US males’s national team depth chart for midfielders and forwards | Armchair Analyst

Here is Half 2 of the US males’s national team depth chart. As I wrote in Half 1 (defenders and goalkeepers), that is largely my notion of how head coach Gregg Berhalter sees issues, although with a number of private preferences thrown in.

And I will reiterate this point: It is my guess that each single player who will get on the field in World Cup qualifying over the following 16 months will come from the beneath list, as a result of the time for experimentation is over. The door will not be fully shut — no person would’ve had Matthew Hoppe on any list three months in the past — as a result of attackers are completely different than defenders and defensive midfielders, however it’s shutting. And if you are going to burst by way of, it’ll take one thing particular on the level of what Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller pulled off last year.

However even that may not be sufficient. The US roster is fairly stacked.

Okay, sufficient preamble. Let’s go:

Defensive Midfielders

  1. Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)
  2. Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
  3. Johnny Cardoso (Internacional)

So it is already sophisticated. Adams has played solely at proper back and proper wingback for Leipzig in 2021 — you’d must be some kind of genius to have seen that coming — and has solely played within the “quarterback” midfield function sparingly. I believe there are apparent causes for this, with the largest being that he struggles to obtain, turn and play forward, particularly when in visitors. That may be a crucial a part of being a defensive midfielder in a contemporary, possession-heavy system, and it is the weakest a part of Adams’ sport.

The opposite elements of Adams’ sport are so robust that he is the clear No. 1 anyway. His ball-winning is elite, his athleticism is elite, his shielding is excellent and his front-foot defending — principally, his defensive IQ and studying of the sport — is world class. World Class. That each stops counterattacks and creates turnovers in good spots, and for the reason that US have been extra of a urgent team for the reason that start of 2020, and for the reason that US have gone from a 3-2-2-3 attacking form to a 2-3-2-3, Adams is fairly clearly the selection right here.

Yueill’s skillset is the polar reverse. He’s sensible at receiving the ball in visitors, together with his back to goal, then turning and recognizing the precise go that the state of affairs requires. He does, nevertheless, lack the vary and chunk that Adams has, and whereas he is improved a ton when it comes to shielding the back-line, his front-foot defense is a work in progress:

Typically it really works, generally it would not. The development curve is nice, although. And it is value noting that even against a team as poor as Trinidad & Tobago last month, the US build-up form of fell aside as soon as he got here off.

I used to joke that the US wanted cloning expertise in order that we might start Adams at RB, DM and one of many CM positions, however I believe now what we’d like is a few kind of genetic fusing tech, as a result of if we might mix Adams and Yueill into one player we would have the world’s best d-mid.

As it’s, although, it is a very robust start to the depth chart.

It drops off a bit with Cardoso, the 19-year-old Brazilian-American who’s battled injury and sickness and has seen his function with Internacional lowered considerably since September. However he is nonetheless very a lot within the rotation and seemed competent as hell in his US debut in November, so I am not notably apprehensive.


  • Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) Bradley seems to be cooked to me and he eliminated “US males’s national team” from his social media profiles — which is normally a inform — however it’s not out of the query that he’d play an element in qualifying given the schedule crunch. He cannot really move anymore, however continues to be an excellent distributor of the ball.


  • James Sands (NYCFC) If he might stay wholesome, I am fairly certain he’d have a few caps by now. Sands won’t be Berhalter’s fashion, although, as he is an old-fashioned destroyer who shies away from hitting line-breaking passes. If he takes that step this year for NYCFC, he might soar into the top three.
  • Andres Perea (Orlando City SC) Perea struggled in his full international debut last month and won’t be a real No. 6, however he is young and full of upside, and Berhalter recruited him for a reason. I am curious to see the place he performs for Orlando this season.
  • Owen Otasowie (Wolves) I virtually included him on the center back depth chart since I believe that is his long-term spot. Otasowie’s reads are pretty gradual and his physique positioning is straight-up bizarre for a defensive midfielder, and whereas he is not old (he just turned 20) he is not exactly a child anymore. He must discover a spot and start getting minutes.


Central Midfielders

  1. Weston McKennie (Juventus)
  2. Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)
  3. Yunus Musah (Valencia)
  4. Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg)
  5. Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids)
  6. Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

I used to break this list up into “central midfielders” and “attacking midfielders,” delineating between the tasks of a No. 8 and a No. 10. However that’s fairly ineffective now, because it’s clear that Berhalter prefers to play with two superior central midfielders who each attack and defend. How they cut up tasks has extra to do with their particular person proclivities and strengths, as well as who’s enjoying winger and fullback on their side of the field, than it does with something structurally inherent to Berhalter’s system. So I have been pondering of them as “free 8s” or “8.5s.” Neither is a real 8, although both could be if the state of affairs requires it. Neither is a real 10, although each are anticipated to do No. 10 issues when the US are on the entrance foot.

