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USMNT analysis

The return of Adams and Sargent highlight the USMNT Nations League roster

ASN's Brian Sciaretta gives his thoughts and analysis of the USMNT roster for the 2024 Nations League final rounds. This will be the team's first of two major tournaments in 2024 and will serve as a key preparation for the 2024 Copa America. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 13, 2024
3:45 PM

ON WEDNESDAY, United States national team manager Gregg Berhalter announced his 23-player roster for the final rounds of the 2024 CONCACAF Nations League where the U.S. team enters as the two time defending champion. The roster is mostly expected but the big surprise is the return of 2022 World Cup captain Tyler Adams.

Overall, it is mostly a full-strength roster with the most notable injury absence going to Cameron Carter-Vickers who has been missing time with Celtic in 2024 with a minor hamstring injury.

Berhalter also opted to keep Sergino Dest on the team despite his on-field antics in November which resulted in a red card and will have him suspended for the semifinal game against Jamaica.

Here is the roster with some detailed thoughts:


(Club/Country; Caps/Goals)

GOALKEEPERS (3): 22-Drake Callender (Inter Miami; 0/0), 18-Ethan Horvath (Cardiff City/WAL; 9/0), 1-Matt Turner (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 37/0)

DEFENDERS (8): 2-Sergiño Dest (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 32/2), 23-Kristoffer Lund (Palermo/ITA; 3/0), 16-Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 13/0), 13-Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 55/1), 3-Chris Richards (Crystal Palace/ENG; 14/1), 5-Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 39/4), 12-Miles Robinson (FC Cincinnati; 28/3), 19-Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 8/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): 4-Tyler Adams (Bournemouth/ENG; 36/1), 15-Johnny Cardoso (Real Betis/ESP; 9/0), 14-Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 20/0), 8-Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 49/11), 6-Yunus Musah (AC Milan/ITA; 33/0), 7-Gio Reyna (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 24/7)

FORWARDS (6): 20-Folarin Balogun (Monaco/FRA; 8/3), 17-Malik Tillman (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 8/0), 9-Ricardo Pepi (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 22/10), 10-Christian Pulisic (AC Milan/ITA; 64/28), 11-Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 23/5), 21-Tim Weah (Juventus/ITA; 35/5)


Adams returns


Tyler Adams injured himself nearly a year ago in a Premier League game last March for Leeds. He then reinjured himself in his club debut for AFC Bournemouth in a league cup game. He has been working his way back to a return but has thus far made just one reserve team appearance in his comeback. He was on the bench over the weekend but went unused. Over the past 12 months, he essentially only has 20 minutes of first-team soccer under his belt.

Berhalter has elected to bring Adams into this camp and that is a testament to how much Berhalter rates Adams’ leadership and presence on the team. It’s probably not wise to predict he plays much, but Berhalter sees value to having Adams back for the first time since the 2022 World Cup.


Sargent joins forward contingent


With Josh Sargent playing terrific soccer in 2024 for Norwich, there was a question about whether he could supplant either Folarin Balogun or Ricardo Pepi, who were the duo Berhalter relied on in the fall. Would Sargent be left off this roster to let him rest as Norwich manager David Wagner said two weeks ago he was still managing his ankle injury which saw him miss four months in late 2023? Finally, could Berhalter bring Sargent along with Balogun and Pepi?

The answer to this question is that Berhalter brought Sargent along with Pepi and Balogun. It is not clear how Berhalter will use all three forwards or what the pecking or is right now, or if any of them are brought in to also play the wing.

But Sargent has 12 goals in 1099 Championship minutes. That is great and it made him too good to be left off the team. Right now, he is the most in-form striker in the player pool.


High Expectations for Cardoso & Tilllman


It was expected to see Johnny Cardoso on the team. But in this camp, there will be a lot of high expectations given the form he has shown at Real Betis. Since moving to the club in January from Internacional in Brazil, Cardoso has impressed with Betis and has made the La Liga team of the week and U-23 La Liga player of the month.

