Gregg Berhalter has picked the squad he thinks can lead the U.S. to a second straight Concacaf title, but it doesn't include one of the national team's rising attacking stars.

By Brian Straus
June 06, 2019

U.S. national team coach Gregg Berhalter revealed a 23-man Concacaf Gold Cup squad Thursday morning that included young linchpins Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams, who missed out on the recent camp, but left off the likes of Josh Sargent and Cameron Carter-Vickers.

A makeshift U.S. team featuring several players, including Sargent, who didn’t make the Gold Cup cut lost, 1-0, to Jamaica Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. The Americans are scheduled to depart for Cincinnati on Thursday. They’ll play Venezuela there on Sunday, then prepare for the Gold Cup opener against Guyana on June 18.

“As always, there were some difficult decisions to be made for this roster, and I’m extremely pleased with how the players have shown so far this year overall,” Berhalter said in a statement. “We’ve had a chance to look at the player pool for the last six months and we feel great about the group that will take on the task of trying to win the Gold Cup. This is only the start of the journey.”

Berhalter managed the USA through four friendlies before convening a camp split between Gold Cup hopefuls and U-23 players on May 26. Veterans have been filing in since last weekend, although several, like defender Aaron Long, midfielder Michael Bradley and forwards Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes, are carrying minor injuries.

During a conference call later Thursday, Berhalter said that Guyana, not Venezuela, is the target.

“[All 23 players will be] able to start [in the Gold Cup opener] or close to it, and the way we’ve looked at this is there is a window of time,” he said. “We didn’t expect to have all 23 guys at the same level on June 5. We knew we do have some time, and it’s just about continuing to work and continuing to build this team, and that we’re going to do.”

Here’s a look at the team that’ll vie for the USA’s seventh Gold Cup title. The team features nine men who lifted the trophy two years ago:

Goalkeepers

Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Tyler Miller (Los Angeles FC), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew)

Steffen is the unquestioned starter here. The Manchester City/Fortuna Düsseldorf-bound player (the latter a loan reported by The Athletic) played 90 on Wednesday in Washington and likely will be in net the remainder of the summer.

Berhalter said Thursday that the door remained open for Brad Guzan and Bill Hamid, the two most veteran members of the goalkeeper pool, to return to the national team fold in the future.

Defenders

Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Omar Gonzalez (Toronto FC), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Tim Ream (Fulham), Walker Zimmerman (Los Angeles FC)

The loss to Jamaica wasn’t the fault of the three-man back line of Ream, Gonzalez and Miazga. They did a decent job clearing the penalty area but couldn’t do much about the wide-open looks from just outside it that were routinely conceded by the American midfield. Still, as Berhalter said following the game, it was a new formation designed to add a bit of versatility and not something on which the USA will be relying. Expect a four-man back line through most or all of the Gold Cup, with Adams likely to feature at right back. 

Carter-Vickers, the Tottenham Hotspur product who spent the season on loan at Swansea City, couldn’t crack the glut at center back, even with the injury that will keep John Brooks out of the competition. He remains Olympic eligible. And Antonee Robinson struggled on the left flank against Jamaica and also was cut. Left back remains the position of greatest concern for the USA. Ream and Lovitz have started there for Berhalter.

Midfielders

Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Weston McKennie (Schalke 04), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)

The insertion of Pulisic and McKennie (who was in camp but didn’t dress Wednesday) will alter the look of the U.S. midfield significantly. It was far too tentative against Jamaica, both in the attack and in front of the back line. Trapp had an off night, and it’ll be interesting to see whether Berhalter relies on his former Columbus charge or on the veteran Bradley.

Holmes appeared to do the most to help his own cause against Jamaica, creating several opportunities after coming on as a second half substitute. The Derby County midfielder, who was born in Georgia and raised in England, has energy and skill and could fill one of the No. 10 roles in the absence of the injured Sebastian Lletget, who was hurt playing for the LA Galaxy last weekend. Holmes beat out the Chicago Fire’s Djordje Mihailovic for the last midfield spot.

Berhalter said Lletget’s injury had a domino effect throughout the midfield and forward corps and contributed partially to the decision to omit Sargent.

Forwards 

Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Tyler Boyd (Vitória Guimarães), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Sargent’s absence is the most surprising one of the lot, as the 19-year-old was held out of the ongoing U-20 World Cup in order to play with the senior team. Two years ago, he became the first American to score at U-20 and U-17 World Cups in the same year, and his transfer to Werder Bremen suggested bigger things were ahead. He already has two goals in seven senior appearances, and the decision not to take him to Poland for this U-20 World Cup implied a Gold Cup invite was likely. Otherwise, a significant summer would be spent on the sidelines.

But now that’s what’s going to happen. Berhalter said Thursday that leaving Sargent out of the U-20 World Cup was an easier call. He was ready for the challenge of making the senior squad, and his absence offered a chance for other promising players to compete on the U-20 stage. Cutting Sargent from the Gold Cup, however, was “the most difficult decision we had to make,” Berhalter said. “We thought he would benefit from the challenge of the full national team.”

The injury suffered by the versatile Lletget left Berhalter feeling he couldn’t carry three players who are only strikers. The manager had kind words for Sargent after the Jamaica game, during which he got almost no service but still managed to take the USA’s only shot on goal. In the end, however, Altidore and Zardes were preferred.

Berhalter said Sargent’s slow spring at Bremen—he played only seven minutes since the beginning of March—was a drag on his performance.

“We have to remember that he’s 19 years old and he has a bright future in front of him,” Berhalter said. “When it talked to him and I gave him the news, I told him that he’s going to be the striker for the national team in the future. We’re sure of that. He’s got great a skill set. Unfortunately, he didn’t carry that momentum from Werder Bremen in the second half of the season. He wasn’t able to play as much as he could have, and he lacked a little sharpness. But Josh is a top striker and he’s going to have a lot of opportunities.”

The uncapped Boyd, a winger, is another new name. He just transferred his international allegiance from New Zealand.

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