OneGoal 2022 World Cup - Roster Detail and Explanation
Based on some reader feedback, we wanted to provide an in depth explanation on our OneGoal 2022 World Cup squad selection. But first up, as part of this piece, we have made two changes to the roster:
In: Paxton Pomykal (19), Tyler Boyd (24)
Out: Walker Zimmerman (26), Kellyn Acosta (23)
We’ll share more details on these changes later in this article.
But first, let’s talk tactics.
Tactical System: It’s important to note that we have built our roster assuming Berhalter uses his go-to 4-5-1 system that looks something like this on the pitch:
We think this is a pretty safe bet given Berhalter’s possession-oriented playing style, first games at the helm of the USMNT, and tenure in the MLS. The more difficult question, however, is whether or not Berhalter will stay true to his idea of using the right-back as a pseudo midfielder when in possession, as higher quality opponents could surely do some damage on counter attacks in that set-up. Further, as with any big tournament - injuries can arise, players may drop in form and we’ll want to have some versatility depending on which opponent we go against. Taking that into consideration, we have attempted to make our roster as realistic and versatile as possible to mimic a real-life coaching staff tournament selection.
The formation below would leave us covered under at every position, in either tactical lineup.
No Inverted Right-Back:
Assuming Inverted Right Back:
Not to mention many of our selected players could take on more than one role or help out in various positions. For example, Pulisic could move into the “10” role, Arriola could help our as a full-back, Holmes could play any midfield role, Weah/Amon could play on the wing or as a lone striker, and McKennie could help out virtually anywhere.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the individual players we have chosen.
On Roster: Zack Steffen (24), Ethan Horvath (23), Bill Hamid (28)
The choice for the first two keepers are among the easiest calls Berhalter needs to make as things stand: Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath seem locks if they remain healthy. Steffen, one of the very best PK-stoppers in the game, has consistently been the best keeper in the MLS and will complete a move to England this summer. His standout attributes include reflexes on the line and stellar ball distribution. Ethan Horvath on the other hand, has been making his mark in Belgium as Club Brugge’s first choice keeper where he impressed with 14 clean sheets in 31 games this season including three clean sheets in the Champions League vs. Dortmund, Atletico, and Monaco. Similar to Steffen, Horvath has particularly strong reflexes on the line.
While many have Steffen has the clear #1 for the USMNT, we think the race between Horvath and Steffen is much closer than most people think. Steffen will need to prove that he can succeed week in and week out in one of Europe’s top leagues over the next season. Similarly, Horvath has already been linked with a possible move to Germany this summer - so the battle for #1 is on for the next couple of years.
The third choice keeper becomes tricky as several options including (in no particular order), Sean Johnson, Alex Bono, Jesse Gonzalez, Bill Hamid and even Brad Guzan all seem like contenders. We have chosen Hamid because we like the idea of a more experienced veteran in the locker room as the third choice (he will be 31 years by the World Cup) and he has been more than impressive with DC United this year. In the end, we think this decision will come down to who Berhalter believes will be most conducive to creating positive team chemistry, lead the younger guys on the team and in a doomsday scenario, be able to to jump between the sticks.
On Roster: DeAndre Yedlin (25), Sergino Dest (18)
The first right back spot on our roster goes to DeAndre Yedlin, who is among the most experienced players in our roster lineup with 87 Premier League and 56 MLS appearances under his belt. A pacey full-back who likes to get up and down the wing when in possession, we think DeAndre Yedlin is the most logical RB choice in a traditional lineup that requires the full-backs to join the attack on the wings. Lastly, as one of the leaders in what is likely to be a young World Cup squad, Berhalter could always push Yedlin higher up the field when in need for a goal given his crossing abilities.
Our second RB spot goes to Sergino Dest, who is perhaps one of the most talented U20 players at our disposal. At Jong Ajax, the technically gifted American has consistently excelled with threatening runs into the final third, strong crossing, link-up play, and winning physical battles. While still early in his career, we see Dest as a special talent and wouldn’t be surprised to see him make his senior debut at Ajax next year.
Other contenders that are on our radar include Reggie Cannon and Julio Araujo.
On Roster: John Anthony Brooks (26), Matt Miazga (23), Cameron Carter-Vickers (21), Aaron Long (26)
The USMNT pool has unprecedented depth in the center back position already, so this was not an easy pick. Aside from John Anthony Brooks as the clear leader of the back line, Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman (the toughest cut in our roster) all seem to have a fair shot at competing for the second spot. On top of that, throw in emerging MLS talents like Miles Robinson, Mark McKenzie and Austron Trusty, as well as Bayern Munich’s Chris Richards (who has been perhaps the best US player in the U20 World Cup so far), and the USMNT has a pipeline of 8-9 quality center backs that could all be in the discussion for a 2022 spot.
