The U.S. men's national team is taking a piecemeal approach to building its squad for the decisive Nations League games later this month vs. Canada and Cuba, and the latest piece of the puzzle includes the incorporation of Europe-based talent.
It started with a 20-player training camp that gathered in Bradenton, Fla., this week, with the knowledge that not all of the players involved would make it to the full pre-match camp. It did, however, give manager Gregg Berhalter a jump on preparations by taking advantage of the availability of a number of players whose MLS seasons already came to an end.
It continues with the addition of the Europe-based players, with the list revealed on Thursday. Among them is Ajax fullback Sergiño Dest, who recently committed his future to the USA over his native Netherlands and will be cap-tied with an appearance against either Canada or Cuba. Not among the group, though, is Zack Steffen, with the USA's No. 1 goalkeeper omitted due to a recent injury concern. That puts veteran Brad Guzan in frame to start a pair of games the U.S. needs to win in order to top the group after falling flat in Toronto vs. Canada last month.
Another wrinkle is the U-23 group that is meeting for a concurrent tournament in the Canary Islands during the international window. A number of the players currently in senior national team camp will depart for U-23 duty, with those being defender Mark McKenzie, midfielders Brenden Aaronson and Djordje Mihailovic and forwards Jeremy Ebobisse and Jonathan Lewis.
The final piece of the puzzle will be the incorporation of players involved in MLS Cup and the potential departure of some MLS-based players who are not going to U-23 camp. Jozy Altidore's injury is likely to keep him from joining, but players like Seattle's Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan and Toronto's Michael Bradley have been regulars under Berhalter and would be likely to make the final group.
As it stands, here is the U.S. squad that will gather in Orlando starting on Sunday, as training camp shifts north in Florida and the rematch vs. Canada nears.
Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Guzan and Johnson will duel for starting duties in Steffen's absence, while Turner will likely get an extended look in camp, presuming Berhalter brings three goalkeepers.
John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Sergiño Dest (Ajax), Chase Gasper (Minnesota United), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Brooks has arguably been the biggest wild card in the player pool, given his lack of availability due to injury in some recent big spots (Gold Cup, last month's Nations League games) and his ability to perform at a high level for his club. The latter aspect hasn't translated to the national team much in recent years, but a Yedlin/Cannon-Long-Brooks-Dest back line has potential to be quite reliable, in theory. Matt Miazga's exclusion is certainly a notable aspect here, too. It would appear the on-loan Reading center back is no higher than fifth in the current pecking order.
Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
There are no real surprises in this group, with Tyler Adams still not fit for action and Bradley and Roldan likely to fill it out. Morales's resurgence has been one of the pleasant developments, though that there still isn't room for Duane Holmes after the glimpses he showed during his brief stint with the national team in the summer is a mild surprise.
Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)
Pulisic listed as a forward indicates he'll play on the wing–though that is by no means binding–and Altidore's injury likely keeps Sargent in frame to start as the center forward.