It’s easy to get lost in all of the breakdowns and outrage that goes on on USMNT Twitter every time a roster is posted. Inevitably, anyone who is passionate about following the team and the pool of players will disagree with one or the other decision. This is not a helpful exercise. A constructive exercise is to break down the exclusions by category, reason why they weren’t called, or status on the team. When you do this for the October roster, it breaks down as follows:
HURT (Self-explanatory. Not available due to injury)
Pulisic is about to return and could even play for Chelsea this weekend. Gio is probably not far behind. But none of them have to be risked here and I would imagine that none of their clubs would be very happy if important players were injured during their international appearances, come back and not play for a month and then immediately go back to the international league where they could be risk further injury. I think leaving them out is sensitive, both from a risk perspective and from a club relationship perspective. That’s okay.
SNUBS (Legitimate snubs. Guys who were part of the group and wouldn’t have been surprising starters, but instead didn’t even make the list)
Sargent and Pefok didn’t perform so others get a look here. Striker is a form-based position in national teams. It’s tough sometimes, but if you don’t put the ball in the net consistently, you risk your place on the team. Pepi was the most prolific on the list in September. He stays and the other two are replaced by other strikers who get their chance to perform. That makes sense for this camp, even though I personally think we could have used a big, strong target like Pefok against Jamaica.
However, I do not understand Konrad’s exclusion. Since Pulisic is injured, Konrad is the next replacement for him. Both are two of our best 1v1 attackers, both are comfortable with the ball and are extremely experienced dribblers who can change the game themselves. Berhalter seemed to want more verticality in this squad and explained why Arriola was included. That makes sense. Not enough players in the US regularly come behind the defense. It was a major factor in why the US attack under Berhalter was so inefficient at times. The problem with this is that Berhalter already brings Hoppe, Weah (new inclusions in this camp and both with this character) and Aaronson (remaining, but one of the few players who has stayed behind all the time). Arriola seems to be in that area and in general the verticality thing seems to be an overcorrection, now it seems we don’t have enough on-ball creators and that is something to watch out for during games.
LESS CONTROVERSE “SNUBS” (Guys who were on the edge of the squad or who mainly have second or third choice and miss out on their form, playing time or simply because there are better options)
I have no problem with these exclusions. We’ll get into that below, but Miazga, Zimmerman and Sands are victims of a numbers game in central defense, Sands didn’t look good enough in midfield to warrant his inclusion in front of other guys in that position, Cannon didn’t play at Boavista and right Getting behind is one of the lowest positions in the US and Vines doesn’t get any games at Liege. Dike may have a case here. He’s played well lately in Orlando and the US could potentially take advantage of a strong forward goal against Jamaica. We’ll see if Berhalter regrets not continuing this profile in this game, whether it was Pefok or Dike.
EXCLUDED / NOT RATED BY BERHALTER (People have been consistently left out, are usually not included in the core selection group for the manager at this point)
I teased this with Miazga, Zimmerman, and Sands upstairs. Center-backs have performed largely well over the past 18 months with a few exceptions like Brooks and McKenzie’s recent appearances in the Nations League final. CCV and EPB cannot break into this group as there are 8 or 9 players at this point who have played well. If you have 8 or 9 players with a similar rating, either stick with the guys performing (the case with Miles and McKenzie), your top-rated defender hoping he’ll find out (Brooks), or call the boy Defender with the highest potential at (Richard). That doesn’t mean Miazga, Zimmerman, CCV, or EPB are bad options, but they will struggle to get calls until the current quota is either performing poorly or is injured. I know a lot of people (myself included) found it difficult to justify Ream’s continued inclusion at this level in terms of his age and performance over the past year. This is the position to be aiming for if you are one of the players mentioned above. But that’s an open task for five players. Difficult break-in situation. Berhalter simply does not rate green at this point. In addition, the Roldan admission is intended for a very specific utility role from the bank for several positions. Green is certainly a more technical and attacking midfielder than Roldan, but that’s not really why Roldan is there. Green would have to be called via Luca de la Torre or Musah or McKennie and the latter two certainly won’t happen. One could argue that Lletget would be the place for Green, and I can agree if Lletget hadn’t literally done everything that was asked of him every time he saw the field. Lletget is a good football player. He’s not an elitist. But he does his job well. When you are the manager, it is difficult to replace a man who does the job you ask him to do. Boyd seems to have fallen way down the pecking order by this point.
TOO YOUNG FOR HOLDERS / NOT READY (Players who are too inexperienced in the eyes of the manager)
Scally (note: this is according to Berhalter, not me)
Some controversy here. Scally shouldn’t fall into this category. At the moment he is literally one of the most formidable American players in a European top five league. The full-back was just player of the month for one of the most traditional clubs in the Bundesliga and is a suspended starter for the team. Berhalter said he was too inexperienced and looking forward to his future integration. The problem? How is Scally supposed to gain experience when he is not called? It contradicts Berhalter’s own logic. Also, the most important clue about all of these exclusions is the fact that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a zero sum. It’s not like Berhalter leaving Moore or Bello at home, as some have said, calling Scally. There is no limit to the number of players a national team can call into these camps. The only requirement is the limitation of the matchday squad. Would you like to integrate Scally? Take him to camp, build chemistry, let him train with the group and learn about the system. I don’t want to make this a big deal. Heaven doesn’t collapse because Joe Scally wasn’t there at the time. But this is a missed opportunity and the logic of not calling him just doesn’t make sense. Reynolds is likely a cross between here and the bad club category above. Guys like Clark and Cowell could add a lot, but I agree they are a little too young and inexperienced for that. Invite a camp to train with the group and to integrate into the system? Sure, that would have been good.
NOT AVAILABLE / HAD NOT PLAYED DUE TO TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS (Just one guy and it’s self explanatory)
Everyone knows who our top three goalkeepers are. Steffen cannot travel to Panama and stays in the States. The backup to Turner in this game must be able to travel. That’s okay.
So after this exercise there are only two guys in total that I’m really disappointed not to be here: Konrad and Scally.
Arriola about Konrad restricts me. I don’t mean disrespect to be honest, but Arriola doesn’t give you a lot that Roldan wouldn’t. Konrad is far better than both and, as mentioned above, gives the squad something different.
So, if you’re going to keep calling Roldan for the tough work assistant from the bench (and I say on record, “that’s all right now”) then Arriola is redundant.
On Scally, I just disagree with Berhalter that he’s too young. Bello is young too. Joe Scally is less than a year younger than him and plays at a higher level. I think Scally is a more complete defensive player than Bello. You are more likely to make defensive mistakes at Bello than you are at Scally.
Not only that, the versatility makes sense for this roster. Antonee Robinson will not be traveling to Panama due to UK travel restrictions. So, either Dest is a defensive liability on the left or Bello is a defensive liability on the left against a good counter team. Having more defensive options isn’t a bad thing.
And that wasn’t mutually exclusive either. Berhalter could have called both AND kept all the guys he has.
But all in all, two changes aren’t bad.
I know Green is a popular nudge with people, but whatever you think of him, he’s not the savior. He’s a deep guy. Why get upset about his exclusion?
The good news is that there are far more exciting INCLUSIONS here than the two disappointing EXCLUSIONS.
Musah, Richards, Hoppe, Weah and Busio are all new from the last camp and enrich the group with interesting things.
I’m excited to take another look at breakout guys like Pepi, Miles, and Antonee.
We established stars like Adams, McKennie and Dest.
It’s a good list! Now let’s get together and cheer our boys on as we try to qualify for a World Cup.