Gold Cup lookahead
Predicting the 2019 U.S. Gold Cup roster - who will be in Berhalter's 23?
April 05, 2019
IN JUNE, the United States national team will play its first major tournament under manager Gregg Berhalter when the 2019 Gold Cup gets underway. The U.S. team is the defending champions after winning the 2017 edition but this will be the first test for the team with the new crop of players.
There is plenty of reasons that this tournament lacks luster compared with years past. For one, the sting of missing the 2018 World Cup is still not over. Second, a berth in the Confederations Cup berth is no longer on the line since that tournament has been discontinued. Finally, with the advent of the CONCACAF Nations League and no participation in a future Copa America finalized, it’s easy for fans to feel bored with CONCACAF competition.
The last time the U.S. team played official games outside of its region was three years ago at the 2016 Copa America Centenario and nothing is guaranteed for the foreseeable future.
When looking at the big picture, this summer’s Gold Cup tournament is important even if it is understandable for a lack of enthusiasm. For one, it gives Gregg Berhalter a chance to continue to build his team. While nothing is finalized, it is possible that in 2020 the U.S. team could play in the Copa America and the Olympics (with a U-23 team that consists of many players on the full national team). If that were to happen, it would test a large number of American players at a high level.
The process of having the players play in meaningful games begins in June. To date, Berhalter has had just four games to build a team prepare for this Gold Cup and so far he’s tried to emphasize continuity while trying to avoid making sweeping changes to rosters. There is a good chance that the games in the Fall will allow him to go deeper into the player pool but for now he’s been trying to build something over a short period.
With that being said, the Gold Cup roster shouldn’t surprise many. There might be a few players included on the team who were not part of the rosters in January or March, but those players will probably be known commodities who were not able to participate due to fitness or form.
One other note is that it is still not determined yet if the Gold Cup rules will allow for rosters to be augmented after the group stage with a limited number of changes. This has been the case in recent editions of the tournament but for now, we’ll assume no changes and just a straight 23 player roster.
1) Zack Steffen
2) Ethan Horvath
3) Sean Johnson
In the mix: Jesse Gonzalez, Brad Guzan.
The Skinny: Zack Steffen will likely be the starter for the entire tournament and these games will allow him to qualify automatically for a U.K. Work Permit as he moves abroad following the Gold Cup. Horvath and Johnson seem like the next in line although perhaps Berhalter won’t bring in all three just to sit behind Steffen.
4) DeAndre Yedlin
5) Nick Lima
6) John Brooks
7) Matt Miazga
8) Walker Zimmerman
9) Aaron Long
10) Tim Ream
11) Greg Garza
In the mix: Omar Gonzalez, Auston Trusty, Daniel Lovitz, Reggie Cannon, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Erik Palmer-Brown
The skinny: It is important to remember that when Berhalter made his somewhat controversial decision to start Tyler Adams at right back in March, he made it clear he was not married to the idea. It might still happen at the Gold Cup, or Adams might move back to his natural midfield position. It might vary depending on the opponent. The same with DeAndre Yedlin at the wing position. Lima remains on board to allow for that flexibility.
The central defenders are self-explanatory at the moment and the one change could be the addition of Greg Garza into the left back role. The FC Cincinnati veteran seems like he would be a good fit into the system.
12) Tyler Adams
13) Wil Trapp
14) Michael Bradley
15) Weston McKennie
16) Christian Pulisic
17) Sebastian Lletget
18) Paul Arriola
19) Kenny Saief
20) Darlington Nagbe
In the mix: Cristian Roldan, Duane Holmes, Djordje Mihailovic, Jonathan Lewis, Paxton Pomykal.
The skinny: It is unclear if Weston McKennie will be healthy for this tournament but he still has over two months to get back on the field from his ankle sprain. The same will be said of Christian Pulisic who is also dealing with an injury and this summer will be important for the Hershey native who will begin his first preseason as a Chelsea player.
Many of the names have featured under Berhalter so far. If Kenny Saief continues to impress at on his loan to FC Cincinnati (which will expire in June), he could get the nod because he has one of the best left foots in the player pool and his passing could be a real asset to Berhalter. Darlington Nagbe also hasn’t been involved yet under Berhalter but it’s possible that the manager will want to see how he fits into his system.
21) Jozy Altidore
22) Gyasi Zardes
23) Jordan Morris
In the mix: Josh Sargent, Tim Weah, Bobby Wood, Christian Ramirez, Corey Baird, Andrija Novakovich
The skinny: It’s certainly possible that one or both of Josh Sargent and Tim Weah could play at the U-20 World Cup this summer or play with the U-23 team (if that team has a camp this summer). For both teenagers, a lot will depend on their playing time the rest of the season.
The return of Jozy Altidore to health will likely send Gyasi Zardes to the bench although Zardes was useful in the March friendlies.
The national team is an evolving process right now and the “lost generation” of players born between 1990-1994 still lingers. The desired improvement in the team won’t happen over night but strong, continued emphasis on the youth national teams should continue to improve the player pool over time.
Mexico right now is firing on all cylinders and deserves to be the favorite heading into the Gold Cup. Could the U.S. team still win it? Yes, but it would take a pretty big upset to pull it off. This is the first time in years the U.S. team is attempting to build a team around a generation of players that does not include Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Jermaine Jones, and many others with World Cup experience. There is no quick fix for the national team right now but there is no reason to thing the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t bright.