I do have it in my head, although, that sure guys are higher as a right-sided free 8 and different guys are higher on the left. Lletget, for instance, does well when inverted, whereas Aaronson is a way more linear player who’s at his best on the suitable side. Both one might play both place, which works for the remainder of the blokes on this list as well, however once they’re paired collectively, it is fairly clear who would perform on which side.

From the place I sit, that might doubtless imply McKennie because the right-sided, box-arriving free 8 and Lletget turns into extra of a tempo-setting, inverted free 8 on the left within the present first-choice XI.

Musah was great for the US last autumn, however man has he struggled in La Liga:

He additionally hasn’t formally dedicated his future to the US, however I am fairly sure he’ll. That will likely be a superb factor irrespective of how brutal Valencia are to look at this season.

Aaronson has hit the ground operating for Jesse Marsch in Austria, although I’ll have questions on his means to search out and management the sport till he reveals a capability to search out and management the sport. You possibly can’t be a low-usage player as a free 8 irrespective of how dynamic you occur to be in different areas. Acosta’s confronted the identical utilization points by way of his career, however he is labored his means back into the image due to a robust 2020 with Colorado.

Roldan has seemed tentative in his last few US caps and nowhere close to as dynamic off the ball as he usually does with the Sounders, and I believe he’ll soon be beneath a number of the different guys I am about to say. Nevertheless it’s value preserving him on the list right here as a result of 1) Berhalter’s saved him within the body, 2) he can play a number of positions, and 3) he is a beloved teammate. That issues loads.


  • Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf) I perhaps ought to’ve listed Morales as a d-mid as a substitute, however he performs a extra superior function on the membership level and has normally played a extra superior function in his caps under Berhalter. Regardless that it looks as if he is been round perpetually, he is nonetheless just 30 years old.
  • Julian Inexperienced (Greuther Furth) Talking of getting been round perpetually, Inexperienced is having his best professional season on the age of 25 enjoying as a shuttler within the Clovers’ 4-4-2 diamond. He hasn’t been referred to as in since Berhalter’s been in cost and I genuinely do not assume he will likely be any time soon, however Berhalter name-checked him in a latest press conference as a player they’re monitoring, so right here he’s.


  • Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas) If he can stay wholesome, he’ll push into the depth chart, and finally push right into a beginning function. He covers a ton of ground, wins duels at an absurd, Ozzie Alonso-esque clip, is tremendous press-resistant and his passing imaginative and prescient is just…

    However the “if” a part of staying wholesome is big, and he is 21 now. He is obtained to get wholesome, get out there and stay out there.

  • Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas) When Tessman got here on against T&T he was in one of many extra superior roles, however he could be better-suited as a Yueill-type regista as a substitute. Both means he has the talent to push up and into the gameday 18.
  • Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids) Bassett might be the best box-arriving, accent run central midfielder within the pool (apart from perhaps McKennie). His timing moving into the field is a weapon in Berhalter’s system, however he is obtained to point out he has the opposite pieces — consolation on the ball in visitors, availability in build-up, defensive consciousness — nailed down earlier than he rises up the ranks.
  • Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers) I used to be genuinely shocked to see Williamson sent home from camp earlier than the T&T sport given how robust a season he had in Portland, and how multi-faceted his sport is. He carries the ball exceptionally well, is easy receiving in visitors, and works hard defensively. I’m sure we are going to see him in a future camp.
  • Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg II) I’ve typically prevented placing pure prospects on this list (sorry to all you Moses Nyeman stans) as a result of I do not assume a pure prospect goes to push in over the following year, however I am making an exception for Kayo. The 18-year-old has now been to 2 US camps and has been promoted as much as Wolfsburg’s second team. He’s gifted each technically and athletically, and if he pushes by way of to the Wolfsburg first team by the end of this season, I will not be in any respect shocked to see him earn a task with the full USMNT.
  • Caden Clark (RBNY) This one could be a attain for the reason that 17-year-old Clark has barely figured for the US even on the youth ranges, however he was dominant within the USL Championship and excellent in MLS last year. If his 2021 is harking back to Aaronson’s 2020, into the pool he goes. Although it is maybe barely extra doubtless he’d end up going into the pool as an inverted proper winger.

