in December and just made the move from Colorado to Feyenoord. If he wants more of a deeper midfielder (which might be smart given that Adams is playing on a yellow) he could bring in Yueill, Sands, Tanner Tessmann, or even Johnny Cardoso.For now, we think Lletget has the position albeit with a declining grip. In the months ahead, there will be increased competition from players based both domestically and abroad.I’ll predict eight midfielders on this roster: Adams, McKennie, Musah, Acosta, Roldan, de la Torre, and Lletget.In terms of a COVID contingency of domestic-based players who can be added last minute, I think Yueill and Djordje Mihailovic are on standby.

 FORWARDS/WINGERS

 Right now, I think nine attackers rounds out the team. This is on the larger side given the uncertainty of some players.The locks are Christian Pulisic and Brenden Aaronson on the wings and Ricardo Pepi at the No. 9.Regarding the other wing options, I think it will be Paul Arriola, Tim Weah, and Jordan Morris – all are on the bubble. Weah only just returned from a six-week injury but could be a bench option. Jordan Morris is back in the mix and healthy, albeit rusty.In terms of the No. 9 options after Pepi, the mostly likely call-ups seem to favor Gyasi Zardes and Jesus Ferreira (who can also help on the wing). Daryl Dike has only recently joined a new club and Jordan Pefok has been out of the team since September. Pefok was playing well in December but has been only playing friendlies since then. Matthew Hoppe was on the Gold Cup and October qualifying roster but has only just returned for Mallorca.

The U.S. men’s national team returns to World Cup qualifying action in less than two weeks, and the trio of upcoming matches will give the Americans a golden opportunity to climb within striking distance of the World Cup berth they so desperately crave.

Two home games against two of the teams near the bottom of the Octagonal standings gives Gregg Berhalter a great chance to help his team secure at least six points in the next window, with seven or nine points also possible if the Americans can knock off current Octagonal leaders Canada.

There are challenges in the upcoming window, though, including the reality that the USMNT’s MLS-based contingent isn’t in-season, which will give Berhalter some difficult decisions to make.

It is a safe bet the USMNT will continue to lean on its European-based contingent, but we shouldn’t expect the MLS-based players to suddenly be put on the bench. At least not all of them.

There is also the matter of squad rotation, and while the memories of the disappointing loss in Panama in October will surely resonate as Berhalter plots out his plan for personnel across three matches, we are still very likely to see major changes at some point in the three-match window.

Before we can get into discussions about which players will start in which games, we have to consider which players will actually get the call for the upcoming qualifiers. The current USMNT camp featuring MLS-based players will have some

Here is the 27-player roster we could see Berhalter calling up for the January/February World Cup qualifiers:


Projected USMNT World Cup Qualifying Roster SBI Ives Galarcep

Goalkeepers

Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, Sean Johnson

No change to this group, with Ethan Horvath still not earning minutes at Nottingham Forest. Zack Steffen’s hold on the starting spot should remain secure, though you wonder if Berhalter will consider starting Turner for one of the three matches.

Missed the Cut: Ethan Horvath, Gabriel Slonina, Bill Hamid

Defenders

Sergiño Dest, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Antonee Robinson, Reggie Cannon, Chris Richards, John Brooks, Sam Vines, James Sands

Will John Brooks make his return to the USMNT fold? Based on form, the Wolfsburg defender absolutely should be one of the four or five central defenders called in, but only Berhalter knows what he has planned for the upcoming window. MLS not being in-season should lead to a limiting of MLS central defenders to Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman, with Aaron Long unlikely to be ready to contribute just yet.We include James Sands in this group due to his versatility, and with the caveat that he only earns the call if Berhalter brings in a larger-than-normal squad into camp. Sands has joined Scottish giants Rangers, so he should be fit and ready to go for the upcoming qualifiers if he gets the call.At fullback, Sergiño Dest hasn’t played in more than a month, but Berhalter has gone on record saying he isn’t worried about the Barcelona fullback’s availability. DeAndre Yedlin has fallen out of favor at Galatasaray and hasn’t played in a month either, which opens the door for Reggie Cannon to return. Cannon is starting regularly for Boavista, andJoe Scally is coming off a bout with COVID-19 and only recently returned to action for Borussia Moenchengladbach, which will likely keep him behind the established veterans already in the fullback mix, but if Berhalter decides to bring a fifth fullback, Scally’s versatility could earn him a spot.Missed the Cut: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, Mark McKenzie, Tim Ream, Joe Scally, DeAndre Yedlin, Brooks Lennon, Shaq Moore, Cameron Carter-Vickers, George Bello, DeJuan Jones

Midfielders

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

The usual suspects should get the call in midfield, though you wonder whether Berhalter will consider going with fewer than three MLS-based central midfielders and turning to someone like Luca De La Torre, who is currently in the middle of his season and more match-fit than someone like Cristian Roldan.Tanner Tessmann is an interesting option. He has seen his playing time increase at Venezia, and his qualities as defensive midfielder make him a good alternative if Tyler Adams or Kellyn Acosta were not available. Acosta’s experience edge keeps him in the squad even though he isn’t in-season.

