Earnie_stewart_and_gregg_berhalter_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_together_on_usmnt_bench_-_january_2019_-_john_dorton John Dorton/ISI Photos
USMNT roster analysis

A look at Berhalter's youthful USMNT January Camp roster

The first USMNT roster of 2020 is out and there is a lot to talk about as it offers a look at a few players of a generation U.S. Soccer hopes will emerge in the coming years. ASN's Brian Sciaretta looks at the group of 25 that will train in Qatar in January before returning to the States to play Costa Rica. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 30, 2019
5:35 PM
UNITED STATES manager Gregg Berhalter named his 25-player training camp for the upcoming January camp which will take place in Doha, Qatar from January 5-25 before returning to the United States to play Costa Rica in Carson, California on February 1.

The roster contains a lot of surprising players who are also eligible for U.S. youth teams. 14 of the 25 players are age-eligible for the 2020 U.S. U-23 team that will attempt to qualify for the Olympics. Three of those 14 are eligible for the current U.S. U-20 team for its 2021 World Cup cycle.

As is the nature with any January camp, it contains mostly domestic players because the camp does not take place in an international window and player-releases are not mandatory. Despite that, it is one of the most interesting rosters from Berhalter to date.

Of course, it includes many of the standard names who are first choice players under any roster and there are MLS players who are also missing besides those from Atlanta: Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Wil Trapp, Daniel Lovitz - but it will also give him a chance to look at possible players who might emerge in the future.

Here is the roster along with some thoughts


GOALKEEPERS (4): Bill Hamid (D.C. United; 6/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 8/0), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; 0/0), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 10/0), Chase Gasper (Minnesota United FC; 0/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 16/3), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 11/2)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Christian Cappis (Hobro/DEN; 0/0), Bryang Kayo (Unattached; 0/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 13/2), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas; 1/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 19/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 6/0)

FORWARDS (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 32/5), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 5/0), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg/GER; 0/0), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 39/10), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 55/12)

Holding camp in Qatar

The decision to hold camp in Qatar raised a lot of eyebrows on the heels of the team’s first cycle since 1986 when it failed to qualify for the World Cup.

The press release even mentioned this: “With the confidence and anticipation of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the USMNT will take a first opportunity to experience the football facilities, customs, weather, and other logistical and performance considerations in the host nation.”

Is the team and the federation looking too far ahead? Qualifying will indeed be challenging given that the team will be taking part in the Hexagonal in nine months with a very young and inexperienced roster. But to suggest that this trip will have the team looking beyond qualifying is a pessimistic view – which is understandable, but not necessarily correct.

The expectations and confidence should always be to qualify. Plus, there are benefits to being prepared if the team does qualify. Being familiar with the surrounding environment is very important. It was one of the benefits the team had of playing at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa. But it’s also not only useful for the players (because who will be on the roster in 2022 is still very much unclear) but it is also important for the staff.

Besides preparation for the World Cup, Qatar is a good place for a soccer team to be this time a year. Many European leagues are in winter break and elect to play friendlies (often closed door) to prepare for the second half of the season.

The Middle East is a frequently used location for many European teams at this time of year. So, if the U.S. team is going to scrimmage, there is a better chance to get quality opponents in Qatar than at home (where the team in recent years has trained against reserve teams of Liga MX teams, or makeshift opponents).

Atlanta says no

Last year, Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer voiced his displeasure at the national team for its use of its starting central defender Miles Robinson, who was injured in camp. Flash forward to January camp, Atlanta United rejected the U.S. call-ups for its players which were reportedly Miles Robinson, Brooks Lennon, and Brad Guzan.

As MLS continues to grow, some teams will not see eye-to-eye with the U.S. national team. But Atlanta is one of the biggest clubs in the United States. There is always the potential for a U.S. national team regular to be on that team for the years ahead. Miles Robinson is one of the many emerging players of a younger generation and a potential likely starter for the U.S. U-23 team.

Is Atlanta United on good terms with the U.S. team? Is it simply just trying to prepare for the CONCACAF Champions League? We will find out over time but if the relationship is strained, it’s best for everyone that it be repaired.

A look at the new, young players

The big takeaway from the roster is that there are a lot of young players on this team earning their first call-up. Here is a brief look at what to expect from each of the players.

Jesus Ferreira: It’s no secret that U.S. Soccer has wanted to get the talented FC Dallas attacker into the fold at various levels. He was called into a U-20 camp last January ahead of the U-20 World Cup. Then in the fall, he was called up for a U-23 camp, now he is called up to a full national team camp. The problem with getting him fully involved is that he was still not a citizen of the United States. That happened last week on his 19th birthday but Ferreira is still not able to play in an official game or the United States until he gets a waiver from FIFA’s residence requirements (for naturalized citizens of a country). That process is underway.