Left Wingers

  1. Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
  2. Jordan Morris (Swansea City)
  3. Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids)
  4. Chris Mueller (Orlando City)

You have in all probability observed already that I made the manager decision to solely list guys at one spot, regardless that the truth is that they’re in play for not less than two (or generally extra) completely different positions. Sergino Dest, for instance, is my present first selection at each proper and left back. However in my prior column, he was solely listed at proper back.

The identical is true for Pulisic and Morris, who’re Nos. 1 & 2 at each proper and left wing. If there have been a sport tomorrow they might be the starters, and that is been earned over a variety of years by way of their play for membership and country. And which means even throughout downturns in kind — as Pulisic is now experiencing in West London — let’s not child ourselves about whether or not he is written on the team sheet in pen. He’s.

Morris is not, however I nonetheless assume he is obtained the within monitor on the opposite beginning winger job (I look forward to the avalanche of Gio Reyna stans in my mentions as soon as that is revealed).

The big shock of last month’s camp was that Lewis beat out Mueller, who’d been so good over the course of 2020. Lewis scored rattling close to this very same goal vs. the Soca Warriors:

He additionally has fairly close to the identical skillset as Morris.

Mueller is extra well-rounded, and in all probability extra snug and efficient enjoying on the suitable (as he does for Orlando), however he made a compelling pitch as a left-winger vs. El Salvador.


  • Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas) Saucedo emerged for Pumas in a big means, however has struggled with accidents over the past six months. The 24-year-old is perhaps much less of a pure winger than Berhalter likes, but when he performs well in Liga MX he might be an element.
  • Djordje Mihailovic, CF Montreal) Mihailovic, like Saucedo, is much less of a pure winger and extra of a wing playmaker. He is been in and out of US camps over the past two years, and it is fully conceivable that he might play a task for the US this cycle. I just assume it is unlikely to be a big one.


  • Uly Llanez (Heerenveen) It appears as if Llanez, who began and scored vs. Costa Rica last year, is on his means out of an sad and unproductive loan at Heerenveen, and due a return to the Wolfsburg reserves. He is nonetheless just 19, however there was zero skilled progress (I believe it is honest to say there’s been skilled regression, to be trustworthy) over the past year.
  • Richie Ledezma (PSV) One in all my favourite players from that great 2019 US U-20 team, Ledezma was just breaking into the PSV first team and had just earned his first US look earlier than doing his ACL. I like him higher long-term as a No. 10, however given Berhalter’s system and Ledezma’s lack of defensive presence, it is extra doubtless that when he returns to fitness, he does in order an inverted winger.

Proper Wingers

  1. Tim Weah (Lille)
  2. Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)
  3. Paul Arriola (Swansea City)

Weah is lastly approaching full well being after three hamstring tears over the course of 12 months, and which means he is approaching the top of the depth chart as well. In all honesty, I believe you may make a case for him because the starter at any of the spots* within the entrance 5 — he is that sensible and that gifted.

(*) Together with forward, which is the place he is most frequently been deployed for Ligue 1-leading Lille. That is proper, of us, there’s an precise title race in France this year!

However for the sake of this train, I’ve obtained him on the top of the suitable wing depth chart. I do not assume he’d start over Morris (or perhaps even Reyna) if the US had a massive sport tomorrow, however it would not shock me and I actually would not hate it if he did. The dude is just so exact and unselfish in his motion:

One factor to grasp right here is that wonderful off-ball motion is additive irrespective of the team, the scheme or the score. Weah is maybe the best player in your entire pool off the ball, and he brings a ton of skill on it besides.

Reyna has hit a wall, as have Dortmund. After coming out of the gates with 2g/4a in his first 5 video games, he is registered just 2g/2a within the subsequent 24 whereas bouncing between central midfield and left wing, and struggled in his two US appearances in November. Rising pains occur to principally each teenager, so I do not assume of us ought to sweat it an excessive amount of. I additionally do not assume anybody ought to have him atop any depth charts on the moment, although.

Putting Arriola third is tough on him given how he is carried out under Berhalter, however good players get pushed down the ladder when the pool fills with extra talent.


  • Tyler Boyd (Sivasspor) Bear in mind when it appeared like Boyd can be the big recruiting win of Berhalter’s tenure? Issues certain have modified fairly a bit, and not really in a great way for Boyd. He moved to Besiktas forward of the 2019/20 season and whereas it appeared like a dream move at first… nope. He just couldn’t put the ball within the net, which finally cost him each his beginning job and his spot on the roster. He just began a loan at Sivasspor, and whereas it appears unlikely he’d work his means back into the US combine, it isn’t unimaginable.


