Building a roster for a national team tournament is full of countless moving parts. There is the fitness and health of the players, as well as the willingness of the clubs to involve their interpreters. Timing is also an issue.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup would at first glance seem immune to the whims of club officials given that it is a confederal championship. But there are the rules, and then there is the reality, which is why United States Men’s National Team manager Gregg Berhalter has relied heavily on his collection of domestic players to bring together his roster for the 2021 edition of the tournament.
There will not be Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie or Tyler adamsbecause they weren’t even named on the provisional list. Players need a rest at some point, and there is also the desire to stay in the good graces of their clubs. The timing of the start of the preseason in Europe also played a role. Berhalter underlined the situation of Bryan reynolds starting year at AS Rome under a new manager in Jose Mourinho for example, but there are others, including midfielder Greuther Furth Julien green.
“We felt that it was more important for them to be in the pre-season with their team and to give them a good chance to have a positive impact with their new technical staff or with their club, rather than being in the Gold Cup, “said Berhalter. during a Zoom call with journalists. “It was a give and take, it was a juggling act, and it wasn’t easy because we always want to put a team on the pitch that will compete for the Gold Cup.”
The focus will therefore be on this tournament to give playing time to veterans selected as Nashville SC‘s Zimmerman Walker, Sebastien lletget of The Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders‘ Cristian Roldan while also looking at some young players who performed well at the start of the MLS season.
“We think there is enough backbone in this group,” he said. “We believe there are enough veteran leaders in this group to try to win the Gold Cup.”
When it comes to the younger items on the list, there are more than a few interesting perspectives. Kansas City Sports Midfielder Gianluca Busio did a lot to impress early on, although transfer rumors swirl around him. New York City FC defender James sands and Portland Wood Midfielder Eryk Williamson are also included. All three were left off the list of the Under-23s who failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
To explain Sands and Williamson’s big leap, Berhalter explained that health was a factor. Sands struggled to injure himself towards the later stages of last season, otherwise he would have been included in the December and January camps. Berhalter added that a sprained ankle suffered during the January camp hampered Williamson’s progress. Both players have since recovered and are back to their best.
As for Busio? “It’s a question of form, and its time has come,” said Berhalter.
“He was a guy I was really looking forward to working with,” Berhalter said. “[He’s] a very good player, [with] very good spatial awareness, very good balance with the turns between the lines, very good vision of the final pass and ability to score a goal. It’s really unfortunate how things go sometimes, but we know this kid has a bright future and we’ll continue to watch him when he goes to Leipzig. “
Taking all of these considerations into account, there are some vulnerabilities in the list. Berhalter admitted the squad were “thin” at center-back once you got past Zimmerman and Atlanta united‘s Miles robinson. It will be at Sands and DC United‘s Donovan pines to intervene and give depth.
Wing positions are another area that has some question marks, with Berhalter noting that “I don’t think we have any real wingers in this group.” DC United Paul Arriola and the Colorado Rapids‘ Jonathan lewis are the closest, but Berhalter expects Schalke 04 Matthieu hoppe and SC Caen Nicolas Gioacchini – the two professional attackers – to get a few minutes wide.
One player not on the list is the LA Galaxy right-back Julien araujo. Araujo has dual nationality with Mexico, and Berhalter said the defender was “not ready to fully commit to the team”. If Araujo had played in the Gold Cup, he would have been tied with the United States, and with the American team enjoying a kind of stalemate at the right-back with Sergino Dest, Reggie Canon and veteran By André Yedlin, it looks like Araujo is keeping his options open. But Berhalter has made it clear that he attaches great importance to defender Galaxy.
“We think [Araujo is] an exceptional player, and we think he can try to become a starter in this team, ”he said. “Much will depend on his form and development, but he’s a talented young player, and we think he has a future with this team.”
Now the challenge is to progress far into the tournament with the players available and prepare for the bigger battles to come.
“We’re going to be working on another group,” Berhalter said. “We get to solidify this group so that when we go into qualifying we know where everyone is.”