It might feel like September’s international break just ended, but believe it or not U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter is just a week away from naming the American squad for October’s CONCACAF Nations League matches against Cuba and at Canada.
And unlike rival Mexico, which is planning to use a mostly domestic-based roster for the new regional competition, Berhalter is expected to summon as many of his regulars as possible. It won’t be easy.
Veterans defenders DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Miazga remain sidelined by the same ailments that kept them out of that dispiriting 3-0 loss to Mexico and the stalemate that followed against Uruguay earlier this month. Same goes for youngster Tim Weah. Meantime, Bundesliga mainstays John Brooks and Alfredo Morales still haven’t played for their clubs since getting injured on U.S. duty and probably won’t be available, either.
One lock to be included despite his recent struggles for minutes at Chelsea is Christian Pulisic, who figures to be relied upon heavily in both matches. But he’s a unique case. For everyone else, Berhalter’s cuts and lineup choices will largely be determined by club form. With the clock ticking, here’s a quick look at where 10 U.S. players stand.
USMNT players trending up
M Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (Germany)
Perhaps the most important U.S player this side of Pulisic, Adams finally returned to full training this week after missing more than three months with groin and foot injuries.
Takeaway: The U.S. missed Adams mightily earlier this month and especially at the Gold Cup over the summer, but Berhalter might have to wait until the November window (at least) call in the combative 20-year-old. Adams’ first priority has to be gaining match fitness and helping Leipzig in the Champions League, starting with next month’s matches against Lyon and Zenit St. Petersburg.
G Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)
Steffen continues to turn heads in his maiden season in the Bundesliga. On Monday, the former Columbus Crew stopper was named to Kicker’s team of the week for the second time after making nine saves in a 2-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach.
Takeaway: If there were any questions that the 24-year-old is deserving of the the No. 1 U.S. shirt for his country, Steffen’s performances in Germany have answered them so far.
M Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy (MLS)
Lletget was one of the few bright spots off the bench versus El Tri and earned a start against Uruguay. He then scored two goals in his first match back with the Galaxy, and has three assists in his last five MLS matches overall.
Takeaway: Lletget was the big winner (along with Jordan Morris) for the U.S. in September and is now well-positioned to play a key role in the Nations League.
M Duane Holmes, Derby County (England)
The Georgia-born, England-raised speedster has started the Rams’ last two matches after missing the beginning of the season through injury.
Takeaway: Berhalter and the U.S. regulars are already familiar with Holmes, who made his U.S. debut back in May. Now that he’s healthy, the 24-year-old should get serious consideration for next month’s camp.
M/F Julian Green, Gruether Furth (Germany)
The 2014 World Cup vet has yet to be called in this year but he’s making a strong case for inclusion before 2019 is out, with three goals in seven 2. Bundesliga games to start the new campaign.
Takeaway: Green’s chance will come if he continues to produce, although it might have to wait until a pair of TBA March friendlies if Berhalter decides to stick with players he’s already worked with for the first four Nations League contests.
USMNT players trending Down
M/F Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (England)
The U.S. headliner has hit a wall in London, failing to get off the bench for the Blues for the third consecutive game Sunday in a 2-1 loss to Liverpool.
Takeaway: Frank Lampard made it clear post-match that he sees others (Willian, Pedro, Mason Mount) ahead of Pulisic right now. That puts the onus on the now-21-year-old to force his way back into the manager’s preferred 11. His first opportunity should come in Wednesday’s League Cup match at home to fourth-tier Grimsby Town.
M Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (Turkey)
Boyd struggled against Mexico and Uruguay and then lost his starting job with Besiktas. He came off the bench in the club’s last two Turkish Super League games — including Monday’s 1-1 draw with Istanbul rival Basaksehir — and didn’t make the matchday squad for last week’s Europa League loss to Slovan Bratislava.
Takeaway: Besiktas’ packed schedule — they’ll host Premier League Wolverhampton next in Europa League — likely means Boyd will get chances to reclaim his wing spot. But he’s not in good form right now, and he remains behind Morris on Berhalter’s depth chart.
D John Brooks, Wolfsburg (Germany)
Brooks got off to another strong start this season coming off a career year in 2018-19, but the injury bug bit the big center back once again. Brooks missed his third straight match Monday, a 1-1 stalemate versus Hoffenheim, and almost certainly won’t be available next month.
Takeaway: On paper, Brooks is still the top American defender. In reality, his history of untimely injuries means he’s never been a player the national team has been able to count on having.
G Ethan Horvath, Club Brugge (Belgium)
The promising 24-year-old keeper impressed in the Champions League after winning Brugge’s No. 1 job last season, but he lost it when the club inked veteran Belgian international and former Liverpool backstop Simon Mignolet in August.
Takeaway: The club’s commitment to Mignolet — he signed a five-year deal — ensures that Horvath will be looking for a new club when the transfer window opens in January.
D Nick Lima, San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)
Lima lost his starting spot with the Quakes in mid-August, sat for four league games, then returned for Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Atlanta.
Takeaway: Deployed at left back, Lima wasn’t bad against the reigning MLS Cup champs, even if United’s stoppage-time winner (and another by Pity Martinez) came in his area of the field. But for a player who has been in and out of coach Matias Almeyda’s lineup all season, did he do enough to keep his place?
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