Christian Pulisic is back for the U.S. men’s national team just in time for one of its most important World Cup qualifiers against rival Mexico (Nov. 12), one of two qualifiers that will be played in the November international window. The other will see the USA face Jamaica in Kingston on Nov. 16.
Pulisic missed all three qualifiers in October due to an ankle injury he picked up with the USMNT in a victory at Honduras on Sept. 8. He only made his return to competitive action nearly two months later when he took the field for Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League group stage match against Malmo FF on Nov. 2.
“Common sense is going to tell us that you can’t start a guy in a game like this [vs. Mexico] when he’s only been training for four days and he’s been out for two months,” U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter said the day before the match against Mexico. “I understand [Chelsea coach Thomas] Tuchel’s concern. Our idea wasn’t to play him 180 minutes on this trip anyway. He’s not going to start [vs. Mexico]. Hopefully he’ll get some playing time. We’ll put him on the field, and he can make an impact and help us get the result that we want.”
MORE: CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings
While Pulisic’s return is the big story, so are the players who will be missing due to injury. Starters Sergino Dest (FC Barcelona) and Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) will miss the November matches due to injury. Reyna has a long-standing hamstring injury that was also suffered with the USMNT against El Salvador in September. Dest picked up a lower back injury in Champions League play with Barcelona.
USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter used the opportunity to call up 18-year-old U.S. fullback Joe Scally, who’s enjoyed a strong start in his first year with German Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach. Scally has made 12 appearances for the club, including 10 in the Bundesliga. He already has a goal and an assist to his name.
“If you look at what’s changed from month to month [with Scally], he’s played in another five Bundesliga games, a [German] cup game where they beat Bayern 5-0. He had an assist the other day. When we see him going against [Leroy] Sane or Alphonso Davies, he’s being tested and he’s standing up to these tests,” Berhalter said. “As a young player, we wanted to see him performing consistently at a high level, and he’s done that.”
Among the other players left out from the last camp are forward Gyasi Zardes (left knee injury), left back George Bello and right back Shaq Moore. Jesus Ferreira, Sam Vines and Reggie Cannon take their place. Matthew Hoppe and Luca de la Torre will also miss out, as will out-of-form veteran defender John Brooks who issued this statement to Fox Sports soccer reporter Doug McIntyre:
“The decision to leave me out of this this camp isn’t surprising given some of my recent performances.”
— Doug McIntyre (@ByDougMcIntyre) November 4, 2021
“It was a really difficult decision and a lot of it was based on his performances with the team the last time,” Berhalter said. “I saw some of his comments and that’s all you can ask for as a player’s response. … All John did was take accountability for his own performance. He’s working his way back into form. I don’t assume that this is going to be his last time in the national team. I’m sure he’ll be back. It’s just about regaining your form and performing at a high level when you get your opportunity.”
USMNT World Cup qualifying roster
Goalkeepers (3): Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City / ENG), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Defenders (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista / POR), Mark McKenzie (Genk / BEL), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim / GER), Antonee Robinson (Fulham / ENG), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach / GER), Sam Vines (Antwerp / BEL), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray / TUR), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Midfielders (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig / GER), Gianluca Busio (Venezia / ITA), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus / ITA), Yunus Musah (Valencia / ESP), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
Forwards (6): Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg / AUT), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea / ENG), Tim Weah (LOSC Lille / FRA)
As far as the center forward position, Berhalter made it clear that Pepi will be assuming a majority of the minutes in that spot against Mexico and Jamaica. When it comes to the depth chart behind Pepi, Berhalter mentioned that Tim Weah has filled in there for LOSC Lille, and Pulisic can also slot into the role. But Berhalter also sees 20-year-old FC Dallas attacker Jesus Ferreira as an option:
“When you look at Jesus’s body of work with the national team, he’s been playing No. 9 [center forward]. In his performances, albeit against lesser opponents, we like what he did at the No. 9 position,” Berhalter said. “He’s been in outstanding form in Dallas. We know he’s been playing more of an attacking midfielder role [at FC Dallas], but he has the type of game intelligence that allows him to adapt to a role very easily.”
MORE: Which teams have qualified to the World Cup?
USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule
|Match||Date||Opponent / Result|
|1||Thurs, Sept. 2, 2021||El Salvador 0, USA 0||Highlights|
|2||Sun, Sept. 5, 2021||USA 1, Canada 1||Highlights|
|3||Wed, Sept. 8, 2021||Honduras 1, USA 4||Highlights|
|4||Thurs, Oct. 7, 2021||USA 2, Jamaica 0||Highlights|
|5||Sun, Oct. 10, 2021||Panama 1, USA 0||Highlights|
|6||Wed, Oct. 13, 2021||USA 2, Costa Rica 1||Highlights|
|7||Fri, Nov. 12, 2021||USA vs. Mexico||9 p.m. ET|
|8||Tues, Nov. 16, 2021||Jamaica vs. USA||5 p.m. ET|
|9||Thurs, Jan. 27, 2022||USA vs. El Salvador||TBD|
|10||Sun, Jan. 30, 2022||Canada vs. USA||TBD|
|11||Wed, Feb. 2, 2022||USA vs. Honduras||TBD|
|12||Thurs, March 24, 2022||Mexico vs. USA||TBD|
|13||Sun, March 27, 2022||USA vs. Panama||TBD|
|14||Wed, March 30, 2022||Costa Rica vs. USA||TBD|
CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings
Each team plays the other home and away for a total of 14 qualifying matches.
The top three teams earn direct berths to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, while fourth place advances to a playoff against a team from another region.
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|5. Costa Rica||6||6||1||2||3||4||5||-1|
|6. El Salvador||5||6||1||3||2||2||7||-5|