A 23-Man Roster Prediction for USMNT v. Wales on Nov. 12
by Bart Keeler
Not to be hyperbolic, but never before have the USMNT had so much good around it, and none of that has to do with its performances. Players are scoring goals and assisting on goals in Europe’s top leagues and are regular starters for UEFA Champions Leagues sides.
Finally, after many cancelations and postponements due to COVID-19, the U.S. men’s national team will play a match. On Thursday, Nov. 12, the Yanks will face Wales, in Swansea. Because it’s fun to think about these things, I’ve created a list of the 23 players I would call into a camp to prepare for this match.
Most of these players have played for the senior USMNT and all but one have donned the red, white and blue at some age. The roster doesn’t feature a lot of “new” faces but it does bring in guys who could use this camp to establish themselves as “The Guy” at their positions.
This roster prediction is only including European-based players because the MLS playoffs should exempt any of those players from being asked to travel to Wales for this match. Also, with so many teams still fighting for spots, it’s impossible to guess which players who miss the playoffs could be considered. On top of that, I firmly believe that USMNT needs to have an all-Euro camp once a year, as they do with MLS players.
So here’s my predicted 23-man roster USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter will call in for the match against Wales later this month.
* = Eligible to play in the 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Zack Steffen—25, Manchester City
I was concerned Steffen wouldn’t play when recalled from his loan by Manchester City, but he’s solidified himself as the “Cup” keeper there. He’s the favorite of Berhalter/
Ethan Horvath—25, Club Brugge
He notched a win in the Champions League but hasn’t been a regular starter for Brugge since 2018-19. However, he has 7,874 first-division minutes in Europe, which is a lot more than any other goalkeeper in the player pool.
Josh Cohen—28, Maccabi Haifa
Who is this guy? Well, he’s in his first season in a European League after five seasons in USL. He’s probably not in consideration for anything other than this camp/match in November, but it’s good to have a third keeper in Europe if needed.
Center Backs (4)
Tim Ream—33, Fulham
The versatile veteran is still a vital roster piece during this cycle. He’s racked up nearly 300 appearances in England’s Championship and Premier League and fits in Berhalter’s system anywhere he plays in the backline.
John Brooks—27, VfL Wolfsburg
Brooks may be the most important defender in the pool. He’s a physical presence and has the ability to play the ball well out of the back. He and Ream will steady this young squad.
Chris Richards*—20, Bayern Munich II
He’s technically on the reserve roster at Bayern, but he’s made two appearances for the senior squad this season and is probably the most promising center back the U.S. has had since Oguchi Onyewu.
Erik Palmer-Brown*—23, Austria Wien
Quietly, Palmer-Brown has become a key piece for this Austrian Bundesliga side. He is in his fourth season in a top-flight European league, with 29 appearances for Austria Wien. He’s able to play on the left or right CB spot but is right-footed.
Note: Matt Miazga didn’t make this roster because Richards and Palmer-Brown are the CB pairing for the U-23 squad and it’s a prime opportunity for them to train and play together. Miazga should feature next summer for the USMNT.
Full Backs (4)
Sergiño Dest*—20, Barcelona
The USMNT has a player in Barcelona’s senior squad. The fact it’s a fullback is even more incredible. Able to play left or right back, I think Dest will be deployed on the left during this friendly against Wales. He turns 20 on November 3.
Reggie Cannon*—22, Boavista
In his first year in the Portuguese Primera Liga, Cannon has already played five matches for his new club. I think he’s the starting RB for the USMNT for the foreseeable future, but he’s behind Dest on the depth chart… If that makes sense.
Antonee Robinson*—23, Fulham
A natural left-back, Robinson loves attacking from the fullback spot. I think Dest is better at the position than Robinson, but he should make the squad regardless.
Timmy Chandler—30, Eintracht Frankfurt
I had written off Chandler after the 2018 World Cup cycle. He never seemed to show his best for the USMNT but after a resurgence at the end of 2020, it’s worth bringing him into camp. For me, he gets the call over Yedlin because he’s regularly playing (and producing) for his club. It’s worth Berhalter calling in Chandler in preparation for Summer 2021.
