Commentary

USMNT June roster: Gregg Berhalter on replacing Miles Robinson and bringing in Malik Tillman and Haji Wright

U.S. men’s national team head coach Gregg Berhalter has selected 27 players for the USA’s four June matches.

Berhalter said he is assuming FIFA will approve an expansion of World Cup 2022 rosters from 23 to 26 players, so the 27 players are around the number of players he'll be taking to Qatar. The one question mark in camp is Weston McKennie, who hasn't played since Feb. 22 due to a broken foot.

The squad includes former German U-21 international Malik Tillman, whose application to FIFA for a one-time change of association is pending, and two other uncapped players, Joe Scally and Haji Wright.

Scally, 19, was with the national team in the November window, while Wright, a former U.S. U-17 standout, hasn't been with the senior team since a 2019 mini-camp in Annapolis, Maryland.

Here is a look at who's in camp, who's not, and what needs to be accomplished during the almost three weeks the team will be together.

Goalkeepers (3):
26 (age) Ethan Horvath (Nott. Forest/ENG; 7/0), 0 WCQ minutes
26 Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 29/0), 540 WCQ minutes
27 Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 16/0), 720 WCQ minutes

All three goalkeepers should be playing in England next season, all in the Premier League if Ethan Horvath's Nottingham Forest wins its promotion playoff match against Huddersfield Town on May 29, which will delay his arrival in camp.

Who's not in camp: Sean Johnson, who had been in camp for all or part of every window during qualifying, was not called in. Berhalter said his conversation with Johnson about not being called up was one of the hardest he had. On Friday, three days after being called up to Poland's team for the UEFA Nations League group stage, Gaga Slonina, the 18-year-old Chicago Fire goalkeeper, committed his international future to the USA.

What this camp is about: Berhalter cautioned that the June camp is generally not the be-all and end-all in terms of selecting his team, but the starting spot in goal is certainly up for grabs. The June camp is even more important because there is no guarantee that any of the three keepers who will be in camp will even be starting for their clubs in the fall. Steffen, the presumptive No. 1, started the last six qualifiers for which he was available, but he was shaky at times in the 5-1 win over Panama and did not play well in the 2-0 loss to Costa Rica in the Octagonal finale.



Defenders (9):
20 (age) George Bello (Arminia Bielefeld/GER; 6/0), 135 WCQ minutes
23 Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 24/1), 105 WCQ minutes
24 Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 8/0), 0 WCQ minutes
29 Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 23/3), 37 WCQ minutes
24 Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes/FRA; 3/0), 11 WCQ minutes
24 Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 25/2), 1,062 WCQ minutes
19 Joe Scally (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER; 0/0), 0 WCQ minutes
28 DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 73/0), 502 WCQ minutes
28 Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 28/3) 815 WCQ minutes

Only three of the nine defenders -- Robinson, Bello and Yedlin -- played in the first qualifying window, so there has been a lot upheaval on the backline, partly due to injuries but also due to form.

Who's not in camp:
Miles Robinson, who started 11 qualifiers at center back, is out of the World Cup with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Sergino Dest, the starting right back, is again sidelined, out with a hamstring injury picked up with Barcelona. Chris Richards, projected to be Miles Robinson's likely replacement, is coming back from an injury of his own though Berhalter did not rule out his participation in the camp in some manner.

Once again, John Brooks, considered a lock at center back at the start of qualifying, was not picked. Berhalter said he wanted to look at other players but would revisit Brooks' situation when he settles in at a new club following his free transfer from Wolfsburg. James Sands, who started alongside Miles Robinson at the 2021 Gold Cup, will be given time off to recover following his January move to 2022 Europa League runner-up Rangers. Other players he mentioned as candidates on the backline included Mark McKenzie, who started at the 2021 Concacaf Nations League final four but struggled in his first full season at Genk, Sam Vines, who is also in Belgium at Royal Antwerp, and teenagers John Tolkin and Kevin Paredes.

What this camp is about:
Perhaps the No. 1 priority will be to find a replacement for Miles Robinson in the middle of the back. Also: settling on a backup at right back, where there are a bunch of candidates, and at left back, where no one has stepped forward to claim a No. 2 spot behind Antonee Robinson.

Long was a starter until he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon of his own a year ago. The June window will give the U.S. staff a chance to work with  Carter-Vickers (who started for Scottish champion Celtic on loan from Tottenham) and Palmer-Brown (who cemented a starting spot in French club Troyes after his January transfer from Manchester City) for an extended period of time.



Berhalter said he is looking for a fast center back who can play in a backline that is aggressive and presses opponents, playing high up in the field.