Missed the Cut: Luca De La Torre, Djordje Mihailovic, Tanner Tessmann,  Christian Cappis, Jackson Yueill

Forwards

Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson, Ricardo Pepi, Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Tim Weah, Daryl Dike, Josh Sargent

The big questions here are whether Gio Reyna makes the trio and which striker/strikers will join Ricardo Pepi in camp. The Reyna decision isn’t an easy one because he hasn’t played in more than four months, and Berhalter couldn’t be blamed for not wanting to rush him back. Bringing him into camp to be around the squad and to continue his rehabilitation wouldn’t be a bad move, but actually playing him in the upcoming qualifiers when he will not have featured yet for Borussia Dortmund would be a questionable move.Another question to ponder is whether Tim Weah will be ready to contribute in the upcoming qualifiers. He only recently returned to action for Lille after missing more than a month with a thigh injury, and while we didn’t initially have Weah listed, his return to the field this week would give him time to be part of Berhalter’s setup so we have added him as a 27th player.As for as striker goes, Daryl Dike has completed his move to West Brom and is in-season, making him a good option to pair with Pepi, but will Berhalter take the opportunity to bring Josh Sargent back into the fold? Sargent has been earning regular playing time for Norwich City, but he is still searching for his first Premier League goal. It wouldn’t be a bad time to bring him back into the mix.

Missed the Cut: Gio Reyna, Paul Arriola, Gyasi Zardes, Jordan Pefok, Matthew Hoppe, Konrad De La Fuente, Nicholas Gioacchini, Jesus Ferreira

Chill index could be ‘high risk’ for USMNT World Cup qualifying match vs. El Salvador

Jan 19, 2022ssociated Press

A kickoff temperature of about 25 degrees is forecast for the United States‘ World Cup qualifier against El Salvador at Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 27, with a wind chill index approaching what the U.S. Soccer Federation’s health guidelines call “high risk for cold-related illness.”

Walker Zimmerman views winter weather as a prime opportunity for himself and his American teammates. He remembered back to March 2013, when he viewed on television the infamous Snow Clasico, a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica during a blizzard at Commerce City, Colorado.”I was even talking to my wife over the break,” the 28-year-old defender said Wednesday. “I was like, you know what? I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold. I want the snow. I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and I really remember growing up. And that’s exciting to me. So I think the guys are ready to embrace it, embrace the cold. And it will be a really good environment for us fan-wise, as well.”AccuWeather forecast the 7 p.m. temperature in Columbus next Thursday will be 24 to 26 degrees with winds from the west at 4 to 14 mph and a 40% chance of snow showers. The forecast for the Jan. 30 qualifier against Canada at Hamilton, Ontario, calls for temperatures from 22 to 24 and winds at 5-10 mph for the 3 p.m. start, with a 10% chance of snow flurries.

The forecast for the Feb. 2 qualifier against Honduras at St. Paul, Minnesota, which starts at 6:30 p.m. CST, is for 18-20 degrees, winds of 7-14 mph and a 30% chance of snow flurries.

“The staff on the national team do a tremendous job, and we have full confidence in them to prepare us,” winger Paul Arriola said after training in Phoenix, where Wednesday’s high temperature was 70.”Obviously, we have our duties as professional players and players on the national team to be as ready as possible for every condition. I’ve done it before and I think most of most of the players on this team have, and I think it’s an opportunity for us.”

CONCACAF Table

GPPTSGD
1 – Canada816+8
2 – USA815+7
3 – Mexico814+4
4 – Panama814+2
5 – Costa Rica89-1
6 – Jamaica87-4
7 – El Salvador86-6
8 – Honduras83-10
1-3 qualifies; 4 into playoff

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, who plans to announce his roster Saturday, expects a home-field advantage.”If it’s tough for us, and we have guys playing in Europe in cold weather,” he said, “what’s it going to be like for Honduras, who’s coming from Honduras midweek, coming from 85-, 90-degree temperatures?”Under Recognize to Recover, announced by the USSF in December 2015 as a “comprehensive player health and safety program,” a wind chill temperature index of the type forecast includes a “recommended action” to “consider modifying activity to limit exposure and allow for more frequent chances to re-warm.”A 25-degree temperature with a 5 mph wind produces a 19 wind chill, which is orange on the USSF index and termed “moderate risk for cold-related illness.”The USSF recommends to “provide additional clothing, cover as much exposed skin as practical, and provide opportunities and facilities for re-warming.”If the wind increases to 10 mph and the wind chill drops to 15, the index would be in the red zone, calling for modified activity. A drop to 15 degrees and a wind increase to 10 mph would move the alert level to black, which is termed as “extreme conditions.”The recommendation for that level is “cancel or attempt to move activities indoors.”Federations pick sites of home qualifiers. Nicholas Noble, spokesman for the regional governing body of North and Central America and Caribbean Association Football, when asked about World Cup qualifying in September responded: “CONCACAF does not manage or run these matches, FIFA does, along with the individual federations.”FIFA spokesman Bryan Swanson did not respond to an email seeking comment.”Our event staff and coaching staff worked hand in hand on the venue selection,” USSF CEO Will Wilson said. “Obviously the venues that are coming up, we’re comfortable with their mitigation processes.”The fields in Columbus and St. Paul are heated, and the USSF said it is confident players will be protected from the elements. Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field has artificial turf.Dr. George Chiampas, the USSF’s chief medical officer and a member of FIFA’s medical committee, said cold is easier to acclimate to than heat and humidity. Mitigation will include heated benches and hand warmers.Midfielder Sebastian Lletget, a California native traded from the LA Galaxy to the New England Revolution last month, thinks the qualifiers are “going to help me kind of get accustomed.”

Preparing for Major League Soccer’s playoffs with the Revolution in November was beneficial for goalkeeper Matt Turner, who started the first five U.S. qualifiers.

“Understand that mentality and what it takes to succeed in those moments,” he said. “So for me, it’s embracing the cold. It’s keep up my focus sharp for the moments when I’m called into action and just have fun with it. I mean, this is America. This is the beauty. We could play in 90 degrees and we can play in zero degrees in the same time of year. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

USMNT’s European stars: How McKennie, Pulisic, Scally & Co. measure up in 2021-22

1:36 PM ET  Bill Connelly   ESPN Staff Writer

In 1990, after the United States‘ first appearance in the FIFA World Cup in 40 years, forward John Harkes signed with Sheffield Wednesday, a second-division English club. That was a big deal. While the U.S. player pool had growing promise, Europe wasn’t really taking notice. Tab Ramos would play for Real Betis for a couple of years in the mid-1990s, Eric Wynalda for FC Saarbrucken and Bochum, and Claudio Reyna for Bayer Leverkusen and Manchester City (among others). But the signings were few and far between. It was pretty easy to keep track of all of them.

A generation later, in the “good problems to have” category, fans of American men’s soccer officially have far too many players to track in Europe. With the World Cup in Qatar less than a year away, and with the qualification process entering the home stretch — six matches remain for the USMNT, beginning with a match next Thursday against El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio — let’s look at which Americans are thriving overseas, which are battling a tough stretch and who’s in form with the World Cup on the horizon.

Heat check: How’s the core doing?

Gregg Berhalter’s team has been far from perfect in qualifying to date, playing mostly exciting ball at home but showing an abundance of caution on the road, losing at Panama and drawing at El Salvador and Jamaica. The U.S. is sitting in second place and, barring a total collapse, is in good shape to either qualify with a top-three finish or, if it finishes fourth, play in June’s inter-confederation playoff against the Oceania champion, likely New Zealand.

That’s not terrible considering Berhalter hasn’t actually seen his core lineup on the pitch even once. Primarily because of ill-timed injuries, the quintet of attackers Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, and fullback Sergino Dest have yet to play together in qualifying. Might that change soon?for the USMNT in qualifying, both because of how much he has controlled the midfield and because of how frequently he’s been out: he’s been available for only four of eight matches. The 23-year old has also been in incredible form of late for Juve, scoring four goals (two in the past week), creating 18 chances and recording 73 ball recoveries over his past 15 matches. After a rough patch in October and November, Juve has gained steam alongside him, taking 20 points from its past eight league matches and losing only to Inter in the Italian Super Cup.

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea. Good news: Pulisic is playing regularly again. Injuries and form issues rendered him a minimal part of the Chelsea rotation for a while — and limited him to 197 minutes in World Cup qualifying — but over the past two months he has played 879 minutes in 15 matches for the Blues, and with the club battling some severe injury issues, he has proved versatile, logging minutes everywhere from center-forward to right wingback.

The less good news: Perhaps in part because of the lack of a stable role, he’s not producing a ton, scoring just twice with two assists in these 879 minutes. But his underlying numbers are encouraging: after a slow start to the season, he is averaging 0.46 xG+xA (expected goals plus expected assists) per 90, nearly equal to last season’s 0.48, though still inferior to the 0.63 he produced during an ultra-promising 2019-20 campaign. Things are trending in the right direction, but he’s not in his best-ever form just yet.Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig. It says something about how young the USMNT is that Adams, 22 years old, feels like the steady, stalwart veteran. He has logged 93% of minutes so far in qualifying and has shown a proclivity for putting out fires. At Leipzig, however, he has had a ton of fires to put out. RBL has struggled mightily in transition defense despite his steadiness in winning duels and intercepting passes.

