Most of the determinations have been uncertain for a long time, some of which have been predicted by recent recalls. But there was one big surprise: Zach Stephen, Berhalter’s number one guard for most of his tenure, didn’t make it.
“Zach has been there for me a few times, and it was heartbreaking for him to be told he wouldn’t be part of the World Cup team,” said Berhalter, who coached Stephen with Columbus Crew in Major League Soccer in 2017-18. “It is more about who we have and the level of comfort with the players on the list. We felt really comfortable with Matt [Turner] and Ethan [Horvath] and Shawn [Johnson]. And that is the direction we have decided to go.”
Stephen, a former University of Maryland star now with England’s second-tier Middlesbrough, started six of 14 World Cup qualifiers but also missed several camps due to illness and injury. He’s been healthy this season, starting 16 of his 20 league games for Middlesbrough.
Berhalter declined to elaborate on the factors involved in the decision.
Stephen emerged to compete with Turner, a reserve player for English Premier League club Arsenal, initially in Qatar. With Stephen absent, Turner appears almost certain to take on the lead role, even though he has had a minor injury and hasn’t played since October 20.
It is easy to read in it [Steffen’s absence] Berhalter says Matt is probably the number one World Cup finalist. “I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves.”
For 30 years, the goalkeeping job has been fairly straightforward, featuring the likes of Tony Muola, Brad Friedel, Casey Keeler and Tim Howard. Stephen was the natural successor to Howard, who starred in the 2014 World Cup.
“Zack has been such an integral part of the group,” said defender DeAndre Yedlin, the only member of the roster with World Cup experience. “So you’re obviously sad to see him pass up, but that’s the work and that’s the sport, so we carry on.”
Other notable absences included midfielder Malik Tillman and winger Paul Areola and strikers Ricardo Pepe and Jordan Pivok.
The list was revealed hours before nine players from the Major League Soccer and coaching staff are scheduled to travel to Doha, where they will meet 17 European-based brothers over the weekend.
Christian Pulisic, Weston McKinney and Tyler Adams lead the team that opens Group B on November 21 against Wales and plays later with England and Iran.
Gio Reina, Yunus Musa and Brendan Aronson are present. So are Tim Weah, Walker Zimmerman, Anthony Robinson, and Serginho Dest.
“It feels real now, for sure,” Adams said.
There were some unexpected intrigues. Tim Ream, the 35-year-old defender for Premier League side Fulham, was on the list despite not having received any call-ups since last fall.
“He’s playing in the best league in the world, and he’s playing at a very high level,” Berhalter said. The decision is “not a difficult one.”
Luca de la Torre, who provides depth in the center of the field, made the cut despite a leg injury that was due to be ruled out until the opener. McKinney and Dust both have nursing injuries that weren’t considered serious enough to miss the list.
With the European leagues kicking off this weekend before stopping for the World Cup, Berhalter hasn’t stepped off the field in the face of injuries. He has until Monday to formally submit the list to FIFA, the sport’s global governing body. Additionally, menu changes required by injury are permitted 24 hours prior to opening.
Jordan Morris beat Areola for depth on the wings, and Christian Roldan gets Tillman’s nod. Always big on team chemistry, Berhalter has referred to some players as “glued men.”
“We’ve developed a really strong brotherhood,” Zimmerman said. “We use that word a lot and we don’t use it lightly. There are men that fit in that certainly present a lot of intangibles that people might not see every day, but they are such a huge part of our success. Chemistry is definitely one of the Our strengths, and that’s something we can control.”
The World Cup attacking crew has not been stable for more than four years, and it hasn’t taken hold until recent months. Jesus Ferreira, 21, has been a constant in the group of players and Josh Sargent, 22, has secured his place with his re-emergence this season with Norwich City in England.
Pepi also thought to take the call amid a strong campaign in the Netherlands, and Pefok plays regularly for Union Berlin. But Berhalter chose Haji Wright, Turkish striker in great shape This fall. Pefok production has recently decreased.
“If we had made the decision in mid-September,” Berhalter said,[Pefok] Maybe it was a lock.”
With an average age of 25.5 years, the US team is expected to have one of the youngest – if not the youngest – candidates in the 32-team field. Five call-ups did not appear in any of the playoffs: Horvath, Johnson and Wright and defenders Cameron Carter-Vickers and Joe Scully.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” Berhalter said. “It’s a great opportunity for young players, for old players, for everyone. I just hope that when we get there, we are ready to take advantage of it because we really see that as a responsibility. It all starts now.”
goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Luton Town), Shawn Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (Arsenal).
Defenders: Cameron Carter Vickers (Celtic), Serginio Dest (AC Milan), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Chuck Moore (Nashville SC), Tim Remm (Fulham), Anthony Robinson (Fulham), Joe Scully (Borussia Moenchengladbach), DeAndre Yadlin (Inter Miami), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC).
midfieldersBrendan Aaronson (Leeds United), Colin Acosta (Los Angeles), Tyler Adams (Leeds United), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKinney (Juventus), Younes Musa (Valencia), Christian Roldan (Seattle Sounders).
attackers: Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reina (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Norwich City), Tim Weah (Lille), Haji Wright (Antalya Sport).
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