This is close to the roster I wanted to see. This is also very far from the roster I wanted to see.
US Soccer announced Gregg Berhalter's official 23-man roster for this summer's Gold Cup on Thursday morning. Given injuries to certain players (John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Sebastian Lletget and Ethan Horvath) who have shown, to one degree or another, that they belong somewhere in the heart of the pool, and underperformance from the guys on the fringe of the pool on Wednesday night in a putrid 1-0 home loss to Jamaica, I would say 22 of the 23 call-ups make sense.
Say what you will about Omar Gonzalez's past US experiences, but he looked the most comfortable of the CBs on display against Jamaica. He actually completed line-breaking passes, and didn't panic when put under pressure by Jamaican defenders.
Daniel Lovitz, who has been solid-if-unspectacular for club & country this year, is clearly a better choice than Antonee Robinson. Walker Zimmerman has left no doubt who the best center back in MLS has been this year. Duane Holmes was easily the best US player — a low bar, but still — in his 25-minute cameo against the Reggae Boyz, playing with a level of fight and energy that seemed to elude most of his teammates. And so Duane Holmes is here.
Christian Pulisic is here, Weston McKennie is here, and Tyler Adams is here (Adams is listed as a defender, and I've written extensively on both why that could be a good idea and, after Jamaica, why it very well might be a disastrous idea to leave him out of the midfield). Newcomer Tyler Boyd, who will hopefully be an answer on one of the wings, is here, as is Jonathan Lewis, who has done nothing but produce whenever he's gotten chances for his club and his country.
Jozy Altidore, star of the last Gold Cup and mostly healthy at the moment, is here as well. This all makes sense.
Josh Sargent not being here does not make sense. Josh Sargent being left off the US roster for the ongoing U-20 World Cup should've meant he was guaranteed, barring injury, to be on the Gold Cup roster. He was not great in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen this year — he looked weirdly unfit and played himself out of the 18 over the course of two months — but still scored a couple of goals, definitely looked fit (if rusty) against Jamaica, and I don't think there's any question that he is a higher-level talent than anyone in the center forward player pool aside from Altidore.
During the press conference explaining the roster choices, Berhalter said — and I'm paraphrasing here — that the reason Sargent was cut was Lletget's injury. Lletget is cover at midfield and the wing. Without him, the US can't carry three pure strikers (Altidore, Gyasi Zardes and Sargent) on the roster.
But... they definitely can. Holmes is as versatile as Lletget, and seems like a direct replacement for him in the 23.
So it was going to just be Altidore and Zardes, then.
“It’s a simple reason: We think they’re ahead of him right now," is how Berhalter explained it. "We have to do what we felt was best for the team right now and that’s the decision we made.”
He also made this point, though I'll let the great Paul Kennedy paraphrase this time:
From club point of view, not playing in Gold Cup is best thing that could happen to Sargent. Next season is key for him at Werder Bremen. He can't afford to arrive late and get behind others. Same for Weah picking U-20s over Gold Cup. (Weah also has issue of settling on club.)— Paul Kennedy (@pkedit) June 6, 2019
This is true. But if this was the case all along, then why was he not with the U-20s to begin with?
It is bizarre. It feels like a level of roster/player mismanagement not to have Sargent at one of these two tournaments. I am genuinely shocked at his omission from one, and then from the other.
Berhalter better hope he got this right.
Of course, Sargent's absence is of a piece with the rest of the roster, which is heavy on guys born in the first half of the '90s and lighter on guys from the tail end of the decade. Pulisic, McKennie and Adams are, when healthy, absolute locks. Lewis (born in 1997) is the only other player from that age cohort to have made the final list, while Sargent (2000), Cameron Carter-Vickers (1997), Djordje Mihailovic (1998), The Robinsons (Antonee and Miles, both 1997) and Jonathan Amon (1999) were all released into the wilderness at one point or another.
Some of them played their way off the team, pretty clearly. Others... I am surprised by. Berhalter had talked, both publicly and privately, about building toward 2022 as the primary goal. I thought that would mean more of a youth infusion.
Ok, that is, for now, my screed on Sargent's omission.
The rest of the roster is, as I said at the top, mostly what I was hoping to see. Here's what I'd go with as a first-choice XI:
I do not, however, think that this will be Berhalter's first choice. Move Michael Bradley into the d-mid role and push Adams back to right back, while Tim Ream comes in for Lovitz at left back. Either Morris or Paul Arriola will probably start at right wing in place of Lewis, and I'm not yet convinced he rates Zimmerman as highly as he should.
It's a big month. It's already a very interesting month. Let's hope that, at the end of it, Berhalter can look us all in the eye and sing a song called "I told you so" while taking a victory lap.
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USA 2019 Gold Cup final roster
|GK||Johnson, Sean||NYCFCNew York City FC|
|GK||Steffen, Zack||ColumbusColumbus Crew SC|
|D||Adams, Tyler||RB Leipzig|
|D||Gonzalez, Omar||AtlasToronto FC|
|D||Lima, Nick||San JoseSan Jose Earthquakes|
|D||Long, Aaron||NY Red BullsNew York Red Bulls|
|D||Lovitz, Daniel||MontrealMontreal Impact|
|D||Ream, Tim||FulhamFulham FC|
|M||Bradley, Michael||Toronto FC|
|M||Holmes, Duane||Derby County|
|M||McKennie, Weston||Schalke 04|
|M||Roldan, Cristian||SeattleSeattle Sounders|
|M||Trapp, Wil||ColumbusColumbus Crew SC|
|F||Altidore, Jozy||Toronto FC|
|F||Arriola, Paul||D.C. United|
|F||Boyd, Tyler||Vitoria Guimaraes|
|F||Lewis, Jonathan||ColoradoColorado Rapids|
|F||Morris, Jordan||SeattleSeattle Sounders|
|F||Zardes, Gyasi||ColumbusColumbus Crew SC|