USSF called in 26 players for the first World Cup Qualifiers since the disaster in Couva.  The roster includes almost all the top players (Tim Weah and Yunus Musah had to withdraw with an injury).  However, there are some players missing.  What is nice to think about is that this roster is strong enough, by far, to get the job done but we could see a turnover of 4-8 names by the next window, in October to make it even stronger.  

Let’s go back in history to before Couva even.  After winning the Gold Cup, the USMNT faced Costa Rica, at home, in a World Cup Qualifier.  This was a pivotal loss and I believe the coaches and managers of the USMNT have taken a lesson from that game.  That lesson is Fabian Johnson.  Fabian was one of my favorite players and a great USMNT player.  He would play wherever you wanted him to and frequently played out of position to help the team.  However, he had been injured much of the previous season and had not played much at all going into that September 2017 game.  In the training before the game, Bruce Arena said Fabian looked great and was the most technical player in the squad.  He started him at LW, his preferred position.  Fabian though was just not able to positively impact the game.  I believe Berhalter and his brain trust think this was a mistake by Arena and they are looking to correct it.

The timing of this first week in September window, and the lesson of September 2017, has made two groups of players ineligible in Berhalter’s mind:

  1. Players that have not played much club soccer because they have not integrated back into their club team after participating in the Gold Cup.  
  2. Players that have not played because they have recently transferred or are working on a transfer or loan.

Players in the first group include Reggie Cannon, Shaq Moore, Nico Gioachinni, Darryl Dike, and Matthew Hoppe (he could be in both groups).  Players in the second group include Chris Richards, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Gianluca Busio, Sam Vines, Matt Miazga.

Then there is a third group of players who are simply injured:  Gyasi Zardes, Yunus Musah and Paul Arriola.

Then there is a fourth group of players that were caught in No-Man’s land this July.  They could have come to the Gold Cup or not.  If they had gone, they wouldn’t probably be starting now for their clubs and would have fallen in Group 1.   That they stayed, they didn’t get integrated with the team so haven’t been called.  This group of damned if they did or didn’t are Julian Green and Luca De La Torre.

Who knows which of the above would have been called over such players as Walker Zimmerman, James Sands, Tim Ream, or Cristian Roldan.  Maybe none of them.  But there is an argument for many of the 15 players listed above.  That puts the serviceable player depth at 41 and doesn’t include any of the exciting 2003 birth year players making waves in MLS this season like Kevin Paredes, Cade Cowell, and Caden Clark.

Could you have come up with 17 players you thought could have been on the roster for Couva?  The depth has grown so much and so fast and just in time.  If in 2017, we had had a starting Champions League striker/winger get hurt the game before a qualifying window, it would have been a big problem to fix.  Now, Weah gets hurt and people are discussing which of five guys can be brought in.  This is going to be important with a very grueling qualifying schedule going on at the same time as MLS has condensed their schedule and European leagues get back to their normally busy schedule.

In October, we could see higher level players brought into the team at several spots.  Chris Richards will presumably have played 3-4 games for Hoffenheim (Tier 2), Matt Miazga might have another 3-4 games for Alaves in La Liga, Yunus Musah might be healthy and again on the field for Valencia in the same league.  That will just make an already strong roster stronger!

Chris Richards USMNT USYNT Bayern Munich

EL Salvador vs USMNT Roster Analysis

Let’s compare the current roster to the roster in Couva and the first opponent, El Salvador.  If you remember my article on league strength and player tiers, we can analyze the two rosters.  If you don’t remember, and it has been awhile, here it is:

https://chasingacup.com/change-is-afoot-usmnt-tier-improvements/

The 14 players that were on the field for the USMNT in the loss against T&T had an average Tier rating of 2.85.   The 14 players break down to 13, Tier 3 players and 1, Tier 1 player.  2.85 is probably a decent MLS team level, such as the Columbus Crew or an English team such as Norwich.

Here is my projection for El Salvador’s best team:

Position Player Tier

GK

Gonzales

4

RB

Tamacas

4

CB

Zavaleta

3

CB

Rodriguez

4

LB

Larin

4

CM

Ceren

3

CM

Roldan

3

CM

Moreno

4

RW

Perez

4

CF

Rivas

4

LW

Henriquez

4

 

That works out to 3.73 tier rating.   Of course, the original article didn’t have a 4th Tier.  Fourth Tier is basically the USL, non-Concacaf Champions League regional teams not in MLS or Liga MX, and 2nd divisions of UEFA leagues ranked 5-12.  A 3.73 tier rating is basically a League 1 team from England like Accrington Stanley or a USL team like Phoenix Rising.  

Now let’s look at the USMNT current Tiers:

Position Player Tier

GK

Steffen

2

RB

Dest

1

CB

Brooks

1

CB

Robinson

3

LB

Robinson

3

CM

Adams

1

CM

McKennie

1

CM

Acosta

3

RW

Reyna

1

CF

Sargent

3

LW

Pulisic

1

 

That works out to a Tier average of 1.81.  That equates to a club team that is sometimes in the Champions League, but mostly in the Europa League.  A team like Tottenham or Wolfsburg.  So, when looking at talent in a vacuum, the upcoming game against El Salvador will be like an FA cup match where Tottenham is visiting Accrington Stanley.  Or a Bayer Leverkusen versus Saarbrucken.

The USMNT historically has not done well on the road in Central America.  However, the USMNT has never had talent like they currently have.  It is young, inexperienced, but hungry and how this plays out is going to be fascinating and exciting!