Thoughts on Berhalter's 23-player USMNT roster for October friendlies
October 05, 2023
UNITED STATES national team head coach Gregg Berhalter names a 23-man roster on Thursday for the team’s upcoming friendlies against Germany on Saturday, Oct. 14 in East Hartford, Conn. and then against Ghana on Tuesday Oct. 17 in Nashville, TN.
The roster contains mostly very familiar faces as 19 of the 23 players were part of the team’s September camp. One of the four players who was not part of the team last month is Gio Reyna, and that will be a big story when camp opens in Nashville next week.
There are a few absences that are notable – such as Antonee Robinson, Walker Zimmerman – that Berhalter was expected to address later in the day on a conference call.
Here is the roster along with some thoughts
GOALKEEPERS (2): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 9/0), Matt Turner (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 33/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 12/0), Sergiño Dest (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 28/2), DeJuan Jones (New England Revolution; 7/0), Kristoffer Lund (Palermo/ITA; 2/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 52/1), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace/ENG; 12/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 26/3), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 6/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 7/0), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 17/0), Lennard Maloney (Heidenheim/GER; 0/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 46/11), Yunus Musah (AC Milan/ITA; 29/0), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 20/4), Malik Tillman (PSV Eindhoven/NED;64/0)
FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Union Berlin/GER; 34/8), Folarin Balogun (Monaco/FRA; 4/2), Kevin Paredes (Wolfsburg/GER; 1/0), Ricardo Pepi (PSV Eindhoven/NED; 18/9), Christian Pulisic (AC Milan/ITA; 62/26), Tim Weah (Juventus/ITA; 33/5)
Gio Reyna returns
We knew that Gio Reyna was going to return to the national team sooner than later. Berhalter said last month he was hoping Reyna would be able to return in October. Matt Crocker told media before the USWNT game in September that Berhalter and Reyna had spoken, and that Reyna would be called up if healthy. Reyna was with the team as recently as Nations League but this, of course, will see him play under Berhalter.
Everyone knows the circumstances of this. Everyone knows the ugliness between the two that started with the World Cup and continued for the following several months. No matter what, the situation is probably never going to be ideal. Reyna’s parents, Claudio and Danielle, are likely to be at the games and in close proximity to the team.
But the goal of this camp on this issue is to establish a working relationship, address the media about everything, and move on. Ideally, after this camp, there will be little to talk about between the two parties in future call-ups and the story will reach its conclusion.
The other issue about this is about where Reyna is as a player, right now. He was injured in Nations League against Canada, and he missed all of preseason. He has made the bench for Dortmund the past two weeks but has yet to play.
Expectations for Reyna at this camp need to be dialed back. He is not in a good position to start these games and his minutes are probably going to be limited – which sounds familiar. But hopefully both parties understand him having a limited role again.
Maloney’s first call-up
ASN has spoken with Lennard Maloney twice. The first was ahead of his first U.S. U-20 camp in 2018 (he played in two U-20 camps that fall and those have been his only U.S. call-ups at any age level until now). The second interview was this past July ahead of his first Bundesliga season with FC Heidenheim. He said that in the last game of the 2022/23 season when Heidenheim was promoted in a dramatic win. Maloney was forced out of the game early in the second after a collision knocked him unconscious. But he was able to sit on the bench and watch his team prevail.
He said that when he realized his team was being promoted, his first thoughts were on being in a better position to make the U.S. national team.
“Everybody says it and I mean it too - it's an honor to play for your country,” Maloney said. “When we won that last game, it was one of my first thoughts, too. The World Cup is coming up soon. What better way could there be than playing in your own country in front of your family and friends? It is also a goal that I have to play for the United States. I'd be more than honored to get that call and step into the plane, fly over. But in the end, the coach decides. If he needs me, I'll be there. Otherwise, I'll just keep watching all the games.”
Last season with Heidenheim, Maloney switched positions from central defense to defensive midfield. He said he enjoyed the switch when it was implemented by Heidenheim coach Frank Schmidt.
“He came to me, ahead of the Hannover game where one of our midfielders got injured during the week and he said we want to try something,” Maloney explained. “That game was pretty good. From there, every minute I got more in midfield was making me better. I've learned a lot - like getting more comfortable with the ball and seeing more space and passing and where you have to pass and stuff like that. But I think putting me in midfield was a good thing.”
What can American fans expect from Maloney?
For one, he covers a lot of ground but is not particularly fast. He probably won’t be able to play as a lone No. 6. He is very defensive in nature and is an excellent shield in front of the backline. He works extremely hard in his dual winning, aerials, and in the physical side of the game.
He is regarded as an excellent teammate and an easy player to get along with.
The ongoing search for how to play without Tyler Adams continues. Having Yunus Musah sit further back has been working well, but there needs to be more options as well.
Johnny Cardoso and Lennard Maloney also both play the No.6, but both are different than Adams and could require the team to shift formations to possibly two defensive midfielders in a double pivot.
Malik Tillman and Gio Reyna are more attacking midfielders and Luca de la Torre is a hybrid midfielder who can serve a lot of different roles.
With Reyna likely limited, Tillman and de la Torre are likely to play significant minutes.
Weston McKennie and Musah are mainstay starters. But the rest of the midfielders listed on this roster have been less secure with their roles and their playing time. This camp is a big opportunity for all of them.
Working with the U-23 team
The first U.S. U-23 roster is expected to be released on Friday. With that team kicking off, it likely reduces the need for the full national team to call-up young players just to have them sit the bench. If their clubs cooperate and release, younger players who are in the mix for the full national team can go with the U-23 team where they can start games, play a lot, and take leadership roles where they need to produce. That would be a big development tool. Then after the Olympics, the top players from that team are in a better position to compete for minutes.
There are lot of players in this category but some are Tanner Tessmann, Bryan Reynolds, Aidan Morris, Duncan McGuire, John Tolkin, Caleb Wiley, Jalen Neal, Cade Cowell, and others. Players like Neal are injured, but we are likely to see plenty of players who have been capped in 2023 to be with that team.