While Gregg Berhalter's inaugural USMNT squad has an obvious emphasis on youth, there was room for veterans. After all, the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup kicks off in June.
Unable to call on many Americans abroad due to most European seasons nearing their midpoint, Berhalter named an initial roster exclusive to MLS. It looked a natural time to blend some old heads with the youngsters, as highlighted by Michael Bradley's return. But, the Toronto FC captain was really the only member of the so-called "old guard" as the likes of Brad Guzan, Jozy Altidore and Darlington Nagbe were left behind.
Why? Well, Altidore's omission is straightforward: He's still recovering from ankle surgery.
Meanwhile, there was more nuance to Nagbe and Guzan being left behind.
“Every situation with clubs is difficult," Berhalter said on a media conference call Thursday. "We’re cognizant of clubs and their needs, and players’ needs. Brad is an example of a guy who played a long MLS season and he needs the rest. They’re going to have a new coach, and Champions League games coming up, so I thought it was best for him to get rest at this time. Same goes for Darlington. He’s a guy that was injured for a large portion of the season. We thought it would be more beneficial to get a good, solid preseason with his club. First get the rest, then build up his strength so he can have another good MLS season.”
Berhalter added that Altidore will attend camp for a few days to see the environment and be with the team. But USMNT veterans aren't the only players who came within a shout of getting the call.
It was thought Romain Gall, who made his US national team debut in November and who formerly played for Berhalter at Columbus Crew SC, might get called in. He currently plays for Malmo in Sweden and they, like MLS, are in the offseason. But, Malmo are still alive in the UEFA Europa League.
"We reached out to a number of clubs to understand situations players are in," Berhalter said. "In Romain's particular case, his club has Europa League games in early February. They didn't let any of their players go. We completely understand, we're excited to follow them in the rest of that competition."
As for domestic players who didn't get called up, Berhalter wants all to know there will be many opportunities to join the squad in the future. New York Red Bulls center back Tim Parker was a casualty of such a deep position pool.
“[Parker's] a guy that was in strong consideration, he had a great MLS season," Berhalter said. "The issue with center back, we’re deep across the pool. In this particular case we decided to go with younger athletes. Like all players, Tim has an opportunity through his play to get an opportunity.”
The players will arrive in Chula Vista, Calif., on Jan. 6 before training begins on Jan. 7, Berhalter's first sessions as USMNT boss. They play Panama on Jan. 27 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., then Costa Rica at Avaya Stadium on Feb. 2.