Gregg Berhalter on his choices for USMNT's final two World Cup warmups

Gregg Berhalter, in a 40-minute video press conference, fielded questions on his picks and omissions for friendlies in Europe against fellow World Cup-bound Japan and Saudi Arabia while stressing: "This is not the final roster."

"A lot can happen between now and Nov.  9 when we're announcing the final roster," Berhalter said. "The actual date for FIFA is Nov. 14, and a lot can happen between the 9th and the 14th."

Still, the games do mark the final two friendlies before he does have to make a final decision on his 26 for Qatar, where the USA opens its Group B play Nov. 21 against Wales, and the healthy players left off the European tour roster will be feeling far less optimistic about their chances.

"The conversations are the hardest part," Berhalter said. "But I owe them explanations. I owe them opportunities for dialogue."

And he stressed to his players: "We're not always going to be right. We're going to make mistakes sometimes. We're choosing guys based on all our information we have and sometimes it will still be the wrong decision. That's just part of it. We're doing our best to pick a team that's united on the field that understands their roles on the field and can execute it. So it's not an easy one and there's definitely some quality guys that got left off and you know my heart goes out to them. But again it's, thankfully, not Nov. 14."

Friday, Sept. 23 USA-Japan
(kickoff 8:36 am ET, ESPN2 and ESPN+, UniMás and TUDN) in Düsseldorf, Germany
Tuesday, Sept. 27 USA-Saudi Arabia
(kickoff 2 pm ET, FS1, UniMás and TUDN) in Murcia, Spain

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)
Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG) 8/0 (27)
Sean Johnson (New York City 10/0 (33)
Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 18/0 (28)

Not called is Zack Steffen, the most-capped goalkeeper in the pool who has been out of the Middlesborough lineup for its last four games with a knee injury, and 18-year-old Gaga Slonina of the Chicago Fire.

"Gaga Slonina is a guy we think highly of," Berhalter said, "and has been playing for Chicago every week, and we just went with the other three goalkeepers."

On Matt Turner, who has made only one appearance for Arsenal, Berhalter said: "I don't expect fitness will be an issue. Maybe just a little bit of rhythm and rust could come into play."

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)
Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR) 27/1 (24)
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0 (24)
Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 17/2 (21)
Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls 27/3 (29)
Chris Richards (Crystal Palace/ENG) 8/0 (22)
Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER) 2/0 (19)
Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp/BEL) 8/1 (23)
DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami) 74/0 (29)
Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC) 31/3 (29)

Tim Ream, who has enjoyed good reviews while captaining Fulham, drew praise from Berhalter but they haven't been enough to earn a call-back for the 34-year-old, who like John Brooks doesn't provide the speed and mobility Berhalter's high-line tactics require.

Antonee Robinson, who is recovering from an ankle injury, is, if fit, a likely World Cup choice, Berhalter said. While Sam Vines' play in Belgium earned him a call-up, Shaq Moore didn't get an invite.

"Shaq Moore was a really difficult decision," Berhalter said. "He's been playing well for Nashville. We really like his one-v-one defending. Again, we opted for other players."

Berhalter said he's continuing to keep an eye on Matt Miazga, Mark McKenzie, James Sands and Erik Palmer-Brown, who has been starting for Ligue 1 club Troyes

"So very difficult decisions for us," Berhalter said. "We only have 180 minutes of game time. Keep that in mind as well. That had something to do with the decisions. But it is what it is."

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)
Kellyn Acosta (LAFC) 52/2 (27)
Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG) 30/1 (23)
Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP) 11/0 (24)
Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA) 35/9 (24)
Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP) 19/0 (19)
Malik Tillman (Rangers/SCO) 2/0 (20)

Among the midfielders not picked, Berhalter said:

Johnny Cardoso is playing every week [for Internacional] in Brazil and we like what he’s doing. His team’s doing really well. Eryk Williamson has come on with a late surge with Portland. He’s been getting back to his good form. So, it’s going to be nice to see how he ends the season.”

