Trey Daubert Soccer Education
My boss Trey Daubert challenged me to give him a formal education on soccer so he can become a bigger fan. Today’s lesson: the Americans. (Photo Credit: Ariel Stull/Vendetta Sports Media)

The Soccer Education of Trey Daubert: Chapter 4 – The Americans

We’re back for another episode of The Soccer Education of Trey Daubert, and there are two things I want to acknowledge right off the bat. First, I apologize for the hiatus. Secondly, I did fail in a slight sense in finding Trey a team — read Chapter 3 to get caught up. Messi’s arrival at PSG is promising for Trey’s Champions League fandom, but it pains me to say that my boss may become a Gunner. Context is provided below:

Arsenal, really? I get that you (Trey) play with Arsenal on FIFA. That’s all well and good. You talk about “building them up,” but let me just say that no one at this company is a manager, general manager, or owner of a football club in the Premier League, so building Arsenal up is not an option. You’re stuck with what they have. And, frankly, I don’t think you want to be watching Arsenal for 38 matches this year, especially after what happened against Brentford. Sure the kits are good, but I’m just sad that my comparison between Liverpool and the Red Sox wasn’t enough. The two franchises even have the same ownership group, but I have to stop beating this dead horse.

Anyways, since allegiances have basically been declared, I figure this chapter of the Soccer Education of Trey Daubert can highlight the Americans. Let’s get into it – I’m still not over the Liverpool thing, and I don’t even like the club.

The Americans

Aarav did a great job highlighting the current state of U.S. men’s soccer, and he’s right: the USMNT has found their golden generation. I’m going to expound on more of the roster because when the 2022 Qatar World Cup comes around next winter, I want Soccer Guy Trey to be a loud and knowledgeable American fan.

The Stars and Focal Points

Christian Pulisic, 22, LW/RW Chelsea FC

You know who he is. The 22-year-old from Hershey, Pennsylvania, has been in the spotlight since 2017. He is a winger that has struggled with injuries, but when fully healthy, he is a talent. Pulisic can stay on the ball a tad too long at times, yet his pace, dribbling, and shiftiness make him a very good attacker. He’s scored 16 goals and had nine assists in 38 games for the USMNT. He’s one assist away from becoming the fastest U.S. player to 10 goals and 10 assists. He is the star of this team and converted the penalty that won the U.S. the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League.

Gio Reyna, 18, CM/CAM, Borussia Dortmund

Mark my words: Gio Reyna will be the best player on the USMNT in a few years and may even be the greatest American soccer play ever. This is not a comparison between Pulisic and Reyna because they are both phenomenal players that complement each other wonderfully. They also play different positions. But Gio has all the tools. He is physically gifted, confident on the ball, has an IQ beyond his years, and simply passes the eye test. He scored the opening goal in the Nations League final and then assisted the second. Trey, just do me a favor and watch Dortmund play some games in the Bundesliga – Reyna is No. 7. You’ll see the talent.

Video Credit: USMNTvideos/YouTube
Weston McKennie, 22, CM/CDM, Juventus

It’s hard not to love McKennie. He will be a part of the U.S. central midfield for the next decade if everything goes according to plan. He is a do-it-all, Energizer bunny-esque player that is all over the field, scrambling and hunting for the ball. While it does seem chaotic at times, McKennie has a knack for winning the ball and helping control possession. He’s good aerially and has no problem fighting Mexico – which we love to see.

Tyler Adams, 22, CDM/CM, RB Leipzig

Adams is the quarterback of this team. He leads by example and is best when exposing the lines of the opponent while also closing down passing lanes. He is a calming presence in a side that boasts a lot of in-your-face talent. Adams should very soon be getting a captain armband, in my humble opinion. Again, this is a guy that you should cut out some time on a Saturday or Sunday to watch play in the Bundesliga – he is No. 14.

Zack Steffen, 25, GK, Manchester City

The man in between the sticks. He went out injured against Mexico in the Nations League final, but he is a good keeper. While not at the level of U.S. greats like Tim Howard or Kasey Keller, he will only get better with time. He can struggle with his feet at moments, but playing from the back with Manchester City will inevitably make him better. He’s goalkeeper No. 1, but Ethan Horvath and Matt Turner will compete for the role.

