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Gregg Berhalter’s first USMNT roster highlights youth

U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalters names his first 23-man roster for am upcoming pair of friendlies. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

United States men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter’s first 23-man roster is highly inexperienced at the international level and composed entirely of players based in Major League Soccer.

Berhalter’s inaugural crew of USMNT players will play a pair of friendlies — against Concacaf rival Panama on Jan. 27 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., and Costa Rica on Feb. 2 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif.  — that will be the first U.S. games since Berhalter’s hiring in December.

Berhalter initially invited 28 players to camp, which started on Jan. 7 in Chula Vista, Calif., before narrowing the group for the final roster.

Toronto FC‘s Michael Bradley, a former national team captain and two-time FIFA World Cup veteran, is the most senior member in the group.

No one else on the roster comes close to Bradley’s 142 international appearances, though there are a number of familiar faces, including striker Gyasi Zardes, midfielder Wil Trapp and goalkeeper Zack Steffen — who all currently represent Berhalter’s former team, Columbus Crew SC, in MLS and have seen their national team profiles rise in the last year.

That said, 11 players — almost half the roster — have never played in an international fixture. Giving that many prospects a chance to earn their first caps continues an initiative by Berhalter’s predecessor, interim U.S. coach David Sarachan. 

“We’ve had a great two weeks in Chula Vista focusing on building team culture, style of play and competing every day,” Berhalter said in a statement released by U.S. Soccer. “The entire group has worked hard and brought an excellent mindset, and we thank them for the consistent effort thus far. We look forward to continuing to build on these ideas in Phoenix and measure our progress in the game against Panama.”

Portland Timbers striker Jeremy Ebobisse, who scored two goals during an impressive 2018 season that culminated with an MLS Cup run, is among the 11 players seeking their first international appearance in the coming days.

Other MLS-based players who flew under Sarachan’s radar but have been included by Berhalter include defenders Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids) and Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union); midfielders Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake) and Russell Canouse (DC United); and striker Christian Ramirez (Los Angeles FC).

Four players were also released back to their clubs: goalkeepers Alex Bono (Toronto FC) and Tyler Miller (LAFC), defender Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake) and midfielder Kellyn Acosta (Colorado).

Full 23-man USMNT roster by position

GOALKEEPERS (2): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 5/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 6/0)

DEFENDERS (8): Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas; 2/0), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 2/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact/CAN; 0/0), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Keegan Rosenberry (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC; 4/1)

MIDFIELDERS (10): Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 17/2), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC/CAN; 142/17), Russell Canouse (D.C. United; 0/0), Marky Delgado (Toronto FC/CAN; 6/0), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; 0/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 5/1), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 5/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 11/0)

FORWARDS (3): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers, 0/0), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 0/0), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 40/6)

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