Player (Club) caps/goals (age)
Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG) 22/6 (21)
Paul Arriola (FC Dallas) 47/10 (27)
Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas) 13/7 (21)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) 48/11 (27)
Ricardo Pepi (Groningen/NED) 11/3 (19)
Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG) 51/21 (23)*
Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER) 12/4 (19)
Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG) 19/3 (22)
* Pulisic turns 24 on Sept. 18.

In the quest for a World Cup-worthy center forward, Berhalter heaped praise on Jordan Pefok's play at Union Berlin but picked Ricardo Pepi despite his goal drought since moving to Europe.

"Keep in mind this is a guy who scored three goals for us in qualifying and has had a tough time," he said. "We're trying to get him confidence. We're trying to get him into the group and see if he can make a push for the final roster."

Back for the first time since the opening World Cup qualifiers in September 2021 is 22-year-old Josh Sargent, who has scored six goals in nine games for Norwich City, for second in the EFL Championship scoring race.

Berhalter added that he only brought in three center forwards because two games wouldn't provide enough playing time for four.

"We know what Jordan Pefok can do and we didn't feel we needed to see him in this camp," he said.

On Brandon Vazquez, who's enjoying a breakout season for FC Cincinnati, Berhalter said he's been the radar since his youth national team days: "Like any players we're monitoring, they need to concentrate on doing the best they can and putting themselves in the conversation. He's in a good spot. ...

"When I have to have these conversations with guys – I’ve spoken to all of them, explained the reasoning and also let them know the same message I’m giving you guys, that it’s not decided and there’s still some time that they can try to earn their way onto the team.”

Tim Weah, who's out with an ankle injury, "may not be a lock but he has a very good chance [to make the World Cup roster]."

* * * * * * * * * *

The 26-players play in nine nations: USA (8), England (7), Germany (2), Italy (2), Scotland (2), Spain (2), Belgium (1), Netherlands (1), Portugal (1).

27 comments about "Gregg Berhalter on his choices for USMNT's final two World Cup warmups".
  1. Peter Bechtold, September 14, 2022 at 5:19 p.m.

    I will watch these 2 games, like all the others with an open mind, but I have no faith in Ggg as HC. I think that he is in over his head.

  2. Santiago 1314 replied, September 14, 2022 at 10:45 p.m.

    Agreed Peter; Hopefully he has Figured it Out; and will just "Wind them Up" and let them Play:
    Santiago 1314 replied, April 4, 2022 at 4:06 p.m.
    William, Our Talent is Better than any Previous Cycle... Yet Our "Style" and Results are NO BETTER than they were since 1988.
    We have YET to Show any ability to String (3) Passes together, When Under Pressure.
    And what's Really Worrisome, is we Can't seem to do it, Even when we are At HOME and Under NO Pressure.
    Maybe, the Home Mexico Game... and that's a Stretch.
    I Chalk it up to Coach PepHalterKlopp, that has Implemented a System that is TOO COMPLICATED, RIGID and CONFINING to a NEW and YOUNG Group of Players, On a NATIONAL Team, that has Limited Game Experience and Opportunities together.

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, September 14, 2022 at 10:46 p.m.


    Only (6) Games{2 of which will be CONcacaCrApF} and then only 5 days of Practice together in Qatar before 1st Game
    He should have Just Wound them Up in a 4-3-3 and Let them Play...
    Instead he Instituted a Play-Out-Of-The-Back System base Upon POWER POINT Presentations, With the Field Divided into 30 Grids; 5 Wide by 6 Deep. (Instead of "Normal" 9 Grids)
    Only 2 Players per one of the 5 Channels and 2 Players allowed per "Third" ... Do the Math.!!!
    So the Players "Spontaneity" and Natural Instincts to "Compete" as American Kids, has been "BEATEN" Out of them... Players are More Worried about how they are going to Look LATER on the Video Tape and the Beep Bra Monitors, than on JUST PLAYING THE GAME.!!!

