CONCACAF Nations League
Balogun, Pulisic headline USMNT's injury-ridden Nations League roster
CONCACAF Nations League

Balogun, Pulisic headline USMNT's injury-ridden Nations League roster

Updated Jun. 1, 2023 3:49 p.m. ET

Two days after Anthony Hudson hastily left his post as the interim U.S. men's national team coach for a club job in the Middle East, B.J. Callaghan, Hudson's successor in the temporary role, named a 23-player roster that will defend the USMNT's CONCACAF Nations League title later this month in Las Vegas.

Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna are among 13 holdovers from the U.S. squad that reached the second round at last year's World Cup. But a number of other Qatar 2022 starters, including defender Tim Ream, striker Josh Sargent and heart-and-soul captain Tyler Adams, were unavailable because of injury.

Those who were selected will report to Los Angeles beginning this weekend for training camp, which kicks off on Monday. The U.S. faces chief nemesis Mexico — who they beat in the inaugural Nations League final in 2021 — in this year's semis June 15. The winner will play either Canada or Panama for the title three days later.

On a Zoom call with reporters shortly after the roster announcement, Callaghan acknowledged the unusual circumstances that led to his ascension. A USMNT assistant coach since 2019, he also insisted that the transition for the players would be an easy one. 


"I can assure you that there was zero panic in the group, and that's, a testament to the culture that we've built over the last four years." Callaghan said of his conversations with squad members in recent days. "The players are familiar with me and I'm familiar with the with the players. There's a sense of continuity."

Here's the full U.S. roster followed by three quick takeaways:

Tyler Adams' absence is a problem

As much as the Americans will miss Adams' intensity and vocal leadership in central midfield, they'll miss his relentless defending even more. The destroyer is a unicorn in the U.S. player pool. Nobody else can recover possession as consistently or cover close to as much ground as the 24-year-old Adams, who missed the last two months of Leeds' doomed Premier League season following hamstring surgery.

Making matters worse, Kellyn Acosta also isn't on this roster. Acosta, Adams deputy in the deep-lying role over the last few years, just returned from injury himself but hasn't played since limping out of an LAFC match on May 13. Acosta, who was on the bench but didn't play Wednesday in the MLS Cup holder's 2-1 CONCACAF Champions League loss at Liga MX side Leon, should be match fit in time for the Gold Cup, which runs June 24-July 16.

"Right now, as we know, he's dealing with a little bit of injury with LAFC," Callaghan said of Acosta. "So we just thought, out of an abundance of caution, it's not an opportunity to rush him into this group. We’ll remain in constant communication with LAFC and with Kellyn as we look forward to building out that Gold Cup roster."

With both Adams and Acosta out for the Nations League, projected starters McKennie and Musah could be asked to do more of the dirty work in the middle, where they’ll be joined by one of Cardoso, De la Torre, Reyna or Soñora.

Matt Turner is the undisputed starter in goal

Injuries also prevented veteran backstops Ethan Horvath and Zack Steffen from inclusion. Both keepers were regulars in England's second tier Championship this season, while Turner spent the final 10 weeks of Arsenal's season on the bench.

While Turner was widely expected to keep the job he won midway through 2022 anyway, there's no question now that the World Cup No.1 will be in nets this month. Longtime backup Sean Johnson will reclaim that role. Two uncapped keepers are behind them in Callender and Cohen, who earlier this season faced Benfica, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.

All eyes on Folarin Balogun

Much of the attention this month will be on Balogun, the prized New York-born, London-raised tri-national striker who committed his international future to the U.S. over England and Nigeria last month.

With Sargent and Daryl Dike hurt and World Cup roster members Jesus Ferreira and Haji Wright overlooked, the starting job against Mexico will come down to Balogun or Pepi.

Pepi is the incumbent after scoring in each of the Americans' two Nations League group stage wins in late March. Still, it could be hard for Callaghan to resist the temptation to throw Balogun — who last month became the first American to net 20 goals in one of Europe's five best leagues — right into the fire against El Tri.

Callaghan said Thursday that Balogun was "one of the first guys I called when I got the news" that he would lead the team this summer.

"We had a great conversation," Callaghan said. "I can tell you that his commitment to the U.S. is unwavering."

Asked how quickly the newcomer might be relied upon, the coach didn’t offer any guarantees. "He still has to come in and compete," Callaghan said of the 21-year-old. "Ricardo Pepi is a guy who's coming off of a great season, scored big goals for us already. 

"It's gonna be fun to watch these guys compete," he added. "You want competition, and I expect this to be a great camp for both of them."

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.


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