There are still transfers to be completed, friendlies in September and plenty of club form to impress Greg Berhalter, but the quartet of summer matches for the US men’s national team means expecting the USMNT squad for the 2022 World Cup comes with valuable value. A few conditions.
Of course there will be some other injuries to consider and there’s always at least one surprise – Julian Green, anyone? – But Berhalter’s men played a wide range of matches in different conditions before raising the bar in November.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from El Salvador 1-1 USMNT ]
Perhaps the biggest remaining hurdle for this coach is knowing the men who have weathered the chaos and wrath of CONCACAF can successfully force their way through England, Wales and Iran, and then, of course, who will be next in the playoffs.
Some of this can be done with the same personnel and a good tactical plan, sure, but which center back is best suited to deal with what comes next, should the team make it to the group stage? Any of the club’s budding strikers would make the most of the precious opportunities in Qatar.
Again, there will be injuries to consider and more ambiguous questions such as whether Premier League-backed Zach Stephen and Matt Turner can quickly find out what the No.1 jersey will look like in a short period of pre-tournament preparation, but we are in a period where we are discussing the way forward will be easy. It will also be at almost any time before the appropriate tournament: the 2022 World Cup.
Last night #USMNT A match against El Salvador was…a messy affair. 😅
The match ended 1-1 after Jordan Morris headed in stoppage time in the second half. pic.twitter.com/2lt2jwCcfU
– NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) June 15 2022
USMNT drop list for 2022 World Cup
There is one last variable to consider, and that is group size. Qatar might see the list of 23 men become 26, so we’ll put asterisks next to the next three men (or last men).
And remember, these are the players we think Berhalter will pick for the World Cup, not necessarily the players we think make up a better team. After all, he is the expert regarding individual attitudes and the group chemistry of the group, as well as the man with the tactical plans and their associated ins and outs.
closing: Matt Turner, Zack Stephen
Possible: Shawn Johnson
wildcards: Ethan Horvath, Gaga Slonina
Horvath is (currently) absent as he does not play regularly, although a transfer could come before the Nottingham Forest man kicks off the 2022-23 Premier League season. Slonina could usually be included in order to alert a teenager to the World Cup tests, but Berhalter would, and probably should, bring Johnson from New York City because of familiarity, experience and regular playing time.
closing: Walker Zimmerman, Anthony Robinson, Sergino Dest, Chris Richards, Aaron Long
Possible: DeAndre Yadlin, Reggie Cannon
The last man in: Cameron Carter Vickers*
wildcards: John Brooks, Joe Scully, George Bello, Eric Palmer-Brown, Chuck Moore, Mark McKenzie, Tim Ream
This boundary limit is impossible. The fact that Berhalter did not remember John Brooks after Miles Robinson’s Achilles injury meant one (or more) of three things; Brooks either nets him to the locker room, or Berhalter doesn’t see him as a starter but doesn’t need to see more of him to be included in the group. Long isn’t as multi-dimensional as many of the other CBs in the pool but Berhalter clearly loves it because of his system. Like Turner, he doesn’t fit the law in some technical areas but veers completely into the spirit camp without any problem.
We’ll move away from the latter and say that the last place, assuming eight, goes to Celtic’s Cameron Carter Vickers and Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Joe Scully. The latter’s versatility could work for him – see the section on midfielders – but the level of Carter Vickers at Celtic has been mentioned by some as the Scottish Premier League player of the year and it looks like Berhalter will add a fourth centre-back. However, this could also bode well for Tim Ream, who has been used by NT as a left-back in the past.
Medium (9 *)
closing: Tyler Adams, Younes Moses, Weston McKinney, Brendan Aronson, Luca de la Torre, Clayen Acosta
Possible: Christian Roldan and Gianluca Bosio
The last man in: James Sands*
wildcards: Malik Tillman, Djorji Mihajlovic, Sebastian Leggett, Paxton Pomical
No player has risen higher on the priority list this summer than Moses, who is still very raw but only shows improvement when used consistently in the middle. Although this is unlikely to happen in Valencia, Qatar’s warm-up streak will suffice for a brilliant and fast ball drive.
Acosta secured his place in playoffs and De la Torre over the past month, while Roldan and Busio have apparently produced an appeal beyond elimination.
There are a few important questions, starting with whether Malik Tillmann’s move to the US jersey from Germany came with plans for Qatar and beyond…or beyond.
The variety and age of Sand (CB or CM), Scally (WB or W), and Aaronson (CM or F) give Berhalter several options if he wants to carry another “luxury player” with them.
closing: Christian Pulisic, Timothy Weah, Giovanni Reina
Possible: Paul Areola and Jesus Ferreira
The last man in: Jordan Morris *
wild cards: Hadji Wright, Jordan Pivok, Ricardo Pepe
There are no proven facts other than Pulisic and Yah, although Rena is a lock that assumes health (which is a bit bold at this point). FC Dallas duo Areola and Ferreira appear to be a possibility of the plan due to the use of Berhalter, and Morris is outperforming Pivok and Pepe if he continues his upward career after returning from ACL surgery. After all, Berhalter has tapped him in almost every game since he’s been able to get onto the pitch. If that gives him every chance of failure, then shame on us we didn’t watch him, but his late goal in El Salvador will linger in many memories. butIf, as expected, Wright secures a permanent transition away from Sonderjyske, he has every chance of beating anyone listed as “potential” or less. The same can be said of Pefok and Pepi, to a lesser degree.