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Choosing the USMNT Gold Cup roster

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If I had a choice, here’s who I would pick

England v United States - International Friendly Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

As fans eagerly await the release of Gregg Berhalter’s United States Men’s National Team roster for the 2019 Gold Cup, I decided to offer my opinions on who I would select for the 23-man roster if I were the USMNT coach. It should be noted that I am choosing this roster based on the tactics I would employ throughout the competition, not plugging guys into Berhalter’s system. For the 2019 Gold Cup, I would generally deploy 4-5-1 against tougher opposition (Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, etc.) and perhaps a 4-3-3 against weaker teams such as Guyana. I place a premium on recent club form and would select few players who have not been regularly starting for their club teams in recent months.

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge, BEL; 3/0), Bill Hamid (D.C. United; 6/0), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC; 8/0)

Zack Steffen is the USMNT #1 and would be my starting goalkeeper for the Gold Cup. Steffen is in solid form at the club level, and his recent national team performances have been impressive (except for the October 2018 friendly against Colombia).

Horvath is playing well for Belgian side Club Brugge and would be a solid backup to Steffen. I would choose Bill Hamid, although statistically there isn’t much separating him from Johnson and Guzan. While all three keepers have been performing well, Hamid has been free of the embarrassing gaffes Sean Johnson seems to commit too regularly (see his April 13th own goal against Minnesota United).

Guzan has been in solid form but has lost a step. His reflexes have noticeably slowed in the past two years.

Defenders (8): Ventura Alvarado (Necaxa/MEX; 13/0), John Brooks (Wolfsburg, GER; 36/3), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 16/1), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 4/0), Matt Miazga (Reading, ENG; 11/1), Tim Ream (Fulham, ENG; 26/1), Antonee Robinson (Wigan, ENG; 6/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle, ENG; 59/0)

John Brooks and Matt Miazga are locks to make this roster and would be my first-choice centerback pairing. Ventura Alvarado undoubtedly struggled during his time with the USMNT, but has matured and become a much better player. He has excelled for Liga MX side Necaxa during this season’s Clausura and is now the team’s captain.

Aaron Long is one of the best centerbacks in MLS, but has had some recent struggles primarily due to the poor form of his New York Red Bulls teammates. Walker Zimmerman or Cameron Carter-Vickers could have been chosen in place of Long, but Long has appeared more frequently for the USMNT in recent months and is better on the ball than Carter-Vickers.

While Tim Ream has been rather poor for Fulham, it is difficult to play well as a defender on a team in a relegation battle, and Ream would get selected due to his versatility. The USMNT is quite thin at left back, and he would be a backup option at both this position and centerback. Antonee Robinson is still developing and struggled during the October friendly against Colombia, but remains one of our better options at left back. In my opinion, he is better than Jorge Villafana and Daniel Lovitz. I believe Lovitz receives more praise than he deserves because their are few good American left-backs in MLS.

Under my system, DeAndre Yedlin would be the first-choice right back, although he would be replaced if he was unlikely to be fit for the Gold Cup. Eric Lichaj is a dependable, veteran right back who has played well in the Championship for many years now. He would backup Yedlin.

Midfielders (8): Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, GER; 9/1), Paul Arriola (D.C. United/; 19/3), Tyler Boyd (Ankaragücü/TUR; 0/0), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC, CAN; 143/17), Weston McKennie (Schalke, GER; 7/1), Alfredo Morales (Dusseldorf/GER; 13/0), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund, GER; 23/9), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 7/2)

Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic are integral members of the USMNT Starting XI. I would deploy Adams as a defensive midfielder, McKennie as a box-to-box midfielder, and would use Pulisic as either a right winger or #10 depending on the opposition and other available players. Michael Bradley had a long stretch of poor games for the USMNT, however he has been playing well for Toronto and has impressed since Berhalter’s arrival. He also brings immense experience to the squad.

Alfredo Morales has quietly been having a solid year for Fortuna Düsseldorf in the Bundesliga. While he hasn’t appeared for the U.S. since 2016, it would not make sense to me to select central midfielders like Wil Trapp over somebody whose playing regularly in one of the world’s top five leagues. Cristian Roldan has been in good form but would miss out due to the USMNT having a glut of talented central midfielders.

Sebastian Lletget gets selected because the USMNT lacks a true #10 and he is one of the better Americans who regularly plays this role at the club level. A strong case could be made to select Julian Green or Darlington Nagbe instead (although Nagbe’s not really a #10).

Some fans may still be unfamiliar with the uncapped Tyler Boyd. Boyd is a U.S.-New Zealand dual national who has been impressing in the Turkish Super Lig (the 10th best league in Europe according to UEFA).

Since moving to the league in January, the left winger has scored 4 goals and added 4 assists. The USMNT lacks talented, natural left winger and Boyd has been in better form than other options such as Kenny Saief.

I chose Paul Arriola because of his versatility. With me as coach he would not be a first-choice starter, but he’s capable of playing anywhere along the right side of the pitch.

I would not select Jonathan Amon and Romain Gall due to their lack of recent playing time. While Duane Holmes and Lynden Gooch had flashes of brilliance during their respective seasons, Holmes only has 2 goals, and 4 assists in 31 appearances (all competitions) and Gooch hasn’t recorded a goal or assist since November.

Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC, CAN; 110/41), Andrija Novakovich (Fortuna Sittard, NED; 3/0), Andrew Wooten (SV Sandhausen, GER; 1/0), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC; 42/6)

Like it or not, Jozy Altidore is still one of the USMNT’s better options at striker. Altidore has missed several games for Toronot this season due to injury, but has been excellent when on the pitch (5 goals and 3 assists in 5 games).

Andrew Wooten has only 1 cap but is in the best form of any American striker right now. He has 9 goals in his last 8 2.Bundesliga matches and 17 in 29 league appearances this season.

Andrija Novakovich has been solid, if not unspectacular, in the Eredivisie (9 goals and 2 assists) but could be scoring more if he was playing for a better team. The 6’4’’ Novakovich could be an excellent option off of the bench.

Zardes has been inconsistent for Columbus this season, and some fans would prefer not to see him on the roster. However, he was impressive in his most recent national team performances (a goal against Ecuador and an assist against Chile) and brings much-needed pace to the team.

Bobby Wood hasn’t played since March due to knee problems and has been in poor form this season. Timothy Weah and Josh Sargent certainly could have made the squad, but I wouldn’t have selected either due to their sporadic playing time with Celtic and Werder Bremen respectively.

Who would you choose for the 2019 Gold Cup?