USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter called up 27 players for the upcoming June friendlies and Nations League matches but several key figures were missing from the roster, forcing the American manager to address the situation.
First on the list: John Brooks.
After recently announcing the departure from Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, the defender is said to be making his way back stateside in the summer. He leaves the Wolves after five seasons with the club, recording six goals and eight assists in 126 overall appearances.
While Berhalter admitted the USMNT will track the transfer, he chose to bring in some fresh faces instead.
"John Brooks is going to be moving clubs and we're going to be anxiously following him at his new club and thought at the time, it's better to use this time period to look at some other players," he said.
Brooks’ omission came as a shock as many expected the experienced defender to step in for center-back Miles Robinson, who suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon while on duty with Atlanta United.
"We're going to be able to see Brooks now in his new environment, hopefully doing things that are similar to what we need him to do. And that could help him make a case to be on the roster," Berhalter reaffirmed.
"That was simply, we want to look at Cam Vickers and we want to look at Erik Palmer-Brown in this game. Walker Zimmerman and Aaron [Long] have been with us the whole time, they're going to play games as well. We didn't think there'd be enough game time to get a guy like John Brooks on the field."
Also absent: Richie Ledezma.
Though the Mexican-American is not officially part of the senior USMNT, several expected him to make the roster and consequently commit to the American side. Berhalter admitted he spoke to the dual-citizenship figure, and confirmed Ledezma did not feel ready to make his debut.
“He doesn't feel like he's ready to make the impact and compete for a spot on the team [after an] extremely mentally and physically taxing [season at PSV Eindhoven]."
While the player may be recovering from a torn ACL, rumors arose prior to the call up that he had established connections with the Mexican national team, though has yet to make a final call.
James Sands, Ricardo Pepi and Gianluca Busio will also be sitting out the upcoming window as the head coach decided to "rest" the players after completing their stints in Europe.
Difficult decisions were made when crafting the 27-player roster. And it wont get easier as the World Cup approaches.
"From a coach's side, you just want to make sure that you're communicating to the players, that they understand the reasoning for this,” Berhalter said.
"I understand where the guys are at, I feel for them. And again, this camp isn't determining who's on the team. We're going to have much harder conversations after September, and that's where it's gonna get a lot more difficult, I think for everybody. But we're focused on creating a strong group. Guys that are supporting each other, because I know the best way to perform well at the World Cup is to have a strong team spirit."
But Berhalter will have several opportunities to refine the roster before heading to the international tournament in November. Additionally, while FIFA has not officially expanded World Cup roster sizes from the usual 23 players, Berhalter admitted he and his staff are optimistic that they will eventually have 26 slots to work with come November.
"The way I look at it, we are building something, there's a core group that we are building and we are developing and we've done a good job of that. But around the edges, there is room," he said.
"Guys in form and doing a great job, I can expect them to make a case to be on the roster. And the strange thing about the [World Cup] roster date is I think it's something like eight days or nine days before our first game [in November], or something crazy like that. So, there could be cases where some positions, it goes down to the very end."