The United States Men’s National Team has announced its 26 man roster ahead of two September friendlies overseas. Head coach Gregg Berhalter has decided his team’s final World Cup preparation will include New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long. He and the 25 other named roster members will head to Cologne, Germany this weekend for training camp.
The U.S. will face two fellow 2022 FIFA World Cup Finalists ahead of this winter’s tournament in Qatar. First will be defending AFC Asian Cup runner-up Japan on September 23 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Following this, the team will travel south to Murcia, Spain for a match against Saudi Arabia on September 27. With the Red Bulls taking a break through next weekend before an October 1 meeting with Columbus Crew, Long is not expected to miss any MLS matches.
This is Long’s third USMNT roster call-up this year making it his most productive season at the national stage since 2019. That year he made 14 appearances and scored three goals while 2022 has seen him capped six times including four starts. This year’s slate has also been more diverse in competition including friendlies, FIFA World Cup Qualifying and CONCACAF Nations League.
This all followed a pandemic-limited 2020 slate where he only appeared twice and an injury shortened 2021. Prior to rupturing his Achilles tendon in May of 2021, Long had played in three friendlies for the US. His 27 appearances over half a decade tie him with fellow defender Reggie Cannon as the ninth most capped player in this team’s roster.
Despite the consistency, the New York captain’s spot still isn’t guaranteed heading into November’s World Cup. Long is probably likely battling Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman and Crystal Palace man Chris Richards for the final center back spots in Qatar. But his status as one of the team’s few veteran leaders and tactical fit for Gregg Berhalter’s high-line defensive system appear to work in his favor.
“He’s got a great character,” Berhalter said in Long’s defense from frequent internet criticism last month. “He’s got tremendous speed and he’s working his way back to this level, which is a different level. I think he’s doing quite well and I’m pleased with his progress.”
Interestingly, another Red Bull New York player was left off the roster despite potentially being in the mix. Defender John Tolkin was left off the roster despite Berhalter’s statement earlier this year that he was being looked at as a potential backup for Antonee Robinson at left back. At 20, Tolkin has previously played for the USMNT U-17 team back in 2018 & 2019.
Maybe if he had actually finished off that trick move against Ronald Araújo during the FC Barcelona friendly he would have made the cut. Maybe Berhalter is still bitter he cut off the golden mullet. At the end of the day, we don’t know what caused this decision. However the potential triangle formation of Long, Tolkin, and Leeds United midfielder Tyler Adams will have to wait for another day.