Gregg Berhalter: “In trying to come up with these rosters, there’s a number of difficult decisions.” (Photo courtesy of U.S. Soccer)
By Michael Lewis
Trying to put together a roster, a viable and playable one at that for two European friendlies has been a challenge and a half for U.S. men’s national head coach Gregg Berhalter.
It looks like a 21st century quadratic equation trying to balance out positions, Euro-based players who are in form, those who are injured, players who can travel from and to their countries during the COVID-19 pandemic and other that might have to quarantine when they return.
Quite a equation to put together.
So, Berhalter realized he did not have necessarily have the optimal roster for games against Jamaica March 25 and Northern Ireland March 28.
“We all know what times we’re living in, and some of the challenges we’re dealing with, with the roster is closures to European countries and restrictions based on COVID protocols and local governments,” he said during a Wednesday Zoom call. “So, in trying to come up with these rosters, there’s a number of difficult decisions.”
For example, seven players will leave the USMNT after the March 25 encounter with Jamaica, leaving Berhalter with 19 players for the Northern Ireland match March 28. Five of those players perform in the Bundesliga – defenders John Brooks and Chris Richards, midfielder Tyler Adams and forwards Gio Reyna and Josh Sargent. Also departing will be defender Reggie Cannon, who plays in Portugal, and forward Tim Weah, who competes in France.
“This is just part of, part and parcel of what you have to deal with in both international soccer and COVID times,” Berhalter said. “So, we’ll deal with it and we’ll put a team on the field that will be successful and continue the development.”
Midfielder Weston McKennie, who performs for Juventus (Italy) was not included because he is dealing with a slight injury.
“If you could imagine, guys at his level playing Champions League playing league games three times a week, it takes a toll on you and he’s getting used to that his body’s adapting to that level of competition,” Berhalter said. “Unfortunately, [I] had to rule him out for this for this camp.”
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL; 4/0), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City/ENG; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 19/0)
DEFENDERS (10): John Brooks* (Wolfsburg/GER; 39/3), Reggie Cannon* (Boavista/POR; 13/0), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 5/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 19/3), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht/BEL; 20/1), Erik Palmer-Brown (Austria Wien/AUT; 2/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 41/1), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 0/0), Chris Richards* (Hoffenheim/GER; 1/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 8/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 2/1), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 25/2) Tyler Adams* (RB Leipzig/GER; 12/1), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 1/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 18/4), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 2/0), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderers/ENG; 1/0)
FORWARDS: (6): Daryl Dike (Barnsley/ENG; 1/0), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen/FRA; 2/2), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 34/14), Gio Reyna* (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 2/1), Josh Sargent* (Werder Bremen/GER; 12/5), Tim Weah* (Lille/FRA; 10/1)
* Indicates player will depart after March 25 match against Jamaica