With Adams likely not ready to play much, Cardoso should get a chance to take big steps with the USMNT and show he is ready to be a dependable midfielder for Berhalter.

The same can be said for Malik Tillman who has been with the U.S. team for two years but is yet to have a breakthrough performance. He’s having a nice season for PSV Eindhoven, but will this be the camp where we see his club form translate to the national team?


Other notable inclusions


There are some other players on the roster who have important areas to discuss.

Gio Reyna: it is not surprising that he made the roster given his long-time inclusion in the team and the fact that Berhatler and Reyna have moved on from the 2022 World Cup fallout. But Reyna’s lack of playing time has gone from bad to worse with his move to Nottingham Forest. He’s missed the last two games with a vague “knock” and he’s heading to his third straight sub-1000-minute season. We’re back to familiar questions with Reyna? What is his form? How much can he play? What will his reaction be if he doesn’t play much?


Mark McKenzie: With Carter-Vickers missing time recently for Celtic, McKenzie gets the nod in central defense over other options like Austin Trusty. Will he play? How has he grown as a player in the past few seasons at Genk?

Drake Callender: Despite Zack Steffen’s return to the field, Callender gets the call as a back-up keeper. He’ll face competition in the year ahead after Gaga Slonina and Patrick Schulte complete the Olympic cycle and Zack Steffen potentially shakes off the rust. But it’s a nice opportunity for Callender.


Notable exclusions


There are important players to mention who could have been on this roster, but who didn’t make it. This does not include players who are probably with the U-23 Olympic team instead.

Brenden Aaronson: Without a dobut, the not noteworthy player not on the roster is Brenden Aaronson who only has played 610 minutes for Union Berlin this season on his loan from Leeds United. Aaronson has been a mainstay with the USMNT for years and he typically has been an energetic bench option. But is Berhalter sending a signal to Aaronson that he wants to see more at the club level?

Brandon Vazquez, Haji Wright, Jordan Pefok: There are only so many No. 9 forwards Berhalter can call and he has three on this team. But there are still three forwards who are scoring goals at the club level who were left off. Vazquez is noteworthy given that he has never been called-up under Berhalter and he is still looking for his chance. It also seems possible that one of these options emerges as an Olympic overage option. Vazquez seems most likely for that.

Lennard Maloney: The Heidenheim defensive midfielder was called up in October and November of 2023 but probably lost out on making this team with the return of Tyler Adams.


Olympic U-23 considerations


Berhalter has said the U-23 team is a consideration for him through the summer and that after the Olympics and the Copa America, he sees both player pools merging.

But in terms of players who are not on this USMNT roster but are Olympic eligible, there are some big takeaways.

Kevin Paredes: He is the best example of a player who is right on that edge of the U-23 team and the USMNT. He could go either way and is not on this team. That likely puts him on the U-23 roster. His season for Wolfsburg is going okay. The team is winless in 10 Bundesliga games, but Paredes is starting more than these days. He still only has two goals and the Olympic team gives him a chance to be an impact players as opposed to a sub option.

Paxten Aaronson: The younger Aaronson brother has been getting more chances on loan at Vitesse from Eintracht Frankfurt and he has turned in some good performances in the Eredivisie recently. But like Paredes, he will play more and have more opportunities with the U-23 team than being a bench option on the USMNT right now.

Rokas Pukstas: Berhalter wanted to bring Pukstas into January camp but was blocked by Hajduk Split. Pukstas as not been with U.S. teams as much as he or the U.S. staff would like, but giving him an opportunity to be with the U-23 team seems like a good bet.

Patrick Schulte and Gaga Slonina: The two Olympic goalkeepers have steady playing time and both have taken big strides the past year. But they were always going to be behind either Turner or Horvath. They will likely join the USMNT pool after the Olympics.

Esmir Bajraktarevic: At just 18, the New England Revolution winger is one of the better American teenagers right now. He had a good January camp and has done well with the U-23 team in two camps while playing up a cycle. He’s on a fast track, but the U-23 team is a big enough test for him right now given his age.

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