Sergino Dest, Barcelona. The 21-year old’s second season at Barca has been an odd one. On the pitch, Dest has produced: 22 chances and 5.2 xG+xA in 1,414 minutes in all competitions from an offense-friendly right-back role. But he has battled a number of injuries and missed time with a positive COVID-19 test in early January, and Barca’s new manager, Xavi, doesn’t appear sold on the youngster. The club recently welcomed 38-year-old Dani Alves back, all while Dest has been the subject of transfer rumors. If healthy, he remains a torrid and dangerous player for the USMNT in attack, but his club future might be in doubt.

Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund. The wait continues. The 19-year-old was in outstanding form before suffering a hamstring injury in the first World Cup qualification match, and he has yet to play since.

Brenden Aaronson, Red Bull Salzburg. Injuries to Pulisic and Reyna opened a door for Aaronson at the national team level, and he has taken advantage. Only Adams has played more minutes for the U.S. in World Cup qualification, and Aaronson has scored twice. He also has produced strong form for Salzburg despite a finishing funk, scoring twice in Champions League qualification, dishing the ball for four assists in league play and recording monstrous levels of pressure. The 21-year-old has found himself in the Red Bull system — a good incubator for developing talent — and his performance for the U.S. has eased the burden created by key injuries.

Antonee Robinson, Fulham. The 24-year-old left-back has recorded 521 minutes in World Cup qualification and leads the U.S. with nine chances created thus far; he also scored a key goal against Honduras. At the club level, he’s playing a key role for Fulham in buildup and in transition. He’s got two goals (including one on Tuesday) and four assists for by far the best attack in England‘s second division, and his 139 ball recoveries is by far the most of any fullback in the Championship. It appears Fulham’s stay in the second division might be a short one, and he’s a major reason why.

Zack Steffen, Manchester City. Steffen remains in a battle with Matt Turner for first-choice U.S. keeper, and he remains Pep Guardiola’s second choice at Manchester City. He has done well when given the chance: in six matches in all competitions for City, he has recorded 1.6 goals prevented (xG for shots on target conceded minus actual goals conceded) with a 76% save percentage. He has given up two goals in three World Cup qualification matches, but one was an absolute screamer from Jamaica’s (and West Ham United‘s) Michail Antonio.

Grade: Incomplete

Compared with other positions, center-forward is not one of great depth for the U.S., but two promising youngsters have made January moves overseas.

Ricardo Pepi, Augsburg, and Daryl Dike, West Bromwich Albion. Pepi (19) and Dike (21) are only getting started with their new clubs — they’ve combined for only three matches, 145 minutes, three shots, zero goals and two chances created thus far. The two have shown similar strengths and weaknesses: They position themselves well and finish with aplomb, but they still have work to do when it comes to link-up play and shot creation. Both now have excellent opportunities to make headway in that regard.Pepi and Dike aren’t the only Americans getting their footing with new clubs. Defender/midfielder James Sands made his Rangers debut on Tuesday, midfielder and recent Hermann Trophy winner (given to the best college player in America) Dante Polvara signed with Scotland‘s Aberdeen, winger Chris Mueller just moved from Orlando City to Scotland’s Hibernian, and 18-year-old FC Dallas defender Justin Che is moving to the Bundesliga’s Hoffenheim on a loan-to-buy deal.

Stock rising

Things change quickly in the American player pool. Pepi, for instance, went from making his USMNT debut in September 2021 to becoming the first-choice forward by October and joining the Bundesliga in January — a year ago, that turn of events wouldn’t have seemed even remotely plausible. But his name isn’t the only one on the rise. Quite a few young Americans have made the most of European moves, and some now seem like much more realistic options for a Qatar trip than they did not too long ago.

Joe ScallyBorussia Monchengladbach. After making just four appearances for NYCFC, the full-back moved to Gladbach in 2021; he not only made his first-team debut this fall at age 18 but also became a regular presence in the lineup. He has made 21 appearances in all competitions, scoring once, creating 18 chances, winning 54% of his duels and proving solid on both the left and right. He has yet to appear in World Cup qualification, but he’s making himself awfully hard to ignore.

Gianluca BusioVenezia. Listed at 5-foot-6 and 143 pounds, the 19-year-old seemed like the type who might need to bulk up and ease his way in when he was acquired by Venezia in August. Nope! The midfielder has already made 20 Serie A appearances, and although he still has some catching up to do physically — he isn’t a duels-heavy player and doesn’t draw a lot of contact — he is a safe ball-progressor who steps well into opposing passing lanes. If he can hang in Serie A, he can hang in CONCACAF and Qatar.

Chris Richards, Hoffenheim (via Bayern Munich). After making a handful of appearances with Bayern, the 21-year-old spent most of the 2021 calendar year with Hoffenheim in search of playing time. It seems to be paying off. Hoffenheim is a surprising fourth in the Bundesliga, and Richards has been a major component, showing major aerial prowess and winning 61% of his duels. His buildup play is fine, and he has recorded 181 minutes over three World Cup qualification matches as well.