These are players who would fit the midfield three in Berhalter’s system.
Weston McKennie*–22, Juventus
An American at Juventus, and he’s actually playing. McKennie tallied his first Serie A assist this weekend. He can be the box-to-box midfielder Berhalter needs in the USMNT.
Tyler Adams*—21, RB Leipzig
To me, Adams is the future USMNT Captain. I’m not sure he’ll wear the armband this camp, but he’s the leader of the young core of players in the pool. And he’s a reliable defensive midfielder.
Gio Reyna*—17, Borussia Dortmund
Turning 18 a day after the friendly, Reyna has secured the attacking midfield position as his right. Obviously, playing with Erling Haaland will help your production, but he has a goal and three assists already this season.
Duane Holmes—25, Derby County
I’m a fan of Holmes’ aggressive runs from midfield but there’s a question about whether his play for Derby County is up to international levels.
Chris Durkin*—20, Sint-Truiden
Durkin was an up and down player during the 2019 U-20 World Cup but has been featured in most youth national team rosters for the past four years. His move to Belgium after the tournament should point to a bright future, especially with 20 total appearances. He’s a natural fit at the holding midfielder role.
Christian Pulisic—22, Chelsea
He’s the best player in the pool, hands-down, and “Christian Pulisic” the first name on any roster anyone makes. A tentative listing because Pulisic picked up an injury on Saturday, but we don’t quite know the severity. It wouldn’t surprise me if Chelsea denies the callup.
Aron Johannsson—29, Hammarby
After multiple injuries, Johannsson has found his goal-scoring boots in Sweden. He’ll be 30 on November 10, but I think he’s the most in-form and complete striker in the pool right now. Johannsson hasn’t featured for the USMNT since 2015, but I truly think he needs to be a part of the group going forward.
Josh Sargent*—20, Werder Bremen
The kid has been on the radar since his standout performance at the 2019 U17 World Cup but, unfortunately, his club is just not good. Sargent does have seven goals in 44 appearances for Werder Bremen, including his first of the season over the weekend.
Ulysses Llanez*—19, Heerenveen
On loan from Wolfsburg, he’s finally playing first-team minutes in the Netherlands. Llanez is the only player to score for the USMNT in 2020, so that’s cool. The right-winger role is open and he may be able to claim it.
Tim Weah*—20, Lille
The reason the right-winger role is open is because Tim Weah can’t stay healthy for Lille. He has made four appearances in total this season, but only seven total in two seasons. It’s unclear if he’s the best player at RW on but he’s probably the best talent at that position.
Sebastian Soto*—20, Telstar
On loan to Telstar from Norwich City, Sebastian Soto has yet to fully realize his hype in a top-flight European league. In the Dutch second division, he has five goals in six appearances, which should be a sign of good things to come for the standout player from the 2019 U-20 World Cup. All that said, recent reports indicate he may be favoring Chile over the U.S. Berhalter might want to play the game and call him in to try to convince him. It wouldn’t hurt Soto’s ability to decide on a national team.
Haji Wright*—22, SønderjyskE
I said Johannsson is the most in-form USMNT striker but Wright is right behind him. With five goals in six matches this season in the Danish Superliga, Wright should be called up. He, Sargent and Soto are battling for the top striker spot in the U-23 pool with a few MLS players, which is good for U.S. Olympics hope in 2021.
Note: If Pulisic can’t play, Konrad de la Fuente from Barcelona would be my ideal replacement. But Indiana Vassilev would also be a good call up.
I’m sure there are plenty of disagreements with the 23 I’ve listed, but the fact that the USMNT has so many players in European leagues speaks to the quality of the pool. Finally, it feels like the U.S. has a selection of talent to fill every position and, for the most part, no one is playing out of position. That’s a massive improvement from even three years ago and the pressure is now on Gregg Berhalter to find the right players for his system and to navigate Concacaf World Cup qualifying starting next summer (we hope).