Interim U.S. men's national team manager B.J. Callaghan has named his first roster ahead of the Concacaf Nations League semifinal between the United States and Mexico on June 15.
Callaghan,with Anthony Hudson departing to accept a job elsewhere, is boosted with the official arrival of Folarin Balogun who recently committed after scoring 20 Ligue 1 goals with Riems.
With Zack Steffen sidelined after undergoing knee surgery and Tyler Adams still injured for Leeds United, the keeper core and midfield will see some new names but Callaghan will have a talented squad at his disposal. One of the most notable new additions is keeper Josh Cohen whose Champions League heroics for Maccabi Haifa saw the team secure an upset victory over Juventus. Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie are on the squad as expected.
Ricardo Pepi also returns to the side after finishing a strong season with FC Groningen despite the team's relegation. He will be in for an important summer to find out what his next club will be but amid a talented group of forwards, Pepi will have to earn his playing time atop the lineup. Sticking in the Netherlands, Taylor Booth is back with the squad after making his first team debut during Nations League games versus Grenada and El Salvador.
Quickly scanning the roster, it's also notable that Gio Reyna is listed as a midfielder instead of as a forward. Reyna has been used as a 10 under Hudson and as the team reconfigures to best utilize their new striker Balogun, that's something that could continue in the future. Appearing during Nations League could see Drake Callender, Cohen, and Balogun make their national team debuts and officially become cap tied to the USMNT.
GOALKEEPERS (4): Drake Callender (Inter Miami; 0/0), Josh Cohen (Maccabi Haifa/ISR; 0/0), Sean Johnson (Toronto FC/CAN; 12/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 26/0)
DEFENDERS (7): Sergiño Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 24/2), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace/ENG; 8/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 34/2), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 21/3), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 4/0), Auston Trusty (Birmingham City/ENG; 1/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 39/3)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 6/0), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 14/0), Weston McKennie (Leeds United/ENG; 43/11), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 25/0), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 18/4), Alan Soñora (FC Juárez/MEX; 2/0),
FORWARDS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 30/7), Folarin Balogun (Stade Reims/FRA; 0/0), Taylor Booth (Utrecht/NED; 2/0), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen/NED; 14/6), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 58/23), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 29/4), Alex Zendejas (Club América/MEX; 3/1)
Here are a few takeaways from the roster:
What to do in midfield?
Looking around the midfield, while the absence of Adams is able to be picked out, Kellyn Acosta is another name missing. Callaghan stated that Acosta is dealing with an injury which also saw him miss the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League final for LAFC. But without Acosta, there is no true defensive midfielder in the side. Johnny Cardoso and Luca De La Torre have deputized at the base of midfields before but they're possession-based instead of defense-first ones. Callaghan could shift the formation around to accommodate them in the side in a 4-2-3-1 but doing that against Mexico will be a tough time for trying something new.
Wanting to get different players in the pool to gain experience under pressure, this roster will do just that. It's a good mix of players who went to the World Cup and younger players who will push on to make the 2026 roster and playing in front of a settled defense will provide a good base. With Miles Robinson back in the side, the strongest defense of Matt Turner, Sergino Dest, Walker Zimmerman, Antonee Robinson and him will be ready to stop any attacks that come their way.
Setting expectations for Balogun
With only two true number nines in the squad, Balogun will be asked to step in quickly and do well. He's supported by talent in Tim Weah and Christian Pulisic but this could be his team quickly. There's no better way to endear yourself to fans than a quick goal against Mexico but there's also no easier way to put pressure on yourself than a big missed chance in the same game that costs the USMNT the tie.
While Balogun has had big moments for Reims, the upper levels of the international stage have the lights on you in a way that league soccer can't compare. The veteran core and Callaghan will need to make sure that expectations are clear and attainable. With friends like Yunus Musah making the roster too, there will be plenty of support for Balogun as long as he isn't expected to score a hat trick on his first national team appearance. But if he does, the hype train will be off and running from the station.
Quick changes for Callaghan
For someone who has never been a head coach in their career, this is quite a situation to lead the national team through not one but two summer tournaments as Callaghan will also oversee the Gold Cup. Things aren't finalized yet with Callaghan's staff but he did say that he is looking for people with a history with either the national team or with U.S. Soccer in general. Things happened quickly with Hudson's departure but this is a moment that Callaghan has been preparing for.
"I would say that the roles that I've had on staffs, whether it was with Philadelphia, or the opportunity with Gregg and then lastly with Anthony is that I've always tried to sit in the chair with my head coaching hat on thinking about it, challenging head coaches on different aspects and I think over that period of time I've been lucky to be intimately involved in almost every aspect of those teams that I have been a part of," he said.
Callaghan recognizes that things are different now since the final decision rests with him but that's something that he's prepared for and where he'll also need to improve quickly as losing these games means that the team will miss out on silverware.