23…Now 26 Tickets to Qatar

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There’s little time to prepare for the winter World Cup, but the U.S. men’s national team got through their June window of games with some players stating a case for a spot on the roster.

Sean Johnson had a standout game between the posts in their 0-0 draw with Uruguay. Jesus Ferriera bagged four goals in their win against Grenada in the CONCACAF Nations League. Yunus Musah’s aggressive play and Jordan Morris’ heroics helped them to steal a point against El Salvador.

With preseason in Europe now underway, players moving to new clubs, and two more friendlies against Asian opposition on the cards in September, there’s still time for a few players to make an impression before head coach Gregg Berhalter hands in his final roster.

With FIFA announcing that the World Cup rosters will be expanded to 26 players, the guys at Yanks Abroad have been brainstorming over the ideal team for November. Who deserves a seat on that charter flight to Qatar? Check out the picks below.

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

Pack Your Bags, Boys:

Christian Pulisic – F, Chelsea (England)

He’d probably still be selected for Qatar with two broken legs (MA). On his day, he will burn any defender on any team. We all pray he has a lot of these days in Qatar (DS). He thrives in big games, and the World Cup is the biggest stage there is in soccer (KB).

Weston McKennie – M, Juventus (Italy)

He’s a starter in Qatar (AV). West is already the Rodman of the USMNT, except with better hair, a bigger impact and a more important personality for club and country. Is he really only 23 years old? Good lord (DS).

Tyler Adams – M, Leeds United (England)

The man that keeps everything steady between the defense and attack. Don’t leave home without him (KB). The fact that he is a damn good player and can play a few different positions gets him on that plane (MA). His importance to the team is subtle and criminally unnoticed, but he is a key to how far the team will go in 2022, 2026 and 2030 (DS).

Antonee Robinson – D, Fulham (England)

Starting outside back in game 1 in Qatar, locked in. Premier League football will keep him sharp up until the winter break (AV). This guy had the left-back spot locked down for a year (KB).

Walker Zimmerman – D, Nashville SC (USA)

Thor is now the key to our defense. That’s it (DS). He’s already had his spot at center-back secured. The question now is who will partner will him (KB). I was once not convinced about this guy but boy has he proven me wrong.  Pity he’s MLS for life (MA).

Sergino Dest – D, Barcelona (Spain)

If you play for Barcelona, you have to play for the USA.  Afterall, who has the better team (MA)? Now that Xavi seems to have faith in him, let’s hope he’s overcome that hamstring injury (KB). I’m beginning to wonder if he ever truly existed, but if he did, and is healthy in this reality of the multiverse, he’s on the plane to Qatar (DS).

Matt Turner – GK, Arsenal (England)

I’m biased.  I’m a Gooner (MA). Was my preferred No. 1 as Zack Steffen was not playing regularly at Manchester City. Now that he’s moved to Arsenal, and Steffen set to go out on loan, it’s a toss up again (KB).

Brenden Aaronson – M, Leeds United (England)

Love this guy’s energy and he will make a definite impact whether starting or coming off the bench (KB). If he’s successful under Jesse Marsch at Leeds, he’ll be putting pressure on even the untouchable Christian Pulisic for a starting spot (DS).

Zack Steffen – GK, Manchester City (England)

It wasn’t long ago that I saw him as our #1.  I can change my mind, can’t I (MA)? The fact that a keeper outside of the top-flight has a 50% chance of being the starter (with the other 50% chance belonging to a benchwarmer) is a sad statement about the US keeper situation (DS).

Yunus Musah – M, Valencia (Spain)

Any doubts about him making the squad were erased in El Salvador. Dude played like a man possessed (KB). The fact that Musah will have almost half a season under the tutelage of new Valenci coach Gennaro Gattuso, before the World Cup makes my eyes watery and my nipples hard (DS). Still so young but who else do we have (MA).

Nearly a Lock:

Jesus Ferriera – F, FC Dallas (USA)

So many USMNT #9s have broken my heart before, but there aren’t many chances for me to lose my faith in Jesus before Qatar. Last man standing gets a spot on the plane (DS). Showing he can score on the international stage, but is he enough for Qatar (AV)?

