New USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter picks all-MLS roster for first training camp

Yahoo Sports

New U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter named his first squad on Thursday, and all 27 players hail from Major League Soccer.

European- and Mexican-based Americans were not available for selection, as the nearly month-long training camp, which begins Jan. 7 in Chula Vista, California and concludes with games against Panama and Costa Rica, doesn’t not fall within an official FIFA window for international games.

The U.S. will meet the Canaleros in Glendale, Arizona on Jan. 27 to mark Berhalter’s first match in charge. They’ll conclude camp with another friendly, against the Ticos Feb. 2 in San Jose, California.

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“In putting together this domestic-based roster, we started with a number of players who we think can be a core part of the group moving forward,” Berhalter said in a press release.
“We then looked at players that excelled this year in Major League Soccer, and finally chose players that can play a specific role in our game model. We are very excited to start to implement our ideas about the style of play and the culture we want to develop in the national team.”

Manchester City-bound goalkeeper Zack Steffen headlines Gregg Berhalter’s first USMNT roster. (Getty)
Manchester City-bound goalkeeper Zack Steffen headlines Gregg Berhalter’s first USMNT roster. (Getty)

The roster announced on Thursday is headlined by Manchester City-bound Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who was recently named both U.S. Soccer male athlete of the year and MLS’s top backstop of 2018, and longtime captain Michael Bradley, 31, who received just his second U.S. call-up since the Americans failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

But other national veterans such as Jozy Altidore, Brad Guzan and Darlington Nagbe were not summoned, although an unidentified 28th player will be added later on. Here’s the full list for now:

Goalkeepers: Steffen (Columbus Crew), Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Tyler Miller (LAFC)

Defenders: Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Greg Garza (FC Cincinnati), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)

Midfielders: Bradley (Toronto FC), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), , Russell Canouse (D.C. United), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)

Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Christian Ramirez (LAFC), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

In a conference call with reporters later Thursday, Berhalter said that Toronto FC striker Altidore, who underwent ankle surgery in the fall, was still recovering but would visit camp to “see the environment”

“He won’t be able to participate in training so obviously we were not going to include him in the full camp,” the coach added. Guzan and Nagbe, who recently helped Atlanta United win MLS Cup, simply needed time off following a grueling season, Berhalter said. 

The group has an average age of 24, slightly older than the squad had been for its final six matches of 2018. It features 12 uncapped players, including MLS rookie of the year award winner Baird.

Bradley is the most experienced player by far, his 142 caps more than the rest of the roster combined. “This is an opportunity for Michael to show his value to the group,” Berhalter said. “We’re excited to see him and how he works through this training camp and leading the team and also contributing to what we’re trying to do on the field.”

Other USMNT vets include Acosta (23 caps) and Zardes (40), whose 19 regular season goals led all Americans in MLS in 2018. Both Zardes and Steffen, who will join Man City in July of next year, played for Berhalter in Columbus.

While the roster for the most part is “a reflection of guys who are available,” Berhalter conceded that even without the likes of Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie, it was not his strongest possible squad. Rather, it was picked with an eye on the future. 

“There were some guys that didn’t get included just based on their age, I think, that perhaps if you were picking the strongest group could’ve made a case for, Berhalter said.

“That wasn’t our intention.”

Doug McIntyre covers soccer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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