Jozy Altidore - Canadian Championship - celebrating goal

Armchair Analyst: A look at the USMNT's provisional Gold Cup roster

The US men's national team's provisional, 40-man roster for the Gold Cup was announced on Monday morning. There was a lot of "yup, expected that guy to be there" – as there always is with these types of announcements. But there was also a decent chunk of "wait, who?" and "really, that guy?" in Gregg Berhalter's bag of tricks, and so it's worth taking a quick look.

The Core Group

First, the "I would've been shocked if this guy didn't make the 40-man roster" gang:

*Adams: Yup, he's listed as a defender. Bear in mind that this designation isn't binding.

*Pulisic: Yup, he's listed as a midfielder rather than a forward – which is what all the other wingers are listed at. It's a good bet that Pulisic is going to play that No. 10 role until it becomes apparent he's better used elsewhere.

*Sargent: It was apparent Sargent, who's the youngest guy on the roster, was going to make this squad as soon as he was left off of the US U-20 team that's in Poland for the Youth World Cup.

John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are both missing via injury. The door is open (especially for one of the other center backs) to bust through.

Even without them it's 30 players, fully 3/4s of the squad, that you've probably seen both recently and often – guys who've played for the US in either the recent or distant past, or most likely both, and guys whose skillsets and relative fit you shouldn't have any questions about. Good?

Played Their Way In

Now let's move onto the next group: "I expected him to make it, but wouldn't have bet my life on it."

*Garza: Greg Garza picked up what looked like a nasty injury on Sunday, which has sadly been the story of his career.

Miller was in January camp as was Mihailovic, who played and scored a goal way back when, so they're both familiar to and with Berhalter, and thus with his system. Garza was supposed to be at that camp but – yup – had to withdraw via injury, while Nagbe was name-checked by Berhalter back in January as a guy who he'd have called for January had Nagbe not been playing right up into mid-December. So he's getting his chance to win a job now.

Robinson is the one sort-of outsider here, but he'd played for the U-23s (who run damn near the same system as the full USMNT, by design), and if anybody in MLS has earned it with their on-field play this season, it's him. Robinson's probably been Atlanta's best player this season.

Amon has had moments for his club when he's been awesome this year, and I'll say again that I'm still kind of stunned he's not with the U-20s. He's had, having just turned 20, a productive season:

From Obscurity to Here

And now the final group, which I'll call "let me introduce this guy..."

  • D - Marlon Fossey (Fulham)
  • D - Andrew Gutman (Charlotte Independence)
  • M - Duane Holmes (Derby County)
  • F - Tyler Boyd (MKE Ankaragucu)
  • F - Joe Gyau (MSV Duisburg)

If there's one player on this roster whose name I was just absolutely stunned to see, it's Marlon Fossey. He's a former USYNT right back – born in LA, raised in England – who was pretty good in the 2017 Concacaf Championships, but didn't make the final squad for the U-20 World Cup later that year. According to reports he was on the verge of a breakthrough potentially into the Fulham first team heading into this latest EPL season, but tore his ACL and only just worked his way back onto the field in reserve games last month.

This feels very much like an "I'm not going to deprive an MLS team of a starter who's got next to no chance of making the final roster for the Gold Cup" type of move from Berhalter. It does neither Fossey nor Fulham any harm for the kid to be at this camp, and it gives Berhalter a few good weeks with him, which could pay off if the kid breaks through in the Championship next season and works his way into the US U23s, or even into the full national team picture for real.

Gutman's story is related, if not necessarily similar. The left back, who's a product of the Chicago Fire academy but signed with Celtic instead, has been playing very, very well on loan in the USL Championship. I would wager there's a 0% chance he makes the final roster, but left back is always a position of need and it does no harm to call him in and get his feet wet for the cycle to come. If Gutman breaks out with Celtic next season, Berhalter will already know what the kid can do.

Joe Gyau! One of the stories of this decade for the USMNT has been the "missing generation," referring to the almost complete lack of international caliber players from the 1990 through 1994 birth years. Gyau, a 1992 who's the son of a former USMNT player, was supposed to be one of the stars of this era, but his career has been almost destroyed by injuries.

A quick and direct winger, Gyau just finished a 2.Bundesliga season with 2g/1a in a shade under 800 minutes. It's hard to see that translating to the international level.

Gyau's been capped twice before, in the aftermath of the 2014 World Cup. He came off injured in the second of those appearances.

Holmes is a call-up of a different sort. He was born in Georgia but raised in England, and this is a not necessarily a "call him to keep an eye on him for the future" kind of deal. Holmes, who's 24, had a good season for Derby County as a versatile and useful player. He's played both wings, attacking midfield, box-to-box, right back, and wide midfield. He's there to win a job right damn now.

I've watched about a half-dozen of his games, and I'll say that he's physical, industrious and committed – necessities for playing in the Champo – but I'm wary about his lack of productivity. Holmes, who really is an attacker more than he is a right back or central midfielder, has 3g/4a in 52 Championship appearances, and just 2g/1a in 2018/19, his "breakout" season.

At some point, if you're going to play those roles, you can't just look good. You actually have to finish plays off. So far in his professional career, Holmes does not do that.

Boyd, who filed a one-time switch from New Zealand to play for the US, is currently doing that a lot. He's in this midst of his breakout half-season on loan in Turkey with 5g/4a in 13 games, which is quite good. Here, enjoy some highlights:

Bear in mind those are only highlights, and naturally his warts have been removed. Based upon some Portuguese and Turkish folks I've spoken with, Boyd's a fast and direct winger who is good in isolation and can pick the last pass, but often struggles to combine when the game gets compact.

This was much more of an issue for him in Portugal, where he was less productive in the league than (to use a frame of reference you're probably all familiar with) Columbus's Pedro Santos. Chew on that one for a minute before you set your expectations too high.

Regardless, my money is on him winning a job on one of the wings. The ability to eliminate defenders off the dribble, at pace – Boyd's greatest attribute as a player, according to literally everyone – has largely been missing from the winger pool with Pulisic playing centrally and Lewis used only as a super-sub. In Berhalter's system neither winger gets much of the ball at all in the build-up (the right winger is especially isolated), which should mask Boyd's weaknesses and accentuate his strengths, while at the same time pulling defenders a step or two out of the middle (and thus opening up space underneath for Pulisic, Altidore et al).

That's just a guess, though, based upon scouting reports from people I trust and a few highlights above and elsewhere. Perhaps he'll be as good as advertised, but perhaps not.

Four Guys I Was Somewhat Surprised Not to See

  • Andrew Wooten: The 29-year-old center forward had 17 goals this year for SV Sandhausen in the 2. Bundesliga.
  • Jackson Yueill: He's been the best American central midfield in MLS for the past eight weeks.
  • Emmanuel Sabbi: The 21-year-old winger has had a pretty decent season in Denmark.
  • Andrija Novakovich: He doesn't really have the profile of an international center forward either by the eye test or boxscore stats, but I kind of expected him to get a look.

The US host Jamaica in a pre-Gold Cup friendly in Washington, D.C. on June 5, with their tournament opener taking place on June 18.

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