Tim Weah – F, Lille (France)

Big fan of Tim but his impressive performances are few and far between for club and country (MA). I’ve never been convinced by the President’s son on either the club or country level, but Gregg seems to like him (DS). This kid is special. Can’t wait to see him in Qatar (AV).

Aaron Long – D, New York Red Bulls (USA)

Not a big fan and think there are other center-backs ahead of him. But Berhalter sees something in him (KB). A starting job is between him and CCV (MA). He currently seems to be Berhalter’s guy to start alongside Walker Zimmerman in defense, and is actually pretty darn good, so he’s likely on the plane (DS).

DeAndre Yedlin – D, Inter Miami (USA)

Veteran leader who should be on the plane (AV). Think he pips Reggie Cannon at the final moment to be Dest’s back up. He’s got World Cup experience which will come in handy for this young team (KB).

Giovanni Reyna – M, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

Please get healthy and stay healthy (MA)! If he’s healthy yeah, but…(DS).

Kellyn Acosta – M, Los Angeles FC (USA)

Why does he still play in MLS (DS)? Pretty impressive for one of those MLS guys (MA).

Paul Arriola – F, FC Dallas (USA)

Good that he stayed in MLS where he has reached his potential (MA).

Fairly a Safe Bet:

Cameron Carter-Vickers – D, Celtic (Scotland)

A long overdue call-up and he deserves a spot on this team (KB). With the injury of Robinson, and a good spell in Scotland, he’ll be eyed as the natural replacement (AV). CCV will be playing in the Scottish Premiership in the build-up to Qatar, which is hardly impressive, but he’s incredibly consistent at his level, which is good enough as a USMNT backup (DS).

Luca de la Torre – M, Celta Vigo (Spain)

He’s the midfielder you are happy to have in the roster, and feel comfortable playing when needed, but isn’t the guy you want starting against the big opponents (DS). He seems like a natural sub for our talented midfield. Needs to stay consistent to be on the plane (AV).

Sean Johnson – GK, New York City FC (USA)

Ethan Horvath lost out on the third goalkeeper spot after Johnson’s performance against Uruguay. Could he be vaulted to No. 1 if Steffen and Turner are not playing (KB)? The #3 keeper will be between Johnson, Gaga Slonina and Ethan Horvath. Between the three, Johnson is the guy who can actually push Steffen & Turner for #1, so he has the advantage (DS).

Jordan Morris – F, Seattle Sounders (USA)

Two ACL injuries later and he could be an asset off the bench (KB). Scored a vital goal against El Salvador. Is it too little too late (AV)?

Jordan Pefok – F, Union Berlin (Germany)

Berhalter has never really given him a chance. However, if he maintains the goal-scoring form that put him atop the leaders in Switzerland last season, you cannot overlook that (KB). The first American to win a European Golden Boot!  Yes, it was in Switzerland, which is ranked higher than MLS.  If he doesn’t go, there is something rotten in the USSF (MA).

In a Battle:

Reggie Cannon – D, Boavista (Portugal)

He’s on the radar after solid performances in the last window, but he’s by no means safe (DS).

Work to Do:

Ricardo Pepi – F, FC Augsburg (Germany)

If he can score even one nice goal for Augsburg in August, before the next international window, he’ll jump up to a near-lock (DS). The move to Europe was either brave or stupid.  I say brave.  This may be a World Cup too soon though (MA). How he performs for Augsburg over the next two months in the Bundesliga will determine whether he makes the plane (KB).

Erik Palmer-Brown – D, Troyes (France)

Let’s be clear – if Chris Richards has a strong fall, Palmer-Brown is out. For now, EPB has the most recent call-up and a marginal edge (DS). A LOT of work to do (MA)!

Haji Wright – F, SønderjyskE (Denmark)

Still looking for that goalscorer (AV). He put himself in contention after that big year in Turkey. What he does during the summer will determine whether he gets one last shot in September and a ticket for Qatar later (KB).

Other Bubble Battlers:

George Bello, Joe Scally, Chris Richards, Gianluca Busio, John Brooks, Ethan Horvath, Miles Robinson, Shaq Moore


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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