The future is now for the US national team.
With focus shifted to the future since their unsuccessful 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign, Gregg Berhalter's latest USMNT squad for September friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay leans on youth once again as some of the country's brightest prospects are receiving their first call-ups.
Berhalter selected US U-20 World Cup standouts Paxton Pomykal (19) and Sergino Dest (18) to their first senior camps, ditto for Atlanta United breakout star Miles Robinson (22), while Josh Sargent (19) returns to the senior team. The squad includes regular youngsters Christian Pulisic (20), Weston McKennie (21) and Reggie Cannon (21), who all started the Concacaf Gold Cup final this summer.
The team is only missing Tyler Adams (20) and Tim Weah (19) because of injury.
"We felt like the Gold Cup was a good step forward for the team, but we still need to continue to improve," Berhalter told reporters on a media conference call Wednesday. "When I look at some of the young players involved in this camp, it gives us an opportunity to look at some of them for the first time."
Sargent, one of the country's top young talents, has played eight minutes after two Bundesliga games for Werder Bremen this season, which wasn't a deterrent for Berhalter and his staff. He already has seven caps for the senior national team.
“It’s unfortunate that his game time has been limited thus far, but we want to try and capture the momentum he had in preseason and bring him to this group," Berhalter said. "He was a player all along that is in our plans. … He’s a player with great talent, a lot of promise, I’m looking forward to working with him in this camp.”
Two young MLSers who haven't had any issue with playing time this season are Pomykal and Robinson. Pomykal, named to the MLS All-Star team this year, has been a leader on FC Dallas, with two goals and five assists across 20 appearances.
“Paxton is a guy we want to bring around to see the environment, get this experiment," Berhalter said. "We like what he’s been doing in the league, we still think he has a way to go to continue his development. We thought this was an opportunity to bring a guy around in the national team environment and see how he copes with the senior national team.”
Robinson, the heart of Atlanta's defense, has 27 appearances and two trophies this season, starting both the Campeones Cup and U.S. Open Cup finals.
“Form pushed Miles into the team," Berhalter said. "He’s in great form, he’s played exceptional over this last month and a half. He’s earned it. I like nothing more than being able to call players who earned a spot through performing really well. That’s a good example.”
Another player called into his first camp is Dest, Ajax's young fullback. He starred for the US U-20s at the World Cup and broke into Dutch powerhouse's first team already in the opening weeks of this 2019/20 season.
“Sergino is a guy we’ve been tracking, we’ve been watching his progress with Ajax, making his way up to the first team," Berhalter said. "We’re excited about him. We’re excited he can play both wingback positions, he has a good offensive skill set. He fits into the profile we’re looking for in our fullbacks.”