Ferreira is exciting because he one of the best young players in a strong FC Dallas youth system. Last year he emerged as a regular starter and was important in the team’s playoff push. He also can play center forward, wing, or as a No. 10. So, he will give Berhalter a lot of options (just as he gives Luchi Gonzalez a lot of options at Dallas). Should he get his FIFA waiver, Ferreira will likely shift to the Olympic team in March – and in the summer if qualifying is successful – because versatility is huge for the Olympics.

The son of David Ferreira, the Colombian national team veteran who also won an MLS MVP for Dallas, Ferreira grew up in soccer culture and his involvement with the U.S. team is a positive step for U.S. Soccer.

Uly Llanez: The talented winger has produced a lot of goals and assists for Wolfsburg U-19 team and his inclusion to this team is both good news and bad. It’s bad news because many fans were hoping that he would have been with Wolfsburg’s full team during the Bundesliga winter break as many teams incorporate their top young players into training.

On the other hand, it provides a challenge for Llanez within the U.S. system. The chances are that Llanez will drop down to the U.S. U-23 team or the U.S. U-20 team this year – and he could be a true leader of the U-20 team this cycle. But this allows him to be surrounded by a lot of other good young players of his generation in a very young camp. But he is not just along for the ride either, the U.S. team needs depth on the wings and he will provide that. When he will be a first choice player for the U.S. team remains to be seen and it depends mostly on what he does at Wolfsburg but this keeps him in the system and is a nice measuring stick.

Julian Araujo: Araujo is a talented right back who was on the last U.S. U-20 World Cup team but was stuck behind Sergino Dest and didn’t play. He is also eligible for this U-20 cycle and will likely be a key player for that team. Right back isn’t an easy position to break into at the moment for the U.S. team as DeAndre Yedlin is in his prime and Sergino Dest and Reggie Cannon are also solid options who are U-23 age-eligible.

Beyond the U-20 team, Araujo’s challenge will be breaking into the full-team starting lineup for the Galaxy and attempting to play 2000 minutes for them in 2020. He has a lot of youth national team eligibility ahead of him with the 2021 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 U-23 Olympic team all possible. In the short term, the full national team might require him showing an ability to play a second position at a high level because in his past he has played right midfield and central defense.

Christian Cappis: A very interesting call-up who brings a lot of options to Berhalter in central midfield. A bigger and stronger player, Cappis is also tidy on the ball but can handle the physical game. He was cut from the 2019 U.S. U-20 World Cup team but has since emerged as a regular starter at Hobro in the Danish Superliga. Unfortunately for Cappis, while he has played well, Hobro has fallen into a very difficult relegation fight in the Superliga. As a result, Cappis is also playing for a transfer because he’s too good for the Danish second tier. For now, he has taken strong first steps in his professional career and he is a player U.S. Soccer should want to keep in the system – even if he is more likely a U-23 option in the coming months.

Sam Vines: Vines was another player who fell out of favor under Tab Ramos for the 2019 U-20 team after he was a regular early in the season. But he played a lot of minutes for Colorado in 2019 and was pretty good, although his recent U.S. U-23 camp was rocky. But Vines plays left back and that position is always in demand and Berhalter (and other U.S. coaches) are going to want to give serious looks to most options there.

Bryang Kayo: Kayo is by far the most surprising roster pick of the group and was on the recent U.S. U-17 team. He rejected a homegrown offer from DC United and signed with Orange County SC where he is biding his time until he turns 18 and will likely head for Germany. A tall central midfielder, Kayo is another potential U.S. U-20, 2020 U-23, and 2024 U-23 option. It is a forward thinking move from Berhalter and another way for him to send a message to a young player that he is part of the system and offer some motivation.

The next step for others

While the above mentioned newcomers are all getting their feet wet for the first time with the full national team, there are others who are in camp and have been called up before but have seen only limited minutes (or sometimes even no minutes). These players should be beyond their first few steps with the team and ready to be tested more.

The example of such players are midfielders Paxton Pomykal and Brenden Aaronson. Defender Mark McKenzie and winger Jonathan Lewis. These players will have more at stake in terms of showing a transition from prospect to a more mature and more ready to contribute player.

Leadership role open

This roster isn’t just missing many of the top abroad players (as is typical for this camp) but it is also missing typical leaders from the MLS contingent. Without Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Wil Trapp and others, the leadership roles are open.

So who will fill that void? There are options. Aaron Long has started key games over the past year? Will he now enter that role? Sebastian Lletget and Paul Arriola are also an important domestic player who has experience at this level and he might be one that the young players will look up to and follow? Jordan Morris is also a first-choice starter at the moment and is coming off a very strong 2019 – perhaps more than any other domestic-based player.

Whoever earns the captain’s armband on February 1 will be revealing. This team is still very young and uneven. It will be interesting to see who emerges as an important leader both on-field and off-field.

Post a comment