The USMNT World Cup qualifying roster for the March Concacaf matches is finally here, with a bit too much fanfare, if we’re being honest. U.S. Soccer decided to reveal the squad live on SportsCenter, but the show wasn’t really worth the hype.
Because we won’t make you wait like SportsCenter did to show you the roster, here it is.
USMNT World Cup Qualifying Roster
.Gregg Berhalter selects 27 players for the final three 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying matches » https://t.co/XUoH6QlfKW#USMNT x @BioSteelSports pic.twitter.com/yv8xUkZM1U
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 17, 2022
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 7/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 26/0),
Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 24/1), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 17/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes/FRA; 2/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 22/2), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 17/3), James Sands (Rangers/SCO; 7/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 71/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 25/3)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 48/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 24/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 8/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 5/0), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 13/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 31/0)
Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 18/5), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 43/8), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 7/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 43/10), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys/SUI; 8/1), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg/GER; 9/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 45/18), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund; 9/4), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 20/2)
The biggest news is the return of Gio Reyna, who hasn’t played for the USMNT since September and only just came back from injury with Borussia Dortmund. Zack Steffen and Aaron Long are also back after missing time with injuries. Steffen is likely to start all three matches in goal, especially with Matt Turner out injured.
Up front, the U.S. has yet to find a consistent goal scorer, but Jordan Pefok is one of Europe’s hottest strikers so USMNT fans will hope he can bring that form to the national team, which he hasn’t played for since September. The Young Boys forward has 17 goals in 25 Swiss Pro League matches this season.
Ricardo Pepi and Jésus Ferreira join Pefok up front, but the strength of the forward line will be the wingers with Christian Pulisic, Reyna, Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah on the roster.
The midfield will miss Weston McKennie dearly after he suffered a season-ending injury playing in the Champions League with Juventus. Kellyn Acosta is the most likely replacement alongside Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams, but Gianluca Busio and Luca de la Torre have been getting regular playing time in Europe and could get some more playing time.
Defensively, Sergiño Dest is a worry after limping off injured in Barcelona’s Europa League game on Thursday. Berhalter went with two inexperienced defenders in James Sands (seven caps) and Erik Palmer-Brown (two caps), but he may need to bring in reinforcements if Dest can’t play.
The U.S. plays at Mexico in the Azteca on March 24, hosts Panama in Orlando, Florida, on March 27 and finishes Concacaf World Cup qualifying at Costa Rica on March 30. The U.S. needs five points to ensure it’s in the World Cup no matter what happens in other results; a win over Panama is also likely enough.
Now about that SportsCenter USMNT World Cup qualifying roster reveal.
Originally, U.S. Soccer announced the roster would be revealed at 6 p.m. ET Thursday on SportsCenter, a day or three later than the squad is usually revealed ahead of international windows. On Thursday, the USMNT updated the timing to say the reveal would be at “approximately” 6:30 p.m.
⏰ Set a reminder:@SportsCenter will announce the roster at approximately 6:30pm ET tonight.Until then, watch some college hoops, maybe enjoy some green @budweiserusa (responsibly) for the holiday...
Do what you've gotta do to calm the anticipation. https://t.co/PwJM4fFFhf
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 17, 2022
This made some sense at the time; Thursday is one of the biggest sports days of the year with the start of the NCAA tournament.
Except SportsCenter started the show with news about what team an NFL quarterback who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women would sign with. Then there was news about MLB players before SportsCenter finally got to the worthwhile story of Brittney Griner, who has been held hostage by Russia. Only after the first commercial break then did the show get around to talking about the NCAA tournament. SportsCenter also made way too much of a deal over a transgender swimmer winning an NCAA title (just let her swim and stop buying into the GOP’s culture war bullshit). When 6:30 p.m. finally rolled around, SportsCenter came back from commercial to talk about an NFL quarterback changing teams. Not once during the opening 30 minutes did the show even tease the USMNT roster reveal.
Finally, at 6:33, the roster was revealed, including pre-taped videos of Taylor Twellman attempting to break down the midfield and offense. Interestingly, the SportsCenter reveal didn’t include Erik Palmer-Brown on the list of defenders, though he was included on the U.S. Soccer website.
Thankfully, SportsCenter ended with an interview with Gregg Berhalter, the only worthwhile moment of the entire 60-minute show. The interviewer asked about Dest’s potential injury, with Berhalter saying George Bello, Joe Scally, Shaq Moore or Sam Vines could replace Dest on the roster. Berhalter also said he might have to manage Gio Reyna’s minutes as he comes back from injury.
I understand wanting to build hype for these final World Cup qualifiers, especially with the World Cup (hopefully) later this year. The USWNT did a cool roster reveal ahead of the Olympics with Ted Lasso and Coach Beard. But squeezing the roster reveal into an apathetic SportsCenter show, which only really cares about the NFL, horrible gossip and whatever events ESPN is broadcasting that day, felt wholly unnecessary.
U.S. Soccer fans just want the roster. The Berhalter interview was nice, but the long wait and Twellman’s pre-recorded analysis was a waste of everyone’s time. At the end of the reveal, I think everyone channeled Bruce Arena after Sebastian Lletget skied his penalty on Wednesday night.
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) March 17, 2022
Lletget, thankfully, was not on the USMNT roster.