Ahead of the 2019 Gold Cup, Gregg Berhalter called in players for a combined US national team training camp with senior players and those headed for a U-23 camp. For some of the potential up-and-comers, it was a firsthand chance to impress the coaching staff and allowed Berhalter to familiarize those players with his training habits and tactics.
Among them was San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill, who was around despite not being eligible for the Gold Cup roster after being left off the provisional squad. He made his debut in a friendly against Jamaica and then departed the camp as they trimmed down to the final tournament roster.
But he made an impact on Berhalter.
Yueill has since continued his ascendency with the Quakes and has featured prominently in Berhalter's plans, being called into the next two squads and starting two of the four games.
It's a long-winded way of underlining that Berhalter's latest pre-camp training squad, announced Thursday afternoon ahead of next month's Nations League matches against Canada and Cuba, can be vital to those on the periphery of the player pool. Berhalter called 20 players from eliminated MLS teams for a pre-camp roster. Youth is served once more but the squad doesn't omit veterans; it's far from just a U-23 select camp.
Of course, it's just a pre-camp squad. It's not a World Cup team, there are degrees to how far we can read into it. How many of the 20 will stick around for Nations Leagues matches when the player pool opens up non-domestic players, as well as those from Seattle and Toronto?
But some takeaways can be gleaned nonetheless.
As has been custom for Berhalter's USMNT, he prefers to select a few fresh faces and put them into the group. It's like running a scientific experiment with a control variable. How will player X do in our ecosystem? It's a slower process than turning over a dozen players to give a more widespread look at the pool, one way he aims to retain elusive continuity in the international game.
This pre-camp, four uncapped players got the call: Matt Turner, Mark McKenzie, Brenden Aaronson and Chase Gasper. Aaronson and McKenzie have been involved with the senior team before, although they haven't made their debuts.
Turner's jump to the USMNT isn't a hugely surprising one. He was one of the league's top goalkeepers and even got some Goalkeeper of the Year votes. With Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath unavailable, and a place on the depth chart of top four keepers very much up for grabs, Turner stands to gain next week.
Gasper, 23, is a new option at the problematic left back spot, which got a boost with Sergiño Dest's decision to represent the USMNT.
Behind that quartet, Jeremy Ebobisse, Jonathan Lewis and Djordje Mihailovic are called in once again. Those youngsters have been in and out of the picture with Berhalter since his inaugural squad back in January.
Understand that this isn't for the Nations League games next month, but is a weeklong camp leading up to them.— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) October 31, 2019
Anyway, excited to see if Gasper can be an upgrade at LB, and VERY excited to hopefully see Ebobisse get minutes at center forward. https://t.co/y1WAkE0GYG
Veterans still in the mix
Those players, alongside Reggie Cannon, Sebastian Lletget, Walker Zimmerman and others, are the favorites to stick around for the full Nations League squad. Zardes hasn't played a competitive game since a cameo off the bench in the loss to Canada on Oct. 15. Trapp didn't appear in that match, so he's been out of action since Decision Day presented by AT&T back on Oct. 6.
There are worse ways for some of these players to spend time and keep sharp ahead of the matches against Canada and Cuba in a few weeks.
While Berhalter confirmed there will be another U-23 camp, some of the younger players will be disappointed not to have gotten a chance in front of the senior staff.
Midfielders Emerson Hyndman and Keaton Parks, who returned to MLS this season and played key roles for the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, miss out. Parks is eligible for the Olympic roster, though, so he might stay with the U-23s this month.
Minnesota United forward Mason Toye cooled off at the end of the season, but is a snub nonetheless. He, too, is eligible for the Olympics and has made the most of his time with the US U-23 side in recent months. Along the thread of left back being a shallow position for the USMNT, Sam Vines may have been within a shout to jump from the U-23s to the senior camp as well.