Morning update

More USMNT roster thoughts, U-23 roster looms, MLS homestretch, Buck to England, & more

ASN's Brian Sciaretta kicks off your Friday morning with more thoughts on the USMNT roster, the U.S. U-23 team, MLS, Americans abroad, and some quality dual national panic. TGIF!
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 06, 2023
10:15 AM

IT’S FRIDAY EVERYONE, we’ve reached the end of the week. Yesterday was a busy day with the USMNT roster release for October. Those always take up so much time, that we didn’t even get to everything we wanted from the midweek.

Next week will start the international window and it should be an active time with both the USMNT and the U.S. U-23 team in action. Before that happens, we have one last packed weekend for club soccer, which should be fun for those following the game here and abroad – and ASN covers both.

Here are a few more thoughts from everything over the past week.


More USMNT thoughts


The USMNT roster came out yesterday and ASN had some initial thoughts on it, as always. Since then, we have had a conference call with Gregg Berhalter. Also, some other news has surfaced regarding the team.

Berhalter is shifting through his player pool, and we’ve seen a few surprises for his first two rosters since his return. There have been a few such as Kristoffer Lund, Benja Cremaschi, and Kevin Paredes in the first camp. In this roster, the only surprise was Lennard Maloney.

Cremaschi is not on this roster, and he might shift to the U.S. U-23 team or Argentina’s U-20 team. We will also see if Maloney is able to stick past this camp.

But this is going to be a far different cycle than the previous one where Berhalter (along with Dave Sarachan before Berhalter took over) had to build up a team from scratch. Gradually, most of the 2008-2018 players were dropped and replaced.

There is going to be far less turnover this cycle and in most international windows, there is going to be a lot of consistency. Perhaps we will see an occasional surprise, but for the next year, my guess is that it will mostly be the same players.


The Olympic team


In the future, U-23 team pool could provide a lot of competition to push the current group of players. But for now, that team will begin preparations this month for the 2024 Olympics. It has been a long time since the U-23 team was in the Olympics, but historically that team has been a very useful springboard for young players on the fringes of the USMNT to make a full jump into the full national team.

In 2008, Charlie Davies, Benny Feilhaber, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Maurice Edu, Stuart Holden, and others all moved into the full national team in the months following the Beijing Olympics. In 2000, John O’Brien, Landon Donovan, and Josh Wolff made a similar jump.

For 2024, we could see some players make similar jumps BUT there probably won’t be many players fading from the pool given that it is mostly prime age players. But Berhalter expects the U-23 team to boost or expand the player pool after the Olympics.

“We looked at some players that we thought could potentially play for us but wouldn't get the bulk of minutes that would be important for them to continue their development," Berhalter said. "And those that pool of players we elected for the U-23 program where they can play two international games and really continue their development.”

“In reality, the youth of our player pool really makes it one big pool when you take the Olympic team and the senior national team,” he added. “Our goal is to continue to develop the entire player pool with international experience - sometimes international competition, whether it's the Copa America or the Olympics, and by next fall have this entire group of players making a step forward. It's exciting with the U23 program, there's a lot of good players and I am really excited to see what that team can do.”

But the U-23 team will be tricky to put together as clubs are not required to release players for youth national teams, even during international windows. ASN has learned Sparta Rotterdam denied the release of Agustin Anello to participate in the U-23 camp. It would have been his first international call-up of any age group.

But MLS teams are also hesitant right now with the playoffs fast approaching. The roster could be released on Friday, but it also could wait until Sunday after Saturday’s games bring clarity to the playoff races.


More USMNT notes


Gregg Berhalter also noted that Antonee Robinson was left off the roster due to the onset of a sports hernia which he has been playing through for weeks. He wanted Robinson to use this window to get treatment so he can be in a better position for the big games ahead.

Lennard Maloney’s call-up was the first every senior national team call-up for Heidenheim. The newly promoted Bundesliga club has had an impressive trajectory in recent years, after being mostly an amateur club for most of its history. In 2009 it was promoted to the 3.Liga for the first time, and then in 2014 it was promoted to the 2.Bundesliga.


Gio Reyna’s pending return dominated the media conference call after the roster release. Berhalter said he had a positive discussion with Reyna following the ugly aftermath of the 2022 World Cup. Some fans were not happy by the discussion took place by zoom and not in person, but that seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill. Reyna doesn’t or shouldn’t need his hand held during this process. What is important is that Reyna wants to return to camp, and Berhalter wants him there. Everyone has a common goal here and that’s to win.

But Reyna’s status heading into this camp is not clear. He has yet to play a game since June. Berhalter said he will figure out a way like Folarin Balogun in September to get him minutes safely because of a lack of playing time at his club. This is understandable.

What is not understandable is Borussia Dortmund’s plans for Reyna. Where does he stand and do they have plans to sell him at any point?


MLS EAST on Wednesday


The Wednesday MLS games brought some much-needed clarity to the playoff races for the final two weeks of the season.

Without Messi, Inter Miami was roasted by an impressive Chicago team that played its best game of the season en route to a 4-1 win. The huge crowd of over 64,000 was there to see Messi, but they showed up regardless and were very loud in support of the Fire. Shaqiri actually showed up and played like Chicago expected. With two wins in a row, Chicago is in a great position to make the play-in game.

Meanwhile, you can essentially eliminate Miami from the playoff discussion. Not only did they lose, they just did not look competitive. Even without Messi, there was enough talent to be much better than they were on Wednesday. Meanwhile, DC United is also toast. With their playoffs hopes on the line and visiting a bad Austin team, DC United was blown out 3-0. With just one game, they need a powerball miracle to make it.

