Grading the USMNT World Cup Bubble Players

Gregg Berhalter cannot be too happy that his core national team players are falling down like flies. Now the oft-questioned coach may need to think outside the box. We take a look at some of the possible emergency USMNT World Cup call-ups Berhalter may need to make ahead of Qatar 2022. 

Gio Reyna, Matt Turner, Miles Robinson, Sergiño Dest, Chris Richards, Weston McKennie, and Daryl Dike are just some on a long list of United Stats men’s national team players that are currently on the injury block. Some are just coming off of long layoffs, others like Robinson could see their World Cup dreams go up in smoke.

And while we’d like to see all of these players make recoveries in time for this winter’s games, unfortunately that’s not realistic thinking. It’s not uncommon for national teams to miss out on a handful of players — at times essential ones — with injuries ahead of a World Cup. And while injuries are a big concern for all national team coaches, you’d have to think USMNT gaffer Gregg Berhalter is on red alert.

The two biggest USMNT stars, Reyna and Christian Pulisic, are injury prone, while other bedrock players are now starting to show wear and tear of a grueling past year. Robinson’s devastating Achilles tear is the latest example that a big blow could come at any moment.

Berhalter now must think about which peripheral players he may need to turn to in case one or more core players are missing come November. With a June camp and four games coming up, this could be some bubble players’ last possible chance to make a mark before Qatar 2022. We grade the chances of a handful of players to make the final USMNT World Cup roster.

Group One: Genuine Dark Horses

Gabriel Slonina: A+

gabriel slonina usmnt

With a goalkeeping situation that will most likely see both Turner and Zack Steffen riding the pine next season, Gabriel Slonina may need to get promoted sooner rather than later. The teenaged Chicago Fire netminder is without question the biggest national team talent not on the roster, having drawn comparisons to Gianluigi Buffon. Especially with the Polish federation snooping around, it may be time for Slonina to get that “last call” call up.

Cameron Carter-Vickers: A-

cameron carter vickers usmnt

With a sensational season at Celtic under his belt and a few offers to return to the Premier League, Cameron Carter-Vickers is a good choice to bring in at defender given the number of injuries as of late. Carter-Vickers by no means will be the second coming of Franz Beckenbauer, but after a very good season in Scotland he could be deserving of one last look.

Djordje Mihailovic: B+

djordje mihailovic usmnt

Djordje Mihailovic is having a banner start to his MLS season with CF Montreal. Mihailovic has five goals and four assists in 10 games this season, and has been a major piece of Montreal’s resurgence in MLS.

Haji Wright: B-

haji wright usmnt

For a country that has tried everyone but the local mailman at striker, Haji Wright is yet another option. The 24-year-old is finishing a very healthy run in the Turkish league, scoring 14 times in 31 appearances and in his last seven games. Wright may not be a top-six choice, but he is scoring, and that seems to be enough to get an opportunity at this point.

Group Two: Unusual Suspects

 Alan Soñora: C

alan sonora usmnt

Alan Soñora has been playing well for a completely dismantled and battered Independiente side in Argentina. With a demonstrated nose for goal from both the outside the box and free kicks, Soñora on paper should be a no-brainer addition to the roster. However, we’re so close to a World Cup that a lot of things would have to go bad in the USMNT midfield for Soñora to make the squad.

Folarin Balogun: C-

folarin balogun usmnt

With a chance to take a look at another striker before Qatar 2022, dual-national Folarin Balogun could be an interesting option. The problem is Balogun has also played for the English youth sides and is coming off of a decent run at Middlesbrough. Balogun has all the leverage at this point, not so much the USMNT.

John Brooks: D

john brooks usmnt

John Brooks’ time with the USMNT seems to be over while Gregg Berhalter is in charge. But with an inexperienced backline, if Brooks would change his attitude a bit and be more of a leader, he should really be on the squad. While criticized for his omission of Brooks, Berhalter is spot on about the center back’s lack of responsibility when playing for the USMNT. Another potential demerit on Brooks’ record is Wolfsburg showing him the door at season’s end and offloading his big contract.

Konrad de la Fuente: D

konrad de la fuente usmnt

USMNT Twitter fan favorite Konrad de la Fuente had a meager and injury-riddled season at Marseille. Unless he starts next season and truly plays a big role, de la Fuente is just another former Barcelona player on a top team warming the bench.