Christian Pulisic may already be a talisman for the USA at the tender age of 20, but the Borussia Dortmund man is far from the only Bundesliga-based star USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter could call up for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup…
The US are the defending champions, having beaten Jamaica on home turf in the 2017 final. Two years on from that triumph, bundesliga.com picks a Germany-based team who could shine for the Stars and Stripes once again this summer.
Club: Hertha Berlin
Growing up in California as the son of former USMNT coach and Germany World Cup-winning striker Jürgen Klinsmann, young Jonathan could barely have asked for a better dance partner with whom to refine his craft as a shot-stopper in the family back garden.
Klinsmann Jr. has struggled to displace Rune Jarstein and Thomas Kraft in the Hertha first team since moving to the German capital in 2017, but that’s not to say his progress hasn’t been promising. A penalty save against Östersund in last season’s UEFA Europa League is his to boast, and he has four clean sheets in 13 games for Hertha’s reserves this term.
Already a CONCACAF Gold Cup – and Golden Glove – winner with the USMNT’s U20s, Klinsmann has previously featured in senior squads for friendlies against England and Italy.
Johnson already has a storied international career. A UEFA European Under-21 Championship winner with Germany in 2009 alongside the likes of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, Munich-born Johnson switched allegiances in 2011 when Klinsmann Sr. was still at the helm.
Watch: Johnson can also offer an attacking threat if his 2016/17 Goal of the Season contender is anything to go by!
Fifty-seven caps later, Johnson has not turned out for the USMNT since September 2017, but after finally overcoming persistent back trouble, the versatile veteran – on the cusp of his 100th Bundesliga appearance with Gladbach - could provide some welcome experience on either side of the USMNT’s defence or midfield.
Already a regular with the national U20 team, Richards signed for Bayern from FC Dallas last summer, and was thrust straight into glamour friendlies against Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Manchester City. The youngster – who models his game on club colleague Boateng – impressed. With Richards on the pitch last summer, Bayern scored four and conceded three; without him, they scored three and conceded six.
With Boateng, Hummels and Niklas Süle forming perhaps the biggest embarrassment of riches at centre-back any club in world football can boast, Richards has had to bide his time with Bayern’s U19s since. Four clean sheets and a goal in 18 starts have been a satisfying return, though, and he looks increasingly ready to make the step up for club and country.
A knee injury has curtailed what has been an impressive second season for Brooks at Wolfsburg. The hulking left-footer has helped the Wolves into European contention with imperious displays at the back. At 6’4”, he has, perhaps unsurprisingly, won an average of four headers per game, but he has also completed 89 per cent of his passes out from the back as well as chipping in with a career-best three goals and two assists at the other end.
Over-excited fans took to Brooks’ Wikipedia to describe him as "the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln," after his first international goal, against Ghana at the 2014 World Cup. While that might be an exaggeration, the fact that Brooks should be one of the first name’s on Berhalter’s teamsheet is anything but.
Berhalter praised Brooks as being “dominant as a centre-back,” able to “break lines with very accurate passes” when speaking to bundesliga.com on taking the USMNT job in December. A speedy recovery would be very welcome indeed.
A former New York Red Bulls teammate of RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams, Gloster swapped the Big Apple for Hannover last summer, and whilst he is yet to displace first-team left-backs Miiko Albornoz and Matthias Ostrzolek at the HDI-Arena, Gloster has at least skipped the 96ers’ U19s, going straight into the club’s reserve team squad.
A left-back who can also deputise at left wing or defensive midfield, Gloster already has nine outings with the USA’s U20s under his belt. He may be the most left-field name on this list in more ways than one, but as another member of that U17 Gold Cup-winning vintage, perhaps he’s worth a roll of the dice…
McKennie’s club Schalke have endured a difficult campaign in 2018/19, only ensuring their top-flight survival with a goalless draw against Augsburg last Sunday, and yet the young American has still managed to impress. Starting 10 games from his preferred central midfield position; as well as two at the back, two wide on the right and even one up front, McKennie has unfussily thrown himself into an average of 20 challenges per match, laid on four goals – scoring one of his own – and even found the target against Lokomotiv Moscow in the UEFA Champions League.
