ALBRIGHT: Why the World Cup will be disappointing for the United States

Photo+courtesy+of+US+Soccer

Photo by Greg Bartram

Photo courtesy of US Soccer

In less than a month, the FIFA World Cup Trophy will be hoisted by one lucky nation.

The United States will not be that nation. 

After a 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago that kept them out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the United States Men’s National Team regrouped and turned their focus towards redemption this year. 

On Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. CST, the United States announced its lineup for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

At 4:01 p.m. there was one clear takeaway: USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter did not do a good job.

In Qatar, the United States will be represented by a team consisting of a striker who has never scored an international open play goal and a defender who has not played for the team since Sep. 2021.

The lineup has its expected stars including winger Christian Pulisic, midfielder Weston McKennie, forward Gio Reyna and fullback Sergiño Dest.  

But there were a lot of snubs. 

Zack Steffen, who has been the No. 1 goalkeeper for the majority of Berhalter’s tenure, was left off the squad after missing team camp twice this year. Regardless, he has been quintessential for Berhalter in the past and deserved a place on the roster over New York City FC keeper Sean Johnson. 

Keeping him off is a poor decision fueled by an overrating of Major League Soccer players.

FC Union Berlin center-forward Jordan Pefok and FC Groningen forward Ricardo Pepi were also kept off the team, two abhorrent choices because of their presence inside the box and playmaking ability. 

Pefok, despite having not scored since September, led the Swiss Super League with 22 goals and 27 goals in all competitions last season and Pepi is currently averaging one goal contribution every 91 minutes.

Both have proven themselves as World Cup caliber players, but neither are on the team.

These next few players will be donning the red, white and blue, but have no business doing so.

Jordan Morris, a winger for Seattle Sounders FC with seven goals in 28 appearances last season, does not deserve to be on the plane to Qatar. Morris has been in terrible form and as a backup his presence in the penalty box will not materialize into any tangible results.

Another Seattle Sounders FC player, Cristian Roldan, was chosen instead of 20-year-old Malik Tillman.

Roldan has versatility, which is always a nice trait, but it is not necessary.

Because World Cup rosters were expanded from 23 to 26 players, Berhalter can take a backup in each position and a few safety picks without having to worry about depth. Roldan’s versatility is less valuable and giving the spot to an attacking spark, like Tillman, gives the USMNT a better chance at winning group stage games.

Berhalter let his partiality toward MLS players cloud his judgment and he fell victim to recency bias.

With this roster, the USMNT will be lucky to make it out of the group stage as they are coming off of a draw to Wales on Monday and having to face a stellar England squad on Friday.

I will always root for America, but with Berhalter at the helm the team will not perform.

There is too much unselected talent this year and changes must be made before the World Cup comes to America in 2026.

This story was written by Jack Albright. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JackAlbrightMU.