Sergino Dest, 20, RB/RWB, FC Barcelona

La Liga will be on ESPN all year, and Barca will compete in the UCL, so there are numerous options to watch Dest. In my opinion, he’s more of a wing-back, and he could very well be the best dribbler on this team. He loves to attack and get forward, but his positioning defensively is somewhat questionable. Regardless, he’s a great attacking threat, and if Gregg Berhalter decides to play a 3-4-3, he could be used as a RWB, which is a match made in heaven. Oh, and he did this against Real Madrid:

The Supporting Cast

John Brooks, 28, CB, VfL Wolfsburg

The best center-back on the team at the moment, Brooks is a physically domineering presence on the backline. He has significantly improved on the ball since his days at the 2014 World Cup, but his ability to break the lines isn’t entirely there yet. Ever present in aerial duels, his physicality is extremely beneficial, but he is not the most athletic. He needs to be paired with quicker and more athletic center-backs. A sweeper role in a 3-4-3 is ideally where I think he should play. Put him alongside Richards and either McKenzie or Miazga, and the U.S. could be set.

Antonee Robinson, 24, LB/LWB, Fulham

Robinson is a left wing-back at heart, and the USMNT could attack with more than five if both he and Dest are in the line-up. The challenge is that Robinson can struggle in 1v1 match-ups, and his positioning is occasionally exposed on counterattacks. He does make up for those struggles offensively. He has great pace for a full-back and can whip balls into the box in the final third. He has great upside.

Reggie Cannon, 23, RB, Boavista FC

Cannon could be on the move from Portugal to England with Nottingham Forest reportedly offering a bid for the right-back. I think it’s a good move, especially to see what he can do in the Championship. He played in both the Nations League and Gold Cup finals, coming on as a sub twice. While he is likely behind Dest on the RB depth chart, he offers a lot off the bench. I also could see him playing on the left if called upon. He’s a versatile full-back that can press, defend in 1v1 situations, and push forward when needed. I can’t wait to see how he develops because I really rate him.

Josh Sargent, 21, ST/CF, Norwich City

This may be a slightly harsh comparison, but Sargent’s struggles with the U.S. men’s team are similar to that of Timo Werner’s at Chelsea. Sargent does the things that are often overlooked. He will press high, hustle defensively and challenge aerially. His motor never seems to stop, and his constant runs behind the defense open up areas for Pulisic, Reyna, and others. Sargent did fail to put several chances away in the Nations League, but a new chance at Norwich in the Premier League could be beneficial for the 21-year-old.

Tim Weah, 21, CF/RW, Lille

This could be the most controversial placement in this chapter of the Soccer Education of Trey Daubert. Weah has only made five appearances for the U.S. in the past two years. Granted, he has struggled with injuries that have hampered his ability to play at a club and national level. Still, when healthy, he is a talent. He has good pace along the wings and is very crafty on the ball. The soccer world has been waiting to see him take that final leap towards reaching his full potential, and hopefully a full season of Ligue 1 play can do that for him.

Sebastian Lletget, 28, CM, LA Galaxy

Lletget is one of the players on the list who could see his time with the USMNT dwindle as he ages and the rest of the youngsters fill into their boots. Lletget was rostered for both the Nations League and Gold Cup and did some good things during both tournaments. His set pieces aggravate me on a level that few understand, and I don’t think he has the quality to retain a spot in the midfield for the years to come, but for now, he is a good leadership piece in the line-up.

Kellyn Acosta, 26, DM/CM, Colorado Rapids

Acosta is one of those guys that may lose the battle to restricted minutes in the midfield. If Berhalter decides to move forward with a 3-4-3, there’s no arguing who the midfield pivot should be – McKennie and Adams. The 26-year-old struggled with possession and control during Nations League play but did play well in the Gold Cup. It’s a mixed bag at the moment, but he still should make a 23 man roster for the USMNT.

Ethan Horvath, 26, GK, Nottingham Forest

Horvath made the game-winning save against Mexico in the Nations League final and has cemented his place in every 23-man roster for the time being. As has been the case for the last three decades, the United States is blessed with depth and talent at the goalkeeping position. It just so happens that the rest of the outfield players are caught up now. Horvath is the No. 2, in my opinion, and despite Matt Turner’s superb campaign at the 2021 Gold Cup, the Nottingham Forest keeper edges him out. All three keepers will compete for minutes, but Horvath has good reflexes and is good with the ball at his feet.

The Youngsters To Watch

I do understand that most of the aforementioned stars and supporting cast would qualify as “youngsters,” but they’ve already arrived, so this section will focus on players who you (Trey) should watch. Also, as I was writing down players to highlight, I had to cut some guys out simply for the sake of brevity. Finally, I wouldn’t be surprised if several of these players supplant members of the supporting cast in 2022 and beyond.

Chris Richards, 21, CB, Bayern Munich

In my mind, Richards is currently the second best center-back the United States has, and he’s only made three appearances for the Stars and Stripes. He is the unfortunate casualty of the depth at Bayern. He does everything you want in a center-back in today’s game. He reads the game phenomenally well, he is physical, confident on the ball, passes well out of the back, and is extremely athletic. Richards is also gifted aerially, and he and McKennie can be a problem for opposing teams. He projects to be the best center-back in a couple of years, and I’m excited to see how he develops.

