23 Tickets to Qatar

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Now that the latest window for the CONCACAF Word Cup Qualifiers has just slammed shut, with the USA putting in an almost flawless performance against our Mexican neighbors, we at Yanks Abroad have had a bit of time to think deeply about what this means for the goal of reaching Qatar.

All of us were impressed with yet another dos a cero but have also been left a bit concerned about whether qualification is a foregone conclusion, after the team showed up in Jamaica, but did little more than just take up space in a lackluster followup performance on the field of play at Independence Park.

Some of us who jumped on the Ricardo Pepi bandwagon during the last cycle have been developing second thoughts about the teenager after he appeared to only go through the motions during these last two games. There were other players who we expected more from, although more than couple who did better than expected. 

So with that said, have a look at who our expert YA roster analysts feel should be getting one of those coveted 23 plane tickets to Qatar late next year.

For comparison sake, you can see our last selections following a much more frustrating September window by clicking the link right here. Of course, we welcome all comments, good, bad or indifferent.

Note: Michael Adubato (MA), David Smith (DS), Andrew Vorce (AV), Kenya Brown (KB) and Joel Perez de Nava (JP) compiled this feature.

Pack Your Bags, Boys

Christian Pulisic – F, Chelsea (England)

Following in Landon’s footsteps as the team’s “Mexico killer”, now he just has to take a leak on the Azteca field to seal the deal (DS). I sweat every time I see him get on the field and think, “please don’t get injured!” (MA). Stay healthy Captain America, now I can’t think about him w/out getting Michael Jackson playing in my head “I’m looking at the man in the mirror.” (JP) You’re out for weeks on end, have only played 30 odd minutes since returning, AND SCORE THE GAME WINNER AGAINST MEXICO?! Get out of here, that’s Captain stuff right there. Definitely an “Atta boy”, and a ticket to Qatar. Get in, kid. (AV)

Sergino Dest – D, Barcelona (Spain)

He is THE right-back, so everyone else is playing to be his backup. (KB) He didn’t feature in this cycle due to injury, but when you have a goal-scoring outside back that plays at Barcelona, you take him to the World Cup. Could you imagine Beasley playing at Barcelona? I rest my case. (AV) An assist and almost a goal in El Clasico, Chelsea chatter, hope Alves is the catalyst for more fire in his belly, would have loved to have seen him against El Tri. (JP)

Gio Reyna – F, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

Gio Reyna – Gifted beyond his 19 years, hailed as the future of American soccer, I see him having an impact in Qatar, it’s in his blood. (JP) The big question here is whether he can return to the form he had before the injury. (KB) Like Dest, young and hungry, and ready to prove himself on the World Cup stage. Excited to see his future. (AV) His return for the next round of qualifiers in January will give Berhalter a problem of having too much start-worthy attacking talent. (DS)

Tyler Adams – M, RB Leipzig (Germany)

He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-freaking-where: Tyler Adams! (AV)  Tireless, only 22, and Arsenal have piqued interest, lots of upside. (JP) Oh captain, my captain. (DS) He wasn’t at his best vs. Mexico, but the best is yet to come. (MA) There is no one that can do what he does as the No. 6. (KB)

Zack Steffen – GK, Manchester City (England)

He’s got to be loaned out by Man City to give Turner some competition. (KB) He was great against Mexico, I personally don’t think he was complicit on that Jamaican goal, would love to see him play every week. (JP) Sure, Turner is a good keeper but Zack has more to offer. (MA) Doing well as the current starter but a bit more playing time with Man City or a loan destination would be ideal. (DS)

Matt Turner – GK, New England Revolution (USA)

This window showed that the preferred number one is Steffen, but Turner has definitely earned his spot as backup with his heroics last summer. He’s on the plane. (AV) A very solid #2! (MA) This seasoned Supporter’s Shield champion has what it takes, I can see him there already. Alves is to Sergiño, what Zack is to Matt. (JP)

Weston McKennie – M, Juventus (Italy)

I like this refocused McKennie. Hopefully he keeps it up going into Qatar. (KB) Lesson learned with the distractions, it was a fork in the road, I like the result-workhorse. (JP) Puts the dos in the dos a cero. (DS) Has been focused since his return to camp and hey, a goal against Mexico has put him back in Berhalter’s team. (MA)

Tim Weah – F, OSC Lille (France)

What a week for the president’s son. Hopefully he can keep this up going into the World Cup. (KB) Emerged as the #1 top attacking option for the team in this window. (DS) Even younger than Tyler, footwork like I’ve hardly seen before, pace, vision, intelligence, he will be the gift who keeps on giving, frankly I think he’s underrated. (JP)

Nearly a Lock

Antonee Robinson – D, Fulham (England)

One of the first names on the sheet for me. He’s big, strong, left footed, makes great runs, and can score. Killing it in the Championship, and could easily be a starting outside back in the Premier League. (AV) A nice threat going forward on the left side. (MA) He’s already lock starter for Berhalter, and will only continue to improve during the next year. (DS)

Miles Robinson – D, Atlanta United (USA)

Looks strong in the back, but he has to clean up some of the little mistakes. We can’t have a starting CB getting a reckless red card for a cheap second foul. (AV) His red against Mexico was unnecessary and puts him on notice, but he’s still in the mix for starting CB. (DS) The only question for him is whether he’s done enough to be a starting center-back. (KB) Was that red card really necessary? (MA)

Brenden Aaronson – F, Red Salzburg (Austria)

