The US Men’s National Team named their 26-man roster for the 2022 World Cup. After missing out on the 2018 games, this almost entirely new team is young, inspiring, and stressful. Their youth and optimism shares similar light to the current Houston Texans roster.
Though this is a Houston Texans homer page, my second team has become the USMNT. See, in 2020 when COVID and Texans drama was at an all-time high, I personally needed something else to turn to. My Texas Longhorns exacerbated the situation and I simply wanted to root for someone who I wasn’t so overly attached to. The USMNT happened to be playing against Wales, a team they face in less than two weeks, and I was immediately hooked. The overwhelming optimism and promise was the balm to my chapped fingers aggressively typing away at the ills of the Texans franchise.
Turns out, the USMNT has their own woes; front-office nepotism, disgruntled veterans, injuries, youthful confidence rivaling on ignorance, and a fanbase with deep scars. Sound a bit familiar? Their qualification process felt like watching the 2018 Houston Texans with exorbitant peaks and valleys in performance.
While Houston is far from playing on the biggest stage in their sport, drawing parallels across teams helps to put the current Texans roster into perspective. These are the several Houston Texans and the USMNT players heading to Qatar they compare to.
Derek Stingley, CB - Gio Reyna, Right Forward/Attacking Midfielder (Borussia Dortmund)
Labels such as ‘highly touted’, ‘generational talents’, and ‘injury concern’ have been placed on both Stingley and Reyna for quite some time yet the optimism surrounding their careers has not been quelled by those labels. If they can reach their potential, they are game-changers and world-class players. Stingley is being thrust into early playing time while Reyna may debut as a ‘super-sub’ (a highly talented player coming off the bench) as he has not been at full health this season.
Jerry Hughes, DE - Walker Zimmerman, Center Back (Nashville SC)
These players are older dogs with no new tricks but have established roles on their respective teams. Hughes leads the team in sacks while Zimmerman has been the one constant on defense for the USMNT. Both are reliable, but have obvious holes in their style and athleticism that cap their current ceilings.
Davis Mills, QB - Jesus Ferriera, Striker (FC Dallas)
USMNT fans will groan and chuckle at this comparison. Ferriera is beloved by head coach Gregg Berhalter for little to no apparent reason. He plays a specific type of striker role and has yet to prove himself in relation to the playing time he gets. Nonetheless, he’s the best we have at the moment until someone new unseats him. Sound familiar?
Christian Kirksey, LB - Weston McKennie, Attacking Midfielder (Juventus)
This one was tough to match to McKennie. McKennie is a Dallas (boooo) product with constant injuries and a clutch factor. He’d be more of a Justin Reid if anything, but for the current roster the best comparison is Kirskey due to his midfield position, physical nature, and command of the team.
Kenyon Green, OG - Yunus Musah - Central Midfielder (Valencia)
The Texans could use a Yunus Musah in their roster. He’s young (19), promising, and makes everyone better when he’s on the field/pitch/the grassy knoll on which sports are played. There’s hopes he’s the breakout player of the tourney, and much like Kenyon Green, they are willing to get dirty in the trenches.
Dameon Pierce, RB - Tyler Adams, Defensive Midfielder (Leeds United)
Bulldogs. Players who’ve enamored themselves with their local fanbase. Old-school players who enjoy the physical nature of their role. Tyler Adams is a force on the field and the same can be said of Dameon Pierce.
Brandin Cooks, WR - Christian Pulisic, Left Forward (Chelsea)
Both are stars in their own right who are in less-than-advantageous club/team situations. Pulisic and Cooks have world-class talent when they’re playing, but for one reason or another aren’t performing at their highest level and want out of their team.
Nico Collins, WR - Tim Weah, Right Forward (Lille)
Will Fuller would have been a better fit here, but alas. Weah is silk on the ball and is an X-factor. He’s not the guy you gameplan for, but if you don’t respect him he’ll blow up your spot, for that, he get’s the comparison to Nico Collins. Both are quick and don’t need the ball in their hands too much to have a distinct impact.
Rex Burkhead, RB - Aaron Long, Center Back (New York Red Bulls)
Two players who are hotly contested to be on their current roster. Both players had shown better performance before recent injuries but have found their way into the hearts and minds of their head coach. Burkhead has been benched for Dameon Pierce, but Long still is entrenched as the starting defender for the US.
Roy Lopez, DT - Matt Turner, Goal Keeper (Arsenal)
Lopez was a late-round draft pick last season and immediately contributed to a woefully inept defensive line. Matt Turner went from being a collegiate soccer player, which is the equivalent of flag football player going pro, to now the backup goalie for the top team in the Premier League. Great stories abound, both of these players are likable, young talents who are going to be contributing for years to come.
O.J. Howard, TE - Sergiño Dest, Right Back (AC Milan)
Dest’s pedigree is top notch. He trained and played at Barcelona for several years and now is a roll player in AC Milan. The Texans don’t feature too many saucy players such as Dest, but I really like the comparison to Howard. Dest was recruited to play for the US as he grew up in the Netherlands; Howard was signed by the Texans days before the season started. Howard has come up big for the Texans in certain games, or been completely invisible. Much like Dest, when Howard makes a big play everyone asks themselves “why can’t he do more of that?”. Performance is a flash in the pan for both of these guys.
Tytus Howard, RT - DeAndre Yedlin, Right Back (Inter Miami)
Howard was one of the only holdovers from the O’Brien era and Yedlin is the only player who has featured in a World Cup for this young American team. Both are serviceable at their positions but aren’t going to move the needle too much. If anything, they have a tendency to give the opposition momentum.
Steven Nelson, CB - Kellyn Acosta, Defensive Midfield, (Los Angeles FC)
Two guys who bring their lunch pail, do their job, and don’t cause too much noise. Nelson has been an underrated performer at corner for the Texans and deserves more credit. Acosta recently scored in the MLS Cup Final for his team and will certainly get playing time in the World Cup.
Jalen Pitre, S - Brendan Aaronson, Right Winder/Central Midfield (Leeds United)
Hustle-Hit-Never Quit guys who are instant spark plugs. The Baylor prospect and the Medford, NJ prospect have positional diversity and are frustrations to the opposing team for four quarters/ninety minutes. Both players are new to their team and are making an impact on otherwise poor team.
Laremy Tunsil, OT - Jordan Morris, Right Forward (Seattle Sounders)
Equally contentious players for varying reasons. Morris is the bane of USMNT Twitter and his mediocre performance of late has fans questioning his role. Tunsil has an obvious role, but fans want to see him airlifted out of town for anything they can receive in return. Both have specialization at their craft and are on the team for that reason, but for one reason or another will receive the brunt of all criticism.
This newly announced team kicks off it’s group stage on November 21st at 2PM EST on Fox. The World Cup will be a fun and exciting respite from American football and a chance for the United States to enter a new era in the world’s game.