USMNT 2021 Gold Cup Roster: Who made the U.S. men’s soccer national team and who missed out

The controversial picks that U.S. national team fans were expecting didn’t arrive this time.

U.S. men’s soccer national team head coach Gregg Berhalter revealed a 23-man roster for the 2021 Gold Cup on Thursday that he says can win the regional championship for national teams. The U.S. squad, which is comprised of 19 MLS players, will have it first training session on July 6 with its first Gold Cup match set for July 11.

“We don’t want to look at this as an experimental team,” Berhalter told media on a conference call. “We want to look at this as a team that can win the Gold Cup. Let’s be really clear with that. That’s going to be our expectation. Will it be dififcult? Absolutely. But we believe there’s enough backbone and veteran leadership in this group to make a run and win the Gold Cup.” 

USMNT 2021 Gold Cup roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

DEFENDERS (8): George Bello (Atlanta United), Reggie Cannon (Boavista / Portugal), Shaq Moore (Tenerife / Spain), Donovan Pines (D.C. United), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (New York City FC), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Daryl Dike (Orlando City), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen / France), Matthew Hoppe (Schalke / Germany), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Five players could make their USMNT debuts during the Gold Cup: Busio, Hoppe, Pines, Sands and Williamson. This is also the first-ever U.S. call-up for Busio and Sands. 

Who made the U.S. roster?

Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman come in as the starting center backs, but Berhalter admitted that the roster is thin on center back depth due to the lack of international experience of backups Donovan Pines and James Sands. Atlanta’s George Bello and Colorado’s Sam Vines will be competing for the left back spot.

In midfield, Berhalter pointed to Kellyn Acosta, Jackson Yueill, Eryk Williamson and newcomer Gianluca Busio competing for three central midfield spots and how it could “be the strength of this group” given their ability to shift around and swap positions during a game. He highlighted Busio’s recent performances for Sporting Kansas City and how “he can make a big impact with us.”

But Berhalter also said the team has depth issues at winger. He indicated Matthew Hoppe and Jonathan Lewis project to be the left wingers and Paul Arriola and Nicholas Gioacchini can play at right wing, but two of them are arguably center forwards (Hoppe and Gioacchini).

Along with fellow Nations League holdovers Acosta, Yueill and Cannon, Berhalter praised Sebastian Lletget and “how important they are to this group. I can’t imagine our roster right now without those four players.”

The U.S. men will open the Gold Cup group stage by facing Canada, Martinique and a team that will qualify from the preliminary round. All three of its Group B matches will be held at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City. The USMNT will be making a run at its seventh title and first since 2017 after it lost the 2019 final against Mexico.

Who was left off the U.S. roster?

Berhalter made it clear that he called in players who were in form and in stable club situations. 

Johnny CardosoErik Palmer-Brown, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Matt Miazga and Bryan Reynolds weren’t under consideration given their need to perform and impress with their European club teams during preseason. That was not the case with Reggie Cannon, who plays at Boavista. He is expected to be transferred away this summer, which made him available. 

Right backs Aaron Herrera, Kyle Duncan and Julian Araujo were on the outside looking in. In Araujo’s case, Berhalter revealed that he wasn’t ready to commit to the U.S. national team given his status as a dual national and the option of playing for Mexico is still a possibility. An appearance in an official competition like the Gold Cup would have tied him to the USMNT.

“It’s a case of him being a dual national and not fully being ready to commit to the team,” Berhalter said. “He knew that the Gold Cup would lock him in permanently and he wasn’t ready to make that step. I don’t want to speak for him, but I imagine when he looks at the depth of the right back position he sees a logjam there. And he doesn’t maybe fully see his pathway to being a starter at the next World Cup. What I can tell you is that we really value Julian and we think he’s an oustanding player. We think he can make a run at being a starter on this team.”

Fitness was the issue for FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal, while his club teammates Jesus Ferreira and Ricardo Pepi were “right on the cusp of it, but there hasn’t been enough to show that they need to be involved in this.”

An apendectomy ruled out New York Red Bulls phenom Caden Clark from consideration. Berhalter said that he was “really looking forward to working with him” and will continue to monitor him as he gets set for a transfer to Bundesliga side Red Bull Leipzig.

Orlando City right winger Chris Mueller was under consideration to help with the depth at the position, but Berhalter said he ultimately went with other options.

Berhalter can still replace a player on the roster due to injury up to 24 hours before the team’s first match of the group stage. The replacement player must come from the players who were originally on the 59-man preliminary roster (complete list below).

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