With such a promising crop of young stars emerging, it’s been impossible to miss the awe-inspiring potential that has come with their rise. How far will they take USMNT and MLS?
The “usmnt roster” is a list of the players who are currently on the USMNT. The list includes names such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Josh Sargent.
After the United States made their first participation in the FIFA World Cup in 40 years in 1990, striker John Harkes joined Sheffield Wednesday, a second-tier English club. That was a significant event. While the American player pool was expanding, Europe was mostly uninterested. In the mid-1990s, Tab Ramos played for Real Betis, Eric Wynalda for FC Saarbrucken and Bochum, and Claudio Reyna for Bayer Leverkusen and Manchester City (among others). The signings, on the other hand, were few and far between. It was rather simple to keep track of them all.
Fans of American men’s soccer have officially much too many players to monitor in Europe a generation later, according to the “good issues to have” category. With the World Cup in Qatar less than a year away and the qualification process nearing its end — the USMNT has six matches left, starting next Thursday in Columbus, Ohio against El Salvador — let’s take a look at which Americans are thriving abroad, which are battling a tough stretch, and who is in form with the World Cup approaching.
What’s the status of the core?
To far, Gregg Berhalter’s squad has been far from faultless in qualifying, playing largely attractive soccer at home but displaying a great deal of caution on the road, losing at Panama and drawing at El Salvador and Jamaica. The United States is in second position and, barring a dramatic collapse, is in strong condition to either qualify with a top-three finish or play in the inter-confederation playoff in June against the Oceania champion, most likely New Zealand.
That’s not bad given Berhalter hasn’t even seen his starting lineup on the field. The strikers Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, and fullback Sergino Dest have yet to play together in qualification, owing to a series of ill-timed injuries. Is it possible that this may change soon?
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Mark McKenzie, Genk. A 22-year old former Philadelphia Union star, McKenzie has played 180 minutes in qualification thus far — 90 at left-back, 90 at center-back — and both his versatility and his league form could keep him in the rotation. His play for Belgian heavyweight Genk has been a bright spot; his team has disappointed a bit (it’s all the way down in eighth place), but he has proved integral from an intervention standpoint and in buildup play.
A few others are in strong form in 2021-22 as well. Among them: Luca de la Torre (13 minutes in qualifying) has recorded 143 ball recoveries and created 18 chances in midfield for the Eredivisie’s Heracles; left-back Sam Vines is establishing strong defensive bona fides for Royal Antwerp (currently third in Belgium); and although Greuther Furth is having a rough first season in the Bundesliga, midfielder Timothy Tillman has been a bright spot, scoring once and creating 14 chances.
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SATURDAY, JAN. 22 • Levante v Cadiz (8 a.m. ET) • Hoffenheim v Dortmund (9:30 a.m. ET) • Leverkusen v Augsburg (9:30 a.m. ET) • Gladbach v Union Berlin (9:30 a.m. ET) • Freiburg v Stuttgart (9:30 a.m. ET) • Greuther Furth v Mainz (9:30 a.m. ET) • Villarreal v Mallorca (10:15 a.m. ET) • Sevilla v Celta Vigo (12:30 p.m. ET) • Bochum v Cologne (12:30 p.m. ET) • Atletico Madrid v Valencia (3 p.m. ET)
Yunus Musah, Valencia. Musah’s story has been an interesting one. He has made 54 cup and league appearances for Valencia since his September 2020 debut, but although he’s thrilling to watch on the ball, he hasn’t produced a ton, and in 461 league minutes this season he has zero goals and just four chances created. But he has created eight chances with two assists in nine national team appearances over the past year. He pairs well with the physical McKennie, and one assumes he’s still high on the priority list for Berhalter. It’s just that his league form makes that a bit of a leap of faith.
Tim Weah, Lille. Like Musah, 21-year old Weah has made more of an impression with country than club this season. He was brilliant against both Mexico and Jamaica in November’s qualification window, recording a goal and an assist and seemingly playing at a different speed from everyone else on the pitch. He hasn’t scored for Lille since last February, however. He is creating a decent number of chances (12 in 966 league and Champions League minutes), so his stock isn’t really down down, but after having been given extra minutes and responsibility with the defending French champions, he hasn’t made the most of it just yet.
