NEW YORK (AP) – Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream, a pair of 30-plus defenders, are on U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter’s first roster with his full player pool. Teen forwards Tim Weah and Josh Sargent are not.
“I value veteran leadership,” Berhalter said Tuesday after announcing his 24-man group. “I value the culture of what it means to play for the men’s national team and I think it’s important to have players that have been through it.”
Berhalter’s picks for exhibitions against Ecuador on March 21 at Orlando, Florida, and Chile five days later at Houston offered insight into his evaluation of a player pool that turned over after the November loss at Trinidad in Tobago, ending a streak of seven straight World Cup appearances.
Interim coach Dave Sarachan gave debuts to 23 players in 12 matches and Berhalter to seven more during his first two games this year, when he used a roster entirely from Major League Soccer.
Every player picked for these games has international experience, and Berhalter chose 15 from MLS and nine based in Europe. He called this the second stage of evaluation as he focuses on the group he will use for the defense of the Americans’ CONCACAF Gold Cup title, which opens June 18.
By the 2022 World Cup, Ream will be 35 and Gonzalez 34. Gonzalez has not played for the U.S. since the loss at Trinidad and Ream since the September 2017 home defeat to Costa Rica, the most significant stumble that led to the qualification failure.
Berhalter is looking ahead to his World Cup roster in November 2022.
“Some of them will be pushing the limit and some of them may not make it to there just because of the physicality of it,” Berhalter said. “But when we’re projecting this, we’re saying, OK, you can’t have all young players. There could be three guys on the roster in 2022 that are in their mid-30s.”
Berhalter revealed the U.S. under-23 team will play during the upcoming international fixture period for the first time since October 2015, when it failed to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The U-23s are likely to face Egypt and the Netherlands, and the USSF hopes to have its coach in place by then.
Weah, the son of Liberia President and former FIFA Player of the Year George Weah, has not started for Scotland’s Celtic since Feb. 6. Sargent has started just once this season for Werder Bremen. Cameron Carter-Vickers, a 21-year-old defender who has become a regular starter with Swansea in England’s second-tier League Championship, also appears likely for the junior varsity.
“When we looked at players that were U-23 eligible and weren’t necessarily going to be in our starting group,” Berhalter said, “we had to weigh is it more beneficial for them to try to play full international games at a level where they can gain confidence,”
Berhalter selected a trio of 20-year-olds who form the core of the rebuilt midfield: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams. Pulisic will be used as an attacking midfielder, tilted left. Jordan Morris, a 24-year-old forward, is back for the first time since tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in February 2018.
Berhalter’s three goalkeepers are led by Zack Steffen, who has agreed to transfer from Columbus to Manchester City in July, and includes Sean Johnson and Ethan Horvath.
Michael Bradley, 31, is the senior player with 143 appearances on a roster averages 25 years, 265 days.
Right back Nick Lima, left back Daniel Lovitz, central defender Aaron Long were selected after impressing during the January camp. Lovitz and Ream appear to be the most likely left backs, and John Brooks the leading center back.
Forwards include young MLS players Corey Baird, Jonathan Lewis and Christian Ramirez along with Gyasi Zardes and Paul Arriola.
Left off while recovering from injuries were forward Jozy Altidore and midfielder Darlington Nagbe. Also bypassed were goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Bill Hamid, left back Jorge Villafana, defender Fabian Johnson, midfielder Kellyn Acosta and forward Bobby Wood.
Fabian Johnson, an outside back who turns 32 in December and played alongside Berhalter at 1860 Munich, appears out of the player pool.
“He’s one that is right on the borderline,” Berhalter said.
Geoff Cameron, who turns 34 in July, also is out. He is injured and has not played since December.
“Time is working against him right now with his age,” Berhalter said.
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge, Belgium), Sean Johnson (New York City), Zack Steffen (Columbus).
Defenders: John Brooks (Wolfsburg, Germany), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas, Mexico), Nick Lima (San Jose), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal), Matt Miazga (Reading, England), Tim Ream (Fulham, England), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle, England).
Midfielders: Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, Germany), Michael Bradley (Toronto), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke, Germany), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Cristian Roldan (Seattle), Wil Trapp (Columbus).
Forwards: Paul Arriola (D.C.), Corey Baird (Salt Lake), Jonathan Lewis (New York City), Jordan Morris (Seattle), Christian Ramirez (Los Angeles), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus).
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