Interim head coach Anthony Hudson has named his 24-man squad for upcoming Nations League matches against Grenada and El Salvador. Hudson has called Gio Reyna back in while Alejandro Zendejas is also a member of the squad after officially committing to represent the United States. It's a heavily European based squad, but without Tyler Adams who is sidelined with a hamstring injury. Without his midfielder, Hudson will have a few challenges entering these games, which are must wins as they have the potential to determine the summer schedule.
The USMNT are currently in second place in Group D after drawing their match against El Salvador. Winning the group is quite important this year because not only would topping the group mean an automatic berth to the quarterfinals, but now it also comes with the additional prize of an automatic berth to play in the 2024 Copa America.
If the USMNT are unable to snag the top spot they'd then need to play a second group stage in October and November which would include six teams. It would take a top two in that group to punch their ticket to the quarterfinals to continue the defense of their Nations League title. Furthermore, the four teams that win those second group stage groups would also then have a playoff to determine the final two Concacaf spots in Copa America.
With that laid out, let's take a look at who Hudson called in:
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GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8/0), Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough/ENG; 29/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 24/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Sergiño Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 23/2), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 10/0), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 50/1), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo/BEL; 2/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham; 33/2), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 20/3), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 3/0), Auston Trusty (Birmingham City/ENG; 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 28/6), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 4/0), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Leeds United/ENG; 41/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 23/0), Alan Soñora (Juárez/MEX; 2/0)
FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Utrecht/NED; 0/0), Daryl Dike (West Bromwich Albion/ENG; 8/3), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen/NED; 12/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 56/22), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 16/4), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 29/4), Alex Zendejas (Club América/MEX; 1/0)
Zendejas will be in line for his first official cap in a FIFA competition after making his first appearance in the squad in a January friendly against Serbia. Reyna also returns to his first squad since the World Cup, closing the door on questions about what his future may hold after the U.S. Soccer investigation into a feud between his parents and Gregg Berhalter. With that resolved and Reyna back in the squad, this will be one fewer thing that any new manager and sporting director will need to deal with in the future.
"As I've said before, the situation during the World Cup was handled as a group, there was a positive response from the player, and we all moved forward, Hudson said in a Q & A around the roster. "Clearly, it became a bit more complex in the months since the World Cup, but as far as we're concerned Gio is a part of our program. He's a good guy and a top talent and he is evaluated like any other player. We made the roster decisions based on what gives the team the best opportunity to win these games, and we brought him in because we think he can help us do that."
Zack Steffen also returns after missing the World Cup squad while MLS players have been left with their clubs due to the league not having a formal international break as it just got underway a few weeks ago. But even without the MLS players, Hudson will have quite a talented side to choose from.
Dual national recruitment
With Zendejas committing to the squad, one thing that Hudson was asked about is if there has been communication with Florian Balogun who is eligible to represent the United States, England, and Nigeria. His response was short, but does show that the national team is taking a look at all of their possible forward options.
"All I'll say, there is open dialogue with him and his team, Hudson That dialogue is continuing. That's all I can say."
Balogun has 16 goals with Reims while on loan from Arsenal this season and if he were to commit to the USMNT, he would immediately raise the talent level of the forward line but there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment. England are interested but with Harry Kane leading the line, Balogun would presumably need to take a smaller role with the Three Lions than he would with the United States but with other clubs interested in him thanks to his strong performance in Ligue 1, things could quickly change.
Players Return after missing the World Cup
While Steffen and Ricardo Pepi's returns after missing out on the World Cup are the headlines, there are big injury returns happening in this squad as well. Miles Robinson and Daryl Dike have missed significant time for club and country but being back in the squad is a big step. Robinson would've been at the World Cup had he been healthy which is why even though MLS doesn't have other reps in the squad, he was included. He'll also be able to work with potential center backs of the future in Auston Trusty and Mark McKenzie giving the squad prep for 2026.
For Dike, any striker doing well should come through the squad and there are minutes to go around with Josh Sargent just returning from injury with Norwich City. Dike has three goals in his last four games with West Brom and he offers a different style than other strikers due to his directness. Also, with Dike's MLS experience, he'll be facing familiar opposition in the El Salvador match too.
A midfield shift?
With no Kellyn Acosta or Adams in the squad, this could be a chance for Hudson to move to a 4-2-3-1 playing through Reyna in the middle. With wingers like Taylor Booth, Tim Weah, and Zendejas in the side, there are plenty of wide players in the squad giving the team a chance to stretch opposition in these matches. Formation flexibility hasn't been something that the USMNT has shown recently sticking to a 4-3-3 but the time for change is now.