Your Weekly USMNT Update — March 19, 2019

The biggest news of the week came early, when Gregg Berhalter announced his 24 man roster for the USMNT’s upcoming March friendlies against Ecuador (3/21) and Chile (3/26). The selection was highly debated to say the least, given the inclusion of many MLS-based players at the expense of some of our promising European talents such as Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent, and Duane Holmes.

In short: we agree with the skepticism around the selection. Particularly, the choices for striker and wingers left us perplexed.

That said, as we pointed out last week, a full transition takes time. We think Gregg Berhalter is the right man for the job and building a new USMNT culture requires some level of consistency. Clearly, our player pool is as good as it’s ever been — so selecting a 24 man roster cannot be easy.

In fact, we still think there is a lot to be excited about with the current selection. Without spending more time on roster criticism/feedback (see here for our in-depth reaction), here are a couple of key lineup questions we will be focused on:

  • Where does Adams play? Number 6 debate: Given Berhalter’s press conference, it seems as though we will see Adams play as right back in at least one of the games. On the surface this choice certainly makes sense: Adams is excellent on defense and could drift into the middle of the pitch when in possession. However, given his phenomenal start with Leipzig as a center mid, he might be most valuable in the “6” role or even pushed up as a “8” next to McKennie or Pulisic. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him featured in the midfield in one game and at right back in the other.

  • Ethan Horvath to get a chance: With Zack Steffen having to miss the friendlies due to a minor injury, this could be Ethan Horvath’s opportunity to step up for the USMNT. Horvath has been impressive with Club Brugge in Belgium this year, underpinned by 9 clean sheets in 24 games across domestic play, Champions League & Europa League.

  • If Pulisic plays as the 10, who will be the wingers? Berhalter has made it clear that he would like to play Pulisic in the creative midfield position, leaving open spots on the wing. We see the wingers as one of the weakest links in the lineup, with Arriola and Baird the most likely candidates to earn a start, in our view. We also would expect Jordan Morris to get playing time off the bench.

  • Where does Yedlin fit? Familiar as a right back for Newcastle, Berhalter has alluded that Yedlin could even fit out wide as a winger, assuming Adams features as a right back. We actually think this could be an interesting tactical move given his crossing abilities going forward. Yedlin has booked two assists for the Magpies this season already.

  • Brooks/Miazga Center Back duo: Brooks seems to have a spot solidified at the back, but his partner will be a question, perhaps with Miazga starting one game and Long the other. Aaron Long could even slot in at left back, having experience there with the Red Bulls.

  • McKennie, Pulisic & Adams: This leaves us most excited. We’ll finally get to see McKennie, Pulisic and Adams start together for the red, white, and blue.

But back to this week…

STAR OF THE WEEK

Weston McKennie (20, Little Elm, TX) — Schalke 04, Bundesliga

Our Star of the Week goes to Weston McKennie, who played in an unusual right wing back position in Schalke’s 0–1 loss to Tyler Adams’ Leipzig over the weekend under Schalke’s new (and old) coach, Huub Stevens.

Creator role at right back: Despite the unusual position, it was striking to see Schalke seek out Weston McKennie and look for him to spark the offense even as a right back. Almost every time Schalke looked dangerous, McKennie contributed to the creation as seen by Mark Uth’s early offside goal. McKennie was instrumental in creating that chance as he successfully cut inside the pitch to feed Sebastian Rudy, who then played in Mark Uth for a clear shot on goal.

Solid all around: As usual, McKennie looked solid in the air (two won aerials) and robust on defense (three clearances). A 75% pass accuracy rate round out an all around solid performance by McKennie against a very strong Leipzig team, that now sits in third place in the Bundesliga.

Impressive versatility: Simply put, McKennie is an asset on the pitch no matter where he’s asked to play — he’s appeared in virtually every position for Schalke this season. Given his strong tackling abilities, physical dominance, and dribbling prowess, he seems able to succeed in nearly every style of play. That said, we still think his best position is in the center of the midfield as a “box to box” midfielder, but his solid performance as a right wing back showcases his versatility for Schalke and for the USMNT.

OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES

DeAndre Yedlin (25, Seattle, WA) — Newcastle United, Premier League

Crosses a real threat going forward: DeAndre Yedlin once again showed how important he can be for Newcastle United in this week’s 2–2 draw against Bournemouth. Playing a right back position in a five-man back line, Yedlin had every license to get up and down the pitch and almost appeared as a right winger at times when Newcastle was in possession. This allowed him to emerge as one of Newcastle’s last minute heroes when Yedlin’s ambitious cross from the right wing found Matt Ritchie at the back post in stoppage time, who tied the game with a thumping volley and secured an important point for Newcastle.

