GOALKEEPERS (4): Alex Bono (Toronto FC/CAN; 1/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 5/0), Tyler Miller (LAFC; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 6/0)
DEFENDERS (10): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 2/0), Greg Garza (FC Cincinnati; 10/0), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 2/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 0/0), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 4/1)
MIDFIELDERS (10): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 23/2), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 17/2), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 142/17), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 6/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 5/1), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 5/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 11/0)
FORWARDS (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; 0/0), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 0/0), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 40/6)
It’s usually an MLS-heavy camp, with only the Scandinavian leagues chipping in from time to time (like the United States, they’re out-of-season, and this camp doesn’t fall during a FIFA International window), and the 2019 edition will be exclusively from Major League Soccer.
With friendlies planned against Panama (Jan. 27 in Phoenix) and Costa Rica (Feb. 2 in San Jose, Calif.), this will be your roster for the next two opportunities to watch the Yanks prepare for the Gold Cup and beyond.
The keeper of the future seems to have already been anointed in Zack Steffen, and the new Man City man (who will be on loan back to Columbus Crew during the first half of 2019) is in the mix. I’d expect him to start one of the games, and split another with one of the other keepers – though with Gregg Berhalter being very familiar with the young man who he’s been coaching for a few years, we may see more (all of both games) or less (only one appearance – though needing caps to get a work permit for City, at least showing in both is likely) of him.
The defense is generally inexperienced – 18 caps across 10 players, with more than half of those earned by FCC’s Greg Garza – but some of the players have been called in during the second half of 2018, including right back Reggie Cannon, and centerbacks Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman. If you don’t have the opportunity to call in European players on account of the timing, this is a group that probably represents the best of the domestic pool. I’d love to see young Philadelphia duo Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty get some time together, as I rate both pretty highly (while holding some reservations about the 5-10 McKenzie’s ability to play CB at an international level).
The midfield is actually pretty strong in comparison to what you’d see if players overseas were available: the likes of Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, Marky Delgado, and Wil Trapp have been called up even during international windows over the past year, and while Berhalter may not have the exact same opinions of where they stand on a depth chart as Dave Sarachan did, certainly they have international experience and at a much greater frequency than the defenders. Add in Michael Bradley – the third-most capped player in USMNT history – and this group has tons of experience.
The way the midfield is constructed (assuming Berhalter’s marriage to the 4-2-3-1, while not set in stone, sees him at least try to install it in his first camp) should be interesting. Is a double-pivot of Michael Bradley and
Also Michael Bradley Wil Trapp in the cards? (I’d prefer to see Russell Canouse in one of those spots at least for a while) Who’s the creative No. 10? There are options there – Marky Delgado, Sebastian Lletget, and it’s interesting to see Corey Baird listed as a mid, since I basically consider him a pure center forward – though obviously not as inspiring as if you could call in a guy like Christian Pulisic. There is wing talent – I’m an Arriola guy for sure – though similar to the central attacking mid, maybe not the depth that makes you sad to remember European-based players are unavailable.
I’d like to see Jeremy Ebobisse and Christian Ramirez get most of the time up top. Regular readers know I’m actually a pretty good Zardes guy (and that’s before you take into account the chemistry that he has with his now-former club coach, seeing him break out of a slump to have a huge 2018 under Berhalter with the Crew), but at the same time, you generally know what you’re getting from him. I’ve always been high on Ebobisse and have wanted him to get opportunities with the MNT, and I’d like to see Ramirez have a chance to earn future call-ups with in-game performance, as well.
Try to win?
2018 was not a good year results-wise for the USMNT. A 3-5-3 record with ten goals for and 14 against is bordering on historically bad, at least if we only go back to the modern era (post-1986). I’d say it wasn’t necessarily Dave Sarachan’s job to win – have been considering a post exploring whether he did a good job by different metrics, actually, based on things other than results – but I’d also say that it’s Berhalter’s job to return some of the positive vibes around the program just as much as it is to prepare for the more-distant future with this first camp. Fans need to be brought back in.
However, the diehard fans at the very least are realistic about what the January camp is. Panama should be beatable (even the cursed Bruce Arena USMNT went 1-0-1 against them in World Cup qualifying last year), but Costa Rica is a true test, even with a full squad. Expecting a result with a B-team is unfair. They should strive for it, sure, but not be upset not to get one if that’s how it turns out.
As implied in the roster breakdown, I’m cheering mostly for squad rotation and the chance to see some of these younger guys show that they’re up to the international level, even if it’s largely for depth when the full squad is available. If that costs a 1-1-0 or 0-0-2 record, fine. If it’s worse than that (especially in a way that is not fun to watch), I will say something like “that is lame” and move on with my life.