In France, a couple more young Americans have struggled to stand out. Forward Nicholas Gioacchini (21) has contributed a couple of assists in 295 minutes as a Montpellier sub but has yet to score in six shots, and while 20-year-old Konrad De La Fuente (72 minutes in World Cup qualification) started out well at Marseille (two assists in August), he hasn’t contributed a goal or assist since.
Midfielder Alex Mendez moved from Ajax to Portugal’s Vizela last summer and has created 12 chances, but with zero goals or assists, in 764 minutes thus far. Meanwhile, Tanner Tessmann, teammates with Busio at Venezia, has provided a few pressures but not a ton of other contributions in 630 minutes in Serie A and the Coppa Italia.
Veterans who have served their country
While the USMNT is benefiting from a slew of younger players, there are still some veterans who are putting in solid seasons and hoping to be called up to a hypothetical World Cup group later this year.
John Brooks, Wolfsburg. Long an assumed member of the roster, Brooks has played only 135 minutes in World Cup qualification because of iffy form. But while Wolfsburg as a whole has been terribly disappointing this season — it finished fourth in its Champions League group and pulled just one point from its past seven Bundesliga matches, falling to 14th in the table — Brooks has still been, well, Brooks. He’s still solid in the air (61% aerial success rate), good at stepping in front of progressive passes, good at being physical but avoiding fouls, and, yes, a little heavy of foot and vulnerable to quick transitions at times.
Berhalter has a slew of intriguing center-backs to choose from, but Brooks is a safe bet for the remainder of 2022.
DeAndre Yedlin, as one of the few active players from the 2014 World Cup talent pool, has a lot to give the USMNT. Archivio/Massimo Insabato Getty Images/Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio
DeAndre Yedlin, Galatasaray. With Dest limited by injury, Yedlin has played a larger role than many expected in World Cup qualification, recording 361 minutes in seven matches. The 28-year-old also remains a speedy option for Galatasaray. He is something of an anti-Dest — he contributes more in the defensive portions of the right-back position but is far less effective in ball progression. But Berhalter clearly still appreciates him, and he remains solid enough to play regularly for the Turkish heavyweight.
Jordan Pefok, Young Boys. After making a number of appearances for the U.S. in the spring of 2021, Pefok evidently fell down Berhalter’s pecking order. He played 109 minutes in the first two qualification matches (zero goals, three shots) but hasn’t been called up since. He’s maintaining strong club form, however, scoring twice for Young Boys in Champions League play and scoring 11 times in 17 matches in the Swiss Super League.
It may be tough for Pefok to move up the pecking order in 2022 if Pepi and Dike both play well with their new clubs this spring, but he remains robust and sound.
There are quite a few other veterans still carving out solid roles in Europe, including defenders Matt Miazga (Deportivo Alaves via Chelsea) and Shaq Moore (Tenerife); fullbacks Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Reggie Cannon (Boavista); midfielders Duane Holmes (Huddersfield Town) and Ian Harkes (Dundee United); and forward Christian Ramirez (Aberdeen). Thus far, only Moore has seen time in World Cup qualification play.
I’m still hoping for a shot.
For a young player at a new club, things don’t always work out right away. Many players are waiting their time, from Richy Ledezma of PSV Eindhoven to Erik Palmer-Brown of Caen-via-Manchester City, but let’s concentrate on two in particular:
Matthew Hoppe, Mallorca. On Jan. 9 last year, Hoppe came out of nowhere to score a hat trick and lead Schalke 04 to the victory that ended its 30-match league winless streak. He suddenly landed on the USMNT radar and soon scored his first goal for his country, at age 20, against Jamaica in the summer’s Gold Cup. By September, he was joining a LaLiga club. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but all momentum has ground to a halt since. He has made only four appearances, for a total of 112 minutes, for Mallorca. He has created three chances and attempted two shots in those minutes, but he’s still waiting to make an impression.
Bryan Reynolds, Roma. Jose Mourinho is not known for leaning heavily on young players, so it wasn’t necessarily a good omen for Reynolds when Mourinho took over at Roma this year. Sure enough, after playing 285 minutes in the 2020-21 Serie A season, the 20-year-old has played just one in 2021-22. He’s been the subject of many potential loan deals this January, but none has come to fruition yet. He could certainly use the action, though — after debuting for the USMNT in a March 2021 friendly, he didn’t play again until he was made available for December’s friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina.
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The “mckennie” is a player that has been in the spotlight recently. He was seen playing for Manchester United and Schalke 04 this season, but what will he look like in 2021?
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