Predicting Berhalter's March roster: what will a full team look like?
February 05, 2019
THE MARCH ROSTER for the United States national team is highly anticipated and will be very revealing with how new manager Gregg Berhalter sees the team at the start of his tenure. It will be the first time he will have the full selection of players given that the games
The U.S. team will have an increased level of competition when it hosts Ecuador on March 21 in Orlando and Chile on March 26 in Houston. But more important than the results, it will be very important to see how the full roster buys into Berhalter’s system. These games will be the only real opportunity to play together before the run-up to the Gold Cup begins.
As for roster size, that is always a fluid topic. It seems that with this being the first time having the full-time together and with these games being at home, there is a likelihood that the roster is slightly larger than the typical 23.
Even with a bigger roster available, here is a prediction with how it could look in six weeks when the team assembles.
1) Zack Steffen
2) Ethan Horvath
3) Brad Guzan
The skinny: The only real question among the goalkeepers right now is whether or not Brad Guzan will be brought back as a veteran backup or if Sean Johnson will continue in that role from January. Other than that, Steffen is clearly the number one and Horvath is likely the number two.
4) John Brooks
5) Matt Miazga
6) Aaron Long
7) Walker Zimmerman
The skinny: Brooks is currently having a good season with Wolfsburg. Whether or not Berhalter can bring about consistency with Brooks is one of the biggest open questions at the start of his tenure. Matt Miazga walked into Reading’s starting lineup during a relegation fight and, despite the setback at Nantes which was only a few months, he has done well in his career in both MLS and the Eredivisie.
Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman both had nice January camps and Long was the team’s captain. That bodes very well for Long. The biggest battle in central defense will probably be between Zimmerman and Cameron Carter-Vickers. Carter-Vickers has started to play again for Swansea due to injury but overall he has not had a great season. Carter-Vickers is also eligible for the U-23 team, whenever that team gets up and running.
8) DeAndre Yedlin
9) Nick Lima
10) Fabian Johnson
11) Antonee Robinson
The Skinny: DeAndre Yedlin has had a nice run of games at a high level with Newcastle United but he plays the position differently than how Berhalter likes. As for the second right back, Nick Lima is ahead of Reggie Cannon at the moment. The only other potential option right now would probably be Shaq Moore but he has not played much Spain this year.
Left back continues to be a problem. At January camp, Daniel Lovitz had a decent game against Panama but overall, did not stand out. Still, he might remain a candidate to be on this roster. It is also possible that Greg Garza earns a call-up after withdrawing from January camp with an injury. Now with Cincinnati, Garza performed well in the playoffs in 2018 as he helped Atlanta to MLS Cup. Jorge Villafana did not earn a January camp call-up but might still be in the picture. If Shaq Moore can play left back, it might be his best bet.
For now, Antonee Robinson might get another call-up as he is in the final stages of his recovery from injury. Robinson provides some nice speed but whether or not he is a fit for the system is a question for Berhalter. Also, don’t be surprised if Fabian Johnson, 31, remains in the picture as a fullback. He hasn't played much this season for a very good Monchengladbach team but his background as a midfielder seem to suggest he could succeed under Berhalter.
12) Tyler Adams
13) Weston McKennie
14) Michael Bradley
15) Wil Trapp
The Skinny: There is no doubt that Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie will be there. Both are progressing very nicely with their careers and need time to learn Berhalter’s system.
The fact that Wil Trapp played in both January camp games ahead of others like Russell Canouse bodes well for his inclusion. Berhalter and Trapp understand each other well and it seems likely that Trapp will be on the team - at least to start Berhalter's tenure.
If Michael Bradley continues to play for the U.S. team, he probably won’t be as much of a key player than in years past but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a useful player at the start of the cycle. Even if he is too old come Qatar, there is still a lot of important soccer to be played between now and 2022. Bradley didn’t have a great season in Toronto last year but that team was a total mess and Bradley had to even fill in at central defense at times.
16) Christian Pulisic
17) Paul Arriola
18) Cristian Roldan
19) Sebastian Lletget
20) Duane Holmes
The Skinny: It will be interesting to see how Christian Pulisic fits into the U.S. national team system. Is he a winger or a No. 10? A lot will be revealed in the upcoming camp.
Paul Arriola played well against Costa Rica on both sides of the ball and seemed to fit the system well. The same could be said of Sebastian Lletget who was the Man of the Match against Costa Rica and looks like an effective player to be on the roster.
As for surprise picks, keep an eye on Duane Holmes who is playing first-rate soccer for Derby County at the moment and is a very creative attacking player. Born in Georgia and raised in England, he desperately wants to play for the United States and it is hard to say, based on how he is playing, he shouldn’t at least be in consideration. With his ability to play several attacking positions, he might be one of the surprising newcomers this year.
These positions are very competitive at the moment and Berhalter might have to make some tough cuts from both the domestic and European players in the pool.
Romain Gall was not released for January camp and has an interesting history with Berhalter – who waived him from Columbus. Gall has done very well in Sweden for Malmo mostly coming off the bench. He will probably have to earn the starting spot at Malmo leading into March. Jonathan Amon is also a candidate as he has shown at Nordsjaelland to have a very effective ability to beat defenders in 1v1 situations. But Amon probably won’t be an option for the Gold Cup as he is likely to be with the U.S. team for the U-20 World Cup instead.
Domestically, Cristian Roldan and Djordje Mihailovic started both January camp games in dual No. 10 roles. Mihailovic looks promising but more like someone who should focus on being an important player for the U.S. U-23 team. The good news for him is that he is a starter for Chicago right now and should only improve with regular minutes after missing most of 2018 with his ACL injury.
Darlington Nagbe will be an interesting one to follow as he missed out on January camp due to a short offseason with MLS Cup and to prepare for the CONCACAF Champions League. But Roldan played well in camp and Nagbe might now be behind. But I could see it being a close call.
It's also worth pointing out how effective Jonathan Lewis was in January as he had two assists in just 44 minutes. But like Mihailovic, Lewis is U-23 eligible and he brings very solid 1v1 skills to the team. He likely needs to establish himself as a starter for New York before he's a regular U.S. national team candidate. For now, I think he's probably a U-23 player but if he begins to start and play well for New York, he could make a quick transition to the full team.
21) Tim Weah
22) Bobby Wood
23) Josh Sargent
24) Jozy Altidore
25) Andrija Novakovich
The Skinny: The forward positions do not have a lot of depth right now. There are obvious picks like Josh Sargent and Tim Weah. Jozy Altidore was unable to participate in January camp due to injury but the fact he was invited to spend time with the team, even if he couldn’t play, tells you that Berhalter wants to keep him involved. If Altidore is healthy, I believe he has an excellent chance of being on the roster in March.
The rest of the call-ups in March will be interesting. For the second year in a row, Bobby Wood isn’t having a good season but his team is simply getting overrun in the midfield and perhaps Berhalter seems him as having more success with the U.S. team. Andrija Novakovich has also shown moments of promise for newly-promoted Fortuna Sittard but the Wisconsin native was frequently overlooked by interim coach Dave Sarachan. I see him as a close call for this team.
There are not a lot of options domestically. It is very possible that Gyasi Zardes continues to get call-ups over Novakovich or Wood although Zardes was rusty in January camp. Cristian Ramirez looked like an upgrade both times off the bench. If Ramirez starts the season well for LAFC, he could also find a spot.