The U.S. is blessed with quite a few solid center-backs, but Richards could play himself into a spot in the World Cup (assuming, of course, that the U.S. qualifies).

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Mark McKenzie, Genk. A 22-year old former Philadelphia Union star, McKenzie has played 180 minutes in qualification thus far — 90 at left-back, 90 at center-back — and both his versatility and his league form could keep him in the rotation. His play for Belgian heavyweight Genk has been a bright spot; his team has disappointed a bit (it’s all the way down in eighth place), but he has proved integral from an intervention standpoint and in buildup play.

A few others are in strong form in 2021-22 as well. Among them: Luca de la Torre (13 minutes in qualifying) has recorded 143 ball recoveries and created 18 chances in midfield for the Eredivisie’s Heracles; left-back Sam Vines is establishing strong defensive bona fides for Royal Antwerp (currently third in Belgium); and although Greuther Furth is having a rough first season in the Bundesliga, midfielder Timothy Tillman has been a bright spot, scoring once and creating 14 chances.

Stock falling (or at least not rising)

Josh SargentNorwich City. The rise of Pepi and Dike seems to have coincided with a fall of sorts for 22-year-old Sargent, who moved from relegated Werder Bremen to potentially soon-to-be-relegated Norwich City in the Premier League. After managing just five goals and two assists in 2,518 Bundesliga minutes last season, he has yet to record either in 985 EPL minutes. (He did score twice against Bournemouth in the League Cup, at least.) He’s getting plenty of reps and could still make this move work, but it hasn’t just yet.

Julian Green, Greuther Furth. One of the major components of Furth’s promotion run last season — the 26-year old midfielder scored nine goals with 36 chances created — Green was in position to potentially force himself into the American rotation with a strong Bundesliga campaign. Instead, he has played in only 11 of Furth’s league matches and created only nine chances. (Like Sargent, he did score in cup play.)

Green’s role as a steady, possession-based ball-progressor was negated by the fact that Furth never had the ball to progress, and he has played only 27 minutes since the start of December.

Yunus MusahValencia. Musah’s story has been an interesting one. He has made 54 cup and league appearances for Valencia since his September 2020 debut, but although he’s thrilling to watch on the ball, he hasn’t produced a ton, and in 461 league minutes this season he has zero goals and just four chances created. But he has created eight chances with two assists in nine national team appearances over the past year. He pairs well with the physical McKennie, and one assumes he’s still high on the priority list for Berhalter. It’s just that his league form makes that a bit of a leap of faith.

Tim Weah, Lille. Like Musah, 21-year old Weah has made more of an impression with country than club this season. He was brilliant against both Mexico and Jamaica in November’s qualification window, recording a goal and an assist and seemingly playing at a different speed from everyone else on the pitch. He hasn’t scored for Lille since last February, however. He is creating a decent number of chances (12 in 966 league and Champions League minutes), so his stock isn’t really down down, but after having been given extra minutes and responsibility with the defending French champions, he hasn’t made the most of it just yet.

In France, a couple more young Americans have struggled to stand out. Forward Nicholas Gioacchini (21) has contributed a couple of assists in 295 minutes as a Montpellier sub but has yet to score in six shots, and while 20-year-old Konrad De La Fuente (72 minutes in World Cup qualification) started out well at Marseille (two assists in August), he hasn’t contributed a goal or assist since.

Midfielder Alex Mendez moved from Ajax to Portugal‘s Vizela last summer and has created 12 chances, but with zero goals or assists, in 764 minutes thus far. Meanwhile, Tanner Tessmann, teammates with Busio at Venezia, has provided a few pressures but not a ton of other contributions in 630 minutes in Serie A and the Coppa Italia.

Serviceable veterans

While the USMNT is enjoying a wave of contributions from younger players, there are still some veterans who are both putting together decent seasons and holding out hope for inclusion in a theoretical World Cup squad later this year.

John Brooks, Wolfsburg. Long an assumed member of the roster, Brooks has played only 135 minutes in World Cup qualification because of iffy form. But while Wolfsburg as a whole has been terribly disappointing this season — it finished fourth in its Champions League group and pulled just one point from its past seven Bundesliga matches, falling to 14th in the table — Brooks has still been, well, Brooks. He’s still solid in the air (61% aerial success rate), good at stepping in front of progressive passes, good at being physical but avoiding fouls, and, yes, a little heavy of foot and vulnerable to quick transitions at times.

Berhalter has a ton of interesting center-backs to consider, but Brooks will likely remain a solid option throughout 2022.the 2014 World Cup among the talent pool. Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

DeAndre Yedlin, Galatasaray. With Dest limited by injury, Yedlin has played a larger role than many expected in World Cup qualification, recording 361 minutes in seven matches. The 28-year-old also remains a speedy option for Galatasaray. He is something of an anti-Dest — he contributes more in the defensive portions of the right-back position but is far less effective in ball progression. But Berhalter clearly still appreciates him, and he remains solid enough to play regularly for the Turkish heavyweight.

