National Writer: Charles Boehm

USMNT ready for Copa América: What the 4 MLS call-ups bring

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Mainstay, specialist, reliable veteran, wild card.

No, we’re not talking about the makeup of the A-Team or reinforcements for yet another ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ reboot, but the quartet of MLS representatives on the US men’s national team roster Gregg Berhalter just unveiled for the buildup to this summer’s massive Copa América campaign.

We’ll go in that order. Miles Robinson remains a trusted member of the USMNT core, having produced just the kind of dominant performances for a top team Berhalter called on him to produce when he moved from Atlanta United to FC Cincinnati over the winter. Robinson will compete for starters’ minutes when the Yanks warm up with friendlies against Colombia (in Landover, Maryland on June 8) and Brazil (in Orlando, Florida on June 12).

“Miles has been performing really well for his club; he’s performed really well for us in the past. I think that's an important distinction with him especially – he's a guy that we've counted on for a while,” Berhalter told reporters in a Monday media availability. “And he's earned the call-up.”

Moore's back

The specialist is Nashville SC’s Shaq Moore, a veteran of Berhalter’s 2022 World Cup squad who has recently worked his way back into NSC’s lineup after recovering from a hip injury. He is particularly valued as a shutdown defender against the sort of wide attackers the US expect to tangle with this summer.

“With Shaq, we know he's getting back to his form right now. He has been out for a while, but he's been able to get on the field now and get some more minutes,” said Berhalter, “and he's a guy, when we’re looking at our matchups in this summer, a lot of these wingers are very good 1v1 and we think that's a strength of his, his defensive work against good 1v1 players. So it's something just that we took into consideration.”

Moore is one of several potential options to fill the Sergiño Dest-sized hole that opened up at fullback when the Dutch-American maverick tore his ACL with PSV Eindhoven. The coach’s breakdown of that section of his depth chart touched on several MLS alums now plying their trade in Europe, and led to a few revelations about other areas of the pitch, too.

“We have to figure out the right back situation and there's a couple of different options we can look at, right?” said Berhalter. “We have like for like with Joe Scally and Shaq Moore. We have a winger that can play there with Timothy Weah, because he’s played there for his club [Juventus]. We have center midfielders who can play there with Weston [McKennie] and Yunus [Musah], and then we have center backs that we're looking at that, can they play there?

“So we just wanted the ability in this training camp to have options, to have flexibility. Some of it may revolve around a back three.”

Johnson & Tillman

The reliable veteran is Sean Johnson, the Toronto FC goalkeeper. He seems unlikely to play much, given how Berhalter reiterated that ex-New England Revolution star Matt Turner remains the starter in goal “as of now” despite his limited minutes at Nottingham Forest. But with over a dozen USMNT caps, Johnson is a familiar, trusted figure on and off the pitch.

And the wild card is LAFC midfielder Timmy Tillman, who showed well during January camp and continues to be a well-rounded contributor for one of MLS’s most potent contenders. The numbers game suggests his spot is the least assured, yet he’ll have the chance to show his value when the USMNT camp opens in the Washington, D.C. area next week.

The US’s participation in the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, an Under-23 tournament where each team can also field three overage players, led Berhalter to send some of the younger center mids in his evaluation pool to U-23s coach Marko Mitrović’s upcoming pre-Olympic camp, thus opening up space for Tillman.

“Timmy made a good impression on us in January,” said Berhalter of LAFC’s box-to-box dynamo, “and when we're looking at this roster vs. the Olympic roster, there were some other guys that were in contention as well, but we felt like the balance of it would be better to keep them with the Olympic group and move Timmy to the senior team.

“We were looking at players that could have potentially been on this roster but would have garnered more playing time with the Olympic group, and we decided that's the best possible option, for us to really give a broader player pool international experience in good competition this summer,” the coach explained. “So that was very much part of the discussion, and a number of players that fall into that category. [D.C. United product] Kevin Paredes has been one of them, [Columbus Crew’s] Aidan Morris, another one, [FC Dallas product] Bryan Reynolds potentially another one.”

Overage consideration

Olympic rosters tend to be trickier to construct because the tournament falls outside of FIFA’s mandatory call-up windows, thus clubs must voluntarily release their players to participate. Moore’s NSC teammate, Walker Zimmerman, is a leading candidate for one of the overage slots now that he seems fully healthy. Same for MLS products Auston Trusty and Brandon Vazquez, now at Sheffield United and CF Monterrey, respectively.

“Brandon's a guy that was, is, definitely in the conversation for that group as well. We're evaluating the availability of some of our other players for the Olympic pool. So it's just about the communication with clubs and communication with the players,” said Berhalter.

“But certainly those are two names [Trusty, Vazquez] that came up in that context. Another name that came up was Walker Zimmerman. We know he's working back, getting to fitness, so he's another guy. And again, it's just really trying to broaden the player pool that will get international experience in this summer and really being thoughtful about how we do that.”