On Thursday, United States men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter is expected to name his roster for this month’s two CONCACAF Nations League games against Trinidad and Tobago — matches that will double as qualifiers for the all-important 2024 Copa America, which the U.S. will host across the country next summer.
They’re the first meaningful games on the USMNT schedule since Berhalter returned to the sidelines in September after being rehired over the summer. And they’re almost must-win.
Although the Americans can still make the 16-team tournament that includes the likes of World Cup-holder Argentina and record five-time champion Brazil even if they don’t take the home-and-home, aggregate goals series with T&T — the nation that famously denied the U.S. a trip to the 2018 World Cup — Berhalter won’t want to wait. And as usual, he’ll have plenty to consider when deciding who to include on his squad.
With Thursday announcement looming, here’s a snapshot of where the U.S. player pool stands.
Once again, the No. 1 U.S. keeper isn’t the top choice at his club. After serving as the backup at Arsenal last season, Matt Turner transferred to Nottingham Forest in search of regular Premier League playing time. He got it and performed well, starting Forest’s first 10 games and keeping two clean sheets — one in a September win at Chelsea.
Still, Turner margin for error was always slim after Forest also acquired Greek national team veteran Odysseas Vlachodimos. Sure enough, Vlachodimos was in net Sunday against Aston Villa after Turner’s miscue gifted Liverpool a goal in last week’s loss at Anfield — though Forest manager Steve Cooper insisted the switch wasn’t based on one gaffe.
“We’ve been really pleased with Matt,” Cooper said per the Nottingham Post. “But there’s a couple of things we want to continue his development with and felt this was behind the decision. We had a good conversation about it and we made the change.”
Vlachodimos made three saves in the 2-0 victory. It’s now his job to lose. If he doesn’t, Turner could be left with no club appearances until January, when Prem teams enter the FA Cup. (Forest, with Turner between the sticks, was eliminated from the Carabao Cup in August.)
The situation is worse for Ethan Horvath, the only keeper besides Turner on Berhalter’s October squad. Horvath remains on Forest’s books but not their Premier League roster, meaning he can’t play even if Vlachodimos and Turner both get hurt. Horvath will almost certainly have a new club in January.
But with the MLS season over for both Toronto’s Sean Johnson and Miami’s still-uncapped Drake Callender, and Manchester City depth player Zack Steffen recovering from knee surgery, the only USMNT goalie likely to get regular minutes for the rest of 2023 is 19-year-old Gaga Slonina. Slonina has one shutout in 11 games for Eupen in Belgium’s top league.
Turner is still the U.S. No. 1. He’s been superb for the national team even when not featuring at club level, like at last year’s World Cup. But it must be asked: has the position that for decades was by far the program’s deepest ever been this shallow?
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The sense is that Chris Richards and Miles Robinson are Berhalter’s preferred center back pairing and has been since before Qatar 2022, which both players missed through injury. But with Richards barely playing for Crystal Palace, 36-year-old Tim Ream will stay in the mix. The Fulham captain started one of the USMNT’s two friendlies in both September and October; expect him to be deployed similarly against the Soca Warriors.
Behind those three are Cameron Carter-Vickers, who’s heathy again for UEFA Champions League participant Celtic, and Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman, who missed the October games against Germany and Ghana because of a minor injury. One name to keep an eye on is Auston Trusty, who has gone 90 minutes in four straight Premier League games for Sheffield United, including Saturday’s 2-1 win over Wolves. Trusty has probably earned himself a November call-up, though it’s unclear how highly Berhalter rates the Philadelphia Union product. Genk’s Mark McKenzie is another option in the middle. And there’s always John Brooks, though Brooks was benched for Hoffenhiem’s Saturday loss to German leader Bayer Leverkusen.
On the left, 21-year-old Kristoffer Lund has emerged as starter Antonee Robinson‘s understudy, with MLSers John Tolkin, DeJuan Jones and the injured, Belgium-based Sam Vines behind him.
A source told FOX Sports that Sergiño Dest has made it clear to Berhalter that he prefers to play right back for the national team even though he mans his off side for runaway Dutch leader PSV Eindhoven. Joe Scally, Kevin Paredes — who just scored his first goal of the Bundesliga season for Wolfsburg — and Reggie Cannon are probably next. Cannon, a 2022 cycle mainstay, recently won a starting job with English second tier side Queen’s Park Rangers. There’s also Bryan Reynolds, who’s having another fine season with Belgium’s Westerlo and could occupy a major role for the U.S. under-23s at next summer’s Olympics in Paris.
With 2022 World Cup captain Tyler Adams out until February, there’s a gaping hole in the middle next to lock-starters Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, who are both having fine seasons in Italy for Serie A titans Juventus and AC Milan, respectively.
Gio Reyna is one option; normally a winger under Berhalter, Reyna played in the middle in the first half of October’s 3-1 defeat to Germany. Brazil-based Johnny Cardoso started the second match last month, a 4-0 walloping of Ghana. Slick-passing Luca de la Torre brings a more attacking look to the position than Cardoso, World Cup vet Kellyn Acosta or the rugged Lennard Maloney, who made his senior debut off the bench against the Black Stars. De la Torre has started almost every for Celta Vigo this season, though he missed its most recent La Liga match with a muscle injury. Now healthy, LAFC’s Acosta could return to the U.S. roster for the first time since April.
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USMNT headliner Christian Pulisic is automatic on the left wing unless he’s hurt; the 25-year-old sat out AC Milan’s 1-0 loss to Udinese Saturday with a thigh issue. Expect Reyna to plug in for Tim Weah, who’s out with an injured right hamstring, on the right.
Brenden Aaronson and Malik Tillman will likely compete for minutes as substitutes, though Tillman is also a candidate in central midfield. The 21-year-old was injured last month but has three goals in his last five games for PSV. Aaronson has been unable to nail down a starting job with Union Berlin.
Taylor Booth, 22, is probably next in line. Booth has started three straight Dutch Eredivisie games for Utrecht — including a 4-3 win over Ajax last month — after returning from an early season injury. With Copa America qualification on the line against T&T, Berhalter could even opt for an older, more experienced head like 29-year-old Jordan Morris. Morris has scored in each of the Seattle Sounders’ two MLS Cup playoff games so far.
He doesn’t have a goal in Monaco’s last three games, but Folarin Balogun remains Berhalter’s first choice up front.
Still right behind Balogun is Ricardo Pepi, who continues to produce off the bench for PSV. Pepi scored and had an assist Saturday versus Heracles, bringing his total to four goals in just over 200 minutes of action across all competitions.
With Josh Sargent still injured, it’s hard to know who’s next on the coach’s depth chart. Is it Jesús Ferreira, whose first goal in seven games Saturday against Seattle helped keep FC Dallas in the MLS playoffs? World Cup scorer Haji Wright, who had two for England’s Coventry City earlier in the day? Or maybe Jordan Pefok, scorer of three goals in his last two outings for Borussia Mönchengladbach? Where does Cincinnati target man Brandon Vázquez rank? Unless either Balogun or Pepi isn’t available for selection this month, Thursday’s roster probably won’t provide the answer.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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