By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Sometimes it’s not who you see, but who isn’t there.

So, after head coach Gregg Berhalter named his 26-man roster for the U.S. men’s national team’s friendlies in Europe on Wednesday, there were some intriguing names that did not make the cut.

That included Chicago Fire goalkeeper Gaga Slonina, Middlesborough keeper, Zack Steffen, Nashville SC right back Shaq Moore, Fulham center back Tim Ream and Rangers center back James Sands, Union Berlin striker Jordan Pefok and Antalyaspor forward Haji Wright, among others.

The USA meets Japan in Duesseldorf, Germany on Sept. 23 and then Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain on Sept. 27.

“It’s important to keep in mind that this is not the final roster,” Berhalter said during an afternoon Zoom conference call with the media. “It’s not the final roster for the World Cup. A lot can happen between now and Nov. 9.”

That is the day U.S. Soccer will announce its final, 26-man roster for the World Cup in Qatar. The FIFA deadline is Nov. 14.

“A lot can happen between the ninth and the 14th,” Berhalter added. “So just keep that in mind. That was the conversation I had with the players not selected in this camp, is that a lot can happen in some of the positions where we’re looking to evaluate certain guys that we don’t have enough information on and other players just weren’t selected.”

Berhalter then rattled off several names via positions.

Goalkeeper

“Zack has been struggling with a little with injuries,” the head coach said. “We’re waiting to see how he recovers and gets back on the training field and then a game field.

“Gaga Slonina is a guy that we think highly of and has been playing for Chicago every weekend. We just went with the other three goalkeepers.”

That would be Matt Turner, Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson.

Fullback

“Shaq Moore was a really difficult decision,” Berhalter said. “He’s been playing well for Nashville. Really like his one of the one defending but again opted for other players in this window.”

Center back

“When I look at center backs, there’s there’s five guys on this list that I’m glancing at. Matt Miazga is doing well with [FC] Cincinnati. Mark McKenzie is doing well with Genk; finally nailed down a starting position. James Sands, Rangers, had the opportunity to see him play against Celtic and he’s playing in the Champions League. Timmy Ream is capping a Fulham side that’s in the top eight in the [English] Premier League, which is great. And then Eric Palmer-Brown was playing every every week in Ligue One.”

Palmer-Brown plays for Troyes.

“So very difficult decisions for us,” Berhalter said. “We only have 180 minutes of game time. Keep that in mind as well. That had something to do with the decisions. But it is what it is.”

Center midfield

“Johnny Cardoso is playing every week [for Internacional SC] in Brazil and we like what he’s doing. His team’s doing really well. Eryk Williamson has come a late surge with Portland. He’s been getting back to his good form. So, it’s going to be nice to see how he ends the season.”

Forwards

“I know everyone’s interested in Jordan Pefok, who’s had a great start to the Bundesliga,” Berhalter said. His team’s top of the table together with Sheraldo Becker. [They have] been tearing defenses up. That’s good to see. And then Haji Wright in Turkey scoring in the beginning of the season and Brandon Vasquez, another guy scoring [for FC Cincinnati] in MLS and didn’t get the opportunity.

“It’s not easy. When I have to have these conversations with guys – I’ve spoken to all of them, explain the reasoning and also let them know the same message I’m giving you guys, that it’s not decided and there’s still some time that they can try to earn their way onto the team.”