Assessing the USMNT roster ahead of crucial qualifiers

The US Men’s National Team (USMNT) roster is set for crucial games in their quest to make it back to the World Cup finals. Around this time in the qualifying cycle four years ago, the US was on a slide that would see them miss out on making the 2018 World Cup. The players chosen for this January/February three-games-in-seven-days stretch are the ones who could redeem the men’s national team.

2021 Gold Cup Quarterfinals
KANSAS CITY, KS – JULY 15: United States midfielder Gianluca Busio (6) looks on as United States forward Daryl Dike (11) celebrates with fans and teammates after scoring a goal in action during a CONCACAF Gold Cup Group B match between Martinique and the United States on July 15, 2021 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)

USMNT roster for crucial qualifiers

28 players have been brought in to get the USMNT to the promised land. There are six games left to qualify for the World Cup; the USA needs to stay in the top three in the standings to automatically qualify. Right now the USMNT is in second-place boasting four wins, one loss, and three draws from their first eight games. Could these players called up solidify the USMNT’s standing to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar? Let’s take a look at the players called up for this round of qualifying.

Who will start in goal?

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter has been flip-flopping between Zach Steffen and Matt Turner for the starting goalkeeper spot. Who will be the starter for this round of qualifying, or could we see multiple players get a start? Here’s a look at the four goalkeepers called up.

  • Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
  • Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
  • Sean Johnson (New York City FC)
  • Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire)

Obviously, Steffan and Turner are there, and you could make arguments for either to start in this round of qualifying. The third and fourth keepers Johnson and Slonina are there for depth and the experience of being with the group. If I had to make my guess, I would think that Zach Steffan will start all three of these games baring any disasters.

The defense will need to be organized

This USMNT has only let in five goals across their five matches. This is due in part to very good centerback play from standout MLS players. Their outside backs are also good at pressing further up the field and are very good at creating more width in the attack. Here’s a look at the nine defenders on the roster.

  • Antonee Robinson (Fulham)
  • SergiΓ±o Dest (Barcelona)
  • Reggie Cannon (Boavista)
  • Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United)
  • DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray)
  • Miles Robinson (Atlanta United)
  • Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
  • Mark McKenzie (Genk)
  • Chris Richards (Hoffenheim)

Whoever makes up the back four, they’ll need to be organized like the team has been in the first eight qualifiers. It seems as though the top two centerbacks are MLS stars Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson. Their pair has been steady when they get the chance to play next to one another. Outside backs SergiΓ±o Dest and Antonee Robinson have all but locked up starting spots as well. If those four players are the starting back four this window then the US should be organized and ready to get positive results.

Domination required in the midfield

The USMNT prefer to play in a 4-3-3 formation. This means that their midfield three need to be able to lockdown the middle of the field. Luckily, the USA has the players to do just that in the middle of the park, and will need to do so in this round of qualifying. Here’s who will be battling for control of the middle of the pitch.

  • Weston McKennie (Juventus)
  • Yunus Musah (Valencia)
  • Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)
  • Kellyn Acosta (LAFC)
  • Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution)
  • Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
  • Luca de la Torre (Heracles)

The three names that jump off of this list are Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Tyler Adams. These are the three that Berhalter should lean on to get the most skill on the field. All three of these players can dominate the middle of the field on the offensive and defensive side. However, if other players from this list get starts the level of domination doesn’t drop off too much. Each of the players selected in the midfield know the job they’d have to do should they be called upon. Will it be those top three players, or a mixture that Gregg goes with?

The Forwards need to keep scoring

The USMNT attack was lethal in 2021. In World Cup Qualifying (WCQ) the USA’s attack has scored 12 goals in eight games. What’s even more impressive than that is that they’ve done this while dealing with injuries to high profile attackers. Players like Brenden Aaronson, Tim Weah, and Ricardo Pepi have stepped up to fill the void of the sometimes injured Christian Pulisic, and Gio Reyna. Here’s a look at who will lead the line in these WCQ’s.

  • Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg)
  • Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
  • Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg)
  • Tim Weah (Lille)
  • Paul Arriola (DC United)
  • JesΓΊs Ferreira (FC Dallas)
  • Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)
  • Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)

The first nae that jumps off of that list is Christian Pulisic. The USMNT star is back and ready to help this team score and win these crucial qualifiers. The other top attackers on this list are Recardo Pepi, Brenden Aaronson, and Tim Weah. Those three were the top three guys in the last window, and have each scored big goals in this qualifying cycle. With those players being the top four guys on the depth chart, who will be the odd man out? Will there be heavy rotation to deal with the three-games-in-seven-day stretch? The other four attackers are all good enough to be on the field and contribute, so what will Berhalter do?

Three crucial matches ahead

The roster is set and the team is getting prepared to start their three-games-in-seven-day-stretch on Thursday. The USA can’t officially qualify in this cycle, but they can do a whole lot to help secure their spot in November’s Mens World Cup.

USMNT play at home vs El Salvador and Honduras in this cycle. Those two teams are at the bottom of the table right now. Those matches have to be wins to instill the confidence. The one away match in this window is at first-place Canada. That will be a huge game to determining the place of the current top two teams will finish.

These are the guys that will lead the USMNT for years to come can they make a huge step forward and put themselves in a place where they don’t have to win out in the final qualifying window in order to make it to Qatar 2022?

Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union and other soccer content!

Follow our Union team on Twitter:

Tim Lovenguth | Justin Friedberg | El Parcero Philly
Zach LoBasso | Steve Beavon | Liam Jenkins

Doop on Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire