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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

BALDARI | Forget About the Gold Cup. The USMNT Still Has a Long Way To Go.


The U.S. men’s national soccer team has enjoyed a prosperous summer, winning the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League in June and performing strongly at the Gold Cup in July. Yet these triumphs will mean nothing if the USMNT fails to build on them in the future. 

Promising outings at two continental competitions are positive strides for a team that infamously failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. However, it is important to remember that many of the USMNT’s wins — with the exception of its victory against Mexico in the Nations League final — were against teams it should comfortably defeat, such as Canada and Haiti, which rank outside the top 60 in FIFA men’s world rankings, and Martinique, which is not a FIFA member.

The next — and most important — step will be to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar this upcoming year. 

The strength of the U.S. team will truly be tested in the eight-team qualification group, in which the U.S. will face Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Canada and Panama.

With Mexico as its sternest opposition, the United States should have enough talent to defeat the other six teams. But it is crucial this team avoid the complacency it adopted four years ago, when it crashed and burned out of the World Cup qualifiers, finishing fifth in a six-team group of Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago.

Unlike that disappointing 2017 team, which featured players who were well past their prime, such as Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard, the current squad is youthful and fresh.

Thus, it will be essential to optimize the U.S. team’s young talent. 

In the past few seasons, many U.S. athletes have played key roles for Europe’s top clubs. Led by Chelsea Football Club’s Christian Pulisic, a starter on the infamous 2017 USMNT, this generation of U.S. stars also includes Juventus’ Weston McKennie and Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna.

Despite their flair and creativity, the three aforementioned players were not included in the U.S.’s Gold Cup roster. Head coach Gregg Berhalter omitted them from the roster in order to give the trifecta time to rest before they report to club preseason in August. In reality, it seems he chose to bring his “B team” for the Gold Cup.

The USMNT will only go as far as its best players — Pulisic, McKennie and Reyna — take the team, so their omission from the roster was inexplicable.

Berhalter should build the team around his talented trio. They should be a consistent presence on the roster, a source of leadership and a catalyst for team chemistry, even if the players surrounding them constantly change. 

But when the team’s best players are on vacation while other players are competing, it does little to build cohesion among the group.

In other words, the USMNT is not good enough to play its B-team in tournaments like the Gold Cup and then expect its A team to save the day at more important matches like World Cup qualification. 

It is rare to see so many Americans starring for European juggernauts at the same time. This season alone, Christian Pulisic won the Champions League with Chelsea, Weston McKennie won the Coppa Italia with Juventus and Giovanni Reyna won the DFB-Pokal with Dortmund. Many more U.S. players are attracting the attention of European clubs, for example FC Dallas’ Tanner Tessmann, who signed with Serie A’s Venezia in July.

With so many U.S. athletes playing in the spotlight of Europe’s top leagues, it is incumbent upon Berhalter to use these players as much as possible while they are in their prime, and it is up to the players to translate their success for their clubs into success for their country.

Christian Baldari is a rising sophomore in the College. The Upper 90º Report appears online every other week.

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  • C

    CatamountSep 1, 2021 at 12:15 pm

    There are two different ways to look at the situation. A team of 11-18 or a team of 20-32 players. There is no question that 4-5 players are elite, and the rest are excellent, perhaps elite on a given day. The coach in me wants to put out the best 11 every game, understanding that with three games so close together the best 11 will be drawn from the roster of 18. The manager in me wants to build a cohesive culture, that may not field the absolute best team every game, but will create a flexible culture that can overcome the fitness, social-psychological warfare, hostile conditions and form variations that come with being CONCACAFed. The very fact that CONCACAF has become a verb has me leaning toward manager first, coach a close second. But I can certainly see the other side of the argument

  • J

    JohnAug 29, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Complete nonsense! The US winning Gold Cup with their B/C team gave precious experience to several young players who will form the depth of this team. And with club seasons starting and WC Qualifying not far behind, Berhalter wanted to give his top players rest/recovery time and avoid catastrophic injuries.

  • M

    MikeAug 25, 2021 at 2:01 am

    The writer is naive.

    The word inexplicable was used to describe the absence of Mckennie, Reyna, and Pulisic. Yet it can easily be rationalized and has been widely covered by multiple media outlets.

    Simply put, our top players needed a break after a long European club season (which included league play, multiple cups, and champions league). Furthermore, not only did our euro-based players get plenty of quality reps in Nations League, which they won, but they also played in a couple of friendlies.

    Considering the injury history for players like Weah, Pulisic, and Adams, it was absolutely the right call to give them a break after a successful summer.

    Lastly, playing a B team allowed Berhalter to build depth. Miles Robinson demonstrated that he is the best emergency and 1v1 defender in the player pool. Matt Turner was lights out and has given Berhalter another option at GK. Acosta demonstrated he can be an effective 6 when Adams isn’t available. Busio showed glimpses of his potential and secured a contract to play in Serie A, which will be huge for his development. Matthew Hoppe was able to showcase is versatility by playing leftwing and now is tied to a transfer to Everton. Now consider that Pulisic may miss the next qualifier due to Covid and tell me building depth while winning the gold cup with our B team was inexplicable.

    Perhaps the writer doesn’t know that club and national team relationships are crucial. Unnecessarily putting players at risk of injury and burnout can result in a club withholding a player in the future by conveniently declaring that player injured during the next international window. Or perhaps the writer also doesn’t know that due to Covid, World Cup qualifying windows now have three games instead of two, making it necessary for all countries to expand their rosters. It is very likely that every country will need to play a B squad for one qualifier per international window as not to risk injury and burn bridges with club teams.