Gregg Berhalter submitted 40 names for Concacaf as a provisional roster for the upcoming Nations League finals. I believe that an analysis of this list can tell you quite a bit about the current USMNT depth chart in Berhalter’s mind. Berhalter seems to anticipate using 26 players for World Cup Qualifying. How this CNL window ties into Qualifying, is explained in this piece from last week.
Here is the 40 man provisional roster by position:
GK: Steffen, Turner, Johnson, Horvath, Ochoa
RB: Dest, Cannon, Yedlin, Reynolds
CB: Brooks, Long, Miazga, Richards, Ream, McKenzie, Zimmerman, M. Robinson
LB: A. Robinson, Vines
DM: Adams, Yueill, Acosta
CM: McKennie, Musah, Lletget, de la Torre, Roldan, Otasowie
FW: Pulisic, Reyna, Aaronson, Weah, Arriola, Boyd, Konrad
CF: Sargent, Zardes, Dike, Siebatcheu, Gioacchini
The players in bold were on the 26 man roster for the March Friendlies. I also put in bold Turner, McKennie and Weah, because they would have been there but for injury or quarantine reasons and Yueill as he was at Olympic Qualifying and was unavailable. Since the March window was the first since November 2019 where Berhalter could call any player he wanted, it is logical to think that was his preferred 26 at that time, minus players that were unavailable.
Since some players were unavailable, you can’t just look at the 26 called for March and say that is the squad. So, we have to add in the obvious ones mentioned in the previous paragraph and drop a few. Not everyone on the March roster is even on this expanded 40 man roster. Erik Palmer-Brown, for example, was also on the March roster, but did not play and is not on the 40-man provisional roster.
Drumroll please! Your USMNT 26 man depth chart according to Gregg Berhalter (as best I can tell):
So, who on the provisional roster does that leave and why are they on there?
GK: Johnson, Ochoa
CB: McKenzie, Zimmerman, M. Robinson
CM: Roldan, Otasowie
FW: Arriola, Boyd, Konrad
CF: Zardes, Gioacchini
I think you can group these into three categories:
Young Dual-Nationals: (Ochoa, Otasowie, Konrad, Gioachinni) These players are seen as long term important to the program and Berhalter wants to keep them involved as they have options with other countries. They could be at the Gold Cup too and play there. They could be on the roster for the Swiss friendly then cut loose, or travel with the team and train.
Close Players: (Johnson, McKenzie, Yedlin, Vines) These two might be in the 26. Horvath was called in March over Johnson, but maybe that was just to see him or because he is best friends with Pulisic. It would not be surprising if Johnson was the #3 GK, or even the #2. McKenzie was not called in March, and I never heard why. He is not starting at Genk, but he is an excellent young player who could be on the depth chart over Ream or Reynolds. Yedlin could be anywhere from #2-#4 as a RB right now. He has played well in Turkey and has experience few in this 40 man roster have. Vines could be the option behind Antonee Robinson, but in big games it has been Ream. But we haven’t played any big games in awhile. Most likely, Dest is the #1 RB and #2 LB and then you choose between Reynolds or Vines as an extra backup fullback. Reynolds is raw, but making strides at Roma and Vines looked poor at Olympic Qualifying, so I would go Reynolds. Fullback options and combinations could be an entire article really haha!
Injury Replacements: (Roldan, Yedlin, Zimmerman, M. Robinson, Arriola, Boyd, Zardes) These players are older, are not in the 26, but could fill in on the bench if needed for the tournament because they have spent a lot of time in Berhalter’s system. They could also be veteran options to teach the system at the Gold Cup. As for Zardes, he has not been in a camp since January 2020, and didn’t start then. Some think he is the #1 option for Berhalter, others get physically sick when hearing he could start a World Cup Qualifier. I think he is behind Sargent for sure and probably the others, but he could be starting against Honduras on June 3.
“How can Player X not make a 40 man roster!”
Been seeing a lot of this. But whomever you think Player X is, it is pretty much because they have never been in camp. There are young and exciting players in MLS, especially, like Caden Clark and Moses Nyeman. Hopefully we see them at the Gold Cup where they can start their integration. Or maybe, USSF will take the U20 program out of mothballs and have these players to a U20 camp. Because, let’s face it, the “Injury Replacements” above need to be replaced!
There are European based players who are playing well in second leagues. Cameron Carter-Vickers and Julian Green. I think both these players deserve a shot and are better than a good chunk of the names on this roster. However, Green has never been in a camp with Berhalter and therefore, would be tough for him to fill in on short notice. CCV was in a camp in June 2019, but not since. Both should be at the Gold Cup. Both could be in a Top 4 league next year if their teams win promotion or they work a transfer. It would be a waste to not be able to have them as options, when they are playing at that level, because we couldn’t fit them in while giving multiple caps to guys like Jonathan Lewis and Walker Zimmerman over the past 12 months.