  4. Santiago 1314 replied, September 14, 2022 at 10:47 p.m.

    Still Cont;
    That's why there is So Much Disjointed, Spastic, Herky Jerky Play, and Players who are Normally Attacking #8s are Back Playing LEFT DEFENDER.!!!
    It was why Guardiola was Finally UnSuccessful at Bayern,,, It's NOT in the Nature of the German Player or American Player or British Player to Play TIKI-TAKA. 
    It's Like Running a Thoroughbred at Half Speed around the Race Track, while they are Chopping at the Bit to Go FULL SPEED. Running Your Lamborgini on the Freeway in 1st Gear Only.!!!
    {p.s. Unless Pep Wins the Champions League this year, I think it will be his UnDoing there also.}
    So, Ggg needs to (Be Fired actually) simplify the Game, Get the Best 36 YOUNG, Skillful, TWITCHY, atheletic Players together in June and WIND THEM UP and LET THEM PLAY... Then Pick your final 26 from There.

  5. Santiago 1314 replied, September 14, 2022 at 10:48 p.m.

    Final Cont;
    Back to my MAIN Point{You all going to get Tired of seeing me Repeat Myself}
    (Seeing as this World Cup is a Joke of Scheduling and Corruption)
    I think(Contrary to what Donald Lee thinks of my "Anti-Americanism) we have enough YOUNG Talent NOW and into the next Cycle to WIN AT HOME.!!!

  6. humble 1 replied, September 16, 2022 at 10:57 a.m.

    ++ well said.

  7. schultz rockne, September 14, 2022 at 6:48 p.m.

    September 23, 2022 is a Friday, not a Wednesday.

  8. John Sabala, September 15, 2022 at 4:26 a.m.

      This is just another time that shows GB does not know what he is doing since he is not brining guys he knows should be in Qatar.  Playing against quality opponents without the team youn plan to take is ridiculous. This team should the one going to Qatar to build that cohesion.  No more lookie lookie.  Names on this list should not be on there and names that should be there are not.  Bring in Pefolk or Wright. Leave off Ferreira and Pepi (really a waste - showed against quality competition he is not ready for the international level).  Leave off Aaron Long, and bring Palmer Brown. Zimmerman is slow enough. You will need pace in the backline. GB talks about not wanting to bring in Brooks because of his lack of pace, but yet the roster is full of slow CBs now.  Talking out of both sides of his neck.  

    Lastly as Santi has also alluded too, but I say on a regular basis.  The players we have in Europe are beyong GB and his his staff's ability to coach, hence you see the same results despite having far superior talent at every position.  I fear embarassment for us in the group stage, unless the players at that point are not worried about GB not bringing them in to the team for the WC since they are already there!!  

  9. Kevin Leahy, September 15, 2022 at 7:59 a.m.

    Was stunned that he included Sargent! Really thought he didn't like the guy. Don't see the point in Morris. Dest, Musah & Weah had a great understanding between each other. Hope somehow Weah can find his way back. The left side needs to figure out how to play together. This is a team that will struggle for goals no matter who plays up top. Pepi is a real head scratcher. Knew he would never be true to his word about form and playing time.

  10. John Sabala replied, September 15, 2022 at 8:10 a.m.

      Kevin, have to completely disagree on who to bring in. All the talk about the lack of prep time due to the WC in November stresses the point of putting the guys you plan to take as of now to Qatar. Yeah a lot can happen between now and the first match, that is why your roster is over 35 players deep that is turned into FIFA.  There is no more time to dabble.  Take the best players period.  This is the time to have Dest, Musah, Weah (if he was not injured) and put them on the pitch against quality opponents to have some time to come together as a group on the pitch.  Pepi is not a head scratcher it is a WTF!!!  Bringing up his 3 goals in one match, a CONCACAF, match agaisnt a team ranked in the 60s orm70s in meaningless.  Pepi was not and is not ready for the international level period.  

  11. Santiago 1314 replied, September 15, 2022 at 9:58 p.m.

    Santiago 1314, September 15, 2022 at 6:41 p.m.

