The U.S. men's national team gathering for a friendly vs. Switzerland that precedes the Concacaf Nations League final four isn't a final puzzle or finished product, but then again, that's the point.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter has called on 27 players to train and then face the 13th-ranked Swiss on May 30 in St. Gallen before the Nations League semis early next month. This is not the final squad for the Nations League, though there will be considerable amounts of overlap. The Nations League squad isn't due to Concacaf until May 24, which is before this camp kicks off, and some players included on Thursday's roster release might not even be able to take part in the first few days of camp and the Switzerland game. Conversely, some not included for the initial gathering will be expected to join afterward.
Josh Sargent and Julian Green, for instance, could be playing in the Germany promotion/relegation playoff, whose second leg is scheduled for May 29, a day before the U.S. play the Swiss. Daryl Dike could be in a similar boat if Barnsley is able to overturn a 1–0 first-leg deficit to Swansea in its promotion playoff semifinal. The final at Wembley is also May 29. Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen, meanwhile, will be consumed by the Champions League final, which is also May 29, and will be free to link up afterward.
That's all a detailed and roundabout way of saying that there are a lot of moving parts, but that figures to be the case going forward into World Cup qualifying windows that feature three matches instead of the more customary two and will require more squad rotation than usual.
"We're juggling all of this," Berhalter said. "What I've noticed and what I've found in the last couple of years working with the national team is that's always going to be part of our challenge, and it's just about embracing that ... and looking for the next-man-up mentality."
After facing Switzerland, a side that is fine-tuning for the Euros, the U.S. will head home to Denver for the Nations League final four. The semifinals vs. Honduras will be June 3, followed by a third-place game against either Mexico or Costa Rica on June 6. The U.S. will close this prolonged window with a friendly against Costa Rica at Real Salt Lake's Rio Tinto Stadium on June 9. The ultimate goal of this camp, beyond the stated plusses of being tested at the altitude of the Swiss Alps and playing against a high-level opponent, is replicating what it might be like come the fall for World Cup qualifying.
"What we're seeing is this is going to replicate the cadence of a player playing for his club team on the weekend, flying across the ocean and then preparing for a three-game block in World Cup qualifying," Berhalter said. "We think this is really going to help us gather information on what the players are going through and what the mood is going to be.
"We're going to use all four games to be able to test that out, and I think it's going to be unrealistic to expect all the same players to play in each game, so what we're going to have to do is we're going to have to be balancing; it's going to have to be a squad effort. And we're going to use this time in Switzerland to really bring the team together and prepare for this journey together."
Here's a closer look at the squad:
Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake)
With Steffen out, this figures to be a great chance for Horvath to get some playing time, which he hasn't had since Feb. 3. The Brugge backup only made three appearances all season while serving as the No. 2 behind Belgium's Simon Mignolet.
Odunze, 18, remains a fixture on the youth level for Leicester, while Ochoa joins his first senior camp after emerging as RSL's starter and backstopping the U-23s during Olympic qualifying. Should Steffen join for the Nations League, he'd be the presumed starter, while MLS-based Matt Turner and Sean Johnson are among those who would figure to be in the mix once camp crosses the Atlantic.
John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Justin Che (Bayern Munich), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Bryan Reynolds (Roma), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray)
The U.S. has a bit of a centerback issue, with Aaron Long out indefinitely after tearing his Achilles and Chris Richards remaining out injured as his Hoffenheim loan winds to a close.
"Aaron's been a mainstay in our group," Berhalter said. "He's a leader in our group and a player who performs well on the field. It's really tragic news for the U.S. Soccer Federation, for our team, but again having said that it gives another player an opportunity to step up, and we have some young centerbacks who are going to need to get experience and this will give them the opportunity to do so."
Brooks, whose Wolfsburg team has already cemented a Champions League berth, is the entrenched starter, while McKenzie and Miazga are vying to start beside him vs. Switzerland. Nashville SC's Walker Zimmerman and Atlanta United's Miles Robinson are among those who could enter the discussion as the Nations League final four gets closer.
Che, 17, joins his first senior national team camp and is reportedly on the verge of a permanent move to Bayern after his loan from FC Dallas, which would see him follow in Richards's footsteps.
Elsewhere, Cannon's Boavista staved off relegation—and the relegation playoff in particular—in Portugal, which frees him up to participate, while another right back in Yedlin makes his first return to the national team since November 2019 after a successful start to life in Turkey at Galatasaray.
Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Julian Green (Greuther Fürth), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
Adams is expected to join up with the U.S. in Switzerland despite being sent back to the U.S. by RB Leipzig to rehabilitate his injured back. Whether he'll be cleared to participate is another story. Acosta and Yueill would be next in line to start at Adams's midfield spot with Musah and McKennie, should Berhalter opt for a three-man configuration. If Musah joins the group for the Nations League, as expected, then he'll be able to officially be cap-tied in the competition.
Lletget's involvement further underscores his place on the depth chart given his consistent place in U.S. camps, while on the other end of the spectrum is Green, who will make his first appearance in a camp under Berhalter if his club is able to avoid the Bundesliga promotion playoff and secure an automatic berth in the German top flight this weekend. Green, who remains the last U.S. player to score in a World Cup (2014 last 16 vs. Belgium), hasn't appeared in a U.S. camp since November '18, when interim coach Dave Sarachan was at the helm. He has had nine goals and three assists for Greuther Fürth this season.
Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Daryl Dike (Barnsley), Matthew Hoppe (Schalke), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Jordan Siebatcheu (Young Boys), Tim Weah (Lille)
This is a group that could look slightly different for the Switzerland game depending on what happens to Dike and Sargent's clubs. It also represents Hoppe's first call-up of any kind on the international level after his six-goal season with Schalke. Berhalter praised the 20-year-old's work rate, energy and talent, and he could wind up with some playing time if Dike and Sargent are unavailable. Siebatcheu, who just made his move to Young Boys permanent, is the only other true center forward in the group. It's somewhat notable that Barcelona's Konrad de la Fuente and Caen's Nicholas Gioacchini are not included, but perhaps they could be under consideration to join if Dike and Sargent cannot come.
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