Gregg Berhalter has made his first public decisions as U.S. men’s national team coach, picking the 2019 USMNT roster for the January camp. Berhalter, hired on Dec. 2, named 27 players based entirely in MLS for the annual three-week January training camp, which will culminate in friendlies against Panama and Costa Rica.
Among the 27 players include seven completely new faces — and some familiar old faces. One in particular may not make fans too happy with Berhalter’s first squad: Michael Bradley. While Berhalter might prefer to focus on the exciting newcomers, most fans will hone in on the inclusion of Bradley.
Rightly or wrongly, Bradley became the face of the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The former USMNT captain is now 31 and unlikely to play a huge role in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, let alone actually play in Qatar (assuming the Yanks make it).
More interesting is how different Bradley is from every other player on the roster. He is the only player with any sort of significant USMNT roster experience on the team and the only one older than 29. With 142 caps, Bradley has more U.S. appearances than the entire rest of the team combined (137). Gyasi Zardes (40 caps) is the only other player with more than 25 caps. Only six of the 27 players have 10 or more caps.
And Bradley doesn’t exactly fall in line with Berhalter’s comments on the team as a whole:
“In putting together this domestic-based roster, we started with a number of players who we think can be a core part of the group moving forward. We then looked at players that excelled this year in Major League Soccer, and finally chose players that can play a specific role in our game model,” Berhalter said on the U.S. Soccer website. “We are very excited to start to implement our ideas about the style of play and the culture we want to develop in the national team.”
Bradley isn’t going to be a part of the core group moving forward — he’s 31. He didn’t excel in MLS this season — he had two assists and no goals in 32 appearances as Toronto suffered a 33-point drop-off from last year.
Maybe Bradley will play a specific role in Berhalter's game model and maybe he can help develop the team culture. He is a player with immense experience and leadership abilities. As much as people love to shit on him, he has an acute mind for the game and can be of benefit to the younger players.
So let’s talk about those younger players.
The seven newbies to the USMNT roster include:
- Corey Baird: 22, MF, Real Salt Lake
- Jeremy Ebobisse: 21, FW, Portland Timbers
- Daniel Lovitz: 27, LWB, Montreal Impact
- Mark McKenzie: 19, CB, Philadelphia Union
- Djordje Mihailovic: 20, MF, Chicago Fire
- Tyler Miller: 25, GK, LAFC
- Auston Trusty: 20, CB, Philadelphia Union
In addition, there are five players who are uncapped in the squad but have been called into January USMNT camps before. They include: Russell Canouse, Justen Glad, Nick Lima, Christian Ramirez and Keegan Rosenberry.
These players represent a larger changing of the guard than we saw Dave Sarachan try to implement last year following the World Cup qualifying failure. Many have great promise, such as young defenders Trusty and McKenzie.
What we don’t see on the roster (not unsurprisingly given the nature of the camp) are any overseas players like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie or DeAndre Yedlin.
Overall the squad looks capable of competing against Panama and Costa Rica, even if those two countries qualified for the World Cup over the U.S. There is still a dearth of quality up front, as the inclusion of Zardes suggests (though he did have a great season with Berhalter's Crew). One hopes 20-year-old Haji Wright continues his development in Germany after scoring his first Bundesliga goal on Wednesday.
The first time we see the USMNT play under Berhalter will be against Panama on Jan. 27 in Glendale, Arizona. On Feb. 2, the U.S. will play Costa Rica in San Jose, California.
It remains to be seen how Berhalter ultimately lines the team up for the upcoming friendlies. Based on his time with the Columbus Crew, we can guess it will be possession-based.
The next meaningful competition for the USMNT will be in June for the Concacaf Gold Cup.
We wonder if Michael Bradley will still be involved.
2019 USMNT Roster (Club; Caps/Goals)
Alex Bono (Toronto FC; 1/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 5/0), Tyler Miller (LAFC; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 6/0)
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 2/0), Greg Garza (FC Cincinnati; 10/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 2/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact; 0/0), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 4/1)
Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 23/2), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 17/2), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 142/17), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC; 6/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 5/1), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 5/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 11/0)
Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; 0/0), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 0/0), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 40/6)