Soccer in the States: USMNT still has roster uncertainty with World Cup just three weeks away

Dishing out my picks for the United States’ 26-man roster.

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter kicks soccer balls on the training pitch. He is wearing a gray long sleeve shirt and navy shorts.

Contrary to my immense ball knowledge, I am not the manager of the United States Men’s National Team. What a shame, I know.

That title belongs to Gregg Berhalter, who has failed to bestow in fans even a mustard seed’s worth of hope going into the World Cup. One of the main reasons for this uncertainty is his questionable personnel selections.

There’s no doubt in my mind: When the official roster drops Nov. 9, USMNT fans will be sent into a frenzy of fury, questioning just about every selected player — myself included.

So, before the storm hits, let’s use our imaginations for a second and picture a world where Adam Jasper, the tactical genius, is in charge. Here is my 26-man roster:

Goalkeepers: Matt Turner, Ethan Horvath, Gaga Slonina

About a year ago, this position would’ve been one of the most certain in the whole roster, with Zach Steffen being the starter. That is, until Steffen flamed out like no other. His recent club form and his form at the end of World Cup qualifying is more than enough to keep him out of the squad.

Matt Turner is the GK1 for this USMNT side on the basis of consistency and, honestly, a lack of other options. His reflexes stand out, enabling him to make one-on-one saves in big spots.

Ethan Horvath is a very serviceable backup, as we witnessed first hand in the 2021 Nations League final. While I don’t know if you can count on him as a starter, he’s my solid No. 2.

With the third spot, I’ve gone with teenage sensation Gaga Slonina. He secured a move to the Premier League after a spectacular campaign with Chicago Fire in MLS. Since I view him as the keeper of the future for the U.S., I put him in the 26 to get him some very valuable World Cup experience with low risk.

Defenders: Antonee Robinson, Joe Scally, Sergiño Dest, DeAndre Yedlin, Reggie Cannon, John Brooks, Chris Richards, Walker Zimmerman, Mark McKenzie

This is the most shaky position group for the United States. The man I actually trust the most out of all of the center backs, John Brooks, likely won’t make Berhalter’s roster.

Health is going to be the crutch for the center backs. Miles Robinson would be a lock had he not torn his Achilles in the summer. Chris Richards’ status is still up in the air. If the U.S. actually has to trot out Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long (not in my roster, but he’ll likely make the team considering he is Berhalter’s teacher’s pet), they might not have a chance to begin with.

The fullback group carries this defensive unit. Antonee Robinson and Sergiño Dest can get forward to provide attacking threats, but they’ve also proven they can defend in a crunch. DeAndre Yedlin might be a little past his prime to be playing in a World Cup, but he’s one of just two players on my roster who played on the 2014 team — the last time the U.S. played in the competition.

Midfielders: Tyler Adams, Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Luca de la Torre, Gianluca Busio, Malik Tillman

It’s not hard to argue that the United States is the deepest in the midfield. This group is super talented — and also super young.

The issue in the middle of the park is balance. What combination of three players will be most effective?

My pick is Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Luca de la Torre. This group has one ball-winning and tempo-controlling defensive midfielder, one true box-to-box midfielder with aerial abilities and one progressive, mobile attacking midfielder.

It’s tough to leave Yunus Musah out of the starting lineup considering his talent, but his profile is too similar to McKennie and Adams to have a balanced product. Musah will provide much-needed energy should he come off the bench.

I gave some of the fringe spots to prospects with promise (Busio, Tillman) as opposed to veterans like Cristian Roldan. This campaign should be about development as much as it should be about results. Roldan shouldn’t even see the pitch anyway, so why even bother putting him in the squad (looking at you, Berhalter).

Forwards: Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Timothy Weah, Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Pefok, Josh Sargent, Ricardo Pepi

This is the drama position group. At this point, I don’t think there’s a clear, correct decision up front.

That being said, I would put Christian Pulisic on the left, Gio Reyna on the right and Jordan Pefok up front. This trio has two dynamic wingers who can make incisive runs behind the defense plus a striker who is in great form with his club and is the most clinical in the squad.

My pipe dream, mad genius idea for the attack would be to put Timothy Weah at striker. While he’s only ever played in the wing for the U.S., I could see him being an electric option up front, and I don’t want to leave him out of the starting lineup.

Brenden Aaronson should be the super sub. Use his immense energy and work rate to take advantage of tired opposing defenders later on in the game.

I don’t think Jesus Ferreira should make the squad. Will he? Absolutely. But he’s proven time and time again to lack the clinical finishing needed to put away easy chances. You can’t be on the plane if you can’t even do your main job well.

So there you have it, my 26-man team is set. I don’t expect the actual roster to look anything like this, knowing Berhalter.

I’m sure it sounds rich coming from me, but when the roster drops, let’s cut the negativity and support our squad. From the second they step on the plane until the final minute the U.S. plays in the World Cup, every player is a representative of our nation, just trying to make history. It’s a noble mission, one that we should applaud the whole way through.

“Soccer in the States” runs every other Friday.