Yedlin, along with the rest of the Newcastle back line, showed one or two stumbles early on in defensive positioning. However, for the majority of the game, Yedlin looked among the most secure defenders with three won tackles, one interception, two key clearances, and above all, solid marking. Lastly, a very robust 74% pass accuracy demonstrate Yedlin’s comfort in possession.

Antonee Robinson (21, White Plains, NY) — Wigan Athletic, Championship

Big Stabilizer of Wigan’s defense: In Robinson’s third appearance following his return from injury, he immediately stabilized Wigan’s defense underpinned by six strong clearances and robust tackling. Further, not unlike Yedlin, Robinson thrives when moving up and down the flank given his standout dribbling abilities — a skill he showcased numerous times in Wigan’s 5–2 victory over Bolton Wanderers. To be honest, we were a bit surprised to see Robinson excluded from the USMNT March camp, but we think it was likely to give him enough time to fully recover from his recent ankle injury. When Robinson returns to full fitness, we think he’ll be a clear contender for the starting spot at left back as he could grow into the most well-rounded defenders for the USMNT.

Jordan Morris (24, Seattle, WA) — Seattle Sounders, MLS

The Comeback Continues: Jordan Morris continued his fiery comeback from last season’s injury with a goal and an assist in the Seattle Sounders’ away win against Chicago. The Sounders, who are riding a three game unbeaten streak to start the season, have utilized Morris in his familiar right midfield/wing position as a part of a 4–2–3–1 formation. Morris linked up excellently with his attacking mid compatriots, sliding in a low cross for Rodriguez’s opener and delicately chipping in a pinpoint lofted cross from Lodeiro.

Highlights from the Sounders-Fire game including Jordan Morris’s contributions:

Jordan’s attacking positioning was on point this match, as he made cutting runs from the right hand side to the center of the box, rampaging through Chicago’s defensive lines. The speed of his play and deftness of control when dribbling and taking down crosses set him apart. Clearly, Jordan Morris has continued to build his case for the USMNT going forward and as a part of Berhalter’s latest roster — though we still see him below the likes of Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent and Jeremy Ebobisse in the depth chart on our way to the 2022 World Cup.

Jordan Morris interview on rejoining the USMNT:

MLS SPOTLIGHT

Paxton Pomykal (19, Lewisville, TX) — FC Dallas, MLS

Another Texan Talent: Paxton Pomykal, a top youth prospect out of the Lone Star State, finally has been given the ability to pull the strings in the FC Dallas midfield — and has clearly been one of the best players of the MLS season so far. Signed in 2016 as the second youngest FCD Homegrown Player, Pomykal already has more minutes this season than in any season prior. While he has previously been used on the right wing, he has shined as a center midfielder early this season given his excellent dribbling technique and vision for a pass.

Dribbling, speed, ball distribution: Well-known by former FC Dallas youth and current head coach Luchi Gonzalez, Pomykal is being given the chance to cement a place in the starting lineup and was the standout player in FC Dallas’ loss to Columbus. In many ways, he was one of the only positive forces for the hoops. In one standout play, Pomykal picked the ball off of Will Trapp, carried the ball into the attacking third with pace and lofted a finessed through ball to Michael Barrios who failed to convert. Pomykal has a great opportunity to become one of the top midfielders in MLS with consistent playing time. As long as FC Dallas can find some finishing ability moving forward, Pomykal could be sweeping in assists. Easier said than done, of course.

Pomykal’s top midfield display against Columbus:

Pomykal highlights and interview:

YOUTH SPOTLIGHT

Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY) — Ajax Amsterdam, Eredivisie

This week’s Youth Spotlight goes to Sergino Dest, who had an excellent performance for Ajax in a Youth Champions League matchup against a very strong Olympique Lyon side during the week. Extremely pacey, strong on the ball, physical, with fantastic passing abilities, and a natural drive to go forward, we think Dest is hands down one of our most promising U.S. full backs. We would not be surprised to see him get senior minutes with Ajax Amsterdam soon.

Check out a short highlight video from the game against a Lyon below. By the way, Dest was recently named to the U.S. U20 roster.

OneGoal’s 2022 World Cup Roster as of Today

Goalkeepers:

  • Zack Steffen (24, Coatesville, PA): Played 90 minutes in Columbus’ 1–0 win vs. FC Dallas (MLS).

  • Ethan Horvath (23, Highlands Ranch, CO): Played 90 minutes in Brugge’s 1–2 loss to Mouscron (Belgian Pro League).

  • Alex Bono (24, Baldwinsville, NY): Played 90 minutes in Toronto’s 3–1 victory against Philadelphia (MLS).