Love what this guy brings to the team. He’ll certainly be in Qatar. (KB) I think he’s closer to On the Plane than Work To Do, but there’s a ton of options and he has to keep producing in order to make the squad. (AV) I love his trajectory. (JP) He’ll likely lose his starting spot once Pulisic and Reyna are both fully back, but his energy is a weapon anytime he’s on the field. (DS) Seems to have had a rest vs. Mexico on the left wing while Weah and the right side of the field were busy all night. (MA)

Fairly Safe Bet

Kellyn Acosta – M, Colorado Rapids (USA)

Not the ideal choice, but he seems to have impressed Berhalter. (KB) Last 23 Tix I said “If Gregg is the coach, Kellyn is on the plane. If Kellyn doesn’t make the roster, it’s because Gregg is no longer the coach.” I stand by that statement. (AV) Berhalter is in love, like Sonny and Cher. (JP) One of Berhalter’s favrorites for midfield depth off the bench. (DS)

Ricardo Pepi – F, FC Dallas (USA)

Some may not be happy that he hasn’t scored goals recently, but I’m still bullish on the kid. (KB) No goal against Mexico isn’t an indictment, but a goal would have moved him in to “On the Plane”. He didn’t score, so he stays here. (AV) Great potential but if he starts believing all the hype, he’s going to fade away.  As Roman centurions were told before battle, “Remember, thou art mortal!” (MA) Took a small step back in terms of production in this window, but he’s likely there for the long run…2022, 2026, 2030 and 2034. (DS)

DeAndre Yedlin – D, Galatasaray (Turkey)

Moved Yedlin from Work To Do to Fairly a Safe Bet because he’s probably the next choice RB after Dest. He’ll add the steady held professionalism a young group needs at a World Cup. (AV) Dest’s injury gave him a chance and he took it this window. (MA) Experienced, trustworthy, quality starter when needed, and identified by his teammates as one of the behind-the-scenes leaders of the team. (DS)

Yunus Musah – M, Valencia (Spain)

He showed flashes of brilliance but consistency is the name of the game. (MA) He’s fit in so well with this team. It’s going to be crazy when finally nets his first international goal. (KB) His defense will forever be suspect, but watching this guy’s skills on the ball is a complete joy. (DS)

Sebastian Lletget – M, LA Galaxy (USA)

He recently had MLS Goal of the Week, He is a veteran and counterweight to the youth on this squad. (JP) Will be there to make up the numbers for the US in the midfield. (KB) Face it; anybody can sit on the bench! (MA) Berhalter really likes him so…there’s that. (DS)

In a Battle

Gianluca Busio – M, Venezia FC (Italy)

Another youngster who has earned his way into the senior team. Can see him coming off the bench in Qatar to make an impact. (KB) He didn’t look half bad this cycle. I’d call him up again in the new year. (MA) Assisting and scoring in Serie A, trailblazer, star in the making, and man, I really dig his name! (JP)

John Brooks – D, Wolfsburg (Germany)

Brooks is definitely on the outside looking in. (AV) I just can’t give up on this guy, whatever it is, I hope he gets it sorted. (JP) Been waiting ages to see this guy become a quality center-back. Could his absence from this cycle be a sign that others have passed him? (KB) Sure, he’s on the outs now, but he’s rounding back into form with Wolfsburg and has actually scored a goal in a World Cup. (DS) Ridiculous that he wasn’t called up this cycle. (MA)

Ethan Horvath – GK, Nottingham Forest (England)

In a battle for third spot. Not playing in the Championship can’t be better than being a starter in MLS, right? (AV) Goalkeepers age well, if not this time, next time. (JP) If he doesn’t start playing in England, he’ll be watching the World Cup on TV. (MA)

Work to Do

Chris Richards – D, Hoffenheim (Germany)

More likely to be a starter than off the roster, but the battle for the CB spots has become the new dogfight. (DS) He’s still got some developing to do, but he’s going to be there no matter what. (KB) For me, the jury is still out on this guy. (MA)

Walker Zimmerman – D, Nashville SC (USA)

You can’t ignore the fact that he started two in a row, but he’s by no means a safe bet. (DS) MLSer but hey, he has been around a while and experience shows on occasions. (MA) Think he’s already a starter for the World Cup. Now, who will be his center-back partner? (KB) He surely is in a battle to be on the field as a starter, which means he’s also in a battle to be on the plane. (AV)

Josh Sargent – F, Norwich City (England)

If he doesn’t start producing in the Prem, he’s out of the WC Squad altogether. Can’t have him occupy a spot that Pepi (who has produced) could take. (AV) I remember when this guy was a half decent player. (MA) Could a coaching change at Norwich City finally see him show some improvement? (KB)

Christian Roldan – M, Seattle Sounders (USA)

He has the trust of the coaching staff, but is he one of the best the US has to offer? We will find out over the next 18 months. (AV) Cristian Roldan – he can score, and he is a midfielder, he may just sneak in from behind. (JP)

Other Bubble Battlers

Tim Ream, Jordan Pefok, Sean Johnson, Paul Arriola, Matt Miazga, Reggie Cannon, Jesús Ferreira, Joe Scally, Mark McKenzie, Nicholas Gioacchini, Julian Green, Matthew Hoppe, Shaq Moore, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Sam Vines, Konrad de la Fuente


Yanks Abroad

Since 2004, Yanks Abroad has been providing coverage of the U.S. national team program and American players plying their trade around the world. We are committed to bringing you breaking news, interviews, and features that keep you in the loop with what's going with the United States in the soccer world.

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