    I am gonna go with the Theory of trying to Stop: the Switch to Mexico.... At Least for this World Cup...
    Also, it was Ggg that Led to Pepi "Downfall"... 
    How does a Coach, take a #9, on a Hot Streak... And NOT START HIM, in the Next Game versus Panama(Lost 0-1)...
    {(1) vs Honduras... that Literally SAVED Gggs Job, and then next Game (2) versus Jamaica}
    So, that Ggg can Start ZARDES.!?!?!?
    (a Pet, that like most of the MLSers, was Exposed and Eliminated, once REAL Head-to-Head Evaluation was Allowed)
    That was another Time that Ggg should have been FIRED.
    Then they "Forced" him to "Go To Europe" and That Back Fired...
    So, I would say Ggg, OWES Pepi,,, at Least a Chance, in this Last Window.

  12. humble 1 replied, September 16, 2022 at 11:01 a.m.

    Interesting Santi, you write, they 'forced' him to go to Europe.  I did not read that anywhere, thought it was the player, agent, FC Dallas and Augsburg that did that deal.  Did you mean they 'advised' him?  How did they 'force' him?

  13. John McGinty, September 15, 2022 at 10:04 a.m.

    Agree with many comments about squad picks, prep only for WC now with players going to Qatar. Pefok seems similar type player to Pepi but older, more experienced, in good form playing regularly. Why the three forwards Morris, Arriola, Pepi were chosen is not easily explained, other than Berhalter thinks Pepi has a bright future and wants to build his confidence and not have him make a one time transfer to Mexico. Plus an MLS player over a European when all the England and Wales players are in Europe that would possibly be played against in Qatar. 

    I wonder how roster decisions are made with the input of the other coaches. Any ideas on this? MLS players will not be in peak form come late November. Only Acosta belongs, nothing against Sean Johnson, but Horvath, Turner and Steffen, if healthy, have proven adequate internationally. Personally I favor Horvath on form and steadiness. 

  14. John Sabala replied, September 15, 2022 at 11:21 a.m.

    I concure on Horvath being the best all around keeper, despite some early struggles starting this season.  He combines best shot stopping and passing ability from the back out of the group.  This is the killer thing, we should be planning to dictate play against two of our opponent, Wales and Iran.  England is still a tough sell to dictate play, but I think could be done with the correct players, tactics and players positioning.  I also agree Acosta has shown he is capable as a backup #6 so I would give him the nod over Busio.  The MLS ties with USSF are there and this roster selections shows that is the case. Morris, and Arriola are the past.  Regarding Pepi versus Pefolk, based on what GB says about playing time and form being important is BS.  If he brings two center forwards I would go with Sargent and Wright.  I say Wright over Pefolk because of his speed and ability to press since that is what GB wants to do. He is big and strong, I think more physical than Pefolk so is a better fit and playing well.  If you bring three, then add Pefolk as he is flat out producing. Pepi is not in the conversation. If he want to switch to Mexico, let him go. Bottom line he is not ready now.

  15. Santiago 1314 replied, September 15, 2022 at 10:20 p.m.

    JS, how does Acosta Rate more than Jonny Cardosa.??? ...  STARTING, Playing MANY minutes, and Scoring GOALS in DIV 1 of BRAZIL.!!!!
    Another Ggg Pet, that is Hidden on the Roster by NOT bringing in Direct Competition for that Position... No chance Busio can Play the Def Mid... I Love His Okay, but it doesn't fit USMNT .. maybe he should think about 1 Time Fifa Switch to Italy ???

  16. humble 1, September 15, 2022 at 11:27 a.m.

    Choices.  Look where we are now compared to 2014 or even 2018, when we suffered huge gaps in generations.  I give a lot of credit to Greg and his staff, Ernie Steward and Brian McBride for the work they've done giving players chances, getting them capped so they can get visas to play abroad, and helping them find the right clubs.  Our pool is significantly larger than it was in 2014 or 2018 and it's their work along side MLS and somewhat now even the USL.  I know a lot less about soccer than the esteemed above commenters, but I think we can all agree, we are in the WC this time, and we beat the crud out of Mexico along the way, several times, and we will go with a team that has a very distinct USA feel this time.  Our last WC with Klinsman, we had a team with almost as many players born in Germany as in the USA, and we left our American hero, Landon Donavan at home for very young German born player that did not really work out.  Not gonna happen this time.  This time, we go, for the first time with a coach, love him or hate him, that is American, had a professional playing career, abroad and domestically, and became a coach after.  Not sure how they'll do, tough, group, English and Iranians are chomping at the bit to give us a good thumping.  I for one believe as they have in CONCACAF, that this staff will have them ready and that our boys will go out and give thei best. 

  17. John Sabala replied, September 15, 2022 at 2:24 p.m.

    Really Humble!
    Klinsman work in the WC and before was quite impressive and it is the work he did that opened the doors to players make the trip across the pond to compete and expand our players pool to what it is now.  It is not GB and his staff, or Stewart. I would be careful with your definition of being born in America to be American. My youngest daugther was born in Germany with a mother who was both French and German and became a naturalized US citizen on her own. So my daughter has both German and US citizenship. I don't see how this has any bearing making a US player.  The group we have is not difficult, not nearly as difficult as the 2014 group. We should get out of the group and it is a complete failure if we don't with the talent available. I am not sure what games you have watched, but we continue to revert and play the same dumbass soccer with no clear tactical direction. We should be destroying most of our CONCACAF opponents.  Julian Green was part of 2014 WC group, and scored on Belgium and GB has not seen fit to use this young man who is now in his prime of 27 years of age. Instead it is Roldan, Llegett, Morris, blah blah blah.  Americans are plying their trade in top European clubs because they have shown the potential to do so.  Trace your some point your relatives were immigrants as well.  I am only the 2nd generation American with my dad before me. This American style you speak of needs to change to a modern way to play intelligent soccer with grit and determination. Not watching the same old long ball over the top, try to get lucky to score and hope your GK can keep the other team from scoring too many goals.     

  18. Santiago 1314 replied, September 15, 2022 at 10:13 p.m.

    Right on JS... You got a Passport, your AMERICAN... FULL STOP.!!!
    I think the US "New" Style will be Based on the Same Athletisism and Grit, that WAS the Previous Strength... But, This Pool of Players (Not Ggg's, But the u25 ) IS also Technical and Twitchy(Unfortunately not Very Tactical)... And by GegenPressing the Opponent and Winning Balls in Opponents Defensive Third, You Don't have to "Build Up Play" out of the Back(Which we Struggle with)... All you need is a Quick Flick or Pass or Twitch to get a Shot on Goal...

  19. Santiago 1314 replied, September 15, 2022 at 10:26 p.m.

    Oh, by the way JS... JK screwed up during his Tenure as Coach of USMNT... Never Should have left Donavan Off

  20. humble 1 replied, September 16, 2022 at 11:12 a.m.

    I think you all are using semantics to twist what I said.  Coach K took over both the Coach and Director roles, and we never qualified for Olympics and failed to Q for the 2018 WC because we did not bring along players domestically.  Out of desperation he looked to players developed abroad.  I accept that he pushed to have players xfer to Europe, but my overall take on his tenure was that it was full of good ideas but was poorly executed and where the rubber met the road, we failed to get either of the two spots for the Olympics several time while he was the boss, and failed to get one of the four WC spots for 2018.  This was an abject failure on many fronts.  Today what we see with the current regime, is not perfect, but we just qualified for the Olympics, and we are in the WC.  Full stop. 

  21. Kevin Sims, September 15, 2022 at 12:35 p.m.

    Constructing a team is so much more than identifying the most talented players. All of us on the outside wil have varying views of the talent but only the coaches on the inside have the experience necessary to select the best players to put out a team. I trust the staff. To question them is folly. I will root feverishly for whoever represents the USA and applaud all considerations of culture and intangibles to produce a team that may perform above its talent.  

  22. John Sabala replied, September 15, 2022 at 2:36 p.m.

    Don't misjuedge the comments. We are all avid supporter of US Soccer and will cheer the players no matter what.  Other than the inner workings between USSF and players' clubs there is not too much left that the public does not see on the pitch. That is what matters most.  I can't see any of our guys being so bad as a locker room prima donnas to the point they can't play well together.  I don't trust this staff to make the best decisions as we have witnessed during the entire GB era.  Most of his wins have been against crap competition, with the exception being the Mexico wins.  Reading and listening to GB he is not creating a strategic or tactical plan around his players, but making them play his system.  This is not high school or youth soccer.  Even coaching at the high school level I built the style of play and tactical plan for each season around the players I had, not my vision of what I wanted.  The patterns of play, tactical plans, etc the Europeans based players practice and play with are beyond GB and his staff ability to coach. I will stand by that statement.  Remember GB was a defender when he played abroad for his short time. He did not stay in Europe coaching because he did not possess the knowledge clubs expect from a coach over here.

