My Thoughts on the USMNT World Cup Roster
Steffen left off the 26-man squad, while Ream makes his first national team roster since October 2021. In: Wright, Sargent, Moore, Roldan, Morris. Out: Pepi, Pefok, Cannon, Arriola, Tillman.
NEW YORK CITY — USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter released his 26-player World Cup roster on Wednesday at an event here at Brooklyn Steel attended by several U.S.-based players.
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There are more surprises than expected, given that Berhalter usually is pretty conservative about sticking with “his guys.” The biggest news is that Berhalter has left goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who is not injured, completely off the roster and chosen instead Matt Turner, Sean Johnson and Ethan Horvath. Steffen started six of the U.S.’s 14 World Cup qualifying games, splitting duties with Turner.
Based purely on Steffen’s performance for club and country for a while now, you can make the case that he shouldn’t be on the roster as one of the top three U.S. goalkeepers. But it’s stunning that he’s not even on the World Cup squad of Berhalter, who has favored Steffen over Turner as the starter when both are healthy, citing Steffen’s ability to play out of the back. Even heading into this week I would have suspected that Steffen would start in Qatar if healthy based on Berhalter’s decision-making process.
Also making news is centerback Tim Ream, who is on the World Cup roster for his first national team call-up since October 2021. (Ream ended up declining that invitation for family reasons, giving a chance to Walker Zimmerman, who was called up to replace Ream and eventually won a starting job.) Ream had obviously been left off for a while, but he has played well in the Premier League this season while serving as Fulham’s captain. His inclusion makes total sense.
The other position that seemed the most in flux was the centerforward spot. In the end, Berhalter chose Jesús Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Haji Wright. It’s a big call to leave out Jordan Pefok, who has started this season for Union Berlin, the surprise team in the Bundesliga. While Pefok may not be a great fit for Berhalter’s system, he appeared to be a smart choice if the U.S. was desperate for a goal late in the game.
And it’s also surprising that Berhalter chose to leave off Ricardo Pepi. The 19-year-old was called up for the September games and has started producing more goals and assists while on loan with Groningen in the Netherlands.
Here are the roster (club/country; caps/goals; hometown) and my thoughts on the selections and omissions:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8/0; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Sean Johnson (New York City; 10/0; Lilburn, Ga.), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0; Park Ridge, N.J.).
Notable Omissions: Steffen.
My Thoughts: See above. I fully expect Turner to start for the U.S. in Qatar, as long as his recent minor injury troubles subside. Turner was in uniform for Arsenal again over the weekend, suggesting that he’ll be fine for the World Cup.
DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0; Southend-on-Sea, England), Sergiño Dest (Milan/ITA; 19/2; Almere, Netherlands), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3; Oak Hills, Calif.), Shaq Moore (Nashville; 15/1; Powder Springs, Ga.), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1; St. Louis, Mo.), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2; Liverpool, England), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 3/0; Lake Grove, N.Y.), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 75/0; Seattle, Wash.), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville; 33/3; Lawrenceville, Ga.)
Notable Omissions: Reggie Cannon, Mark McKenzie, Erik Palmer-Brown, James Sands.
My Thoughts: My guess is the starting back line will be Dest, Zimmerman, Long and Robinson. With Chris Richards’s inability to go due to injury, Ream is the headline addition in the central defense corps. He actually looked pretty good against Erling Haaland over the weekend, which is a positive sign. Long will enter the tournament as the most questioned U.S. player who’s likely to start. But I think Ream has a chance to replace him, and Ream’s club familiarity with Robinson isn’t a bad thing, either.
The biggest surprise among the fullbacks is that Moore has been selected, while Cannon has not. But this was for the third-string spot at right back, so it’s not that big of a deal.
MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6; Medford, N.J.), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2; Plano, Texas), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0; San Diego, Calif.), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9; Little Elm, Texas), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0; London, England), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 32/0; Pico Rivera, Calif.)
Notable Omissions: Malik Tillman, Djordje Mihailovic.
My Thoughts: My expected starters in the central midfield are Adams, McKennie and Musah. McKennie’s injury for Juventus is not believed to be serious enough to prevent him from playing at the World Cup, but it could be a tight squeeze with the short turn-around time.
It’s also interesting that Aaronson is listed as a midfielder when he has always ben listed as a forward/winger before. An indication that he might have a greater chance of playing an attacking midfield role?
De La Torre appears to have recovered from an injury, and Berhalter clearly has some trust in him, even though he has played little at club level. Roldan has recovered enough from his groin surgery to make the team, which will be met with criticism from some fans, but he has been a stalwart in Berhalter’s roster when healthy.
And while Tillman appeared to be making a run to the roster earlier in the club season, his performances declined noticeably for Rangers.
FORWARDS (8): Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7; McKinney, Texas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11; Mercer Island, Wash.), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21; Hershey, Pa.), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4; Bedford, N.Y.), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3; Rosedale, N.Y.), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1; Los Angeles, Calif.)
Notable Omissions: Pefok, Pepi, Paul Arriola, Brandon Vázquez.
My Thoughts: If I had to name a starting front line right now from Berhalter’s perspective, the only lock would probably be Pulisic. I think Berhalter will lean toward Reyna on the other wing (he started him in both September games), but it could also be Weah (who has produced for the national team) or Aaronson (who’s in good form at club level). Just having all those guys healthy for the World Cup is a positive.
Starting centerforward? That’s a tougher call than ever. Ferreira seemed to be Berhalter’s guy, but he had a rough time down the stretch in MLS. Maybe Sargent or Wright? Who knows?
Wright looked like he had played himself off the roster in June and wasn’t called up in September, but he’s the second-leading scorer in the Turkish Super Lig and clearly did enough to be chosen over Pepi and Pefok. And while Morris might not have made the roster if it was 23 players instead of 26, that doesn’t matter now. He’s here.
You have to feel for Arriola, who has been a regular contributor during qualifying but has now been left off the team for Qatar.
What are your thoughts on the roster? You can put them in the comment section below.
Note: Berhalter just said Arriola missing the roster was not injury-related. More so due to having more healthy wingers available now.
I’m feeling pleasantly surprised lately -- the Dems performance and Gregg’s sensible choices.