Jordan PefokYoung Boys. After making a number of appearances for the U.S. in the spring of 2021, Pefok evidently fell down Berhalter’s pecking order. He played 109 minutes in the first two qualification matches (zero goals, three shots) but hasn’t been called up since. He’s maintaining strong club form, however, scoring twice for Young Boys in Champions League play and scoring 11 times in 17 matches in the Swiss Super League.

If Pepi and Dike both do well in their new clubs this spring, it might be difficult for Pefok to work too far up the pecking order in 2022, but he remains sturdy and sound.

There are quite a few other veterans still carving out solid roles in Europe, including defenders Matt Miazga (Deportivo Alaves via Chelsea) and Shaq Moore (Tenerife); fullbacks Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Reggie Cannon (Boavista); midfielders Duane Holmes (Huddersfield Town) and Ian Harkes (Dundee United); and forward Christian Ramirez (Aberdeen). Thus far, only Moore has seen time in World Cup qualification play.

Still waiting for a shot

It doesn’t always immediately work out for a young player at a new club. Many are waiting their turn, from PSV Eindhoven‘s Richy Ledezma to Caen-via-Manchester City’s Erik Palmer-Brown, but let’s focus on two in particular:

Matthew HoppeMallorca. On Jan. 9 last year, Hoppe came out of nowhere to score a hat trick and lead Schalke 04 to the victory that ended its 30-match league winless streak. He suddenly landed on the USMNT radar and soon scored his first goal for his country, at age 20, against Jamaica in the summer’s Gold Cup. By September, he was joining a LaLiga club. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but all momentum has ground to a halt since. He has made only four appearances, for a total of 112 minutes, for Mallorca. He has created three chances and attempted two shots in those minutes, but he’s still waiting to make an impression.

Bryan Reynolds, Roma. Jose Mourinho is not known for leaning heavily on young players, so it wasn’t necessarily a good omen for Reynolds when Mourinho took over at Roma this year. Sure enough, after playing 285 minutes in the 2020-21 Serie A season, the 20-year-old has played just one in 2021-22. He’s been the subject of many potential loan deals this January, but none has come to fruition yet. He could certainly use the action, though — after debuting for the USMNT in a March 2021 friendly, he didn’t play again until he was made available for December’s friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina.

State of the USMNT Player Pool Entering the Next World Cup Qualifiers

A big three-match window is on the horizon for the U.S. as it attempts to qualify for the World Cup, and a number of variables surround the available players to be called in.

It’s almost that time again for the U.S. men’s national team.When we last saw the Americans—at least the first-choice batch—they were wrapping up a four-point November World Cup qualifying window, which included a familiar 2–0 home win over Mexico before a satisfactory if not unimpressive 1–1 draw at Jamaica. That left the U.S. in second place in Concacaf’s eight-team table, where the top three automatically go to the World Cup and the fourth-place finisher goes to Qatar in June for a one-game playoff against Oceania’s representative for a final spot in the 32-team field.There’s plenty at stake when qualifying resumes next week, with the U.S. continuing its second lap through the regional pool by hosting El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio, facing Canada in Hamilton, Ontario, and then returning home to St. Paul, Minn., for a date vs. Honduras. It’s the reverse fixtures of the opening three-game window of qualifying in September, and the points that could nudge the U.S. closer to Qatar are there for the taking, with the two home matches coming against the worst two teams in the table. First-place Canada will be weakened some following the word that Alphonso Davies is out while recovering from a case of myocarditis discovered following his recent experience with COVID-19.But what about the state of the U.S.? For the last 10 days, 20 MLS-based players have been training in Phoenix, where they’ll wrap up the first portion of camp Jan. 21. Some of that group will stay on and move to Columbus, where they’ll be joined by the U.S.’s abroad-based contingent. Given the time of year on the club calendar, all are in a different place when it comes to form and fitness. Winter breaks or offseasons for some leagues coupled with recent injuries, fresh transfers, the omicron coronavirus variant and other variables make for one unique set of player circumstances.“What we’ve learned is expect the unexpected,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said recently. “You never know who is going to be available to play in each game. You have to be willing to adapt.” With a roster reveal for the looming matches in the offing, here’s a positional look at the U.S. player pool and where things currently stand:

GOALKEEPERS

Zack Steffen may still be second choice at Man City and relegated to domestic cup duty, but he’ll enter this camp finding himself in a rare position: having played a competitive match more recently than Matt Turner. Not like it has mattered even when Turner was in season with the New England Revolution. After watching the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year start the first five qualifiers, Steffen has gotten the call ever since and should be expected in goal vs. El Salvador. NYCFC’s Sean Johnson appears to be in the lead for the third GK spot, though that’s not set in stone for the long haul; it’s just a product of the current state of the competition. Nations League final hero Ethan Horvath hasn’t played a minute for Nottingham Forest since Sept. 15, while 17-year-old Gabriel Slonina projects as a longer-term prospect. Including the Chicago Fire youngster as part of the team going to qualifiers could be a chip to play as he weighs his options between the U.S. and Poland, but Berhalter hasn’t typically dangled roster spots in that way and would keep Slonina for the trio of qualifiers only if he earns it through his play in camp—where he’s been with Turner and Johnson—over the last couple of weeks.