McKennie once told bundesliga.com “I’d play goalie if I had to!” but he remains at his best when marauding forward from central midfield. Just ask European champions Portugal, against whom he scored his first international goal 21 minutes into his debut.
Adams is the most recent top-flight player to cross the pond, following former coach Jesse Marsch to the Red Bull Arena in January. The battling midfielder has wasted little time in making an impact, though. Leipzig are undefeated in the 657 Bundesliga minutes in which Adams has played, scoring 18 and conceding just two.
“I knew he’d do well,” said Marsch. Twenty-one points, two assists and 99 challenges won later, and that already seems like an understatement.
Watch: Adams has settled in quickly in his Saxony surroundings!
If Berhalter elects against gambling on Gloster or recalling Johnson, meanwhile, Adams can – like Joshua Kimmich – also fill in at full-back, something he did in helping the US to a clean sheet against Ecuador in March.
“The ceiling is massive for him, everyone can see that,” continued Marsch, and Adams looks increasingly able to break through it from multiple angles.
Position: Central midfielder
Club: Fortuna Dusseldorf
It’s been 11 years since Morales – born in Berlin to a German mother and Peruvian-American father – elected to represent the United States; but it has also been just shy of three years since he last turned out for the Stars and Stripes.
In two of the three seasons since, he has helped first unfancied Ingolstadt and then Düsseldorf ensure Bundesliga survival, though, and at 28, is just hitting his prime.
A gritty player who has thrown himself into 21 challenges per game this season – one more than McKennie – Morales’ position on the left of Freidhelm Funkel’s preferred three-man central midfield is also compatible with Berhalter’s hitherto most-used 4-3-1-2 formation…
When the USA's most famous - and arguably important - current player was let loose for Dortmund’s Matchday 32 encounter with Werder Bremen, all the talent that has been bottled up into just seven league starts this season was unleashed.
The Chelsea-bound attacker's run and finish for the opening goal were breath-taking, and he covered more ground (7.6 miles), won more tackles (19) and attempted more shots on goal (six) than any other BVB player to shrug off any suggestions of a lack of sharpness or fitness.
Watch: Pulisic's stunning opening goal against Bremen (with full highlights to follow)
While the present will reassure Berhalter, so must Pulisic's pedigree in his country’s colours. After becoming the youngest American to play in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in 2016 thanks to Klinsmann's faith in him, the 20-year-old - yes, he's still only 20! - has scored 10 times in 25 internationals. The fact he wore the captain's armband - the youngest USMNT player ever to do so - in November's friendly defeat to Italy says everything about his standing in the squad.
On loan at Hannover from Hamburg this season, Wood's campaign has been peppered by injury. He returned to full training this week after missing his team's last eight matches with a kidney complaint and knee trouble, but has still chipped in with three goals and an assist in 20 top-flight appearances.
He can also boast Hannover's fastest-ever Bundesliga goal - netted after 22 seconds in defeat to Gladbach last November - and if Berhalter wants a proven record at the top level, Wood has it.
Watch: Wood's 22-second-strike (full highlights follow)
The Hawaii-born front man has a handy strike rate at senior international level - 13 goals in 45 appearances - and has the dash of experience that his would-be strike partner currently lacks…
Sargent made his USMNT debut in May 2018, more than half a year before he featured in the Bremen first team. The flame-haired teenager scored in a 3-0 win against Bolivia that day, and now has two USA strikes in just over 200 minutes on the pitch, showing just why then coach Dave Sarachan had given him an opportunity.
He had already taken plenty of those for Bremen's youth and reserve teams, and seized his chance to play - and score - when Florian Kohfeldt promoted him to the senior side in December, setting a new club record in netting just 86 seconds after coming off the bench against Morales’ Düsseldorf on Matchday 14.
He has now struck twice in 10 promising Bundesliga appearances this season to start to give real substance to hopes State-side that Sargent is the goalscorer supreme they have been waiting for.
A Bundesliga-based bench?
Brady Scott, goalkeeper, 19, with Cologne
Timothy Chandler, right-back, 29, Eintracht Frankfurt
Alex Mendez, midfielder, 19, Freiburg
Sebastian Soto, forward, 18, Hannover
Haji Wright, striker, 21, Schalke