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USMNT January/February 2022 WCQ Roster Reaction and Prediction

(Photo by Kirk Irwin / Getty Images)

USMNT January 2022 WCQ Roster Reaction: Berhalter fields larger, but predictable, team

“New year, new me.” The age-old phrase is sung loud and proud by people who are ready to fix their diets, start exercising, and maybe even begin a new hobby. None of that applies to USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter, who, while fielding a larger squad, kept his January/February WCQ selection about as predictable as ever.

Controversial, but mainstay selections in the midfield and attack, including Sebastian Lletget and Cristian Roldan, are back in Berhalter’s side. There’s nearly a 50-50 mix of players who play in both the MLS and internationally – which to clarify, isn’t a bad thing – and look no further than the replies to the USMNT’s official roster tweet to see the frustration.

Again, though, this is a roster U.S.A. fans have come to expect from the 48-year-old manager. It’s a composite of 28 men, 23 on gamedays and 11 on the pitch who need to grab six points from this WCQ window, especially with two matches in Ohio and Minnesota where the cold temperatures should lend itself well to the hosts. Expectations are continually high, especially as this young squad continues to find their groove. Were there some questionable selections and omissions? Absolutely. But this is the squad for a trio of matches where positive results are needed. Let’s get into the roster breakdown and predictions for the January and February slate.

USMNT WCQ Goalkeepers

Zack Steffen (Manchester City); Matt Turner (New England Revolution); Sean Johnson (New York City FC); Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire)

The trio of Steffen, Turner and Johnson are the goalkeepers cemented in place right now. I’m still an avid supporter of Nottingham Forest’s Ethan Horvath, thanks in large part to his heroics in the Nations League final against Mexico, but I can’t argue with his omission. Steffen would be the starter for the US in Thursday’s opening match against El Salvador, but an injury means that Turner is the expected man in between the sticks. You really can’t go wrong with either keeper, and barring some major misfortune, the pair will be battling for the No. 1 spot for the foreseeable future. Johnson and Slonina are good additions to camp, too.

USMNT WCQ Defenders

Sergiño Dest (Barcelona); Reggie Cannon (Boavista); Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United); DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray); Antonee Robinson (Fulham); Miles Robinson (Atlanta United); Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC); Mark McKenzie (Genk); Chris Richards (Hoffenheim)

The two glaring omissions here are Borussia Mönchengladbach full-back Joe Scally and Wolfsburg center back John Brooks. The latter has clearly fallen out favor, in some form or fashion, with the Berhalter camp, but he remains one of the top central defenders the United States has to offer at the moment. To say his exclusion from an increased roster baffles me, is putting it lightly. As for Scally’s omission, I really don’t know. If you watch him play, you want to see him included in this roster, but Berhalter opted for Brooks Lennon of Atlanta United. Nothing we can do about it now; it just is a puzzling scenario.

If the US employs it’s typical 4-3-3 formation, expect Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman to form the central defense partnership. I’m a big fan of Chris Richards and would love to see him get starting minutes in this window, but I think Berhalter opts for the experience of the aforementioned duo. On the left, you can’t say no to Antonee Robinson – though there is an alarming lack of depth in that position. On the right, Dest is too talented to not feature, despite all his recent troubles at Barcelona.

USMNT WCQ Midfielders

Kellyn Acosta (LAFC); Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig); Luca de la Torre (Heracles); Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution); Weston McKennie (Juventus); Yunus Musah (Valencia); Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC)

* Insert joke about Lletget and Roldan having blackmail on Berhalter and his family here *

Anyways, once again, this is become the prototypical 7–8-man selection in the midfield for the United States. I hope de la Torre can see some late action in the book end matches against El Salvador and Honduras. Acosta will probably see a start in one of those games too, just to rotate the trio of clear-cut starters for the Canada game. Berhalter hosting a camp without Lletget and Roldan would signal the world ending, so they are here once again as veteran bench cogs.

The starting trio has to be Adams, McKennie and Musah – there’s really no way around it, frankly. These are the three best midfielders you have in camp. If Busio had been healthy for camp, I would have loved to see him perform on the pitch, but for the crucial match against Canada, there’s no excuse for Berhalter if he doesn’t roll out those three guys.

USMNT WCQ Forwards

Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg); Paul Arriola (D.C. United); Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas); Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC) Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg); Christian Pulisic (Chelsea); Tim Weah (Lille); Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Jordan Morris is back with the USMNT, which is a plus. The four mainstays over the seven-day period, should be Pulisic, Pepi, Weah and Aaronson, though – and I don’t think anyone would argue that. Zardes’ selection is always going to come under fire, but Berhalter views him as a reliable threat to opposing teams. The omissions of Josh Sargent (especially after his two-goal day for Norwich after the roster announcement) and Jordan Pefok will bring Berhalter some hate if Zardes underwhelms. As for the other attackers, the FC Dallas to USMNT roster remains strong with Ferreira’s inclusion and Arriola will likely see some late game action.

The three attackers for the Canada game are likely set in stone with Pulisic on the left, Pepi as the nine and Weah at right wing. Aaronson will probably replace one of Pepi or Weah around the 65th minute.

Ultimately, with all the selections, I’m not displeased. The Scally and Brooks exclusions are frustrating, but with injuries and other factors, this is the roster we’ve got. Time to reclaim first place in the CONCACAF standings.

USMNT WCQ Predictions

Jan. 27: United States 2, El Salvador 0

Jan. 30: Canada 1, United States 1

Feb. 2: United States 2, Honduras 1

The primetime match of this window is against an Alphonso Davies-less Canada. The Bayern Munich star’s absence from the squad, blesses the United States with a game where they don’t have to worry about CONCACAF’s best player. A result in Ontario will be hard to come by, but a draw should be the bar. A loss isn’t the end of the world, and a win is amazing, but the bar is absolutely a draw.

The other two matches against El Salvador and Honduras should be victories. Both will be played on home soil and the United States cannot afford a draw or lackluster performance against either team. They are more talented and need to grab a result. Ultimately, the United States should exit the window with, at worst, six points. Here’s to hoping for a cheerful winter WCQ window.


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