DEFENDERS

In the center, Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman were the big winners of the fall, emerging as the top-choice tandem as John Brooks struggled for form at Wolfsburg. But the former two have been out of season since their teams were eliminated from the MLS playoffs in November, and Brooks could find himself back in the mix—even if it’s not a starting role—along with Chris Richards and Mark McKenzie from the Europe-based contingent.The accelerated return of Aaron Long is another piece of the puzzle. Brought into camp in November and December to continue his rehab from a torn Achilles suffered last May, Long seems to think he’ll be ready to contribute as soon as next week.“I feel great. I mean, I’m not even eight months out yet, but I feel really good,” Long said late last week. “Just got to keep getting fit and hopefully—and I got [two] more weeks until the qualifier, so yeah, should be good to go.” “Good to go” might be overstating it, especially with Berhalter indicating earlier last week that Long was more likely to be match-fit for the three final qualifiers in March, but if he really is back and can feature at his previous level, it’s an unexpected bonus.Out wide, things may be ironically more settled on the left than the right. Antonee Robinson is a lineup fixture again for Fulham—he had a goal and an assist on Tuesday—which is in first place in England’s second tier and chasing promotion. Sam Vines has made 10 starts for Antwerp since making the move to Belgium, while the versatile Joe Scally and George Bello are the other alternatives. Vines and Scally took part in camp for the last two qualifiers but did not play.On the right, Sergiño Dest hasn’t been playing for Barcelona, which presents a bit of a problem. Dest’s last minutes were in the first half of Barça’s Champions League group finale against Bayern Munich on Dec. 8. He’s been hurt and had a case of COVID-19, which hasn’t helped his cause, but it adds a wrinkle for Berhalter as he considers how—and whether—to use one of his most dynamic players entering the final third. Behind Dest, dependable veteran DeAndre Yedlin hasn’t gotten off the bench in Galatasaray’s last four games, while Reggie Cannon, on the flip side, has reemerged as a starter at Boavista but has yet to play a minute in qualifying.Brooks’s and Yedlin’s carrying yellow cards into the three-match window also necessitates more depth at their respective positions, given that one more yellow for either would mean a one-match suspension.

MIDFIELDERS

Weston McKennie is in his best form of the season for Juventus, with goals in consecutive games and Tottenham transfer rumors swirling as the January window hits its second half. He, Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams are in line to command the midfield, though Adams needs to be wary of missing any time given his yellow-card status.

Beyond them, of the reliable MLS trio of Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta and Cristian Roldan, two have been traded (Lletget to the New England Revolution, Acosta to LAFC), and, digging a little deeper, James Sands secured a loan from NYCFC to Rangers. Save for Sands, who made his debut for Rangers on Tuesday, all have been inactive since their clubs’ seasons ended, leaving them with only U.S. camp time to stay fit.Gianluca Busio came on strong in the fall but has made just one start in Venezia’s last four matches in all competitions. Luca de la Torre remains a lineup fixture for midtable Dutch side Heracles, but Berhalter hasn’t shown much of an affinity for him during qualifying. Perhaps that will change with the second line of central midfielders out of season.

https://b7115208cbb636629166a834f33175ab.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html FORWARDS

There’s a lot to unpack here, especially in the wide areas. Christian Pulisic is fit, but he has recently been spending time on the field for Chelsea pigeonholed into wingback and false-nine roles instead of operating more exclusively in his accustomed attacking spot on the wing. Gio Reyna, who hasn’t played for club or country since the U.S.’s first qualifier, on Sept. 2, is likely to be held out until the international break, according to Dortmund coach Marco Rose. Tim Weah has also been out injured for Lille—though he returned to full training Tuesday—and is an injury doubt for the upcoming camp as well. Brenden Aaronson isn’t hurt, but Salzburg has been off since Dec. 11 for the Austrian Bundesliga’s winter break, and save for club friendlies, he won’t have had any match time in the six weeks leading into the El Salvador game. (The Athletic reported Tuesday that Leeds United is looking to buy him during the transfer window and had a $20 million bid rejected.)

