ORLANDO — New U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter has entered what he calls “step two” in the evaluation process of his talent pool.
Berhalter, who in December was named the USMNT’s coach, on Tuesday called up 24 players ahead of friendlies against Ecuador in Orlando and Chile in Houston, featuring more athletes competing for clubs abroad.
The players will report to Orlando for camp, which begins March 17. The USMNT plays Ecuador at Orlando City Stadium on March 21, then has a match against Chile on March 26 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. The games later this month will be his third and fourth at the helm
“We want to continue to make progress building a strong team,” Berhalter said during a conference call. “Our goal is to keep this group moving forward as we to continue to build on our style of play and building a team culture. In this particular camp, it’s going to be interesting because we’re competing against a top-level opponent and we’re able to now call 24 players in and prepare them to play two good games against good opponents.”
As Pro Soccer USA reported on Monday, 20-year-old star midfielder Christian Pulisic has been called back to the USMNT. RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams is part of the roster, as is Schalke’s Weston McKennie.
Pulisic has dealt with some injuries recently, but came on in the 79th minute for Borussia Dortmund in a 3-1 victory over VfB Stuttgart Saturday. He scored a goal in stoppage time and had an assist.
“We want to find a spot there [Pulisic] can affect the game and he can get more out of his teammates and also put him in position to score goals and make assists,” Berhalter said. “In this camp, we’re going to look at him as the No. 10. As the No. 10 slanted to the left. We played with two No. 10s last camp, we’re going to do the same this camp. Within that structure, what you’ve seen is there is flexibility.
“When you look at last camp, you know, there’s times when the wingers go inside and the 10s going wide. So, we just want to see how that looks. We want Christian to be flexible. We want to take advantage of his 1-v-1, but we also want to get him in front of goal.”
Berhalter also provided reasons certain players — such as 19-year-olds Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah — not being called up. The average age of the roster for this camp is 25 years, 265 days, roughly one year older than the roster called into January camp.
A USMNT spokesman said officials are finalizing details for a U.S. U-23 camp and Berhalter added Weah and Sargent “have an opportunity, playing at a U-23 level, to gain experience.”
“When we looked players that were U-23 eligible and weren’t necessarily going to be in our starting group, we had to weigh, is it more beneficial for them to try to play full international at level where they can gain confidence and potentially bring that back to their club, and then get a boost in performance with their clubs?” Berhalter asked.
Berhalter said he had conversations with players who were left off the roster and explained his decision.
“What you guys have to keep in mind is this is just a slice in time,” Berhalter said. “This isn’t determining player standing or value or anything. This is just one squad being called in for one group of games and nothing more than that. When a player doesn’t get called in, I try to explain the reasoning why and what the big picture is.
“For some guys, it’s different than other guys. For example, the younger guys, the big picture is that they get to a point where in 2022, they’re developed and they’ve made progress and the only way to do that is to play games and to be competing. So if we have a platform that can give them games, this is the best step now, and although they’re disappointed they’re not in the senior team, there’s still a way to keep them moving forward.
“For other guys, it was a question of injury. For other guys it was a question of we know what they do already and we’ve evaluated them pretty well and it’s time to look at other guys. Again, this squad represents what we’re looking to accomplish in this set of games and any player who isn’t included, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance with the national team.”
New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, a UCF alum, is the only player with local ties for the Orlando friendly.
Of the 24 players, 15 play in MLS, while the rest play in, Germany (four), England (three), Belgium and Mexico (one apiece). Fourteen of the players were called up for January’s camp ahead of matches against Panama and Costa Rica.
Here’s the full roster (club; caps/goals):
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge, BEL; 3/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 6/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 8/0)
DEFENDERS (8): John Brooks (Wolfsburg, GER; 36/3), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas, MEX; 48/3), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes; 2/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 4/0), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact; 2/0), Matt Miazga (Reading, ENG; 11/1), Tim Ream (Fulham, ENG; 26/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United, ENG; 57/0)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, GER; 9/1), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC, CAN; 143/17), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 7/2), Weston McKennie (Schalke, GER; 7/1), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, GER; 23/9), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 7/0), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC; 13/0)
FORWARDS (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 19/3), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake; 2/0), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC; 2/0), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC; 25/5), Christian Ramirez (LAFC; 2/1), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 42/6)