BROOKLYN, N.Y. — “It all starts now.”
United States men’s national soccer team coach Gregg Berhalter said it himself Wednesday at the roster reveal event for his 2022 World Cup squad.
Twenty-six players will represent the U.S. this month in Qatar, returning to the World Cup stage for the first time since 2014.
And only one of those players has been here before.
With the second-youngest roster (25 years, 175 days) in program history – behind the 1990 group (24 years, 24 days) – only defender DeAndre Yedlin has any World Cup experience.
With dozens of fresh faces involved in qualifying, there were bound to be a few disappointments as the team whittled down. Most notably, goalkeeper Zack Steffen, winger Paul Arriola and forward Ricardo Pepi were left of the roster.
On the other end, forward Haji Wright, who didn’t play a single World Cup qualifying game, and defender Shaq Moore heard their names called Wednesday. Veteran center back Tim Ream also joined the team, likely in place of Chris Richard who was ruled out due to injury.
The US may lack experience, but they are far from incapable or unprepared.
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With less than two weeks until their first World Cup game, here’s what you need to know:
Who’s done this before?
Does Berhalter count? The coach was on the roster for two World Cups as a player in 2002 and as a replacement add in 2006.
Factoring in only the players, it’s just one.
Yedlin, who plays for Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, burst on the scene during the 2014 World Cup. He sprinted into homes across the country when he entered the second half of a game against Portugal and quickly set up Clint Dempsey’s goal that gave the US a 2-1 lead in the eventual 2-2 draw.
Berhalter will rely on that experience to guide the other 25 players. He called Yedlin his “glue guy.”
“He’s a guy that has been to a World Cup before, can share his experiences, but more importantly can continue to do what he’s been doing for us,” Berhalter said. “He creates atmosphere for the team. Sometimes he’s a shoulder to cry on or talk to, other times he’s a motivator. Overall, he needs to keep doing what he’s been doing because he’s been doing a good job for us.”
For Yedlin, he’s ready to avenge.
“This could be a little bit of a redemption or revenge tour if you want to call it that,” Yedlin said. “This is now our time to really … show how much we do want it.”
Why is this group so inexperienced?
OK, let’s clarify: The players on this roster represent some of the biggest clubs in the world (more on that later), but they’re still young and have not been to a World Cup.
This is because the US failed to qualify for the World Cup in 2018. At the time, only seven players on the current roster were regularly part of the player selection pool. A gap in development was clear, U.S. Soccer fired its coach and president and started over with Berhalter in 2018.
“It’s a little bit underrated how this young group has developed, how this program has developed,” Berhalter said. “We virtually started with a new player pool in 2018, and now we’re back in the World Cup.”
Where do the players come from?
All over the world. Nine players for Major League Soccer made the cut, but the rest of the team is made up of players in the top tiers of European football from countries including England, Scotland, Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Turkey. They play for some of the best teams in the world.
Fifteen of the 26 play for clubs in the top tiers of European soccer.
Christian Pulisic at Chelsea headlines the six players in the English Premier League. The others are Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United), Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson (Fulham), and Matt Turner (Arsenal).
In Italy, Weston McKennie regularly gets minutes with perennial winners Juventus and defender Sergino Dest is on loan with historic club AC Milan.
And then there’s Yunus Musah (Valencia) and Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo) in Spain’s La Liga, Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach), who play in the top-tier German Bundesliga, and Tim Weah in France’s Ligue 1 for LOSC Lille.
So they have experience at the club level and in the North American region through last year’s World Cup qualifying, but as Berhalter said, the World Cup is different.
Robinson used the words hungry, determined and intense to describe the group.
“I don’t think anyone feels young and inexperienced or anything like that,” Robinson said. “They’re just fired up and ready to go.”
Who made the cut for USMNT?
Pulisic, Adams and McKennie had their names penciled in the roster for more than a year, while Wright and Moore were late surprises. Ream was also an unexpected add, having last played for the US on Sept. 2 in a World Cup qualifying game against El Salvador. But when asked about his inclusion, Berhalter said, “Have you watched any Fulham games lately? Then you know why we brought him in.” Ream is also an experienced player whose first cap came in 2010.
