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USMNT analysis

Adams, Pulisic, Dest, Reyna, Brooks, & McKennie highlight powerful Nations League Roster

Gregg Berhalter has named his roster for the final rounds of the 2021 Nations League and it includes most of the top players available. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks it down for you with his thoughts. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
May 24, 2021
3:30 PM

ON MONDAY, United States national team manager Gregg Berhalter named his 23-player roster for the final two rounds of the 2021 Nations League and it offered a major insight into where the team stands with the start of World Cup qualifying just three months away.

Of course, the roster is not identical to how the team will assemble in September. Some players will have the chance to play at the Gold Cup – and you can tell that some backups (but still part of the 23-player roster) were left off this team so they can play big roles at the Gold Cup.

There are also injuries as well. Chris Richards has not played in a month. There are also players on this roster who have missed time recently – primarily Tyler Adams and Antonee Robinson.

Under the tournament’s rules, coaches can make changes due to injuries within 24 hours of the kickoff to the first game. So, it is not 100% certain this will be the roster come the start of the tournament.  


Anyway, here are the roster as well as some thoughts:


The Roster


GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 4/0), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 21/0)

DEFENDERS (8): John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 40/3), Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 14/0), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 7/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 2/0), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht/BEL; 21/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 42/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 10/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 62/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 27/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 12/1), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 20/6), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 21/6), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 4/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 9/0)

FORWARDS: (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 4/2), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 15/9), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 4/2), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen/GER; 13/5), Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys/SUI; 2/0), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 10/1)


Powerful, experienced roster


Of the 23 players on this roster, eight players have played in a UEFA Champions League game. Meanwhile, John Brooks, Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Siebatcheu, Mark McKenzie, and DeAndre Yedlin have yet to appear in the Champions League but are part of teams that have qualified for either the group stages or the playoff/qualifying rounds next season. Come the fall, that see the U.S. team field a 23-player roster where over half the players have played in the Champions League – all of which are under 30.

Eight players were part of teams that finished inside the top four teams of Europe’s “Big Five” leagues.

Nine players on the roster completed seasons where they made 30 appearances in European top-flight league.


No major surprises


No one on this roster should be considered a surprise. David Ochoa might raise the most eyebrows as he is the only uncapped player, but third string keepers often don’t play. Among those that will play, all have played for the national team under Gregg Berhalter.

Almost all of the players have played for the team since it returned to action in November 2020, following the pandemic shutdown. DeAndre Yedlin has not but he’s also one of the few players with World Cup experience and reintegrating him should be easy. The only other, besides Ochoa, is Mark McKenzie.


Injuries concerns


As mentioned, Tyler Adams missed the stretch run for RB Leipzig (including the DFB Pokal final) due to a bad back. At this point, it is hard to imagine him at 100% for the opening of camp in Switzerland.

Should Berhalter have to replace Adams before the start of the Nations League, his options are limited. Adams is the hardest player to replace on the entire team. If Berhalter seeks to call-up another midfielder, he could name Cristian Roldan or Luca de la Torre – although both of those players could be set for the Gold Cup. 

There is also the chance that with both Jackson Yueill and Kellyn Acosta making it, Berhalter might have hedged his bets that Adams might not be ready and that he has enough midfielders. This would allow him to replace Adams with a player at a different position. 

Berhalter might also add a winger – which would allow Aaronson to drop into the midfield. Paul Arriola, Konrad de la Fuente, and Tyler Boyd could be options there.

After missing the last two weeks for Fulham, if Antonee Robinson can’t go, it would create the need for another fullback. Sam Vines seems like the most logical replacement although would that prevent Berhalter from calling him up to the Gold Cup? Perhaps not if it is just the two Nations League games – which are being played in Denver, near Vines’ home base.


Who is not here?


Whenever rosters are released, there is always a lot of speculation about players not making the cut. In this case, Berhalter clearly wants to field one of his strongest possible starting lineups possible, but he also has an eye to the Gold Cup. Some key back-ups, who could be part of the top 23, can use the Gold Cup as a chance to start and find roles within the team. That would be more beneficial to them compared with riding the bench for the Nations League.

Players that standout as being key parts of the 2021 Gold Cup team are Luca de la Torre, Matt Turner, Gyasi Zardes, Julian Green, Sam Vines, Nicholas Gioacchini, Walker Zimmerman, Matthew Hoppe, Cristian Roldan, Miles Robinson, Paul Arriola, Erik Palmer-Brown, Christian Cappis, Tyler Boyd, along with several young players in MLS who are impressing at the start of the season.

The puzzling player missing from this list right now is Daryl Dike. The Orlando City forward had a strong season on loan at Barnsley – and that team was just eliminated from the promotional playoffs over the weekend. Dike was part of the preliminary roster and was named to the roster for the friendly against Switzerland.

Dike is heading into an offseason where he could likely be on the move. Still, he’s not the only player looking at a potential roster (Josh Sargent, Matt Miazga, and Ethan Horvath all come to mind). It will be interesting to see if Berhalter believes Dike is one for the Nations League, or if he is just behind Sargent, Siebatcheu, and Weah at the moment.


Cap-tying event


A lot of dual nationals can be permanently cap-tied if they play in this tournament.

Here is a list of six players who will tie themselves to the U.S. program by playing in this game.

  •         Yunus Musah
  •         Antonee Robinson
  •         David Ochoa
  •         Gio Reyna
  •         Tim Weah
  •         Jordan Siebatcheu

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