USMNT roster prediction: Gio Reyna returns, Alex Zendejas commits

For the first time since their early December loss to the Netherlands in the second round of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar — and since the Berhalter-Reyna mess exploded into public view — a full strength version of the United States men's national team will convene next week for CONCACAF Nations League games against Grenada and El Salvador.

The two matches begin a busy year for the USMNT. The Nations League semis and final — possibly against blood rival Mexico — loom in June. The 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup kicks off later that month and concludes in July with another potential U.S.-El Tri meeting. There's a slate of high-profile friendlies (Argentina, Brazil and Germany are among the rumored foes) set for the fall.  

While the Americans still don't have a general manager or full-time coach and won't until at least the summer, the show must go on. Interim boss Anthony Hudson must name his roster for the March matches. U.S. headliners Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic, plus most of the other regulars who made the trip Qatar, are expected to be on it.

A few surprises are still possible, though. He's a position by position breakdown of players Hudson could pick.  


The obvious question concerns Gio Reyna. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the 20-year-old winger will be called up.

Meantime, Pulisic is finally back for Chelsea after missing two months with a knee injury. Tim Weah, deployed lately as a fullback for France's Lille, will relish the opportunity to reclaim his spot on the wing for the U.S. Brenden Aaronson is a lock for the roster if not the starting lineup, while Jordan Morris's hot start to the MLS season (his three goals in three games lead the league) should keep him ahead of Paul Arriola and youngster Cade Cowell.

The pecking order is less clear at striker. Jesús Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Haji Wright are the incumbents, and Wright scored twice in his most recent match in Turkey. But the competition is stiffer than before the World Cup, with Daryl Dike and Ricardo Pepi both enjoying career-best form. Even 32-year-old Terrence Boyd has a claim; Boyd, whose last U.S. appearance came in 2016, has 11 goals in 24 appearances for Kaiserslautern in Germany's second division this season. The numbers game doesn't bode as well for Brandon Vázquez, who is scoreless through Cincinnati's first three MLS matches.

The wild card of course is 21-year-old Folarin Balogun, who is tied for third in goals in Ligue 1, behind only Kylian Mbappé and Canada's Jonathan David. The New York-born, London-raised Balogun repped the U.S at under-18 level but has appeared for England's youth teams more recently. Balogun, who is also eligible for Nigeria, hasn't yet committed to any nation and won't be on this roster. But he's a name to keep track of nonetheless.


The "MMA" trio — Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie — have been playing regularly for their relegation-threatened clubs. All three are no-brainers, even if McKennie somewhat surprisingly came off the bench for Leeds in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Brighton.  

The biggest mover is Luca de la Torre. The Celta Vigo playmaker saw just 50 minutes of La Liga action between August and the World Cup break, but De la Torre has now made eight consecutive starts in Spain's top league, including Saturday's 3-0 victory over Villarreal. Former Mexico winger Alex Zendejas officially committed to the USMNT Tuesday and should join the four players above after returning from a minor muscle injury.

Kellyn Acosta and Cristian Roldan figure to be on the list, too. Taylor Booth is a possibility after establishing himself as a regular with Dutch Eredivisie side Utrecht, with Johnny Cardoso, Djordje Mihailovic, James Sands, Malik Tillman and Eryk Williamson also in contention.  


A source close to 35-year-old center back Tim Ream told FOX Sports in December that Ream, one of just three U.S. players who logged every minute at the World Cup, had no intention of retiring from the national team. These are real games, so expect Ream to be there. Same for the other three World Cup starters: Walker Zimmerman and fullbacks Antonee "Jedi" Robinson and Sergiño Dest.  

Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chris Richards are also locks. Aaron Long, with just 82 minutes played through LAFC first three competitive games, isn't. Auston Trusty and a healthy again Miles Robinson the other central defenders firmly in the mix.  

On the flanks, Joe Scally continues to log big minutes in the Bundesliga. Fellow right back John Tolkin impressed enough in January to earn a look with the varsity, but Belgium-based Bryan Reynolds has been quietly excellent this season and might be preferred over Tolkin and Qatar vet Shaq Moore. And 19-year-old left back Kevin Paredes has been a regular sub for Wolfsburg and could warrant an audition as Jedi's backup.  


Matt Turner was the Americans' World Cup starter and is playing semi-regularly for Premier League leader Arsenal. Turner made four saves in last week's 2-2 tie at Sporting Lisbon in the Gunners' Europa League round of 16 first leg, with the decisive second scheduled for Thursday in London. Turner should be back in net for that and for both U.S. games.

Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson were Turner's understudies in Qatar, but teenage phenom Gaga Slonina could spell the 33-year-old Johnson this month. Slonina, who in January became the youngest keeper to start for the USMNT, has pitched clean sheets in two of his last three matches for Chelsea's reserves.

Veteran Zack Steffen remains an option. Steffen has started 26 straight games for a Middlesbrough team on pace for the Premier League promotion playoffs in England's second tier. The Manchester City loanee is still just 27. But after Berhalter left him off the World Cup squad, don't be shocked if Steffen doesn't don a U.S. shirt before a permanent coach is named.

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