Berhalter picks Long as captain over Bradley, gives 5 debuts
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Gregg Berhalter picked Aaron Long as captain instead of Michael Bradley in his first game as U.S. coach and gave debuts to five players, the most first-time starters for the Americans in more than a quarter-century.
Defenders Nick Lima and Daniel Lovitz were part of a mostly second- and third-string lineup in an exhibition against Panama on Sunday night, along with midfielders Corey Baird, Jeremy Ebobisse and Djordje Mihailovic. The U.S. had not started five debutants since Sept. 3, 1992, at Canada, when goalkeeper Brad Friedel made his first appearance along with Cobi Jones, Joe-Max Moore, Mike Burns and Mike Lapper.
Starters averaged 25 years, 11 days, and just two players had more than six previous appearances: Bradley (142) and Gyasi Zardes (40).
Zack Steffen was in goal, with Lima at right back, Long and Walker Zimmerman in central defense, and Lovitz at left back.
Bradley was in midfield with Baird, Ebobisse, Mihailovic, and Christian Roldan, and Zardes headed the attack.
Bruce Arena quit as coach following an October 2017 loss at Trinidad and Tobago, which ended the Americans’ streak of seven straight World Cup appearances. Dave Sarachan followed as interim coach, giving debuts to 23 players in 12 matches.
Long, 26, made just his third appearance.
Bradley, who is 31, and other veterans were largely dropped after the defeat in Trinidad. Bradley returned in October and captained the U.S. against Colombia, and then entered in the second half against Peru.
Berhalter, a defender on the U.S. World Cup roster in 2002 and 2006, was hired last month from Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew. Because this game and next weekend’s match against Costa Rica are not on FIFA international fixture dates, he will not have his full player pool available until a pair of March exhibitions.
Ebobisse is the sixth player from the 2017 U.S. Under-20 World Cup roster to appear for the national team, after Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Erik Palmer-Brown and Josh Sargent.
Marky Delgado, Mark McKenzie and Keegan Rosenberry did not dress, leaving the U.S. with 20 players.