It was a throwaway line in an otherwise forgettable scrum with reporters. Before a United States men’s national team stocked with prospects beat Costa Rica in its first match of 2020, coach Gregg Berhalter said that next month’s international window — during which a more full-strength USMNT will play high-profile friendlies in the Netherlands and Wales — would be an ideal time to summon a few Europe-based players who haven’t gotten much of a look so far.
Berhalter has been consistent on this. From the moment he was hired more than a year ago, he has maintained that any American deserving of an international call-up would eventually get one. The sentiment makes sense from both a practical and motivational point of view.
But now, it’s about to be put to the test. Because in addition to a couple of up-and-comers who are making themselves hard to ignore (and more on those guys in a minute), one 2014 World Cup veteran certainly ought to be forcing his way into the mix if current form is indeed the determining factor. It is for Stock Watch, which this week begins with him.
USMNT players trending up
D/M Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)
The 29-year-old winger-fullback has been on a career-best tear over the last month, scoring four goals — including two last Friday in a 5-0 drubbing of Augsburg — in Frankfurt’s last four Bundesliga games:
Takeaway: Chandler was a member of Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad at Brazil 2014 but hasn’t played for the U.S. in four coaches; the last of his 29 appearances came in 2016 in Klinsmann’s final game in charge, when he was dreadful in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying loss in Costa Rica.
During his five years as a national team regular, Chandler rarely duplicated his club performances for his country. Fairly or not, he also developed a reputation for not being fully committed to the cause. Will Berhalter hold that against him? Can he even afford to overlook a guy who is ripping though one of the world’s best leagues?
Chandler, for his part, insists he still wants to play for the U.S. And with first choice right back Reggie Cannon — you bet he is — expected to be with the U-23s for Olympic qualifying during the March window, it’s hard to see Chandler ever getting a better opportunity to return.
M/F Duane Holmes, Derby County (England)
If any American is close to as hot as Chandler right now, it’s Holmes. The 25-year-old speedster scored twice last week, first in the FA Cup and then in the Rams’ 3-2 win over Swansea on Saturday, upping his total to three goals and two assists in second-tier Derby’s last six outings.
Takeaway: After being name-dropped by Berhalter, Holmes was already a near-lock for March. How he fares against the Dutch and Welsh will obviously go a long way toward deciding if he returns for June’s CONCACAF Nations League semifinal, but his timing couldn’t be better.
Holmes is maturing as a player. He there’s an aggression and tenacity in his game that this U.S. team needs. For those reasons, he’s well-positioned to establish himself as a USMNT regular beginning next month.
M/F Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
Just 17, Reyna has appeared in all five of BVB’s games since the winter break, scoring his all-world first senior goal in last week’s German Cup loss to Werder Bremen:
Takeaway: Reyna was always in line for a senior national team look after being promoted from Dortmund’s under-19 side during the winter break. But with Reyna gaining more top-level experience with each passing week, and with USMNT starter Jackson Yueill also set for Olympic qualifying duty next month, don’t be shocked if Berhalter hands the son of former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna a start in at least one of the two March games, even if so far that’s a distinction he has yet to earn with his club.
M/F Ulysses Llanez, Wolfsburg (Germany)
Fresh off his match-winning debut against the Ticos, the 18-year-old attacker was added to Wolfsburg’s Europa League roster.
Takeaway: This is a somewhat surprising development considering that Llanez wasn’t retained for club’s winter training camp the way Reyna was at Dortmund. Still, it’s a significant reward for a youngster who took full advantage of his opportunity with the U.S. Clearly, Wolfsburg’s brass was watching.
D/M Sergino Dest, Ajax (Netherlands)
Dest’s breakout season in Amsterdam has caught the attention of mighty Bayern Munich, with Dutch news outlet De Telegraaf reporting that the German titans had an initial $22 million bid for the the 19-year-old fullback turned down.
Takeaway: The Netherlands-born Dest’s upward trajectory continues as he gains experience — no small thing given how most young players struggle primarily with inconsistency. The USMNT is lucky to have him.
M Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)
The veteran central midfielder continues to quietly enjoy a strong season in the Bundesliga, starting 11 of 12 league games since November and picking up an assist in last week’s German Cup victory over Kaiserslautern.
Takeaway: As more of a like-for-like, two-way replacement, Morales should benefit from Yueill’s absence next month even more than the more attack-minded Reyna.
USMNT players trending down
F Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (Germany)
Sargent has come off of Werder’s bench for three straight games after starting the club’s first two matches of 2020.
Takeaway: Still just 19 — the big striker turns 20 Feb. 20 — Sargent was going to have his ups and downs during his first full top-flight season, especially with a club threatened by relegation. That said, his age doesn’t matter when he steps on the field. Sooner or later, he’s going to have to score to keep getting opportunities from Florian Kohfeldt (or whoever replaces Kohfeldt as Bremen manager).
G Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)
The USMNT’s first-choice keeper remains sidelined with the knee injury that has kept him from playing so far this calendar year.
Takeaway: The good news is that Steffen returned to training this week. But even if he returns to the field well in advance of the USA’s March matches, it’s possible that Berhalter opts to give his No. 1 some extra rest instead.
F Bobby Wood, Hamburg (Germany)
Not only did Wood not get the change of scenery he desperately needs during the January transfer window, he’s been an unused sub in all three of second-tier Hamburg’s games since the 2. Bundesliga slate resumed last month.
Takeaway: Berhalter hasn’t brought Wood, who is still just 27, in for a look yet. And other than sheer proximity, it’s difficult to see that changing next month despite the USMNT’s shallow striker pool and the Hawaiian’s relative experience — 11 goals in 38 games — at the international level.
More from Yahoo Sports: