For the first time since his appointment, Gregg Berhalter had the entire player pool at his disposal in selecting a roster for the next two U.S. men’s national soccer team friendlies. But instead of borrowing heavily from the European-based collection, the new coach Tuesday chose a majority from the MLS-exclusive winter camp.
Fifteen of the 24 players are from the domestic league, all but one of whom spent about a month at Berhalter’s maiden gathering early this year.
Eight are from European clubs and one from the Mexican league. The Americans will play Ecuador on March 21 in Orlando and Chile on March 26 in Houston.
“Our goal is to keep making progress — building on the themes of last camp, building on the style of play of last camp, but also now evaluating a new group of players,” Berhalter said in a written statement. “We made progress in the first camp and it’s now asking if we can take it to another level."
As expected, the former Columbus Crew coach extended invitations to prominent U.S. names employed overseas — Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Miazga and Ethan Horvath — but passed over emerging standouts Tim Weah and Josh Sargent.
Instead, both are expected to receive call-ups to the under-23 national team for two friendlies, which are in the process of being finalized. The U-23 squad will attempt to qualify for the Olympics next year.
Berhalter did invite two veteran central defenders who have not featured on the team in some time: Tim Ream, 31, and Omar Gonzalez, 30. Ream, who starts for Premier League club Fulham, last appeared in a U.S. match in September 2017, a World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. Gonzalez, a starter for Atlas in Mexico, has not played for his country since the infamous qualifying defeat at Trinidad and Tobago in October 2017.
“We have been saying all along that we thought it was important to have a veteran presence in the national team,” Berhalter said. “It’s really important when you talk about the history, the heritage and culture of what it means to play for the national team. In Omar and Tim’s case, they’re both playing at a high level, they’re both playing every week, and we thought this would be a good camp to evaluate their performance.”
These friendlies fall inside a FIFA match window, which requires clubs to release requested players. Berhalter’s winter camp was outside an official period, limiting him to offseason MLS players. That group performed well in defeating Panama, 3-0, and Costa Rica, 2-0.
Returning players include D.C. United’s Paul Arriola, Toronto FC’s Michael Bradley and three of Berhalter’s former pupils in Columbus: Zack Steffen, Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes.
Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris will make his first national team camp appearance since recovering from an ACL injury.
Aside from Weah and Sargent, European candidates who did not receive call-ups included Bobby Wood, Julian Green, Andrija Novakovich, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Eric Lichaj.
Weah is a 19-year-old Paris Saint-Germain prospect on loan at Scottish leader Celtic, where, after a strong introduction in January, he is a substitute. Sargent, 19, has shown promise with Werder Bremen in Germany but was not on the game-day roster over the weekend.
“We thought it was important to tie some of the themes of last camp into this next camp and to have some consistency in the personnel made a lot of sense,” said Berhalter, who will have his full group together for only three days before the first friendly. “Again, we still think we’re able to evaluate a new group of players and we think that is going to be valuable as we move into the Gold Cup” this summer.
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew).
Defenders: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle).
Midfielders: Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (Los Angeles Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew).
Forwards: Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Christian Ramirez (Los Angeles FC), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew).