Ferreira, Musah and the USMNT's winners and losers from the summer window

Ferreira USMNT 2022 Aaronson Roldan
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GOAL looks at which players made their case for World Cup selection and which may find their place on the roster for Qatar 2022 in jeopardy

It's starting to feel like a World Cup is coming. In a normal year, the tournament would be being played as you read this.

Instead, the United States has a few extra months to prepare, to sort out positional battles and have players make their claim for those last few roster spots.

But, even now, time is running out to do so.

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The U.S. played four games in their summer window, two friendlies against Uruguay and Morocco and two Nations League openers against Grenada and El Salvador.

The friendlies were perhaps the better measure of World Cup mettle, even if that El Salvador game did test the young USMNT core in unimaginable ways.

Several rose to the challenge, moving closer to booking their tickets to Qatar. Others faltered, putting their World Cup spots in danger.

With that said, here's a look at GOAL's winners and losers of the USMNT's summer schedule....

Winner: Central midfielders

If there was one big takeaway from this camp, it's that there are some pretty good midfielders in this USMNT squad.

Brenden Aaronson remains a force, having been played centrally after primarily playing as a winger throughout his USMNT career. The new Leeds United signing has been among the team's best players for some time now, and he showed he has the ability to change the game from a central position as well.

Berhalter tweaked the midfield set up during this camp, going from a single to a double pivot. In doing so, the U.S. had another deep-lying outlet while giving a midfielder like Aaronson more freedom to roam.

Tyler Adams is a guarantee to start, as is Weston McKennie. Aaronson remains a winger, most likely, although he could start in that 4-2-3-1 against a team like Wales or Iran.

Then you have Luca de la Torre and Yunus Musah.

Musah Uruguay USMNT 2022

The former was one of the camp's big standouts, an incredibly tidy midfielder that can carry the ball and move it on. His assist for Jordan Morris' equaliser against El Salvador was the icing on what was a beautiful, multilayered cake that the Heracles midfielder baked throughout the last few weeks.

But, at least against El Salvador, he was only outdone by Musah, who put in a performance that moved him closer to the undroppable category.

"I was a little bit hesitant, just thinking about his skill set and how that was going to work today he took advantage of the dribble for sure," Berhalter said. "Under poor field conditions, sometimes that can slow you down and he was tremendous today. If there was a man of the match, we'd probably give it to him."

It'll likely come down to De la Torre versus Musah for that third midfield spot, and both did themselves plenty of favors. Aaronson, meanwhile, remains the wildcard that can play either out wide or centrally.

Some champagne problems for Berhalter to have heading to the World Cup.

Loser: Haji Wright

"It's always difficult when players get an opportunity and don't fully capitalize on it. It's not nice for a coach. It's not nice for the players. Not nice for the group."

That was Berhalter's response when asked about why Haji Wright was hauled off at halftime of Tuesday's clash with El Salvador.

Pretty harsh words from the USMNT boss, especially considering the fact that Wright was playing in a mud-filled monsoon in San Salvador. He lasted just 45 minutes in that, having only had limited opportunities in the first few games of the window.

Wright USMNT 2022

To be fair to Wright, he didn't do much wrong as he was devoid of service during the first half. And he looked solid enough in his first appearances in the window. But, from Berhalter's perspective, Wright didn't do much to impact the game either.

This was a big chance for Wright to emerge as a late entry in the USMNT's No.9 race and, in Berhalter's eyes, he didn't quite do that.

"It just wasn't his night tonight," he said. "It doesn't rule him out for anything in the future. We don't work like that.

"Now it's about him going back to his club and continuing to score goals and do his thing."

If Wright can do that, he'll still have a chance to stay in this picture. After this camp, like Ricardo Pepi, Wright will have to start the club season on a tear if he wants to unseat Jesus Ferreira as the go-to No.9.

Speaking of Ferreira...

Winner: Jesus Ferreira

Yes, his four goals came against lowly Grenada. And yes, he missed several clear-cut chances against more World Cup-worthy opponents in Morocco and Uruguay.

During this camp, though, Jesus Ferreira showed why he is currently in pole position to be the USMNT's No.9.

Ferreira Grenada 2022 USMNT

For Ferreira, it's not just about the goals, although those are certainly nice. It's also about fit and, right now, the FC Dallas star is the best fit as the spearhead of the USMNT attack.

Given his background as a playmaker, Ferreira has a different understanding of the role than his competitors. He opens things up for his team-mates, makes the right run most of the time and earns himself some pretty good chances inside the box.

“We don’t judge him just based on goals,” Berhalter said of Ferreira. “He does a lot of other stuff that really helps this group be successful.”

In MLS, Ferreira finishes his chances. Against Morocco and Uruguay, those chances didn't go in. Call it nerves or lack of confidence, but the U.S. should be able to bank on Ferreira putting at least a few of those in going forward.

Ferreira's name isn't written in Sharpie just yet. There's still every chance that Wright, Pepi, Jordan Pefok or someone else can come out of the gates hot and score the goals needed to seal a World Cup spot.

But, if no one does, Ferreira is the guy, and the U.S. should feel somewhat okay about that given everything he offers.

Loser: Joe Scally

There's no shame in saying that, at age 19, Joe Scally may not be fully ready for all of this.

Most teenagers aren't ready for a team like Uruguay, a South American powerhouse loaded with multi-million dollar stars. And Scally looked every bit like an overmatched 19-year-old in that game.

His defensive positioning was off and he struggled to truly find the pace of the game. It wasn't so bad that it changed the game, but it definitely wasn't a good day at the office for Scally.

Joe Scally Borussia Monchengladbach Bundesliga 2021-22

Still, the timing of it all couldn't be worst for Scally. He was auditioning for a role as the backup left-back and, given his ability to play on the left or right of a back three or five, he was seen as a versatile option that could be very valuable in a World Cup setting.

That looks less likely now, especially given his struggles at club level in the second half of the Bundesliga season. Scally, at this point, just needs a bit more seasoning.

He'll get it at Borussia Monchengladbach, and it's still worth backing Scally as a USMNT regular of the future. He has a lot of promise and has already accomplished some great things in his young career.

But, against Uruguay, he looked more like a player for 2026, not 2022.

Winner: Sean Johnson

Heading into camp, Sean Johnson's best hope was to be the USMNT's No.3 goalkeeper. Matt Turner and Zack Steffen were, and still are, 1A and 1B in the race to start in Qatar.

But, with his performance against Uruguay, Johnson may now have locked up that third goalkeeper spot and, with a few things going his way, could yet find his way in that starting goalkeeper battle.

Johnson USMNT Uruguay 2022

Johnson was spectacular against Uruguay as he carried his MLS Cup-winning form onto the international stage. The NYCFC goalkeeper has been one of MLS' best for some time, and he hasn't lost a step this year as his club looks set to contend for more trophies.

What Johnson has going for him is playing time and consistency, two things that could be hard to come by for both the goalkeepers ahead of him in the coming months.

There's a lot to figure out by the time November comes around, but there's a possibility Johnson is the only USMNT goalkeeper really playing before heading to Qatar.

Berhalter could turn to Gaga Slonina as his third goalkeeper, giving the No.1 of the future a chance to experience a World Cup. However, if Turner and Steffen are out of form, it may not be a risk worth taking when you have a player as consistent as Johnson to help raise the level.

Johnson's spot in Qatar may not be a lock, but he'll feel very hard done if he isn't on the roster. He has more than earned his place with strong performances for his club and, now, for his country.

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