(Berhlater still has time to adjust the roster if needed. The final list is due to FIFA on Monday, Nov. 14.)
Meet all 26 athletes who make up Team USA in the 2022 World Cup. This interactive roster of player cards allows you to sort, filter and click through each player to see their photo, stats and background information: Meet Team USA!
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 caps/0 goals; Highlands Ranch, Colo.), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0; Lilburn, Ga.), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0; Park Ridge, N.J.)
DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0; Southend-on-Sea, England), Sergiño Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2; Almere, Netherlands), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3; Oak Hills, Calif.), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1; Powder Springs, Ga.), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1; St. Louis, Mo.), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2; Liverpool, England), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 3/0; Lake Grove, N.Y.), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75/0; Seattle, Wash.), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3; Lawrenceville, Ga.)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6; Medford, N.J.), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2; Plano, Texas), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0; San Diego, Calif.), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9; Little Elm, Texas), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0; London, England), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0; Pico Rivera, Calif.)
FORWARDS (7): Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7; McKinney, Texas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11; Mercer Island, Wash.), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21; Hershey, Pa.), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4; Bedford, N.Y.), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3; Rosedale, N.Y.), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1; Los Angeles, Calif.)
Who was left with heartbreak?
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen grew up under the tutelage of Berhalter, playing three MLS seasons for him with the Columbus Crew. Yet Wednesday, his name was nowhere to be found on the official roster.
“Me and Zack go way back, and Zack has been there for me a bunch of times,” Berhalter said. “To tell him he wasn’t going to be part of the World Cup team was heartbreaking for me.”
Since 2018, Steffen has widely been viewed as the next No. 1 goalkeeper for the men’s team following Tim Howard, but Turner emerged in 2021 as viable competition. Turner, who is currently the No. 2 keeper at Arsenal, started the first five games of World Cup qualifying after Steffen had to withdraw due to injury.
Turner’s performances were mixed, helping the team to a 2-1-2 record to start. Steffen came in the sixth game in front of his former home crowd in Columbus but was absent from later qualifying camps, which allowed Turner to start again. Overall, Turner started eight qualifiers while Steffen started six.
Manchester City owns Steffen’s playing rights, but he is on loan playing in the lower EFL Championship division at Middlesbrough. Berhalter said his absence from the group is more about what they have in the other goalkeepers than what Steffen doesn’t have.
Sean Johnson, 33, earned his first cap for the national team in 2011 and is the veteran keeper. Turner is the known commodity. And Ethan Horvath is what Berhalter called their “Johnny on the spot.” He can come in at a moment’s notice and perform. Horvarth subbed in for an injured Steffen during the 2021 Concacaf Nations League final, saving a stoppage-time penalty kick to help the team capture a trophy.
Another name who contributed to several games during World Cup qualifying, but was left off the roster, is winger Paul Arriola. His absence comes down to heathy players who are before him in the depth chart.
“That was another really difficult decision to make because he has been in since Day 1,” Berhalter said. “For one reason or another, we haven’t always had wingers fit and ready to go, and it just so happens going into the World Cup we have every one of those players fit and ready to go and that made Paul the odd man out.”
Other notable absences include: forward Ricardo Pepi and Jordan Pefok, defender Reggie Cannon
When is Team USA’s first World Cup game?
Players and coaches are on their way to Qatar for the first World Cup in the Middle East. The tournament kicks off Sunday, Nov. 20 with host Qatar facing Ecuador.
With just a week to prepare, the U.S. kicks off group play Nov. 21 against Wales, which features veteran superstar Gareth Bale.
Acosta, who plays alongside Bale on the MLS Cup champion LAFC team, said his familiarity with the Welsh winger will play to USMNT’s advantage.
“It’s a guy you have to keep an eye on. He’s a special player; it’s just about kicking him around a little bit,” Acosta said, joking about the last part.
The United States’ Group B (US, Wales, England and Iran) matches continue Black Friday against England Nov. 25 and conclude against Iran Nov. 29.
The top two teams in each group, determined by point totals and goals, advance to the knockout round beginning Dec. 3.
Story Credit: usatoday.com