"You need guys that can win duals convincingly," he said. "You need guys that if anything breaks through, they can catch those guys. And that's where Miles was so valuable. He did a great job of that, very good in duals, very good at covering space behind. We're absolutely going be looking for a guy that can do that also. And that includes Walker, keeping him at that standard, making sure that the line keeps moving high, keeps condensing the field. That's really important to our game model. Aaron Long has speed. We know that he's aggressive playing forward, pressing forward, so that's a good sign. Erik Palmer-Brown, I think, can improve on that, but he does have the pace to cover behind. And Cam's been doing that with Celtic. They play against most of their opponents in the half of the opponent, and he has to play with a lot of space behind them."

Midfielders (8):
26 (age) Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 51/2), 678 WCQ minutes
23 Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 27/1), 1,019 WCQ minutes
23 Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 7/0), 239 WCQ minutes
23 Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 31/9), 623 WCQ minutes
23 Djordje Mihailovic (CF Montreal; 6/1), 0 WCQ minutes
19 Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 16/0), 732 WCQ minutes
26 Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 31/0), 80 WCQ minutes
19 Malik Tillman (Bayern Munich/GER; 0/0), 0 WCQ minutes

With McKennie's return from a broken foot, the U.S. staff will have to assess how much he is ready to play. Don't expect to see much of him in the two friendlies. Berhalter said he might play in one of the two Nations League games at the end of the window but "that’s not guaranteed."

Who's not in camp: Berhalter also mentioned Gianluca Busio as another player left off to get time to recover after having no break since his move to Europe. He said Richy Ledezma, who came back from a knee injury at PSV, told him he needed rest, and included Eryk Williamson, back in action for the Portland Timbers after suffering a knee injury in August 2021, among the players who were under consideration but not called up.

What this camp is about: Seeing what Djordje Mihailovic, one of MLS's hottest players, and former German U-21 international Malik Tillman, whose application to FIFA for a one-time change of association is pending, can do.

Mihailovic has eight caps for the USA -- he scored in a 3-0 win over Panama, Berhalter's debut as U.S. coach in 2019 -- while Tillman hasn't played for the USA since a 2016 U-15 tournament in Croatia, where his teammates included Gio Reyna, Busio, Bello and Efrain Alvarez, who now plays for Mexico internationally.

Berhalter said Tillman's recruitment was straightforward.

"We started speaking to him and his representative and it was just about painting the vision of our program and where we potentially see him fitting in. But I think also where the program is heading. Although the guys didn't speak to him directly, they speak for themselves in terms of what they're doing on the field and the clubs they're at and the age they are. A lot of players are excited to be part of this group. And this was certainly the case with Malik. We had some good conversations a couple weeks ago in Munich and I was happy to see him commit to us and am looking forward to working with him in camp."

Berhalter stressed Tillman's versatility: "He's an attacking midfielder in a 3-4-2-1. He could be a pocket winger in a 4-3-3. He could be a center midfielder in a 4-3-3 defending, depending if we can get his defensive work up to where it needs to be. He's talented between the lines, really has knack for scoring goals. Good, calmer in the penalty box. Good technique scoring with both feet."

Forwards (7):
21 (age) Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 18/5), 654 WCQ minutes
27 Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 44/9), 209 WCQ minutes
21 Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 9/3), 229 WCQ minutes
27 Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 46/10), 139 WCQ minutes
23 Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 48/21), 614 WCQ minutes
22 Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 22/2), 581 WCQ minutes
24 Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 0/0), 0 WCQ minutes

The squad includes five wingers -- all the regulars but Reyna -- and only two center forwards, Jesus Ferreira, who leads MLS with nine goals, and Haji Wright, whose only time with the senior national team was at a mini-camp in 2019.

Who's not in camp: Reyna, whose only start in qualifying was the opening match against El Salvador, is again sidelined with a hamstring injury. Wright will be the seventh player to get a look at center forward in the last year after Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok, Daryl Dike, Gyasi Zardes, Ricardo Pepi and Ferreira.

Sargent, Pefok and Dike are injured, Zardes was just traded by the Columbus Crew to the Colorado Rapids after losing his starting job with the Crew, and Pepi has been given a break after struggling after his move to Augsburg. (He hasn't scored a goal in more than seven months,)

Berhalter said he had a good conversation with Pepi — "a really open and honest conversation" — about his workload through 2021 and into 2022 without a break.

"He's been at the absolute limit and he's 19 years old," Berhalter said. "So for us, it was about how do we give this guy both a mental break and a physical break, because we know the bodies at that age need to recover. He'll come out on the back end stronger. And that's the important thing. You have to remember how young of a player he is. His position on the team is not going to be determined if he's on roster or not in June."

What this camp is about: Wright's streak of seven straight games with a goal was snapped in Antalyaspor's 1-1 tie with Galatasaray on the final day of the Turkish season, but he did contribute a sensational assist to finish with nine goals and three assists in his last 10 games.