Defenders:

  • John Anthony Brooks (26, Chicago, IL): Played 90 minutes in Wolfsburg’s 5–2 win vs. Fortuna Dusseldorf (Bundesliga).

  • DeAndre Yedlin (25, Seattle, WA): Played 90 minutes in Newcastle’s 2–2 tie vs. Bournemouth (Premier League).

  • Antonee Robinson (21, White Plains, NY): Played 90 minutes in Wigan’s 5–2 win vs. Bolton Wanderes (Championship).

  • Matt Miazga (23, Clifton, NJ): Played 90 minutes in Reading’s 0–0 tie vs. Stoke City (Championship).

  • Cameron Carter-Vickers (21, Louisiana): Played 90 minutes in Swansea’s 2–3 loss to Manchester City (FA Cup).

  • George Bello (17, Douglasville, GA): Did not see first team action this week.

  • Aaron Long (26, Oak Hills, CA): Played 90 minutes in the Red Bulls 4–1 win vs. San Jose (MLS).

  • Walker Zimmerman (25, Lawrenceville, GA): Played the full 90 in LAFC’s 2–2 tie with NYCFC (MLS).

  • Nick Lima (24, Castro Valley, CA): Played 62 minutes in San Jose’s 1–4 loss to the New York Red Bulls (MLS).

Midfield/Forward:

  • Christian Pulisic (20, Hershey, PA): Played 90 minutes in Dortmund’s 3–2 win vs. Hertha Berlin (Bundesliga).

  • Tyler Adams (20, Wappingers Falls, NY): Played 90 minutes in Leipzig’s 1–0 win against Schalke 04 (Bundesliga).

  • Weston McKennie (20, Little Elm, TX): Played 90 minutes in Schalke’s 0–1 loss to Red Bull Leipzig (Bundesliga).

  • Wil Trapp (26, Columbus, OH): Played 90 minutes in Columbus’ 1–0 win vs. FC Dallas (MLS).

  • Duane Holmes (24, Columbus, GA): Played 90 minutes in Derby County’s 0–0 tie vs. Stoke City (Championship).

  • Kellyn Acosta (23, Plano, TX): Played 79 minutes in a Colorado’s 1–1 draw Sporting KC (MLS).

  • Djordje Mihailovic (20, Lemont, IL): Played 90 minutes in Chicago Fire’s 2–4 loss vs.Seattle Sounders (MLS).

  • Jonathan Amon (19 Summerville, SC): Played 17 minutes in FC Nordsjaelland’s 1–0 win vs Vendsyssel FF (Danish Superliga).

  • Josh Sargent (19, O’Fallon, MO): Did not see action this week.

  • Timothy Weah (20, New York, NY): Played 12 minutes in Celtic’s 1–0 win vs. Dundee (Scottish Premiership).

  • Paul Arriola (24, Chula Vista, CA): Played 69 minutes in DC United’s 5–0 win vs. Real Salt Lake (MLS).

ON THE RISE / IN THE HUNT

  • Taylor Booth (17, Eden, UT), Midfield, Bayern Munich

  • Andrew Carleton (18, Powder Springs, GA), Midfield

  • Sean Davis (26, Long Branch, NJ), Midfield, NY Red Bulls

  • Jeremy Ebobisse (22, Bethesda, MD), Forward, Portland Timbers

  • Romain Gall (24, Herndon, VA), Midfield/Forward, Malmo FF

  • Jonathan Lewis (21, Plantation, FL), Midfield/Forward, NYCFC

  • Matt Polster (25, Milwaukee, WI), Defense/Midfield, Glasgow Rangers

  • Chris Richards (18, Hoover, AL), Defense, Bayern Munich

  • Danny Williams (30, North Carolina), Defense, Huddersfield Town

  • Haji Wright (20, Los Angeles, CA), Forward, Schalke 04

  • Corey Baird (23, Escondido, CA), Forward, Real Salt Lake

  • Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY), Defense, Ajax Amsterdam

NEWS AND TRANSFERS

Gregg Berhalter announces his 24 man roster for the upcoming friendlies against Ecuador to Chile.

Similarly, the U20 roster was announced earlier this week for an upcoming training camp in Spain ahead of the World Cup in the summer.

Due to a minor knee injury, Zack Steffen has to miss the upcoming USMNT matches, and is replaced on the roster by FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez.

Timothy Tillman made his debut for Nuernberg last week and followed up with a starting XI this weekend against Eintracht Frankfurt. For more background on Timothy Tillman, check out this spotlight from Bundesliga.com.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Our reaction to the March Roster

McKennie’s fresh cut for the match against Leipzig:

Before:

After: