All eyes are on U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter as he prepares to announce the squad for the U.S.’ first Football World Cup qualifier since being eliminated in Trinidad nearly four years ago. The first three games of the 14-game qualifying campaign won’t be easy. There are two away games, in El Salvador and Honduras, and a home game against a surging Canadian team that has matched the U.S. in recent games: in El Salvador (Sept. 2), against Canada (Sept. 5), and in Honduras (Sept. 8).
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Three games in seven days are tough enough, especially for many European players who have just started the season. Add to that the travel hassles, and the challenge of getting off to a good start will be enormous. Berhalter’s squad selection will therefore have to allow for a degree of rotation. Apart from the goalkeeper position, it is difficult to say how many of the players who were in the starting eleven on September 2 will be available again for the intense game against Canada on September 5.
National teams are only allowed to field a 23-man squad on game days, but each country can field a larger squad in training camp and change the 23-man roster for each game. Here are the predictions for the most meaningful 26-man squad for the USMNT qualifiers in September.
Zach Steffen (Manchester City/England)
Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Ethan Horvat (Nottingham Forest/England)
This combination of three goalkeepers should be a staple throughout qualifying and at the Football World Cup 2022, assuming the U.S. makes it to Qatar. It’s hard to imagine any other American goalkeepers making it into this group. The only problem with this list is that two of the names, Zach Steffen and Ethan Horvat, are substitutes for their clubs and don’t see regular action. Assuming Steffen is in the starting eleven, Matt Turner (see above) could at least get a qualifying start.
New York City Football Club Shawn Johnson is the next candidate if one of the top three players is out. Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa was called up by the U.S. for the Nations League final in May and has since announced he will play for Mexico.
Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
John Brooks (Wolfsburg/Germany)
Shaq Moore (Tenerife/Spain)
Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/Spain)
Anthony Robinson (Fulham FC/England)
Miles Robinson (Atlanta United)
Mark McKenzie (Genk/Belgium)
Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp / Belgium)
With the four center backs mentioned above, the two center back positions are well-staffed. Should Berhalter play with a five-man backline against Canada, James Sands may be called up from NYCFC. The outside back position will be filled by four other players, Sergiño Dest (right or left), Antonee Robinson (left back), Sam Vines (left back), and Shaq Moore (right back, see picture below).
The most hotly contested position is right back, for which Reggie Cannon and DeAndre Yedlin are also being considered. The problem is that Cannon’s club situation has yet to be resolved and he has yet to make an appearance for Boavista in Portugal this season. Veteran Yedlin could be an option, but he is spending his final days in training camp with Bejart. Considering Moore has fit in well with the U.S. national team system, his inclusion in the squad seems to make the most sense. For more details about Football World Cup Tickets.
Matt Miazga is still adjusting to his new team after his recent move to the Spanish La Liga side La Coruna Alaves, while veterans Tim Ream and Chris Richards (Bayern Munich) have been sidelined in central defense. Right-back Brian Reynolds (AS Roma) has just joined the Italian national team and hasn’t played much of a role this month except for a few minutes on the bench.
Kylian Acosta (Colorado Rapids)
Sebastien Lecheit (LA Galaxy)
Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/Germany)
Erik Williamson (Portland Timbers)
Weston McKennie (Juventus/Italy)
Jackson Yuehl (San Jose Earthquakes)
Midfielders pick themselves. Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Sebastian Lechett, and Kellyn Acosta (pictured below) are already signed. Christian Roldan and Erik Williamson proved to be solid and reliable substitutes during the Gold Cup. Jackson Yuehl has slipped down the rankings in recent months, but he is still a player Bejarte would use without hesitation.
Valencia’s Yunus Musa would normally be in the lineup, but an ankle ligament injury has kept him out of action since July. Given that he is still on the mend, it would be surprising to send him out for the qualifying round. Owen Otasowe was recently transferred to Belgian club Brugge and has yet to make a competitive appearance this preseason.
Nicolas Gioacchini (Caen/France)
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/England)
Gio Reina (Borussia Dortmund/Germany)
Josh Sargent (Norwich City/England)
Tim Weah (Lille/France)
Jordan Pefok Siebatcheu (Young Boys/Switzerland)
Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg / Austria)
Matthäus Hoppe (Schalke / Germany)
Eight is a group, but given Berhalter’s preference for a three-man forward line and regular substitutes in those positions, all eight could be used in the September qualifiers. Matthew Hope has been getting back into shape with his German club team after taking time off following the Gold Cup. But given his performances in this tournament, he would be a valuable option for Berhalter. The same goes for Nicolas Gioacchini, who has returned to his French second division club.
Washington DC’s Paul Arriola and Columbus forward Garci Zardes have both suffered hamstring injuries recently. Colorado’s Jonathan Lewis is a possible option if another player can’t play. Darryl Dyke, who has yet to play a competitive game after appearing in the Gold Cup in August, remains the subject of transfer rumors as the European window closes on August 31.
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