  23. Santiago 1314 replied, September 16, 2022 at 6:07 a.m.

    Kevin; "FOLLY"!?!?!?
    "To question them is folly."
    "lack of good sense; foolishness."(I looked it up just to make sure)

    And I Realized you must be Talking about The Other Definition...
    "a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park."
    Because "Trusting" this Coach, as "only the coaches on the inside have the experience necessary to select the best players to put out a team." IS THE TRUE FOLLY....
    This Coach didn't have the EXPERIENCE, AND STILL DOESN'T... 
    And it's Doesn't get more American than, Questioning Authority.!!!

  24. Kent James, September 15, 2022 at 3:58 p.m.

    I'll express a minority opinion in support of GB. I like the fact that he brought Sargent in, and is given Pepi another shot.  I think Sargent the young forward that impressed me the most, but he was struggling in the EPL, and (while playing reasonably well) not scoring goals for the US, so I understood by GB did not select him.  Now that he's scoring again, he brings him in; seems reasonable.  Pepi, on the other hand, was initially hailed as God's gift to the US after he scored a few goals in qualifiers. I was not on that band wagon, though clearly he was a player worth considering.  He's struggled since his move to Europe, but he's still very young.  If this were the final squad, it would be crazy to bring him in.  But it's not.  GB is bringing him in to buck him up in his career, so he can develop into a player for the future.  I like that GB thinks in the long term.

    People are upset that Pefok was left off, but it sounds like GB left him off not because he doesn't like him, but because he already knows what he can do, and he needs to let others make their case.  It seems like GB may take Pefok to the WC.  I think Weah is even more likely to go, as long as he's healthy.  

    I like that GB is talking to the players individually, and letting them know personally of his thinking.  Players may not agree with it, but at least they know what's going on.  I once played for a coach who knew the soccer part pretty well, but changed line-ups and benched people without explanation, andd that was very frustrating.  

    I don't agree with everything GB does, but I generally like his approach, especially player management.

  25. Kevin Leahy, September 15, 2022 at 11:05 p.m.

    John, there was a period after Morris!

  26. humble 1, September 16, 2022 at 9:37 p.m.

    Good passionate discussion.  We all agree it is good to have the USA to support this time.  It did not have to be, missing Russia, we shoulda been there.  There will not be another WC in Russia for a looooonnnnnnggggg time.  I attended the one in 2018, having an inside tip from a friend that this was the moment, easy visa with tix, never saw another American for the entire three weeks I was there, outside of the press.  Looking ahead to Qatar, 66 days to the game v Wales on 21 Nov, then on to England the 25th and Iran the 29th.  So in about 75 days will have our answer.  Tough group, probably, odds against us getting through, but, that will be the test for GB and his staff, for the boys too of course, but the players will go back to their clubs if they don't get through, the staff, maybe, maybe not going back to offices in Chicago House, for sure they'll be taking a lot of heat, or could be basking briefly in glory and getting ready for knock out game, we'll see.  They're in the thick of it, I envy them and wish them all the best!    

  27. John Sabala, September 17, 2022 at 8:28 a.m.

    The game being played this week in Dusselfdorf is a 5 and a half our drive for me from Vilseck Germany.  Don't think I will be able to make it since the game is at 2:30 in the afternoon and my school does not end until 3pm.  Would love to see them love.  Could take a leave day. Looking for tickets, but can't find any as of yet. Will keep looking and weighing the options.  I think we should get out of this group.  Glad you made it to Russia. Not possible to travel now as an American.  Will have to wait and see if things cool off over here in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.  Will be watching and cheering one way of another.

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