Who should be on the USMNT roster for the 2022 World Cup? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Two September friendlies, zero goals.
That's how the U.S. men's national team performed in their final games ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November.
First it was a lackluster 2-0 loss to Japan to kickoff the last round of warm-up matches, and a 0-0 draw to Saudi Arabia was the follow-up performance.
Though Japan and Saudi Arabia are also competing in Qatar, the USMNT did not do itself any favors convincing spectators it can advance in a Group B comprising England, Wales and Iran.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter has 26 players to name to his squad, which will likely happen on Nov. 9.
Based on how USMNT players have been performing for club and country as of late, let's look at the best possible roster Berhalter can call up:
Three goalkeepers will be called up in November, and it's safe to bet Arsenal's Matt Turner will be the nation's starting No. 1. Here's how this position should pan out:
Starter: Matt Turner, 28, Arsenal - Provides the shot-stopping factor the U.S. will need
Backup: Sean Johnson, 33, NYCFC -Tied for most clean sheets in MLS with 14
Backup: Zack Steffen, 27, Middlesbrough - Struggling with injuries, form but a solid third pick
While injuries have swamped the top-choice options for the USMNT, only one player has been confirmed to miss the 2022 World Cup: Atlanta United's Miles Robinson, who is out with a torn Achilles.
Besides Robinson, here is how the starting back four should pan out along with their backups:
Starting RB: Sergiño Dest, 21, AC Milan - Picking up more consistency after a run with injuries
Starting RCB: Chris Richards, 22, Crystal Palace - Arguably the best U.S. CB when fit, has learned under Bayern Munich and now Patrick Vieira in England
Starting LCB: John Brooks, 29, S.L. Benfica - Berhalter likes using a left-footed CB, and Brooks offers the experience and poise compared to New York Red Bulls' Aaron Long
Starting LB: Antonee Robinson, 25, Fulham - Best U.S. left-back by a longshot
Backup RB: Joe Scally, 19, Mönchengladbach - Brings fresh energy, can attack, Bundesliga starter
Backup RCB: Walker Zimmerman, 29, Nashville SC - Solid-level replacement who can play on the ball
Backup LCB: Cameron Carter-Vickers, 24, Celtic - Not naturally left-footed, but a better alternative than Long
Backup LB: DeAndre Yedlin, 29, Inter Miami - He's a RB, but there's just not many adequate LB backups ready for the World Cup level
In Berhalter's 4-3-3 formation, the midfield comprises one No. 6 playing as CDM with two No. 8s in the CM role alongside.
Starting CDM: Tyler Adams, 23, Leeds United - He's a tank in the middle of the pitch, but doesn't offer much offensive juice when he comes up. Performs the No. 6 role the best, though
Starting RCM: Yunus Musah, 19, Valencia - Sorely missed in the friendlies, could be a breakout star if his box-to-box abilities are optimized
Starting LCM: Weston McKinnie, 24, Juventus - Club team is struggling, but is arguably the nation's best all-around midfielder when in great form
Backup CDM: Kellyn Acosta, 27, LAFC - Not a true No. 8 as the Saudi Arabia game highlighted but makes for a quality backup to Adams
Backup RCM: Brenden Aaronson, 21, Leeds United - Often plays winger, but a free-roaming role as a No. 8 on the right side is a good way to use his high-pressing style more
Backup LCM: Luca de la Torre, 24, Celta de Vigo - Naturally left-footed, can slot in here when needed
Let's look at four wingers and two strikers that should be involved in Qatar, with one very obvious choice:
Starting LW: Christian Pulisic, 24, Chelsea - No doubts here
Starting ST: Jordan Pefok, 26, Union Berlin - In great form with a rising team in the Bundesliga, should have been called up in September. Will Berhalter start him? Probably not
Starting RW: Timothy Weah, 22, LOSC Lille - Injured for September games, but the best RW on the squad despite not being inverted
Backup LW: Gio Reyna, 19, Borussia Dortmund - If healthy, he's a good alternative as an inverted winger behind Pulisic. Can also play centrally, but not at the defensive level needed
Backup ST: Jesus Ferreira, 21, FC Dallas - He's typically bagging goals in MLS, but that hasn't been the case with the U.S. An energy-type sub could be the way to go behind Pefok
Backup RW: Paul Arriola, 27, FC Dallas - He's been around a while and is a safe choice
Final three players
So that's 23 players who should be on the plane to Qatar, but the expanded squad allows managers to bring three extra players for added depth. Since three goalkeepers are already listed, let's add one more defender, midfielder and forward:
Extra defender: Tim Ream, 34, Fulham - Ream has been excellent for Fulham, a rising team in England. A great in-case-of-emergency option despite lacking pace
Extra midfielder: Cristian Roldan, 27, Seattle Sounders - Missed September games due to injury, can play as a RCM, LCM or winger if necessary. Portland Timbers' Eryk Williamson deserves a shout, but he hasn't been involved internationally as much
Extra forward: Josh Sargent, 22, Norwich City - Six goals in 10 league games as a striker in the EFL Championship. Ricardo Pepi misses out, but he hasn't been in great form for a while