Pulisic, McKennie and Adams: Projecting the USMNT squad for the March friendlies
Gregg Berhalter’s first chance to call in a full-strength squad should also give him a chance to trot out the midfield trio fans have hoped for
Gregg Berhalter’s first chance to have a full-strength U.S. national team together is fast approaching, and with a little luck, he could have the kind of group USMNT fans haven’t had a chance to see together before.
Christian Pulisic is coming off his best match in some time, and if he can stay healthy this weekend through Borussia Dortmund’s match against Hertha Berlin on Saturday, then he’ll join the USMNT for the second time since May, and for only the third time in more than a year.
How Berhalter uses Pulisic in his system is one of the more intriguing subplots of the March friendlies, as is the highly-anticipated uniting of Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams in the same USMNT midfield. They have yet to start a match together — they were limited to 14 minutes together after former interim coach Dave Sarachan decided against starting Adams with Pulisic and McKennie against England last November,
The contingent of European-based players seeing regular playing time isn’t as strong as Berhalter would probably like, and it will be interesting to see which players he chooses to call in who might not being playing as much, or as well, as some current MLS options.
The MLS schedule has half the league on a bye week during the international break, but some fringe options could be left home to play for their MLS teams, such as Walker Zimmerman and Wil Trapp. It’s tough to see Berhalter leaving potential starters like Zack Steffen and Aaron Long home though.
Here is what the USMNT squad could look like that gets the call from Berhalter for the March friendlies:
Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath, Sean Johnson
Will Berhalter let Steffen stay with the Columbus Crew for the March friendlies and let Ethan Horvath have his chance with the first team, or will he bring in his current top two goalkeeper options to see who stands out when they are face to face?
If Berhalter does decide to leave Steffen home, then he could bring in someone like Brad Guzan or Bill Hamid as a third goalkeeper. Both Atlanta United and D.C. United have bye weeks during the international break.
DeAndre Yedlin, Nick Lima, John Brooks, Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson
As soon as Berhalter was hired, Brooks was immediately identified as a player who could thrive in his system. The big question is what would be the best center back pairing when all options are available? This question would be one of the big storylines of the March friendlies, what with Aaron Long having impressed in the January camp friendlies and both Matt Miazga and Cameron-Carter Vickers earning regular playing time with their teams in England’s Championship.
Lima was one of the standouts of the January camp, but is off to a slow start for his club team, having been subbed out of both of San Jose’s first two matches of the MLS season. The Earthquakes have a bye week during the international break though, so Berhalter should want to have another look at the talented right back.
Antonee Robinson is back healthy for the first time since November, and is coming off his first start for Wigan. If Berhalter decides it’s still too early to bring Robinson back in, then veteran Eric Lichaj could get a call, with he and Tim Ream serving as the left back options for this camp. Neither is a natural left back though.
Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Michael Bradley, Cristian Roldan, Paul Arriola, Romain Gall, Duane Holmes, Jordan Morris
We already know about Pulisic and the established top central midfield options, but the March camp should offer some insight into wing and attacking midfield options in Berhalter’s player pool. Holmes is a particularly intriguing option. He is earning regular playing time with Derby County in an attacking midfield role and has yet to receive a USMNT call-up.
Berhalter knows Gall well, having had him with the Columbus Crew. Gall has established himself with Swedish side Malmo and can fill the USMNT’s need for a natural left wing option. Jordan Morris is off to a good start to the 2019 MLS season, and the Sounders are on a bye week during the international break.
Djordje Mihailovic was one of the standouts in the January camp, and could earn another call, especially with the Chicago Fire on a bye week during the international break, but Berhalter could choose to leave him home in order to get a closer look at players like Holmes and Gall.
Among the players missing from this group are Jonathan Amon, who has struggled for minutes in recent months with FC Nordsjaelland, and Lynden Gooch, who hasn’t been a steady starter for League One side Sunderland.
Bobby Wood, Andrija Novakovich, Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent, Gyasi Zardes
Forward is an interesting position for Berhalter, who has Zardes in good form for the Columbus Crew, but few other options seeing regular playing time for their club teams.
Novakovich struggled to get a foothold with the USMNT under Sarachan, but he’s starting regularly for Dutch side Fortuna Sittard and Berhalter should have a closer look at the 6-foot-4 striker.
Tim Weah has cooled off at Celtic since his red-hot start, but he’s a player who could thrive in a wing role in Berhalter’s system. Sargent is another player who could do well in Berhalter’s setup and is a candidate to start.
Wood hasn’t been in the best form with Hannover 96, but Berhalter stands a good chance of giving him a call because of his experience and versatility.