USMNT depth chart: Where they're strong and where they should worry ahead of World Cup 2022
It has been eight months and 13 matches since Gregg Berhalter took over as head coach of the United States men's national team. He arrived with a mandate to remake a floundering program in his image, a project that's very much still a work in progress. The manager spent his time handing starts to new players, evaluating the veterans and attempting to find a lineup that gets the most out of the available talent.
As World Cup qualifying approaches next year and the Nations Cup begins in October, it's time to take a look at where the players stand.
(Note: Each player appears once, even if he could fit into multiple spots.)
It's Steffen and then everyone else in the player pool. The Manchester City goalkeeper, on loan at Fortuna Düsseldorf, continues to improve his shot-stopping ability and positioning and is off to a strong start in the Bundesliga. He struggles with distribution, however, and needs to get better in this regard if Berhalter's build from the back system is going to work.
This position is a perpetual weak spot for the Americans. Lovitz is fine, Ream is better but accident prone, and Dest is just 18. The latter, who was solid and also a teenager against Mexico in his first start, could rocket up this list with a good couple of months for the Dutch giants in the Eredivisie and the Champions League.
The good news: Berhalter has a lot of options. The bad: None of those fully solves his problem.
Can John Brooks stay healthy? If he does, one of the two center-back jobs is his for the next half-decade at least. But the Wolfsburg center-back can't maintain fitness. For that matter, Miazga is on the shelf with a serious injury. In the immediate moment, Long and Zimmerman are the starters.
Richards, a standout in the U-20 World Cup, is raw but has line-breaking potential. Omar Gonzalez, Tim Parker, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Erik Palmer-Brown, Justen Glad, Miles Robinson, Austin Trusty and a handful of others could figure into the mix as well.
Yedlin gets the nod due to his experience, though Cannon has had the strongest 12 months of pretty much any player in the U.S. national team picture. In another six months or a year, we might see Cannon lock down the right-back role with Yedlin pushing further up the field, but we're not there quite yet.
Lima presents a serviceable option in a panic, though it's not likely to come to that, and Shaq Moore's a wild card who could push for more chances.
Has any player in the history of U.S. Soccer moved up the ranks for club and country as quickly as Adams? In two years, he has gone from "who is this kid?" to a Champions League starter. Still just 20, the RB Leipzig midfielder could be the American engine for a decade.
Bradley is still Bradley, the smartest player on the field even if he has slowed down a half-step. Trapp's the best leader on the team, a guy who could make a roster for that ability alone. Alfredo Morales and Russell Canouse could play roles here too.
Berhalter could go a lot of ways with this group, including installing Pulisic back in midfield, but the McKennie/Lletget combination is the most potent if -- and this is a big if -- they can stay healthy and learn to play together. Holmes showed excellent promise in limited time, and Pomykal could start pressing sooner rather than later.
Nagbe remains an enigma, notably turning down a recent call-up, and Roldan is fine. Jackson Yueill and Djordje Mihailovic are two younger players who should continue to get shots if they continue to grow as players.
While Pulisic can be considered the best American player at multiple positions, he's best served out on the wing, where he can get the ball in space and attack defenders. (At least that's the idea.) Arriola is a much more limited player who nonetheless finds ways to produce in the U.S. coach's system. (Odds are Berhalter starts him on the right wing.)
Weah, 19, has enough imagination for the entire group but needs to improve his decision-making and impactfulness across an entire match (and get healthy).
Boyd burst onto the scene at the Gold Cup, demonstrating flair and a cannon for a shot. Yet he hasn't quite grasped Berhalter's system, holding the ball for too long. Former wonderboy Morris transformed his game from pacey forward to robust winger, bringing a nuanced understanding to his physical gifts. Lewis might never be more than a spark plug for club or country, but he's a fun prospect.
If Berhalter faced a must-win game, he might choose to start Altidore, who's very much a known quantity at this point. But Sargent should be the call in upcoming games, as a player with a much higher ceiling whose continued improvement could help transform the U.S. squad. As for Zardes, sure for now, but his days are numbered.
One question for the near future: Can red-hot Minnesota United forward Mason Toye force his way into the conversation, or will he come crashing back down to earth?