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USMNT analysis

Drawing heavily from the U-23 team, Berhalter names roster for T&T

The USMNT roster for the first game of 2021 is out and it consists of many familiar faces and even more new ones. ASN's Brian Sciaretta breaks it down and offers up his toughts. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
January 24, 2021
8:00 PM

ON SUNDAY, United States national team manager Gregg Berhalter announced the his team’s roster for the upcoming friendly against Trinidad & Tobago next Sunday on January 31, 2021. The roster comprises of players on the U.S. roster announced earlier this month along with 14 players from the recent U.S. U-23 team.

The initial U.S. roster comprised of 12 players but Sean Johnson was forced to withdraw because of injury and Jordan Morris left to join his new club, Swansea City. Then today it was announced that Triston Blackmon suffered a concussion and was forced to return to his club, Los Angeles FC.

The nine remaining players were combined with 16 players from the U.S. U-23 team to make this current roster.

Here is the roster along with some thoughts:


The USMNT roster for T&T


GOALKEEPERS (3): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; 1/0), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; 0/0), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 18/3), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; 0/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; 2/0), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 2/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 13/2)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 24/2), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 17/4), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Andrés Perea (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 19/0), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 8/0)

FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 115/42), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 34/6), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 1/0), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 6/0), Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC; 1/2)


Surprising U-23 cuts

Among those on the U-23 roster who were cut from this roster were Eryk Williamson, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Djordje Mihailovic. Those three stood out as the most surprising. 

Williamson is coming off of a very strong season with Portland but suffered an ankle injury in the final game that ruled him out into the offseason. It is very possible he was not fully fit heading into camp as he was resting in the weeks leading up to the start of camp.

Among the Portland Timbers, Jeremy Ebobisse was also a surprise but was another player who did not play much down the stretch due to a concussion. The forward from Maryland scored 11 goals in 2374 minutes in 2019 and nine goals over 1380 minutes in 2020. It is a decent scoring rate considering he has also played on the wing for stretches. He seems like a good pick to make the U-23 qualifying team but perhaps there wasn’t room for him on this roster with Dike and Altidore also on the team.

Fresh of his trade from Chicago to Montreal, Mihailovic is also a surprising cut given the Jason Kries has leaned a lot on him during the first part of the U-23 cycle – where Mihailovic wore the captain’s armband at times. He also seemed to be a player Berhalter rated earlier in the cycle shortly after Mihailovic recovered from his ACL tear and even played as recently as December in the win over El Salvador.

Some of the other cuts were understandable. Chris Gloster has had a tough time at Jong PSV and will be looking for a new club soon. Wolfsburg U-23 defensive midfielder Bryang Kayo would have been a good U-20 defensive midfield option but is still looking for a professional debut.

Henry Kessler is probably a good bet to make the U-23 Olympic qualifying team but lost out due to Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman being on the team. It does make you wonder if Jason Kreis is eyeing Mauricio Pineda and Miles Robinson as the U-23 starters in qualifying.


Bello & Tessmann surprising inclusions


The two most surprising inclusions on the roster are George Bello and Tanner Tessmann who are both uncapped and were eligible for the U.S. U-20 team this year. While it was expected that U-20 right back Julian Araujo, fresh off his cap last month against El Salvador, was going to make this roster the addition of Tessmann and Bello suggests that they impressed the U.S. staff in during the 2020 season.

Tessmann, 19, is a big and athletic midfielder who also has quite a bit of technique. He was impressive in 2020 for FC Dallas but only started 10 of his team’s games. By the end of the season, however, he was Luchi Gonzalez’s first choice starter – and featured in the playoff loss to Seattle.

Tessman still has a lot to learn and his decision making needs to be a bit quicker, but he’s on a good path. He also showed growth in his first season in using his big frame to play the game with more physicality, but that is another area he will need to continue to improve in 2021. It will  interesting to see what role and what position Berhalter uses him during this camp’s final week as he has shifted around, but mostly playing at the No. 8.

Bello, 19, was one of the few bright spots for Atlanta United in 2020 and you could see his promise at left back. The most important aspect of his growth at the position was that his defense continued to improve steadily. He is an exciting player to watch and it will be interesting to see if he gets on the field against Trinidad & Tobago.


Fullback heavy


Another aspect of this roster that was very interesting is that Berhalter elected to take five fullbacks in Araujo, Duncan, Herrera, and dedicated left backs Sam Vines and George Bello.

The three U-23 right backs on the roster suggests that they all played well in camp, and in the departure of Tristan Blackmon, Berhalter wanted to take and extended look. Or maybe another transfer is rumored, and Berhalter had to be prepared for another departure. Araujo and Herrera had some rumors floating around them in recent weeks.

Either way, the added number of fullbacks was a surprise.


Big week for some players


Among those on the roster, here are five players that most stand out to me in terms of questions surrounding them and the opportunity they have. These are the players I will be paying most attention to should they see the field next Sunday.

Chris Mueller: After earning the MOTM in the win over El Salvador last month in his first camp, another strong showing will put the Orlando winger in great position for a March call-up.

Jozy Altidore: There is no question that younger American forwards have been making statements the last nine months – both domestically and abroad. Altidore had a tough 2020 where injuries plagued him once again. Can Altidore show has more left in the tank?

Daryl Dike: The Orlando City forward is perhaps the most anticipated un-capped player on the roster and he is coming off a very strong first professional season in Orlando. With a big frame of 6’3”, 220 pounds, Dike, 20, gives Berhalter the chance to play the position in a different way. Now we can get a chance to see that approach.

Matt Turner: The backup goalkeeping position is wide open after Zack Steffen and Matt Turner, who is coming off a great season with New England, has a chance to seal the back-up job. Turner, a native of New Jersey, has arguably been the best American goalkeeper in MLS over recent seasons.

Andres Perea: The Orlando City defensive midfielder earned headlines earlier this month when he field a one-time switch to represent the United States after representing Colombia in the U-17 World Cup in 2017 and the U-20 World Cup in 2020. Both Berhalter and Kreis highlighted his “range” and the ground he can cover defensively – which is also the strength of starting No. 6, Tyler Adams. Berhalter said he saw great potential in Perea during the announcement. Perea showed a lot of positive development under Oscar Preaja in 2020 and perhaps the upside is that he emerges as the backup for Adams given the similar strengths and ways he plays the game. Perea seems like a good bet to be the U-23 starter and it will be interesting to watch his first steps in the U.S. program.

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