The Gold Cup is around the corner and it seems like a good time to look at some players that deserve a callup and who should get a chance to win the no. 6 backup role behind Tyler Adams. It is obviously a key position for the team and one that has significant young talent in MLS. After Jackson Yueill seemed fairly out of place in Gergg Berhalter’s system, the backup role should be up for grabs. Let’s check in on some players who can do the job and deserve a look later this summer.
**All stats via FBref.com
Gianluca Busio: Let’s just get right to it. Busio can play he’s established himself as a solid deep midfielder with steady passing, free kick taking, and defensive awareness and positioning. Sporting lost away at Portland 2-1 on Saturday, but the midfielder was 80/89 passing (including going 19 of 23 on balls longer than 30 yards), had 5 tackles, 2 interceptions, and two blocks to go along with 31 pressures leading to 9 turnovers, and had three key passes. He might need to develop a bit more defensively and develop more physically, but he’s got all the tools at this point. Italy has also been reportedly sniffing around the midfielder who holds a passport to the country, so giving him a look may take on extra urgency this Gold Cup.
Leon Flach: All Flach has done since coming to MLS from St. Pauli is establish himself as a starter on the team that won the Supporter’s Shield in 2020. He’s started every Philly match and is a big reason they’re advancing to the quarters of the Concacaf Champions League. This year, he has 37 tackles in 9 games, 93 successful pressures and 243 pressures overall, 19 blocks and 15 interceptions. He’s 20 years old and already bossing the midfield in MLS, it’d be worth getting him on the field for a Gold Cup.
James Sands: The NYCFC player has a unique and special skill set that suit him to either eventually be a standout center back or midfielder. Mostly playing at center back he’s racked up a 90% passing completion rate going 85 of 98 passes over 30 yards. His numbers are not necessarily eye popping, but he’s a solid passer with experience in the defensive midfield role, It might be a bit of a risk, but if Berhalter is up for it he could get a look.
Keaton Parks: The midfielder joined NYCFC from Benfica and has established himself as a solid defensive mid in MLS. He’s passing at an 86% clip this season and has also been involved defensively with 21 tackles, 44 successful pressures of 157 attempted, along with 12 blocks and 11 interceptions. The Pigeons lost 3-2 to New England over the weekend, but Parks was in his typical form with 86% passing on 44 attempts, two tackles, four successful pressures, an interception and three shot creating actions. At 23 he’s entering his prime and provides a decent option in the center of the pitch.
Kellyn Acosta: After a fairly unceremonious exit from Dallas and being criticized by Gregg Berhalter for not being at a level to play with the national team, Acosta has turned things around somewhat in Colorado. This year he’s played left back and across the midfield for his club team. He arguably had his best showing of the season in the team’s 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati over the weekend. Acosta made 45 of his 51 passes, including going 11 for 11 on long passes over 30 yards. He was also solid defensively making 7 tackles, 7 pressures, 2 blocks and 2 interceptions.
Tanner Tessmann: Ok, enough about MLS lifers, I’m going to give the people what they want: the future. The FC Dallas midfielder is still pretty unpolished but has the talent to possibly claim the role. He’s made seven appearances for Dallas this season with six starts. Over the weekend he came on for 12 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Minnesota United. On the year though, he’s successfully forcing turnovers off of pressures 31% of the time and has 15 tackles in 462 minutes. Tessmann’s size also makes him an interesting option in the no. 6 role. At 6’ 4” and 190 lbs, he adds a physical presence in midfield. He still has some adjusting to do but is showing well so far and will only improve as he keeps getting up to speed on the pace of the game.
One last thing, say what you will about Gregg Berhalter, but he has a much better sneaker collection than you.