The Exciting Reason Why Gregg Berhalter Didn’t Call Up Tim Weah And Josh Sargent For March Friendlies
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Christian Pulisic. Weston McKennie. Tyler Adams. The big Europe-based names are there. Well, except for a couple forwards. So why didn’t Gregg Berhalter call up other young stars like Tim Weah and Josh Sargent to the USMNT roster for the March 2019 friendlies?
Berhalter announced his first USMNT roster for a FIFA international window on Tuesday, the first opportunity the new U.S. coach has had to call Europe-based players into his squad. It was no surprise to see Pulisic, McKennie and Adams in the fold after good performances in the Bundesliga thus far. They’ll anchor the team when the U.S. plays Ecuador on March 21 in Orlando and Chile on March 26 in Houston with just about a full-strength squad.
Our buildup to the Gold Cup marches on.Gregg Berhalter has called up 24 players to the #USMNT's upcoming friendlies vs. Ecuador and Chile » https://t.co/DhytrTt2RP pic.twitter.com/VDvMK5FHiw
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 12, 2019
But a few players who have been a part of recent call-ups were not brought in — but they weren’t forgotten.
Berhalter opted not to pick players like Weah, Sargent and others because the U-23 USMNT will be playing in friendlies over the same international break. The U-23 team will be attempting this year to qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2008 and has a legitimate chance to not only qualify, but challenge for a medal.
“We had to make decisions for this camp and we looked at the players in a number of different buckets,” Berhalter said. “For example, we have some younger guys that aren’t getting the game time that they would have expected and they’re still age-eligible for the Olympics, so we think it’s a great opportunity for them to play two international games with the U-23 team. We have other players that we have evaluated thoroughly in the January camp and we’re going to bring back in the future, but not in this camp. That’s another group. Then we have some guys that are returning from injury and we thought now is not the right time to subject them to the intensity of international soccer and the national team.”
Weah and Sargent, both 19, fall into that Olympics bucket, as do players like Cameron Carter-Vickers, Mark McKenzie, Jonathan Klinsmann, Djordje Mihailovic, Erik Palmer-Brown and Antonee Robinson, none of whom were chosen for the senior USMNT roster. These players could help the U.S. get over that Olympic qualifying hurdle and could be a part of the best U-23 team the USMNT has ever had, so it's exciting to see Berhalter allow for that team to gain more experience together.
Pulisic, McKennie and Adams (all 20) are also eligible for the Olympics, but they were deemed too important to the first team to let them play with the U-23s, though they could still turn out for the youth squad in Tokyo 2020.
Aside from the youngsters not picked for Berhalter’s first full USMNT roster, a couple veterans were also not included, namely Jozy Altidore, Brad Guzan and Bobby Wood. Michael Bradley was included, to the delight of all.
The average age of the roster is 25 years and 265 days, with an average of 21 caps. The most veteran players are Bradley (143 caps) and DeAndre Yedlin (57) while Corey Baird, Nick Lima, Daniel Lovitz, Christian Ramirez and Jonathan Lewis are the least experienced with two caps apiece.
Seeing a return to the USMNT for the first time since 2017 (back when the U.S. was still a World Cup team) are defenders Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream.
“We have been saying all along that we thought it was important to have a veteran presence in the national team,” Berhalter said. “I think it’s really important when you talk about the history, the heritage and culture of what it means to play for the national team. In Omar and Tim’s case, they’re both playing at a high level, they’re both playing every week and we thought this would be a good camp to evaluate their performance.”
Berhalter also picked 15 MLS players, 14 of whom were a part of the January camp. The U.S. coach said the fact the matches will be played on a short week in the U.S. played a factor in this decision and he still wants to evaluate many of those players.
The roster also includes two players leading the MLS Golden Boot race: Bradley and Jordan Morris. The Seattle Sounders striker is back on the USMNT roster for the first time since missing a year with an ACL injury.
“On the club stage is when you have small victories, when you see guys returning after long-term injury,” Berhalter said. “On the national team, it’s equally as gratifying to be able to call a player up after he has had a good preseason and a great start to this season. We’re excited for Jordan. He’s a player that we had contact with in January camp and it will be great to see him live and in person on the field.”
USMNT Roster March 2019
Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge, BEL; 3 caps/0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 6/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 8/0)
John Brooks (Wolfsburg, GER; 36/3), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas, MEX; 48/3), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 2/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 4/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact; 2/0), Matt Miazga (Reading, ENG; 11/1), Tim Ream (Fulham, ENG; 26/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United, ENG; 57/0)
Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, GER; 9/1), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC, CAN; 143/17), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 7/2), Weston McKennie (Schalke, GER; 7/1), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, GER; 23/9), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 7/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 13/0)
Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 19/3), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 2/0), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; 2/0), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 25/5), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 2/1), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 42/6)