A look at the USMNT roster for the December camp
November 30, 2020
ON MONDAY, United States national team manager Gregg Berhalter announced his roster for the friendly on December 9 against El Salvador in Ft. Lauderdale and this builds from the November European roster in that it is heavily based on youth national team roster.
Of the 22-players on the roster, 15 are eligible for the 2021 U-23 Olympic team and nine are age 20 and younger. The roster is also not necessarily complete as players might be added following the MLS Western Conference semifinals.
Here is the roster as well as some of my thoughts.
GOALKEEPERS (3): CJ Dos Santos (Benfica/POR; 0/0), Bill Hamid (D.C. United; 7/0), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; 0/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; 0/0), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers; 0/0, Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 17/3), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; 1/0), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 1/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 12/2)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; 1/0), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 23/2), Frankie Amaya (FC Cincinnati; 0/0), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 16/3)
FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC/CAN; 0/0), Efrain Alvarez (LA Galaxy; 0/0), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 33/5), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; 5/1), Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC; 0/0)
Aaronson joins prior to Salzburg move
Brenden Aaronson, 20, is technically a Philadelphia Union player but he has played his last game with the club. Following this game, he will head to Austria to join Red Bull Salzburg to join the Austrian leaders and defending champions.
The Medford, NJ native played a lot of minutes this year and had a great season, despite the early playoff exit. Now heading to Austria, he will have a lot of eyes on him as a big export of the league.
It will also be up to him to begin making an impact at the international level. That is something he has never done before, even at the youth level. Aaronson was cut from the U.S. U-20 team in 2019 and was never in the U-17 pool. He was slated to be on the U-23 team for Olympic qualifying before COVID postponed the tournament. But now he has raised his game at the club level, can he become a big player for the national team or the U-23 team in 2021. If Yunus Musah does not choose to play for the U.S. team, there could be a big opening for Aaronson.
Alvarez evaluating options
California native Efra Alvarez, 18, is on this roster but is ineligible to play in the game. In the past, he has played for the youth teams of both the United States and Mexico but his involvement in official games with Mexico’s U-17 means that he can only play for the United States (even if this game) if he files a one-time switch with FIFA. That is something that he is not doing, just yet.
While Alvarez is not going to play, his involvement in this camp at least indicates that he is keeping his options open internationally. He still has a lot to prove as a player, but has shown glimpses of being promising at times. If he were to switch, he’d be a good option with the U.S. U-20 team and possibly the U.S. U-23 team and is certainly a good prospect for the future.
Dike and Akinola
The additions of Daryl Dike and Ayo Akinola, both 20, are very positive inclusions to the roster. Both players are U-23 eligible, are dual nationals, and are part of an improving forward pool for the U.S. team.
Both are also coming off very good seasons – Akinola scored 9 goals and Dike scored 8 goals. On the dual national front, Akinola was raised in Canada and the Canadian federation has been speaking with him. To play for Canada, however, would take a one-time switch as he was a member of the 2017 U.S. U-17 World Cup team and the U-20 World Cup qualifying team in 2018. For Dike, his brother and sister both represented Nigeria internationally.
Dike is particularly interesting due to his size and strength. At 6’2”and 220 pounds, Dike moves very well for a player of that size and he has decent skill. There are not many players like him and if he’s good enough for the U.S. team, he can give the team a different look.
While not as big, Akinola also moves well and is strong. With proper service, he can be a good addition to the pool.
Combined with established options like Sargent, Zardes and other good/young players like Niko Gioacchini, Sebastian Soto, Haji Wright, the U.S. player pool has improved nicely. Akinola and Dike are certainly in the mix.
Bassett & Araujo top U-20s
The 2021 U.S. U-20 team is also well-represented on this roster. David Ochoa is probably the top U-20 goalkeeper at the moment and his inclusion keeps him involved before that team restarts play.
Among field players, Cole Bassett and Julian Araujo are two of the top U.S. U-20 players based domestically at the moment. Other top players like Tanner Tessmann, Bryan Reynolds, Ricardo Pepi, and George Bello are all on teams either still in the playoffs or the CONCACAF Champions League.
Bassett will play a big role in U-20 World Cup qualifying next year – whenever that takes place. He also is coming off a nice season for Colorado with 5 goals and 5 assists. He is a player with European ambitions and it is good to keep him involved in the system as he could be good for the future.
Araujo is also a top U-20 player right now although it remains to be seen if he is a right back, a right midfielder, or a center back with the U-20 team (especially since Reynolds is a also a good right back). But as a player who is keeping his options open with Mexico, the U.S. program is better with him in the system.
Last month, Berhalter has spoken highly has spoken highly of Arajuo so he might start in this one but will also have to beat out Kyle Duncan.
Mueller the late bloomer
While so much of the U.S. player pool skews younger than 23, Mueller stands out to the contrary. He is now 24, has never played for the U.S. youth national teams, and is still based domestically. But he is coming off a season where he arguably could have made the league’s Best XI and he put up solid numbers with 10 goals and 7 assists.
In the past, Mueller would not have been viewed as a “old” first call-up. In fact, there have been players of his background who have been very good U.S. national team players. But these days, it is different and the pool of players skews younger.
But Mueller deserves this and there will always be “late-bloomers” on the team. Mueller has a good skillset. He passes well, can score, and can also handle the physical side of the game well.
Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta, and Bill Hamid represent the older core of this roster. It will be interesting to see the leadership each brings to this camp. On the field, each of these players arrives in completely different set of circumstances.
Zimmerman is the league’s defender of the year and central defense on the U.S. team is definitely not settled, even among the European options. The same could be said for Aaron Long, who hasn’t had the season Zimmerman has but is faster and more mobile – which might be a skillset Berhalter believes the team needs in the backline.
Arriola is a player who is coming off an ACL but before that, had value to the U.S. team. His final ball sometimes lets him down, but he finds ways to help the team when he’s off with his finishing. He covers a ton of ground and is strong defensively for a winger.
Sebastian Lletget and Kellyn Acosta are veterans in the midfield and Lletget is still probably borderline in the full 23 when everyone is healthy. Acosta is trying to get back into the picture but he was an asset to an improved Colorado team.
For Hamid, the goalkeeping pool needs players who are playing. He benefits from the fact Matt Turner is still in the playoffs, but can Hamid take advantage?
Due to COVID issues and the right of clubs to refuse releases, it is impossible to fully determine why some domestic-based players were not involved.
Jackson Yueill and Jeremy Ebobisse stand out the most. Ebobisse is probably the top U.S. U-23 forward based domestically and missed a lot of time due to a concussion. He played in Portland’s playoff loss to Dallas but was a late-game sub and might not have been 100%.
Yueill’s absence along with JT Marcinkowski (the U.S. U-23 goalkeeper) might suggest that the issue is related to San Jose. If it is COVID or quarantine related, perhaps they could be added later.
Also, one of the big questions is that neither Michael Bradley nor Jozy Altidore are on the team. Has Father Time finally caught up to both players?
Who could still be added?
The roster release noted that players could be added based on the results of the MLS Western Conference semifinals where Seattle hosts Dallas and Sporting Kansas City hosts Minnesota United. The players from losing teams would likely then be in consideration.
For Seattle, Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan are likely in consideration. Perhaps Stefan Frei as well.
For Dallas, Bryan Reynolds, Jesus Ferreira, Tanner Tessman, and Ricardo Pepi are likely in the mix (and have been reported by 3rd Degree).
For Sporting Kansas City, Gianluca Busio is probably the only player although Tim Melia could be too.
For Minnesota United, Hassani Dotson and Chase Gaspar are the mostly likely candidates.