Gregg Berhalter’s unveiling of his 27-man roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers has left some people baffled over some of his selections, and one prominent player in a foul mood for being snubbed.
John Brooks suited up for the United States last September, but since that time Berhalter hasn’t batted an eyelash at the 29-year-old center-back. Granted, his form along with that of Bundesliga side Wolfsburg wasn’t something to write home about as they went on a freefall in the standings to put themselves in a battle for survival.
However, the Wolves appear to have righted the ship and Brooks has steadily returned to form in recent games. This leaves one to question why he has been omitted from this roster as the U.S. is facing a huge challenge to qualify for this year’s tournament.
The Berlin-born Brooks aired this frustration in an interview with ESPN on Thursday following the release of the roster.
“Months ago, I accepted responsibility for my play & the decision that kept me off a roster. Now, I’m happy I’ve regained my form but unfortunately, I wasn’t invited to camp,” said Brooks.
“I accept this as the coach’s decision, but I won’t accept that I can’t change this before the final World Cup roster selections. There should be no questions about my desire to play for this team. My plan is to fight as hard as I can to make it back to the [USMNT].”
Brooks is one of the more experienced center-backs at the disposal of the U.S. However, Berhalter has elected to go with regulars Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson, along with James Sands and Aaron Long.
Sands, who is 21 and has seven caps to his name, has played sparingly for Rangers since making the move to Scotland during the January transfer window. Meanwhile, Long, 29, has not played a competitive game for the Red, White, and Blue since going down with an Achilles’ injury last year. His last international appearance came in March 2021 in a friendly against Jamaica.
Bringing in two players who have no experience playing in big games such as the three coming up is a huge gamble, and one would think that someone who has been there, like Brooks, would get the nod over his counterparts.
However, Berhalter seems to have an excuse for freezing the German- American out of the squad.
“I hate to get detailed about this regarding individual players, but when you look at the window in October, he had an injury. November, we weren’t happy with his form. In general, we weren’t happy with his club form,” said Berhalter at a press conference on Thursday when pressed on why Brooks was not selected.
“Now he’s back playing and now it becomes about what our game plan is for this window. There are some details in his game that I talked to him about that we need to improve to fit into our game model.
“We don’t have time on Tuesday to improve these things. The game’s on Thursday, the game’s on Sunday, there’s not a runway here.
“So I think when this whole thing settles down, and hopefully we’re in the World Cup and we have the June window, the September window, I think there’ll be another opportunity for him where we can really start addressing what we think his deficiencies are to be the starting center back in our pool.”
A coach has every right to call up the players he sees fit for the team. However, with the U.S. qualification for the World Cup in the balance, bringing in inexperienced players is just not cutting it.
Going back to Brooks, this latest omission feels almost like an insult. However, he’s not letting it get him down as he is determined to be one of the names on the roster for the World Cup in November.
“My American identity is at stake, an identity some have questioned over many years,” he said in the ESPN interview. “We [Americans] have all been down and out at different times, but we always fight back and I plan to do the same.”