Those are the U.S.’s four top attacking talents out wide, and there are questions of a varying nature about all of them and their readiness for the intense matches to come. A wild card to watch is Konrad de la Fuente, the Marseille winger who started in El Salvador in the first qualifier but hasn’t returned for either of the subsequent windows. https://b7115208cbb636629166a834f33175ab.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html In the center, Ricardo Pepi is getting settled at Augsburg, where he has looked rather comfortable in his first matches in Germany, even if he hasn’t scored just yet (and hasn’t scored for anyone since his stellar fall for the U.S. and goal vs. Jamaica). The competition there isn’t all that fierce at the moment. Josh Sargent continues to struggle for Norwich City, while Daryl Dike just moved to West Brom and is getting acclimated. Jordan Pefok, like Aaronson, has his club on winter break, though his final impression before the stoppage was a four-goal performance for Young Boys in Switzerland. Matthew Hoppe just returned from a long-term injury for Mallorca, earning his first minutes since Sept. 22 in back-to-back brief stints off the bench. It remains Pepi’s place to lose. 

The four MLS forwards currently in camp—Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Jesús Ferreira and Gyasi Zardes—could all proceed to the next phase, especially considering the expectation of an expanded squad and the need for more options. Arriola, for what it’s worth, has been linked with a move from D.C. United to Mexico’s Club América.

Written Q&A: Jordan Morris

The USMNT and Seattle Winger Opens Up on a Big 2022 Ahead with the USMNT and Seattle      Grant Wahl Jan 18 

Grant Wahl:

Our guest now is Jordan Morris, the Seattle Sounders winger who’s in the U.S. men’s national team’s January camp ahead of three big World Cup qualifiers starting at the end of the month. Jordan, it’s great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.

Jordan Morris:

Yeah, of course. No worries. No problem.

Grant Wahl:

Lots to talk about here. You’ve been in both the December and January U.S. camps after coming back from your ACL injury. One thing I always like to ask players is, how has this camp been so far? And are there any players that have stood out to you in a good way so far?

Jordan Morris:

Yeah, it’s been a great camp so far. Good to get back with the group. And I think it’s always, obviously, important before these big games coming up to get together, to get the fitness in. I think that’s been a big component of this camp is since this group isn’t playing games, getting that fitness component in and hopefully putting ourselves in a good spot to make that qualifying roster. 

But I think a lot of players have been doing really well. DeJuan [Jones] has come in. He’s kind of the newer face that I haven’t seen quite as much of. And I’ve been really impressed with him. I think he’s done a really good job. So everyone’s doing well and working hard.


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Grant Wahl:

I realize it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be on the roster for the World Cup qualifiers, but if you do make it, what kind of role would you be hoping to have?

Jordan Morris:

Any role. Of course, the goal is to be part of that group. And I think throughout my whole recovery, throughout these last two camps, I’ve just been trying to work really hard to get my fitness levels back up, to get my sharpness back up coming out of a long-term injury and, of course, wanting to be a part of that qualifying group at the end of the month. 

But whatever role I’m asked to play, if I do make that team, I’ll of course play happily. I know having been out for a while that things might not be going perfectly for me now. I know there’s things I need to continue to work on. I’m actually feeling really sharp this camp, feeling fit, feeling like my touch on the ball has gotten a lot better. But whatever role that I’m asked to play, if I do end up making the squad, I will, of course, happily play. And that’s what I love about this group is it’s just guys fighting and working for each other.

“When you have [being able to play] taken from you, you just realize how much you love the game, how much you truly appreciate it. And when I came back again, it just made that so much more clear. Not that I did this before, but you don’t ever take a day for granted. And I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be playing again.” — Jordan Morris

Grant Wahl:

I’m sure you’ve had discussions with Coach Gregg Berhalter. What has he told you about what he wants from you right now?

Jordan Morris:

Before the December camp I had a discussion with him that, like I mentioned, just getting my fitness and my sharpness back up, because I was fortunate enough to come back this year. And that was my goal was to try to get back and play at the end of the season with the Sounders. But we lost pretty quick there in the playoffs, so I didn’t get too much game time. 

And so just getting back and being able to take part in the friendly in December and just getting that fitness and that sharpness back is really important. And in terms of on the field, I think it’s similar to before the injury, what I felt like I could bring was stretching teams, getting in behind, using my pace to disorganize the opponent. And so I think it’s more of the same in terms of what I can bring to the table.

Grant Wahl:

At this moment, how close do you feel like you are to being back at your best?

Jordan Morris:

I think there’s definitely a little ways to go. I actually feel really, really good this camp. I felt like it’s been a big step up from even December fitness-wise, sharpness, touches on the ball. I think, of course, when you’re going through a rehab, and I’m super grateful for the staff in Seattle. They pushed me really, really hard. So the fitness level, when I came back, I actually felt really good. 

I think the game play, and the sharpness, and things like that are always going to come a little bit later. So coming to this camp, I’ve actually felt really, really good. I feel like there’s definitely still some things that are a little bit fast and things that I want to continue to work on. Continuing to get sharp in front of goal is obviously, a big one for myself. That’s a big part of my game. So I’m definitely not quite at a hundred percent where I was before the injury, but I’m feeling really, really good.

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