Gregg Berhalter addresses USMNT roster decisions for March internationals

Lizzy Becherano
Berhalter faced the media
Berhalter faced the media / John Todd/ISI Photos/GettyImages

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter announced the 27-player roster ahead of the March World Cup qualifiers that will see the American side confront Mexico at the Azteca Stadium, and host Panama before traveling to Costa Rica. 

Berhalter explained his decisions after unveiling the squad, addressing the shocking omission of defender John Brooks and Sergino Dest’s most recent injury. 

“Regarding Sergino, it's not great news,” said Berhalter.

“The initial diagnosis, it seems to be a hamstring injury, but we're going to get the final details tomorrow. But we may need to replace him and we've already identified candidates to replace him and we're already prepared to speak to him first thing tomorrow.”

To combat Dest's possible absence, Berhalter named George Bello, Joe Scally, Shaq Moore and Sam Vines as options to be added to the squad should Dest be ruled out.

Berhalter then went on to reveal that prior to selection, he spoke to John Brooks as to why Aaron Long and Erik Palmer-Brown would be included in the roster over the defender. 

“I had a good conversation with him and explained to him that this is our thinking for the window. This is what we chose to do in this window, it doesn't determine his future with the national team. And I think that's a very important distinction." Berhalter added.

The coach revealed that his most recent decision will not have a larger impact on his future with the USMNT. 

“I hate to get detailed about this regarding an individual player, but when you look at the window in October, he had an injury … in November and January, we weren’t happy with his club form. Now he's back playing and now it becomes about what our game plan is for this window. And there's some details in his game that I talked to him that we need to improve to fit into our game model. And we don't have time on Tuesday to improve these things,” he said.

“The game’s on Thursday, the game’s on Sunday. There's not a runway here. So I think when this whole thing settles down, and hopefully we're in the World Cup and we have the June window, the September window, I think there'll be another opportunity for him where we can really start addressing where we think his deficiencies are, to be the starting center back in our pool.”

The USMNT currently sits in second place on the Concacaf table with 21 points in 11 games, tied with North American rivals Mexico. The American side could qualify during this round of matches, should they defeat two out of three competitors.