For so many players involved with the United States Men’s National Team, there’s everything to play for between now and the start of the World Cup in November.
In every position, there’s fierce competition for places and a very large number of players trying to fit into a finite number of spots.
That’s certainly the case at left-back. Antonee Robinson is the accepted No.1 choice but behind the Fulham man, there’s a host of players desperate to be on the plane to Qatar.
Arguably most prominent among them is George Bello. Still only 20 years old, Bello has six senior caps to his name and was a starter in the USMNT’s Gold Cup final win over Mexico last year. After a strong emergence at Atlanta United, the defender moved to Arminia Bielefeld in January and managed 10 appearances in the German Bundesliga – three from the start.
Although Bielefeld were relegated, Bello carried himself well and has shown promising signs that he can adjust to the high demands of European soccer.
Even so, Bello – who has been called into Gregg Berhalter’s camp for the latest round of fixtures – is taking nothing for granted and knows he’ll have to earn his spot at Qatar.
“I don’t try to see it as myself trying to force my way into anything. I just try to be myself, try to work hard for the team and good things will come,” Bello told MLSsoccer.com. “No World Cup roster spot is given. So everyone has to show what they can do and keep working hard and everything will decide itself.
“I mean, there’s pressure in all sports in any given moment, but obviously there’s pressure with this as well. But you’ve got to use that pressure in a good way and not let it get to you or be like, ‘Oh, I have to do this, do this.’ I just try to clear my mind and just know that I’m here for a reason.”
If left-back is busy for the United States, right-back is a complete log jam. Sergino Dest is the standout candidate, but you could easily name four or five other players who wouldn’t look out of place in the USMNT’s starting XI.
Reggie Cannon was given the nod for the 3-0 friendly win over Morocco in midweek after a tough season in Portugal with Boavista. The FC Dallas product is relishing the chance to take on so many competitors for a place on Berhalter’s roster, believing it’ll ultimately make him a better player.
“It’s no secret that we have so many talented right-backs and the way I look at it is, DeAndre Yedlin and I are competing, Joe Scally and I are competing, Sergino [Dest] and I are competing, Shaq Moore and I are competing, and that just makes me excited,” said Cannon.
“Because that gives me an opportunity to work on the things I need to work on and push me to be a better player while I push them to be a better player. Like I’ve said many times, competition breeds greatness. And the only way you’re going to make a deep run in a World Cup is if you have players that are constantly challenging the players in front of them because again, that makes you have consistency.”