The New York Red Bulls defeated a Cincinnati team that was still in celebration mode after securing the Supporters Shield. Frankie Amaya was terrific in this game, as were Elias Manuel and John Tolkin. While the Red Bulls are still one point back of playoff line, they’re in a bad spot. Too many teams they are competing with in the playoff push will play each other (Chicago plays both Charlotte, and NYCFC; NYCFC plays Chicago and DC United; Charlotte plays Chicago and two against Miami). What the Red Bulls needs are for them to win out, and others games among surrounding teams to end in draws.


The Red Bulls might be able to pull it off, but probably not. They host Toronto at home this weekend and the Red Bulls can’t beat bad teams at home – and that is why they’ll probably come up short.

Montreal sits in eighth place, but they are crashing and burning. Now without a win in seven games, their 1-1 draw with Houston wasn’t that much help. Their final two games are against Portland and away at Columbus.

If I am reading the tea leaves, I would guess Chicago and New York City meet in the play in game.

As for the real playoff teams in the East, New England, Atlanta United, and Nashville all lost midweek to other playoff teams.

Nashville wasn’t bad in a 1-0 loss to Orlando City, but Orlando was just better, and Orlando looks very dangerous heading into the postseason. Duncan McGuire was barely onside in the only goal. Nashville is going to have a tough time in the playoffs, likely against Orlando in the first round.


New England fell to Columbus 2-1 at home. Columbus has the firepower to also be a serious threat in the playoffs but New England hasn’t proven they are a good team after Arena’s departure.

The Philadelphia Union defeated Atlanta 3-2 in Pennsylvania and this was telling for Atlanta. Atlanta has talent, but there are too many defensive holes to consider them a contender. Their transition defense in this game cost them a result. The Union broke a string of five straight draws and they’ll be a tough out in the playoffs.


MLS WEST on Wednesday


There wasn’t as much drama in the West this week.

Minnesota needed to go to California and get a result against LAFC but came up woefully short in a 5-1 loss. They are now playing their worst soccer of the year at a time when you need to be playing your best.

EDIT: And just as we were about ready to post this article, huge news out of Minnesota.


Three teams are even on points with two games remaining: Austin, Sporting KC, and Minnesota. They are all three points behind Dallas and four points behind San Jose for the play-in positions. The problem is that Dallas has three games remaining, one against the West’s cellar dwellers in Colorado.

Austin, Sporting, and Minnesota need help and they might not get it. The silver lining is that Dallas and San Jose will play each other, thereby preventing both teams in front of them from winning out. A big question is when the Dallas-Colorado games is made up.

As for the playoff teams in the West, St. Louis was understandably not focused in a 3-0 away loss to Vancouver, but Bradley Carnell needs to understand that even with first place wrapped up, he needs to have his team playing well heading into the playoffs. That’s how this works.

Meanwhile, Vancouver is in the playoffs and Brian White has been massive. Maybe he gets a January camp USMNT call-up. 


Seattle and LAFC have had their issues this year, but both had nice wins (Seattle downing the Galaxy 2-1 on a late Cristian Roldan goal) to start October off on the winning foot. Their experience in the playoffs could be telling later in the month.

Real Salt Lake was off but has three games remaining (but only one at home). They could be another tough out.

Overall, I think St. Louis could struggle in the playoffs as they struggled in Leagues Cup. These knockout games are a different beast that too many other teams have figured out.


Americans abroad midweek


On Wednesday, there were more Champions League games and on Thursday there were Europa and Conference League games. The Championship also saw some games involving Americans.

AC Milan drew 0-0 at Borussia Dortmund. Yunus Musah started and went 90 minutes while Christian Pulisic went 69 minutes. It was a disappointing result for Milan, who needed the win after drawing Newcastle 0-0 in the opener. Both Americans were decent but forgettable. Musah was clearly fatigued by the end. The real culprit in failing to win was Samuel Chukwueze who missed a great chance late to win it for Milan.

Cameron Carter-Vickers made his return from injury and played the final 28 minutes for Celtic in a heartbreaking 2-1 loss at home to Lazio with the Italian side scoring late to win it in Glasgow.

In the Europa League on Thursday, George Bello started for LASK in a 1-0 loss away to Toulouse. Bello played 88 minutes in the loss and was overall quiet. Christian Cappis played the final 10 minutes for Molde in a 2-1 loss at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

In the Conference League on Thursday, Genk defeated Cukaricki 2-0 away in Serbia. Mark McKenzie has been dealing with a broken toe and he returned for this game and was effective in the win. He should be on track to return to league games this weekend.

Also on Thursday in the Conference League, Djordjie Mihailovic was unused for AZ in a 1-0 win over Legia Warsaw.

In the Championship, Haji Wright got a much-needed goal in a 1-0 win over Blackburn. Wright is the all-time highest paid fee in Coventry history and there are high expectations he will produce. This was an easy goal, but needed.


Buck to England’s U-19s


Noel Buck was called up to England’s U-19 national team for the October windows. He was in the September window, as well, but this time it is different because England’s U-19 team will play in UEFA U-19 European qualifiers.


If Buck, 18, plays in these games he will be provisionally cap-tied to England and he can only play for the United States or Wales by using a one-time switch. Also, he would be ineligible to play for the U.S. U-20 team at the 2025 U-20 World Cup even if he switches because these Euro U-19 teams serve as part of the U-20 World Cup qualification process for UEFA. You cannot play for two national teams in the same youth competition even if you do switch.

This move is probably good for Buck’s recognition among scouts and his reputation for a future move. But it is a loss for U.S. Soccer. Buck is only going to switch if he proves he is not a top end talent.

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