With Doug McIntyre
FOX Sports Soccer Writer
Given the flurry of club-switching that its members US men’s national team have already taken over this summer, it’s hard to believe that Europe’s transfer window won’t close until September 1st.
Broadly speaking, however, we do know where the vast majority of the USMNT’s World Cup contenders and lineup will play between now and the team’s November 21 opener against Wales in Qatar 2022.
Few of the signings we’ve seen so far have a huge impact on a player’s position on Gregg Burhalter’s team.
Matt Turner will likely remain Burhalter’s second-choice goalkeeper despite joining Arsenal in the Premier League’s first team. Luca de la Torre will likely continue as a World Cup reserve despite swapping the Dutch Eredivisie for La Liga. Malik Tillman’s loan from Bayern Munich to Scottish side Rangers probably won’t be enough to push him into Berhalter’s 26-man squad.
Several deals, on the other hand, could be hugely important to the U.S.’s World Cup performance.
For the players listed below, their summer moves could well determine whether they start in Qatar, what form they’ll be in when they get there or, in a certain case, whether they make the trip.
Let’s dive in.
Forward Brenden Aaronson, Leeds United (from Red Bull Salzburg)
If Christian Pulisic is Berhalter’s top choice on the left wing, who is the starter on the right? With two great offensive options in Aaronson and Tim Weah (and possibly Gio Reyna, who missed most of last year with hamstring issues), it’s hard to say.
Aaronson’s $30 million move in May could change that.
The Philadelphia Union product has been excellent on the right for Leeds during pre-season, especially in Monday’s 6-2 win over Italian side Cagliari. Aaronson had three assists in United’s final set-up before the new Premier League season kicks off this weekend, including one with the outside of his right foot.
Berhalter experimented with Aaronson in the midfield in June, so it’s possible that Berhalter will find a spot for the 21-year-old in the World Cup lineup no matter what. If Aaronson, Reyna and Weah all end up vying for a place on the field, a quick start to life in the Prem could tip the odds in Aaronson’s favour.
Midfielder Tyler AdamsLeeds United (from RB Leipzig)
The Americans’ most skilled and experienced defensive midfielder is a lock to start in Qatar. That would be the case if Adams remained in Germany, despite falling out of favor with Leipzig manager Domenico Tedesco after Tedesco replaced Jesse Marsch midway through last season.
Now Adams is reuniting with his former boss at Leipzig and New York Red Bulls in Leeds. Not only does that mean he’ll play a ton, but he’ll be up against every week at a higher level against many of the same players he’ll face when the USA take on Wales and England in the first two groups. Games. This is an ideal situation for both Adams and the USMNT.
Forward Jordan PeffokUnion Berlin (from Young boys)
Pefok won the Golden Boot in the Swiss league last season with 22 goals, earning a move to the Bundesliga. Now the 26-year-old, who has just one goal in nine appearances for the USMNT, must prove he can continue to score regularly in Europe’s top five.
If Pefok can start 2022-23 finding the target more regularly than Augsburg’s Ricardo Pepi or Daryl Dyke and Josh Sargent of the English Premier League, he will become the favorite to make Berhalter’s 26-man World Cup squad as the team’s other central striker. after Jesus Ferreira.
So far so good; Pefok opened his account for the Union on Monday with an acrobatic finish in the German Cup game.
DEFENDER Chris Richards, Crystal Palace (from Bayern Munich)
As with Aaronson and Adams, competing in the toughest domestic league on the planet is a major step for Richards, who has spent the better part of the last two seasons on loan from Bayern at mid-table Bundesliga side Hoffenheim.
Under Palace manager Patrick Vieira, the Alabama-born centre-back will be given every opportunity to prove he belongs in the Premier League.
“He’s a solid defender who likes to defend, especially in a 1v1 situation,” Vieira said after Richards’ debut last Saturday in a friendly against France’s Montpellier. “He’s really comfortable on the ball.”
If Richards, 22, adapts quickly to the pace and physicality of the English game, he will create separation between himself and Aaron Long, who is also in contention to partner Walker Zimmerman in central defense at the World Cup.
Goalkeeper Jacques Stephen, Middlesbrough (borrowed from City of Manchester)
The only guy on this list who didn’t level up, Steffen dropped down to the second-tier Championship to secure playing time. It’s a smart decision. The 27-year-old has started the most games for the U.S. under Burhalter, his former coach with the Columbus Crew in MLS.
But with MLS regular Sean Johnson and Ethan Horvath for a strong start With Luton Town, Steffen needed to start every week to secure his status as the No. 1 manager at the World Cup. Now is? Steffen won rave reviews after making four saves in Boro’s 1-1 draw with West Brom last weekend.
Meanwhile, Steffen’s main rival throughout World Cup qualifying, Turner, is expected to back up Aaron Ramsdale with the Gunners this season.
One of the leading soccer journalists in North America, Doug McIntyre has covered the United States men’s and women’s national teams at several FIFA World Cups. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @By DougMcIntyre.
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