June 20 – The USA have dropped 18 of the 23-man squad that won the second edition of the Nations League in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
Gone are US captain and talisman Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, Yunus Musah and Chris Richards, as well as mercurial young stars Giovanni Reyna, new boy Folarin Bagolun, Timothy Weah and Pepi.
Only five players are rolling over from the Nations League squad into the Gold Cup squad: Club America playmaker Alejandro Zeneca, Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner, Seth Johnson, Alan Sonora, and Miles Robinson.
Seven of the players were in the 2022 FIFA World Cup squad: Jesús Ferreira, Aaron Long, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, DeAndre Yedlin, Johnson and Turner.
It is a remarkable Gold Cup selection decision following the US breakthrough in terms of performance in Las Vegas. A tournament which showcased to the US nation and its soccer community that they have real soccer talent in the country and are at last finding a way to harness it. The players were riding the wave of their own talent that was at last uncaged and it was catching on the eye.
Now the only waves these players will be riding are at the beach before the return of former coach Gregg Berhalter, another interesting decision considering the spat between him and one of the country’s brightest stars Gio Reyna that escalated into a scandal of soap opera proportions.
The US went into the Nations League with a young squad with 16 of the 23 players playing their club football in Europe, seven of them in the Premier League. In a US vs Mexico classic, the US won 3-0 and went on to beat Canada 2-0 in the final.
It was a coming-of-age party for a team that looked to have had the shackles removed from a painfully pragmatic system employed by Berhalter. It was a performance of creative commitment and fluidity that few, if any, US teams have put together. It was intoxicating and with the Gold Cup coming up at the end week and the US kicking it off at Chicago’s Soldier Field, a huge opportunity to galvanise this team into serial winners rather than the occasional show pony role too many of them perform at club level in Europe.
If US fans feel cheated, it is because they have been. So have the nations that have prioritised the Gold Cup and are bringing their best players to the region’s blue riband tournament. It is as disrespectful as it is perplexing for a nation that has continuously failed to connect with its grassroots and fan based. When Mexico play in the US they fill a 60,000+ stadium with fans, passion and excitement. It is an occasion that is repeated over and over again.
When the US national team plays, in their own country, they struggle to get 30,000. The Nations League was a fantastic opportunity to bridge that disconnect between a huge US fan base and soccer playing community. An opportunity to do something very special and meaningful for the sport in their country of multiple nations.
Do the stars and stripes really have so little meaning to these players, this management team and this money driven federation?
Canada have also dropped four key players – Jonathan Davies, Jonathan David, Tajon Buchanan – and are being criticised at home for it. But they still have 16 of their players from the Nations League squad in the Gold Cup squad.
Mexico are making just one change from their Nations League squad.
Jamaica, who are opening their campaign against the US, are all in. They are bringing a squad containing 14 European players, seven of them Premier League players.
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