Along with every release of a US national team squad comes the inevitable soccer bubble noise that, no matter how sound the roster is, certain worthy names have been unfairly left out.
Not to be overly critical, but we're here to get in on the bemoaning with a list of five players that might have been worth a camp call-up from US manager Gregg Berhalter ahead of friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay. We didn't simply consider the players' form and abilities; those who feature at USMNT positions of need were deemed as conveniently closer to jumping into the pool.
Darlington Nagbe would have looked like the most obvious candidate for this list... right up until reports surfaced that he actually turned down a September call. There are others around the league that probably fit best in the "close, but not quite" category, such as Julian Araujo, Keaton Parks and Mason Toye.
Let's run through the top five snub picks in alphabetical order.
Here's one for all those folks who wish the Nats had an up-and-coming attack quarterback whose able presence in the middle would by extension allow Christian Pulisic run wild on the flank. No, Aaronson has not torn up MLS in his rookie season. And yes, Philadelphia have often moved him around to different midfield stations.
Forget all that. We're talking about an 18-year-old who has managed to start 20 of 28 games in a deep and experienced Union midfield (and some of their worst outings came he didn't play or barely saw the field). Aaronson can pass, press, transitions with speed and even has a little bite. It may be time to start seasoning this kid.
GOAL: Brenden Aaronson scores in his MLS debut
The Portland Timbers forward is the only man on this list that already owns a USMNT cap. Ebobisse debuted back in January, putting in a decent shift though slightly out of position as a left winger in their 3-0 friendly win over Panama. It's true that the 2017 SuperDraft first-round pick can eat up ground on the dribble and occasionally be goal-dangerous when playing out wide, his ideal role is as a mobile target striker.
That, naturally, is a position where one can't be too deep at the international level. And that's not really a situation the US has to worry about. If there's a 22-year-old who can hold up play, make sly runs, bang in the air a bit and execute in the final third, he should be in the frame proper. And guess what? I just happen to know a guy.
GOAL: Jeremy Ebobisse curls in a beauty
Count me in the camp that feels left back minutes are better spent on the various youngsters learning the position than an over-30 center back like Tim Ream. Call me crazy, but one of the prime MLS upstarts at any position this season has been the Minnesota United rookie.
Gasper covers ground with intensity, plays smart without being timid, works hard in his end, moves the ball quickly and can make plays running forward. At this rate, it won't be long before he bulls his way into the USMNT left back picture (kind of like he crashed this list late thanks to a solid, locked-in display in Tuesday's slim U.S. Open Cup final loss to scary Atlanta United).
Though he's naturally a right back, the former US Under-20 international has to date played 28 of his 43 Real Salt Lake matches port side. Left back is obviously a spot that needs a talent re-stock for the future. Plus, we know Berhalter loves versatile cogs for his squads.
At both wide back spots, Herrera has been a consistent performer for RSL for over a year now. He's serviceable if unspectacular on the ball, but a very tough customer defensively. If the manager ever plans to go back to his "Tyler Adams hybrid role" set that requires a more conservative left back to balance things out, this guy should be in the left back Rolodex.
At this point, you may start detecting a trend. And also do a hearty double take. You can rub and re-focus your eyes all want, but it's never going to change the fact that, yes, I'm actually suggesting the FC Dallas veteran is worth a look.
GOAL: Ryan Hollingshead puts away 90th minute equalizer
Okay, so he's already 28. The team has four competitive matches before Thanksgiving; they don't just need prospects, they need capable soldiers now. Hollingshead is a tough-as-nails, endline-to-endline hound that can contribute supplemental offense and work a variety of roles. There's a genuine argument that, aside from Paxton Pomykal, he's been FC Dallas' best player.