The MLS season ends when the MLS Cup on Nov. 5, 16 days before the start of the 2022 World Cup.
It means all eyes of American soccer fans are starting to move toward the United States men’s national team. Some will go into the World Cup outperforming their expectations, and as others struggle to make a name for themselves. We look at five USMNT players to watch for the final few weeks of the 2022 MLS season.
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Sean Johnson (New York City)
The No. 1 goalkeeper spot for the USMNT is tough to call. Right now, it does look like Arsenal’s Matt Turner will get the job, but with him playing so little for the Gunners this season, Johnson could end up taking this position.
Johnson has not missed a second of action in the MLS with New York City this season after previously battling with other goalkeepers for the top spot. Now, however, he is the Pigeons’ main man between the sticks and with New York sitting in the playoffs, Johnson will be confident he can become his country’s top goalkeeper ahead of the World Cup.
Gregg Berhalter has quite the task on his hand in choosing between Turner and Johnson.
Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)
Only LAFC and Dallas have conceded fewer goals in the Western Conference so far than Nashville, and a large part of this has been because of Walker Zimmerman’s defensive excellence.
The 29-year-old has seen his side concede 38 goals in 31 MLS games, but with Zimmerman only playing in 29 of those games, he has also been able to score three times in the MLS — no center-back in the league has scored more in the 2022 season.
However, despite his form and goalscoring nature, Zimmerman has still not secured a place in Berhalter’s starting XI on a permanent basis. He has played eight times for the USMNT in 2022, but with players like Reggie Cannon and Cameron Carter-Vickers proving their worth, there is set to be a battle among these three to see who partners with Aaron Long at the back.
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Kellyn Acosta (Los Angeles FC)
It’s been a sensational debut Major League Soccer season for Kellyn Acosta with Los Angeles FC. The midfielder is already one goal shy of equalling his best-ever season from 2017 in the MLS, and he has also been one of the standout players in securing 19 wins in 30 MLS games for LAFC this season.
A lot of attention has fallen on European superstars like Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini at LAFC this season, but if it wasn’t for the ability of Acosta in midfield, it’s doubtful it would have such a comfortable lead at the top of the table.
The reason why it is important to keep an eye on the 52-cap USMNT player is because of the competition around him. Cristian Roldan hasn’t been at his best this year, but with Tyler Adams excelling with Leeds United, Weston McKennie with Juventus, and Yunus Musah with Valencia this season, Acosta’s position in the starting XI could be under threat.
Jesus Ferreira (Dallas)
What a stunning year it has been for Jesus Ferreira. The striker has been able to establish himself as one of his country’s best players by outscoring every American in the MLS in 2022, while also scoring more goals than any other USMNT this year with five goals in eight games — this is one more goal than Christian Pulisic in one less game, too.
Surprisingly enough, his excellent goalscoring form has not been enough to cement his place in the starting XI on a consistent basis. However, in the last two months of action, if Ferreira continues to score, it’ll be quite the call for Berhalter to not include him in the starting XI against Wales.
Paul Arriola (Dallas)
Sticking with the trend of in-form Dallas players, we have Paul Arriola looking to make his mark on the USMNT. What is interesting in this equation for head coach Berhalter is how Arriola and Ferreria play together each week and have already established a fantastic partnership that could work wonders in Qatar.
Arriola, in what is his first year with Dallas, already has nine goals in 30 MLS games this season which is his best record in one MLS season. As a winger, and with Pulisic all but guaranteed to play on one flank, if Arriola can continue to play well alongside Ferreira, he and his Dallas colleague could end up starting together at the World Cup.
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