WASHINGTON — Wednesday was a night of firsts for U.S. men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter.
Hours after his first loss on the job, Berhalter named his first official roster for his first official competition, a 23-man squad that he’ll take to the Gold Cup later this month.
And fans will meet it with a first meaningful roster critique.
There were few surprises in the 23, but the biggest name left out was Josh Sargent, a 19-year-old striker who some see as the future of the position for the Yanks. Berhalter is among them, and called Sargent’s omission “the most difficult decision we had to make.”
But even that should be a relatively uncontroversial one. Here is the roster, with notes, takeaways and a projected depth chart below.
U.S. 2019 Gold Cup roster
(Club; national team caps)
GOALKEEPERS: Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 7), Tyler Miller (LAFC; 0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew; 9)
DEFENDERS: Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig; 10), Omar Gonzalez (Toronto FC; 50), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 3), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 5), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact; 4), Matt Miazga (Chelsea; 13), Tim Ream (Fulham; 29), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 6)
MIDFIELDERS: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC; 145), Duane Holmes (Derby County; 1), Weston McKennie (Schalke; 8), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea; 25), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 10), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; 16)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC; 110), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 22), Tyler Boyd (Vitoria Guimares; 0), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 4), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 27), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 44)
Josh Sargent’s omission
Few will argue that Jonathan Lewis – the roster’s most surprising inclusion – is a brighter talent than Sargent for the long haul. But Berhalter’s decision to take Lewis over Sargent was about roster balance. As constructed, this squad gives him one starter and one backup at all 10 outfield positions. “We have set up the roster where there’s two players in every position,” Berhalter said. Sargent would have been a third striker behind Jozy Altidore and Gyasi Zardes.
Berhalter, instead, needed a winger after Sebastian Lletget was ruled out due to a hamstring injury. The head coach, speaking with reporters Thursday, said he saw Lletget as not only a backup attacking midfielder but also depth out wide. If Lletget were fit, he likely would have taken Duane Holmes’ place; he also would have rendered Lewis or Jordan Morris unnecessary, and allowed Berhalter to include Sargent.
“When he got injured,” Berhalter said of Lletget, “it kind of put a wrench in the plans a little bit. And we didn’t feel we could afford to carry three strikers on the roster anymore.”
Sargent would have been eligible for the Under-20 World Cup – currently ongoing, with the U.S. in the quarterfinals. But he’d already played – and starred – at a U-20 World Cup as a 17-year-old. “We spoke to him at length about his summer, about how we see him, about where we feel he should be challenged,” Berhalter said. “And at this point, we thought he would benefit from the challenge of the full national team.”
Plus, as Berhalter pointed out, “with Josh in that [U-20] team, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to see someone like Sebastian Soto” – one of the forwards who has impressed for the 20s in Poland.
So Sargent was given a chance to make the senior team. In part due to his lack of Bundesliga playing time at Werder Bremen, in part due to factors outside his control, he simply didn’t. Altidore is clearly a better player at the moment. Berhalter feels Zardes is as well.
“We have to remember that he’s 19 years old and has a bright future,” Berhalter said of Sargent. “When I talked to him and gave him the news, one thing I mentioned was that he’s gonna be the striker for the national team in the future. We’re sure of that.”
Other roster notes and takeaways
Lewis was not initially named to a 28-man training camp roster last weekend, but was added a day later. The reason? U.S. Soccer staffers were still assessing his lingering hamstring injury, according to a team spokesman.
Michael Bradley is playing in his fifth Gold Cup, and Altidore his fourth. Bradley is the only player on this roster who has won a non-Confederations-Cup-year Gold Cup, with both the U.S. and Mexico at full strength. That was in 2007, when Bradley was 19.
Christian Pulisic, who was not with the squad for Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Jamaica, will meet the team Thursday evening in Cincinnati and train for the first time on Friday. Tyler Adams will join up with the squad June 11 in Minnesota, where the U.S. will train ahead of its Gold Cup opener.
Berhalter said he expects all 23 players to be fit for that opener on June 18 – “either able to start or close to it.”
DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks were ruled out due to injury last month.
Goalkeeper Ethan Horvath had also previously been ruled out due to injury.
Projected starting lineup, depth chart
Starters listed first, backups in parentheses. Right to left, back to front (in midfield), in Berhalter’s preferred 4-3-3.
Goalkeeper: Steffen (Johnson, Miller)
Defenders: Adams (Lima), Long (Miazga), Zimmerman (Ream, Gonzalez), Ream (Lovitz)
Midfielders: Bradley (Trapp), McKennie (Roldan), Pulisic (Holmes)
Forwards: Arriola (Morris), Altidore (Zardes), Boyd (Lewis)
The 17 players who were named to the 40-man Gold Cup provisional roster but not the final 23 were:
*indicates injury. Italics indicate player was not part of recent training camps.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan, Ethan Horvath*
Defenders: Reggie Cannon, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Marlon Fossey, Greg Garza*, Andrew Gutman, Miles Robinson, Antonee Robinson
Midfielders: Sebastian Lletget*, Djordje Mihailovic, Darlington Nagbe
Forwards: Jonathan Amon, Corey Baird, Joe Gyau, Christian Ramirez, Josh Sargent
U.S. Gold Cup schedule
The Gold Cup begins June 15. The U.S. kicks off its tournament three days later, with the group stage headliner four days after that:
Tuesday, June 18 vs. Guyana in St. Paul, Minnesota
Saturday, June 22 vs. Trinidad and Tobago in Cleveland
Wednesday, June 26 vs. Panama in Kansas City
*Sunday, June 30, potential quarterfinal in Philadelphia
*Wednesday, July 3, potential semifinal in Nashville
*Sunday, July 7, potential final in Chicago
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