The challenges with assessing the United States men’s national team after a half-month of glorious madness are easily summed up by describing the four matches played during that time.
First, the Yanks looked at-worst “very poor” and at-best “rusty as all get out” in their first match against a first team of world-class merit when they lost to Switzerland in St. Gallen.
Then, they were just “very poor” in a 1-0 win over Honduras when they escaped — like rivals Mexico — from the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal.
Third, there was whatever the final was: a tumultuous and joyful 3-2 extra-time win that was more a potpourri of everything that could possibly happen in a soccer game than any sort of example of your average exhibition of the sport itself.
[ MORE: USMNT player ratings v Costa Rica ]
Finally, there was a 4-0 friendly win over Costa Rica that looked like the USMNT we’ve seen so many times between circa 2000 and Couva 2017, a controlling show of superiority with a few warts for those who want to sort out their narratives (this fella included).
And while it’s hilarious that Mexico’s players and staff almost uniformly claimed a vastly superior performance than the Yanks in the final, there’s no doubt that El Tri were the second-best opponent the Yanks have played in over a year. And No. 1 is Switzerland.
Mexico had 18 shots to the Yanks’ 13 over 120 minutes, and their first half featured the best chances as Hirving Lozano’s off-day of precision (six shots, no goals) betrayed his four goals in Mexico’s previous five matches.
So how do we reassess the USMNT player pool at this point, fresh off a fairly legendary win and a friendly show of status versus Costa Rica that recalls the halcyon days of Clint Dempsey’s prime?
Dunno. But we will anyway, and then re-assess after Gold Cup.
Before we go any further, here’s a reminder of how we sort the talent with some ground rules:
- The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
- Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one that could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
- Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Konrad de la Fuente is a better long-term prospect than Gyasi Zardes, but the Columbus Crew forward is currently better prepared for the stage than the Barcelona youth.
- Finally, if you’re breaking a tie between players… ask which you’d be more upset to hear was unavailable for a USMNT camp.
On to the rankings?
Some notes before the numbers.
A few players benefited from the relative struggles at their positional peers in the player pool.
That includes rise for Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards when Mark McKenzie struggled and Matt Miazga wasn’t put in focus.
And Julian Green: The Greuther Furth midfielder remains criminally overlooked but that should change when one of 2.Bundesliga’s most consistent mids hits the top-flight stage, but we’re already boosting him given a small step back from Jackson Yueill and a puzzlingly long look at Kellyn Acosta.
Ethan Horvath’s addition to the list as the second goalkeeper is all about his show-stopping performance versus Mexico. Reggie Cannon moves up due to strong play combined with some head-scratching quietness from Sergino Dest that can probably be attributed to positional changes (that was Gregg Berhalter’s suggestion and we are buying it).
One other note: It’s incredible the depth of possible players who would’ve been one of the next USMNT big things in perhaps 15 of the last 20 years? Remember Nicholas Gioacchini, Uly Llanez, Jesus Ferreira, Sebastian Soto, Chris Mueller, Tyler Boyd, Matthew Hoppe, Johnny Cardoso…. and about a dozen others? Of course you do, and you probably will again soon consider their status as soon as the Gold Cup… but wow.
Top 25 USMNT players – post-Nations League, friendlies (last ranking in parentheses)
- Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (1) — As if there’s any other answer. Back in focus as a team’s focal point, Pulisic overcame the focus and fouling of Honduras and Costa Rica to deliver a historic moment despite being merely average relative to his lofty standards.
- Weston McKennie, Juventus (2) — It isn’t even debatable whether anyone else should’ve been the winner of the Best Player at the Nations League tournament, though spare a though for Memo Ochoa being left out to dry by his team off set pieces.
- Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (3) — We only got about 100 minutes of reminding that there’s no one else in the pool who can fill his role in the XI anywhere near as well than the Leipzig star.
- John Brooks, Wolfsburg (5) — What we wrote about Adams, just with more minutes and at center back.
- Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (5) — If we’re really honest about wanting to have a vigorous debate — and Reyna is way, way, way down in this particular individual battle — we’re willing to raise our hands to stand on Reyna’s side of a “Higher ceiling: Pulisic or Reyna” discussion. You know, for the children.
- Walker Zimmerman (10)
- Josh Sargent (8)
- Timothy Weah (11)
- Sergino Dest (4)
- Reggie Cannon (14)
- Zack Steffen (9)
- Ethan Horvath (NR)
- Brenden Aaronson (19)
- Julian Green (18)
- Yunus Musah (7)
- Chris Richards (13)
- Antonee Robinson (12)
- Sebastian Lletget (15)
- Jordan Siebatcheu (NR)
- Daryl Dike (20)
- Bryan Reynolds (24)
- Matt Miazga (17)
- Jackson Yueill (16)
- Miles Robinson (NR)
- Tim Ream (NR)
Last five out
Mark McKenzie (Genk), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray), Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal Impact), Matthew Hoppe (Schalke), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)
Dropped out from last ranking
Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Aaron Long (RBNY), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United), McKenzie.
Deserving of a place, but long-term injured
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)