For now, we see Miazga, CCV, and Long as the front runners for a roster spot after Brooks. Both Miazga and Carter-Vickers have made huge progress during their Championship loan spells this season as Miazga became a critical fixture in securing Reading’s safety. A physically strong center back, Miazga led the team in clearances per game and won the second most amount of aerial duels. Cameron Carter-Vickers, on the other hand, became a regular with the Welsh side Swansea City, where he advanced to become the best passer in the entire league with 92% pass accuracy.
Given Berhalter’s possession-oriented playing style that often begins with center backs opening up the play, we think Carter-Vickers has good chances of making the squad, especially if he makes the next move to a top five league this summer. Lastly, Aaron Long, who has captained the side under Berhalter’s tenure aand looked excellent during the March camp, is our last of four center backs in the squad. Alongside Brooks, we see Long as one of the leaders on the team. His strengths include aerial battles, tackling, and composure on the ball.
Also one thing to note, with Brooks, Long, CCV, Miazga and perhaps Zimmerman in the mix, our center backs can become a real weapon on set pieces.
On Roster: Antonee Robinson (21), Nick Lima (24)
Perhaps the position with the least amount of depth, our front-runner for the left-back role is Antonee Robinson, who is coming off a strong season in the Championship with Wigan Athletic. Similar to Yedlin, Robinson is a full back who likes to get up and down the wing and join the attack, so we primarily see Robinson getting time in a more traditional (non inverted right-back) lineup. On loan to Wigan from Everton, Robinson has made strides in his defensive abilities in one of the most physically demanding leagues in the world, as he led his defense in interceptions and tackles per game. While he’s struggled with a few injuries early in his career already, assuming Robinson stays healthy and continues to build upon his undeniably strong natural abilities, we think he could be the solution to the USMNT’s left-back woes.
Our second LB spot goes to Nick Lima, who has been a consistent figure in the USMNT since Berhalter’s appointment. While he has usually been featured on the right side with the national team, he has taken over the left-back spot for San Jose and given the lack of depth at LB in the senior roster, we think Lima fits nicely here.
One other player to keep an eye on is Hannover’s Chris Gloster, who has made a strong impression with the U20s so far at this World Cup, though he lacks professional experience.
Of course, if Berhalter elects to play with an inverted right-back (mostly likely Tyler Adams), we would likely see neither Lima or Robinson at left-back as both are too offensive minded in that set-up. Instead, in that scenario, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Aaron Long or Carter-Vickers fill the role at LB (roles both of them have played at their clubs) given the need to tuck into the center when Tyler Adams joins the midfield.
On Roster: Tyler Adams (20), Wil Trapp (26), Weston McKennie (20), Duane Holmes (24), Djordje Mihailovic (20), Paxton Pomykal (19)
For the holding midfield (“6”) role, we see Tyler Adams as the clear front runner following his astronomical rise with RB Leipzig in Germany this year. The 20-year-old is the ultimate pressing machine, defensively sound, and his work rate is simply unbeatable. Add in a mixture of on-ball composure, impressive one-touch passing in tight situations, awareness before receiving the ball, and ability to slot long-balls in behind the back line - and we have ourselves a world class number 6 in the making.
The backup spot for the holding role goes to Wil Trapp in our roster, who (similar to Nick Lima), has cemented himself as a consistent figure in the USMNT since Berhalter’s appointment. One of the very best at hitting diagonal balls in behind the opponent's back line to find wingers or strikers up top, we believe both Trapp and Adams are perfect fits for Berhalter’s possession play.
Our playmaker spots go to two current MLS players in Djordje Mihailovic and Paxton Pomykal, both of whom we could see take on the starting role. Mihailovic’s most impressive qualities (one touch passing, abilities to hit shots from long-range) seem like an excellent fit for this role, as he could link up well with the likes of Pulisic and Boyd out-wide, who we’d expect to carry most of the ball. On top of that, he brings an element of danger in the final third, as he’s shown numerous times that he is able to hit the net from distance. Pomykal, on the other hand, is a bit more dynamic of a midfielder, given his strong dribbling skills and ability to find the final pass ahead of goal, while also a bit more defensive-minded. He’s currently one of the standout players with the U20 World Cup and given his immediate success in the MLS, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the move to Europe soon.
Our midfield is rounded out with Schalke’s Weston McKennie and Derby County’s Duane Holmes, who are both extremely versatile and can play virtually any midfield position. In our view, McKennie is a lock for the number 8 role as a classic box-box player, given his tremendous work ethic both offensively and defensively. In fact, we think McKennie and Adams will be absolutely crucial for us to keep at the highest level and make it extremely tough for (even top quality) opponents to win the midfield battle.