Matthew Hoppe, 20, CF, Schalke 04

Hoppe was the youngest American to score a hat trick in the Bundesliga. He has since joined Schalke 04 in Bundesliga 2, the league below Germany’s premier football league. Hoppe had a rocky Gold Cup where he displayed his quality and knack for finding the back of the net but also fell out of rhythm at points during games. He has room to improve. Still, he certainly shows upside at a position that the United States desperately needs filled.

Yunus Musah, 18, RW/CAM, Valencia

Musah is all upside and potential. We’ve seen glimpses of what he can do in the attack but have yet to see a full game of it on the international stage. He has only made three appearances for the U.S., and in doing so, still retains that right to declare his allegiances to another nation, but that seems unlikely. He’s versatile and physical and could be a bright spot in a crowded attacking front.

Brendan Aaronson, 20, AM/RM, Red Bull Salzburg

If I had to assemble a USMNT starting XI tomorrow, Aaronson would be in that line-up. I’ll refrain from the logistics of it all, but I’d play a 3-4-3 and have an attacking trio of Pulisic, Reyna, and the 20-year-old. Aaronson is climbing up the ranks of European football and is continuing to deliver. The first of potentially several Philadelphia Union national team prospects, he is fairly clinical for a player his age in the 18-yard box. He holds his runs well and offers creativity and composure as a winger/forward. He is a really good prospect.

Mark McKenzie, 22, CB, Genk

McKenzie conceded the opening goal to put the U.S. behind the 8-ball in the Nations League final. Nevertheless, he rallied and had a rather convincing performance from that moment on. His passing out of the back needs to improve, but Genk likes to play out of the back, so, in theory, his confidence on the ball should dramatically improve. He displays a lot of the heavy touches that we see from young center-backs. Again, this should be an area he improves in.

Miles Robinson, 24, CB, Atlanta United

Robinson would not, technically, be classified as a youngster, but he only has nine total caps for the United States. He was a standout on the backline for Berhalter and the USMNT during their Gold Cup winning run – he scored the game-winning goal in the 117th minute in the final. He played excellent against Mexico, defending well in 1v1 situations and challenging aerially. He could certainly find himself listed on the roster for the World Cup qualifying stages, but I’m not sure to what extent he’ll get minutes.

Daryl Dike, 20, CF/ST, Orlando City

Going into the Gold Cup, I thought this was the guy that would cement himself as the clear choice No. 9 for the U.S. Dike played well at points, but it wasn’t enough to take the job from Sargent. He’s a physical center forward that is a classic striker. He makes good runs across the face of a goal and is a decent finisher. He needs to grow into that frame, and that will certainly come with time. His hold up play is an area of improvement, yet he is another guy that could cement his place in the years to come.

Bryan Reynolds, 20, RB, Roma

Having only made one appearance for the United States, Reynolds is another name in the long list of full-backs that Berhalter can pick from. Another FC Dallas product, Reynolds joins the Texas to Europe pipeline that has also included McKennie, Richards, Cannon, and others. He’s a massive presence at 6-foot-3, and I wouldn’t neglect trying him out as an RCB in an international friendly. He’s got great pace and overlapping skills, something especially needed as a potential wing-back.

Gianluca Busio, 19, CM/CDM, Venezia FC

With the United States finally finding some quality depth, Busio could be one of those players who fall victim to the fact that there are only 11 players who can be on the field at any time. In a 3-4-3, he’s not good enough to take away starting minutes from either McKennie or Adams, but he could certainly compete with Acosta. The Greensboro, NC native is making a move from Sporting Kansas City to Venezia FC in Serie A, which will give him a good idea of where he needs to improve in European football. A young guy who could blossom.

Other Youngers to Watch

I’m going to list some players here because I feel they should be recognized, but ultimately, for the sake of brevity in this Soccer Education of Trey Daubert, I didn’t outline them above. Sam Vines is a noteworthy full-back who could challenge for a spot on the backline in the future. James Sands was played out of position in the Gold Cup, but again, he could get lost in the shuffle of the midfield. Nicholas Gioacchini is another attacking presence to keep an eye on.

Reading this back, I realized how long of an analysis this is, so I’ll cut this off here. There are certainly more players that could have been referenced, including Gyasi Zardes, DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Turner, and more. The USMNT is on the rise, and I am very excited to watch these youngsters blossom. This is, by far, the most player informative piece in this series so far, and I hope it was worthwhile. We will be back next week with another installment of the Soccer Education of Trey Daubert.

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