USMNT roster for pre-World Cup friendlies: Pulisic, McKennie lead squad, Pepi surprise inclusion – The Athletic

The Athletic

With one final chance for players to make an impression before November World CupAmerican coach Gregg Berhalter had only a few surprises in his 26-man roster for friendly matches Japan and Saudi Arabia later this month. The roster is headed by stars Christian PulisicWeston McKennie, Tyler AdamsGio Reyna and Yunus Musah.

The most notable inclusion in the squad is that of forward Ricardo Pepi, who has struggled for game time and goals since moving from FC Dallas to Augsburg in German Bundesliga last year Pepi, who recently went on loan to Groningen in the Netherlands, is back in the team and back in the picture to fight for a roster spot at a striker position that is suddenly overflowing with options.

Pepi, 19, will join FC Dallas going forward Jesus Ferreira and Norwich City forward Josh Sargent on the depth chart at number 9 in that camp. Union Berlin’s Jordan Pefok (two goals, three assists in the 2022-23 German Bundesliga season), FC Cincinnati‘s Brandon Vazquez (16 goals, five assists in the 2022 MLS season) and Antalyaspor’s Haji Wright (five goals in the 2022–23 Turkish Süper Lig season) were not included in the squad.

Pepi, who exploded last year by scoring three goals for the United States during qualifying, has not scored for club or country since netting twice against Jamaica last October. He started a play that led to a goal on his first appearance for Groningen last weekend, but his form was well short of scoring spurts for the likes of Pefok and Vazquez.



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Sargent returns to the squad for the first time since September, when he appeared in all of the USA’s first three qualifying matches, starting twice. Sargent fell from favor as he struggled as a winger for a Norwich team that was relegated from the. Premier League last season Sargent, however, has scored five goals in eight Championship appearances for Norwich to start this season.

There are three notable injury absences in the squad: left back Antonee Robinson (ankle), goalkeeper Zack Steffen (knee) and winger Tim Weah (foot). Middleman Cristian Roldánwho has been a part of every U.S. roster since last summer’s Gold Cup, is also out with an injury.

Robinson’s injury opened the door for Berhalter to learn more about a possible back-up for the Fulham defender at the World Cup. Sam Vines, 23, has played consistently at Royal Antwerp in Belgium and is a real left-footed option. Joe Scally, 19, is a consistent starter at right back for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the German Bundesliga and could provide some roster flexibility if he can show he is a solid option to play on the left, where he has played for both Gladbach and the United States in the past .

Steffen’s absence is notable in that he is in a battle for his starting job while on loan at Middlesbrough. His injury and form opened the door for other goalkeepers to claim a roster spot, with Luton Town. Ethan Horvath and NYCFC a veteran Sean Johnson making the squad for the September mates and the Chicago FireGaga’s young star Slonina is waiting in the wings. Matt Turnerwhich moved from the New England Revolution to Arsenal from the Premier League this summer, now seems in prime position to start in Qatar.

USMNT and Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner.

(Photo: David Price / Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Berhalter chose not to bring in extra players for this squad, staying with the same number of players he will be allowed at the World Cup. That means some bubble players have been left off this roster, most notably Rangers centre-back James SandsFulham centre-back Tim Ream and the aforementioned forwards, Pefok and Vazquez.

Berhalter brought only four central defenders in this team: Celtic Cameron Carter-Vickers, New York Red BullsAaron Longthat of Crystal Palace Chris Richards and Nashville SC‘s Walker Zimmerman. Reggie Cannon, Sergiño Dest and DeAndre Yedlin have been named as right-back options, while Scally and Vines are likely to compete at left-back.

With Weah out injured, Seattle’s Jordan Morris and that of FC Dallas Paul Arriola will seek to secure their place on the plane to Qatar. The winger depth chart, however, is highlighted by some of the biggest stars on the roster: Chelsea’s Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund’s Reyna and Leeds United. Brendan Aaronson.



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The midfield group was as expected, with Adams of Leeds, McKennie of Juventus and Musah of Valencia the expected starters in a group that also includes LAFC. Kelly’s AcostaLuca de la Torre of Celta Vigo and Guards Malik Tillman.

The September squad continues to highlight the youth of this US national team. Thirteen players are aged 23 or younger. Across 14 World Cup qualifiers, the USA starting 11 came in at an average age of 23.82, nearly two years younger than the next closest team to qualify for the World Cup, Ghana at 25.67. Only one player in this team has World Cup experience: Yedlin.

The United States will meet in Cologne, Germany this weekend. They will train there before making a quick trip to Dusseldorf for the friendly against Japan on September 23, then travel to Murcia, Spain for the friendly against Saudi Arabia on September 27. The matches will be the first opportunity for 21 players on September 27. the US roster to play against an opponent from the Asian Football Confederation. The Americans will face another AFC opponent in Iran in their final group game at the World Cup in November.

Players will return to their clubs after camp. Berhalter may host a camp in October for MLS players whose teams don’t qualify for the postseason, but the full U.S. roster won’t be made up until the 26-man World Cup team is named Nov. 9. The United States will open. camp in Qatar on November 14, then open Group B game against wales the nov. 21.

Detailed roster by position

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (Arsenal)

Defenders (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic), Sergiño Dest (AC Milan), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp), DeAndre Yedlin (Between Miami), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Tyler Adams (Leeds United), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Malik Tillman (Guards)

FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Norwich City)

(Photo by Ricardo Pepi: David Berding/Getty Images)

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