Reggie Cannon: The United States national team player pool has improved immensely

Reggie Cannon - USMNT - Costa Rica - dribbling

Reggie Cannon is poised to start for the US men’s national team in their Monday friendly against Panama (2:45 pm ET | FS1, UniMas, TUDN), according to head coach Gregg Berhalter, giving many stateside followers a first chance at an extended look at the outside back since he joined Portuguese side Boavista FC via transfer from FC Dallas back on Sept. 9.

Cannon came on as substitute in the 87th minute for Sergino Dest during last week’s 0-0 draw against Wales, though a larger viewing window seems on the horizon. Berhalter likes what he sees, too, since the 22-year-old headed overseas.

“He seems a little bit more comfortable now, and what he’s having to do is, he’s going to grind and he’s competing every single game and that’s been fun to see the transformation,” Berhalter said. “Not that he wasn’t in Dallas, but the pressure is a little bit different, you can see how he’s experienced that. But he’s embracing it.”

Cannon now has 12 USMNT caps under his belt, truly bursting onto the international scene during the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. He was also part of the January 2020 camp, which ended with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica and Cannon drawing the penalty kick that Ulysses Llanez deposited for the game’s only goal.

The former FC Dallas homegrown defender reflected on the past nine-plus months, which saw him depart with two goals and five assists in 67 MLS games. Namely, Cannon sees immense growth throughout the entire roster.

“It’s definitely been a long time off since January, and the player pool has evolved immensely over the course of the past eight months,” Cannon said. “So getting all these guys back together, some have never made their caps, obviously we had a few the other night. It’s super exciting because this pool is so diverse now, and so talented, playing with some of the biggest clubs in the world, it’s exciting.”

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a lengthy international pause, though a young USMNT generation is blossoming overseas. Cannon’s Primeira Liga transition is outshined, at least in profile, by those like Dest (FC Barcelona), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) and Zack Steffen (Manchester City). The team’s biggest star, Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), is recovering from a hamstring injury and 17-year-old Yunus Musah (Valencia) is weighing his international options.

That roster complexion leaves Cannon optimistic about the USMNT's future, both on an individual level and when assessing the entire player pool.

“All these young players playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world, it’s got a sense of competition now,” Cannon said. “You’re fighting for bigger things. You’re not just fighting for a spot in the pool, you’re fighting for the guy next to you and against the guy next to you. There’s a lot of inter-circle battles going on right now and that’s ultimately what’s making this team great in the process, because that is what’s going to push this team to the next level.”

Despite the overall trajectory, Cannon knows the USMNT still has to cover serious ground. These November friendlies against Wales and Panama provide a glimpse, but the finished product isn't here.

“One thing I can say to the national team fans is be patient,” Cannon said. “We’ve got guys with a lot of talent that we just have to figure out how to work as a team. And I think it’s coming together definitely because we have a lot of talented individuals obviously. But what’s going to make this team great is if we play with each other and that’s something we’re figuring out as we currently go from game to game and training and I think that’s going to be very impactful going forward."