  • Konrad De La Fuente (FC Barcelona) The 19-year-old has made a trio of appearances for Barca, enjoying 26 minutes. He is spending most of his time with Barca B, the place he is not precisely lighting it up — just 1g/0a in about 600 minutes. He appears fairly far away from any first-team function, however youngsters can level up out of the blue and he’s nonetheless, in reality, a child. If that occurs and he is out of the blue getting regular Barca minutes, he’ll get regular USMNT minutes, too.
  • Benji Michel (Orlando City SC) Michel is loads like Morris in that he is a forward who’s really studying to play winger, and has carried out so well sufficient to not less than earn a camp. He did not get onto the field vs. T&T and he appears fairly removed from the first-team, however he is on the radar on the very least, and stranger issues have occurred.

Center Ahead

  1. Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC)
  2. Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
  3. Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)

and I do know that if there was a must-win sport tomorrow, Gyasi would start because the No. 9. That may trouble lots of people and I’ve actually been responsible of some Gyasi slander within the past, however he has developed:

The man isn’t going to be Berbatov in his link-up play — hell, he’ll by no means be Sargent or Altidore, for that matter — however he is risen to purposeful ranges, and when it comes to just understanding the dance steps and timing of Berhalter’s system, nobody within the pool is best. Put him out there with these wingers and these central midfielders, and he’ll score. And if he is not scoring it is as a result of he is making hard runs to pull defenders away from the top of the field which opens house for different guys to score.

If Sargent did that — if he knew the steps that well — he’d already be No. 1 on the list. He is essentially the most naturally gifted forward the US has produced since Jozy, however like Jozy he is not notably good off the ball. That goes a good distance towards explaining his paltry finishing totals within the Bundesliga.

How for much longer will Jozy have a spot on this list? It is doubtless all the way down to fitness. He obtained the start in crucial sport of the Berhalter tenure to this point (the Gold Cup final vs. Mexico) and was the best US player by way of 45 minutes. However by the hour mark, he was off.

That was virtually two years in the past. He is 31 now and spent the majority of last season trying like a man who’s logged lots of miles and cannot go 90. Possibly that adjustments in 2021.


  • Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas) Is he a 9 or not? Berhalter clearly thinks so, and in two caps Ferreira’s given ample proof that Berhalter is appropriate. I’ve questions on his athleticism on the international level, however for now the larger questions will come on the membership level. They’re “what place does he play?” and “will he even get on the pitch?”
  • Daryl Dike (Barnsley) The big man STRUGGLED in his US debut last month, however I am giving him a mulligan. Like Sargent and Altidore he is not notably dynamic off the ball, which is one thing he’ll must work on — be it in England, or within the US.
  • Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers) Ebobisse was fairly clearly crushed out by Ferreira and Dike in the latest camp. As with Ferreira there are questions on his best place long-term (although in contrast to the Ferreira state of affairs, I believe there is a fairly clear reply with Ebobisse: He is a center forward).
  • Nico Gioacchini (SM Caen) Gioacchini’s a real target-man who’s each bodily and fearless. He hasn’t precisely lit up Ligue 2, however he is getting regular enjoying time and seemed stable for the US vs. Panama.
  • Aron Johannsson (Lech Poznan [reportedly]) I do not assume there’s any chance Johannsson really pushes his means into the image, however as with Inexperienced I am together with him on the list since Berhalter name-checked him last month.


  • Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC) I wasn’t certain the place to list Ayo since “we would lose him to Canada” is not a big group. So I will list him right here since… we would lose him to Canada. I hope we do not, as Akinola has to this point been essentially the most intelligent and persistently goal-hungry in his motion of the children (and virtually all of those guys on the forward depth chart are really young) to this point.
  • Matthew Hoppe (Schalke 04) 5 goals in three video games! The primary American with a hat-trick within the Bundesliga! Hoppe did the rattling factor, however now the challenge is to maintain doing it. His goalscoring file for Schalke’s developmental sides was not good, and there’s a affordable amount of concern that his outburst was a flash within the pan. That said, his off-ball motion is sharp and I believe it is typically clever to belief forwards who make good runs.
  • Sebastian Soto (Norwich City U-23s) Berhalter did Soto a stable and obtained him sufficient appearances to earn a work allow, which implies he is obtained a chance to earn his means as much as the Norwich first team. Till that occurs, I do not really expect him to determine into Berhalter’s plans once more.
  • Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas) Pepi, who just turned 18, might need a better upside than another forward within the pool. And that is why he is right here — there’s part of the multiverse the place he wins the beginning job for Dallas, bangs in 20 goals, and pushes his means into the image. He is obtained that kind of talent.


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