On top of that, McKennie has shown an uncanny ability to support the attack with driven runs in behind defenders during his time Schalke (where he played virtually every position on the field), making him the ultimate weapon up and down the pitch. Duane Holmes on the other hand, would be a slightly more offensive option for Berhalter. The British-American midfielder is an extremely gifted dribbler on the ball and has been crucial for Derby in the attacking third as the main man to find the final (or second to last) pass ahead of important goal scoring opportunities. A true fighter on and off the ball given his speed, Holmes could also be used as winger or makeshift full-back.
On Roster: Christian Pulisic (20), Paul Arriola (24), Jonathan Amon (20), Tyler Boyd (24)
Don’t think we need to talk about Christian Pulisic much. The undeniable star of the USMNT is a clearly a centerpiece for 2022, but the only question surrounding his involvement: does Berhalter see him as the 10 or a winger? For now, our view remains that Pulisic is most effective on the wing, as it allows him to take on defenders 1v1 in space, cut inside the middle of the pitch for a shot, and make daunting runs in behind opponent’s back line. The rest of our winger spots go to Paul Arriola, Jonathan Amon, and the recently eligible Tyler Boyd.
Arriola seems the most secure in his spot, simply given his tremendous work ethic, speed, and versatility as a player (having played full back with DC United for much of the season). On top of that, Arriola does have a wicked shot on him, though he lacks conviction in 1v1 situations at times. Jonathan Amon, on the other hand, excels in 1v1 situations. The 20-year-old winger is one of the prospects we are most excited about in our U20 category as he’s already shown that he can succeed at the pro level in Denmark. Difficult to separate from the ball, Amon is a special talent when it comes to making things happen in the final third. He also has a knack to find the back of the net and is particularly skilled at maneuvering through tight spaces, which have let him to feature as striker on occasion with Nordsjaelland.
Our last spot goes to Tyler Boyd, who is officially USMNT eligible after a one-time change of association request has been approved by FIFA. Alongside Pulisic, he’s likely the most clinical US winger having six goals and four assists in just 14 Turkish league games this year, though we’d like to see him hone in on his passing. We think the competition for the last spot on the wing is especially fierce as players such as Jonathan Lewis and Konrad de la Fuente coming through the ranks as well.
Other contenders that are on our radar include Jonathan Lewis, Jeremy Ebobisse, Corey Baird, Gianluca Busio, Gio Reyna, and Romain Gall.
On Roster: Josh Sargent (19), Timothy Weah (19)
Finally, our two striker spots go to Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah, who can also assume one of the spots on the wing. Despite a mixed season with Werder Bremen where Sargent saw limited playing time, we expect him to lead the line in 2022. A natural born striker, Sargent can find the back of the net from virtually any position. He has already proven this at the highest level with two Bundesliga goals in 10 appearances this season.
Similarly, Timothy Weah has a true knack for goal, underscored by this phenomenal stat: during his spell with Celtic Glasgow, Weah averaged a goal or assist every 104 minutes. More than anything, Weah has impressed with his movement off the ball, as he always seems to find spaces in behind and in between the back lines.
Two other hopefuls we have on our radar include Andrjia Novakovic, who is coming off a stellar season in the Netherlands (11 goals in 32 games) and U20 hero, Sebastian Soto (17 goals in 24 games for Hannover’s U19), who has recently made his Bundesliga debut for Hannover in Germany.
That rounds out our roster, but a couple of other notable exclusions that we did not mention before:
Michael Bradley (31): We have the utmost respect for Michael Bradley, but given Tyler Adams’ rise as one of the most promising center mids, we simply see no room for an aging midfielder that is past his prime.
Jozy Altidore (29): Assuming Jozy Altidore stays healthy, he’d likely be in our squad. However, given his frequent injuries, we haven’t seen him play a full quality season for quite some time. As such, we have elected to not include him for now - though that could change.
Lastly, a quick note on the upcoming Gold Cup: there has been a lot of speculation surrounding the final 23-man roster and while we’d love to come up with our own, we primarily look at this year’s Gold Cup as another stepping stone for a still young USMNT squad under a relatively new coach. We fully expect some MLS veterans to be included in the lineup (that we have purposely excluded from our 2022 vision), joining in with the young bloods like Sargent, Miazga, or Carter-Vickers.
As we’ve pointed out before, we believe the USMNT transition will be a gradual one and likely measured in years on our way to the 2022 World Cup. More than anything, we strongly believe the USMNT player pool, including many prospects currently in Poland with the U20s, is as good as it’s ever been. That said, the key will be to harness that talent in a way that builds a robust pipeline of players set to elevate the level of play for the USMNT over the next decade, beginning with the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
With that in mind, the Gold Cup will be an important initial step as it not only marks Berhalter’s first competitive tournament as the head coach, but also provides a global stage for some of our brightest talents (Pulisic, McKennie, Adams, Steffen, Miazga) to begin assuming leadership roles within the team. Hopefully a more radical shift will begin after this Gold Cup.