Pulisic, Reyna headline U.S. squad for last WCQs
Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Giovanni Reyna headline the 27-player roster for the United States men ahead of three critical World Cup qualifiers that will determine whether the team heads to Qatar later this year.
The USMNT is scheduled to play Mexico at the famed Estadio Azteca on March 24, followed by a home match against Panama in Orlando three days later. The Americans conclude CONCACAF qualifying with a match against Costa Rica in San Jose on March 30.
The team will report to training camp in Houston this weekend.
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The U.S. currently sits in second place in the eight-team group, level on points with third-place Mexico and four points in front of fourth-place Panama. The top three teams will qualify automatically, with the fourth-place finisher advancing to a playoff against a representative from Oceania in Qatar in mid-June.
To guarantee automatic qualification, the U.S. would need to earn five points from the three matches, with the game against Panama looming largest given the Canaleros‘ spot in the standings.
The last two times the U.S. team played qualifiers at the Estadio Azteca, they ended in draws, and the team has secured only one draw in qualifying matches in Costa Rica — a 1-1 tie in 1985.
The announcement comes on the day outside back Sergino Dest went down with a hamstring injury in Barcelona‘s 2-1 Europa League triumph over Galatasaray. Dest’s name was included on the roster announcement, but a U.S. Soccer spokesperson said Berhalter was awaiting official word on the severity of Dest’s injury. The club said Dest was set for scans and would not play in Barca’s Clasico match against Real Madrid on Sunday (stream live on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET).
Following the squad announcement, Berhalter said: “We feel bad for Sergino and again this will be a case of the next man needs to step up. We have options, we’ve been thinking about it and we do have options if we need to replace him.
“We have George Bello, who’s playing left back for Arminia Bielefeld, playing every week. We have Joe Scally who plays at Gladbach, we have Shaq Moore who’s in Tenerife and we have Sam Vines who’s playing in Belgium. So we have a number of guys to replace him, but Sergino’s one of a kind with his skill set and it’s not going to be easy to replace him.”
Even with Dest on the roster, the left-back position looks thin behind presumed starter Antonee Robinson. Dest’s knock comes on top of the absence of Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie, who broke two bones in his left foot last month and will miss the rest of the Serie A season.
Inter Miami CF defender DeAndre Yedlin — the most capped player on the roster with 71 international appearances — and Boavista right-back Reggie Cannon are expected to fill in if, as expected, Dest is unable to play. LAFC‘s Kellyn Acosta and Heracles midfielder Luca de la Torre will likely receive the bulk of the minutes in place of McKennie.
On the plus side, Reyna returns to the squad for the first time since injuring a hamstring with the U.S. in September. Since that time he has yet to play a full, 90-minute game with club side Borussia Dortmund and had a minor setback in February before returning in March. Nottingham Forest keeper Ethan Horvath is also back in the squad, replacing the injured Matt Turner, who is out with a lower leg injury.
Wolfsburg center-back John Brooks continues to be on the outside looking in, with Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, James Sands, Erik Palmer-Brown and Aaron Long preferred. Long and Palmer-Brown earn their first calls for a World Cup qualifying camp, with a torn Achilles tendon having previously kept Long out.
Following his exclusion from the squad, Brooks vowed to continue to fight in an effort to work his way back into the team.
“I accept this as the coach’s decision, but I won’t accept that I can’t change this before the final World Cup roster selections,” Brooks said on Twitter. “There should be no questions about my desire to play for this team. My plan is to fight as hard as I can to make it back to the #USMNT.
“My American identity is at stake, an identity some have questioned over many years. We [Americans] have all been down & out at different times, but we always fight back & I plan to do the same.”
Questions surrounding who will start at striker abound, with Berhalter selecting Augsburg FC’s Ricardo Pepi, FC Dallas‘ Jesus Ferreira and Young Boys forward Jordan Pefok.
Adams, Zack Steffen, Tim Weah and Yedlin enter camp on caution watch. Should any of them receive a yellow card during the next three games, they will be suspended for the next qualifying match.
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergino Dest (Barcelona), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (Rangers), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Tim Weah (Lille)