It’s hard to argue with any of the picks in the 2021 USMNT Gold Cup roster, but that’s what this article aims to do. While other options might be out there, how can anyone really argue with bringing Jonathan Lewis or Jackson Yueill to the tournament?
Goalkeeper: This one is tough because... well it’s the goalkeeper and whatever uncertainty there is about the position exists only goes about three or four players deep into the depth chart. It’s pretty clear who the top three options are, it’s mostly a matter of finding the starter. But for the sake of this article, I’m taking David Ochoa, he’s 20 and starting in MLS and the other options are like Tim Melia.
Right back: Julian Araujo is one of the most exciting right backs in MLS and at 19 no doubt has his sights set on playing in Europe. But he’s also eligible for playing with El Tri and hasn’t made a decision yet. For now, Gregg Berhalter has been in touch with him and Araujo says he’s going to go with whoever is the best option for his career. Over the weekend, the LA Galaxy defender had a solid game in a 2-0 loss to Sporting KC with 19 pressures, 2 tackles, 8 blocks, and one shot creating action. In case he says no, I’m bringing Justin Che.
Center back: This is tough because the drop off in MLS is pretty steep after the three players called in, but this article will ignore that and forge ahead. One option is Sam Nealis who is putting together a solid campaign with the NY Red Bulls who are without Aaron Long this year. FB Ref notes that he’s getting 11 pressures, 2 interceptions, nearly 8 clearances, and 4 aerials won a game, so Nealis is at least tidy in the back.
Center back: The drop off is... it’s serious after the guys on the Gold Cup roster. Justen Glad, Henry Kessler, Brent Kallman? These are all different flavors of Great Value ice cream.
Left back: Outside of George Bello and Sam Vines, the list once again gets pretty thin in MLS. Andrew Gutman has played well for NY Red Bulls but is injured... Daniel Lovitz is low key one of the best players at the position in MLS, but let’s leave him in the league with Brek Shea for now. Can Justin Che play left back? I’ll just teach him that during the pre-tournament training camp.
Central midfield: Since joining MLS, Keaton Parks has emerged as one of the better central midfielders in the league. He’s both capable of getting forward and covering defensive responsibilities. Plus, he’s tall at 6-3 and so far this squad is lacking in the size department.
Central midfield: This is a tossup between Frankie Amaya and Djordje Mihailovic. Both are attacking midfielders with Amaya adapting well to the fast, pressing system at NYRB and Mihailovic playing as an attacker both from central and wide areas with Montreal. Neither are producing eye popping numbers with assists or goals, but Amaya is supplying 3.26 shot creating actions a game and Mihailovic is at 4.04 sca/match in 2021.
Central midfield: All the sudden, MLS is producing solid American deep lying midfieders. At just 17 Moses Nyeman has emerged as a solid player in the role for DC United. He’s making 27 pressures per game to go with 3.52 tackles. Plus, he’s got a real future as a shotgun quarterback.
Forward: If it wasn’t for having his appendix out this would be Caden Clark’s spot, but he’d probably be with the senior team if he was available. Jesus Ferreira would be my second pick. All he does is rack up assists to Ricardo Pepi so he needs to be there.
Forward: Ricardo Pepi is taking off in MLS and has 5 goals in 473 minutes at just 18 years old. It’s a good scoring rate for just about anyone, but for a teenager it’s all the more impressive.
Forward: Speaking of players taking off, Cade Cowell has four goals and three assists on the year. It seemed like the goals were just a matter of time for the forward, but the assists are a nice bonus. He scored over the weekend thanks to some terrible passing by Minnesota United, but this is a calm cool finish.