What to watch for from the USMNT in June tune-ups as 2022 FIFA World Cup looms The Denver Post

While it still feels like ages away, it’s getting down to crunch time for the United States Men’s National Team.

The Americans qualified for the FIFA 2022 World Cup in March. Now, it’s time to see who can grab poll position for a roster spot to make it to Qatar. The USMNT will play four games in the June FIFA window — two friendlies against stiff competition and two CONCACAF Nations League qualifying matches.

Here’s a look at the month ahead

  • vs. Morocco 5:30 p.m. MDT, Wednesday, June 1 at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati
  • vs. Uruguay 3 p.m. MDT, Sunday, June 5 at Children’s Mercy Health Park in Kansas City
  • vs. Grenada 8 p.m. MDT, June 10 at Q2 Stadium in Austin
  • at El Salvador, 8 p.m. MDT, June 14 at Estadio Cuscatlán in San Salvador

The USMNT will face England and Iran as part of its group in the World Cup. The last spot still has to be decided. Scotland will face Ukraine in the UEFA playoff semifinals on Wednesday, and the winner will face Wales on Sunday. That one’s for all the marbles and will determine the final team in Group B.

Back stateside, this will be the second-to-last time head coach Gregg Berhalter will get to evaluate the pool. It also might be the clearest shot for players to make their claim to be on the flight to Qatar come November.

One hopeful is goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, a 26-year-old Highlands Ranch native. On Sunday he subbed on for the final six minutes of the English Championship playoff final for Nottingham Forest. Horvath preserved the 1-0 shutout win to seal promotion to the English Premier League. He will become the first-ever Colorado native to compete in the Premier League starting in the 2022-23 season.

Here are three areas to watch for the USMNT this month.

Goalkeepers and back line

The good news is three American goalkeepers will play in the Premier League next season: Zach Steffen (Manchester City), New England Revolution’s Matt Turner (a soon-to-be Arsenal player) and Horvath (recently-promoted Forest). The problem? A lack of game time for the trio, as they are all backups at the moment. Steffen will miss the June camp due to family issues, providing a chance for the other two to seize the moment.

On defense, center back will be the biggest question, as Atlanta United’s Miles Robinson was a locked-in starter before he ruptured his Achilles tendon recently. Now, who will pair well with Nashville SC’s Walker Zimmerman? Cameron Carter-Vickers, Aaron Long and Erik Palmer-Brown were called in to test it out. Chris Richards, 22, is one of the most promising players in the pool and still the favorite to start come November. He is recovering from injuries and was left out.

Berhalter said Colorado Springs native and former Rapids Homegrown Sam Vines was in contention for a call at left back, another position where second-string spots are open, but was ultimately left out.

Will anyone lock down the striker spot?

The USMNT has called in countless “could-be” forwards since last summer, but no one has been able to deliver the goods on a consistent basis. Darryl Dike, Ricardo Pepi, Josh Sargent, Jordan Pefok — you get the idea. It’s why Rapids striker Gyasi Zardes is still a contender.

Berhalter called in two more No. 9’s this time, Haji Wright, who has been on a tear in Turkey (7 goals in his last 7 games), and FC Dallas’ Jesús Ferreira (9 goals in 14 games). More than any other place on the field, strikers must answer the questions “What have you done for me lately?”

If either one can get hot during this window and be consistent come fall, it could give them a leg up, though the role will almost assuredly be a late-stage decision.

Recent call-ups

Wright, who burst back onto the scene with authority, is one of the surprises, as are Carter-Vickers, who had an excellent season in Scotland, Palmer-Brown in France and one newcomer, midfielder Malik Tillman, a German-American dual-national who plays for Bayern Munich.

It will raise plenty of talking points for USMNT fans to see whos stock rises in the second-to-last window before Qatar. To find the full roster, click here.

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