Wright, a star early in the 2014-15 U.S. U-17 national team cycle with Christian Pulisic, Luca de la Torre and Tyler Adams, jumped from team to team (Schalke 04, VVV Venlo and SønderjyskE, which owns his contract) and position to position (often playing as a winger) before breaking out with Antalyaspor in recent months. Berhalter said the Antalyaspor coaching staff has been very pleased with Wright's progress.

"They've been really pleased with how he started slow, but then picked up momentum, really changed his mindset, changed his mentality and was able to start dominating in games," he said. "And I've watched a lot of his games and he's doing an excellent job. So I think now is the perfect time. We always talk about form and trying to capitalize on a guy's form. I think now is the perfect time to get him back into the group."

14 comments about "USMNT June roster: Gregg Berhalter on replacing Miles Robinson and bringing in Malik Tillman and Haji Wright".
  1. Santiago 1314, May 20, 2022 at 10:16 p.m.

    No Real problem with the Selections... Just goes to show why Ggg should be Fired.!!!... All these "New" players where ones that Should have been brought IN during the Qualifiers... Even if they didn't Play, they would have been "Acclomated" into the Group and the System.... Oh, Sorry Roldan is a Waste of Time and Space... just as Bringing in Brooks is.... you know what your going to get NOW, just as you did Last Year, and just as you will in November... Not that he is a BAD player, but he is going to be taking Playing Time from Someone else that has more of an UPSIDE... Mihailovic, Tillman, LUSA

  2. frank schoon replied, May 21, 2022 at 11:29 a.m.

    Santi , did you check this out....Pepi hasn't scored in 7months....he's been riding the bench....$20 million boondoggle....

  3. Donald Lee replied, May 21, 2022 at 1:38 p.m.

    So you start with hating our coach, then look fo what ever reason you can find to attack. Once again, you show no knowledge about our game. You should never claim to be a US supporter. 

  4. R2 Dad replied, May 21, 2022 at 1:52 p.m.

    Donald Lee, respect is earned. After listening to GB whitter on after the 0-2 Canada match about the US "dominating play", just how serious should we take him? If the media weren't such creampuffs, they would have shredded GB for that nonsense. Compare that post-match Q&A to what the Dallas Mavericks got last night having giving up a 19 point lead to the Warriors, for a sample of how the media should operate when teams collapse.

  5. John Birks replied, May 22, 2022 at 1:49 a.m.

    Roldan has 3 goals and 8 assists in all Sounders competitions.  By the way helping the Sounders to Champions League title.✌️

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, May 22, 2022 at 3:14 p.m.

    Mr. Birks, outside of CONCACAF qualifying which is finished, MLS play is not an indicator of international performance. The issue is not about Rodan's MLS performance, but whether there are better players available who will make a stronger team of 22+ field players for the finals.

  7. R2 Dad, May 21, 2022 at 1:08 a.m.

    GB proving he doesn't know what to do with attacking players: " He (Malik) could be a center midfielder in a 4-3-3 defending, depending if we can get his defensive work up to where it needs to be. Running is more important than playmaking to GB. 

  8. frank schoon replied, May 21, 2022 at 11:32 a.m.

    R2, were applying the word 'attacking player' to loosely.  Lets say players on the front line.  I can't believe Sargent isn't considered at all in GB's plans....

  9. Bob Ashpole replied, May 22, 2022 at 3:19 p.m.

    Frank, I understand your disbelief, but the evidence all indicates that GB is passing on Sargent who will only be age 26 for the 2026 finals.

  10. frank schoon replied, May 22, 2022 at 4:30 p.m.

    Bob, it is not the age but the player's abilities. We don't have a front line or rather a #9. I'm not impressed with Pepi who hasn't scored in 7months....I'll Sargent over Pepi any dayl.

  11. David Quinn, May 21, 2022 at 12:05 p.m.

    Ok, this has nothing to do with the roster but why for goalkeepers do they show the # of caps/#of goals? What goalkeeper is going to have anything but a zero for that 2nd number? Should'nt the 2nd # for goalkeepers be the # of clean sheets? Sorry, that I am nit picking here but I am just wondering if I am the only one who feels this way.

  12. Greg Gould replied, May 21, 2022 at 5:20 p.m.

    Yes, I was thinking the same thing David. Clean sheets or goals allowed. Or goals allowed per 90 minutes.....

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, May 22, 2022 at 3:30 p.m.

    Clean sheets do not indicate keeper performance. Rather they indicate team performance. Sometimes the best keeper plays for the losing team.

    Goals scored makes me think of Jorge Campos. 

  14. Wayne Norris, May 22, 2022 at 8:19 p.m.

    Busio omitted so he can "rest"!! The guy has been on pine for 2 months now as Venezia has finally realized he is way in over his head....

    hopefullt we have seen the end of his name included in hypothetical WC rosters!!

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