The Athletic

USMNT releases slate for Japan-Saudi Arabia friendlies

With one last chance for the players to make an impression ahead of November’s World Cup, USA manager Gregg Berhalter had only a few surprises in his 26-man squad for the friendlies against Japan and Saudi Arabia. later this month. The list is led by stars Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna and Yunus Musah.

The most notable inclusion in the squad is that of striker Ricardo Pepi, who has struggled for playing time and goals since moving from FC Dallas to Augsburg in the German Bundesliga last year. Pepi, who was recently loaned out to Groningen in Holland, is back in the squad and back in the picture to fight for a roster spot at a striker position that is suddenly teeming with options.

Pepi, 19, will join FC Dallas striker Jesús Ferreira and Norwich City striker Josh Sargent on the depth chart at No.9 this side. Jordan Pefok of Union Berlin (two goals, three assists in the 2022-23 German Bundesliga season), Brandon Vazquez of FC Cincinnati (16 goals, five assists in the 2022 MLS season) and Haji Wright of ‘Antalyaspor (five goals in the 2022-23 Turkish Süper). Lig season) were not included in the squad.

Pepi, who broke through last year by scoring three goals for the United States in qualifying, hasn’t scored a goal for club or country since scoring twice against Jamaica last October. He started a game that led to a goal in his first appearance for Groningen last weekend, but his form fell well short of goal surges for Pefok and Vazquez.

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Sargent returns to the team for the first time since September, when he appeared in the first three USA qualifiers, starting twice. Sargent fell out of favor as he struggled to make an impact as a winger for a Norwich side that were relegated from the Premier League last season. Sargent, however, has scored five goals in eight league appearances for Norwich to start this season.

There are three notable injury absences from the squad: left-back Antonee Robinson (ankle), goalkeeper Zack Steffen (knee) and winger Tim Weah (foot). Midfielder Cristian Roldan, who has been on every American roster since last summer’s Gold Cup, is also out through injury.

Robinson’s injury has opened the door for Berhalter to learn more about a potential replacement for the Fulham full-back at the World Cup. Sam Vines, 23, has played regularly for Royal Antwerp in Belgium and is a genuine left-footed option. Joe Scally, 19, is a regular starter at right-back for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the German Bundesliga and could offer some flexibility in the line-up 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 as he struggles for his starting job while on loan at Middlesbrough. His injury and form have opened the door for other goalkeepers to claim a spot on the roster, with Luton Town’s Ethan Horvath and NYCFC veteran Sean Johnson making the squad for the September friendlies and young Chicago Fire star Gaga Slonina waiting backstage. Matt Turner, who moved from the New England Revolution to Premier League side Arsenal in the summer, now looks to be in a strong position to start in Qatar.

USMNT and Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner.

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

Berhalter has opted not to bring any additional players for this squad, sticking to the same number of players he will be allowed at the World Cup. This means that some bubble players have been left out of this list, including Rangers centre-back James Sands, Fulham centre-back Tim Ream and the aforementioned strikers Pefok and Vazquez.

Berhalter brought just four centre-backs to this squad: Cameron Carter-Vickers from Celtic, Aaron Long from New York Red Bulls, Chris Richards from Crystal Palace and Walker Zimmerman from Nashville SC. Reggie Cannon, Sergiño Dest and DeAndre Yedlin have been named right-backs, while Scally and Vines will likely compete at left-back.

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

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The midfield squad was as expected, with Leeds’ Adams, Juventus’ McKennie and Valencia’s Musah the expected starters in a group that also includes LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta, Celta Vigo’s Luca de la Torre and Rangers’ Malik Tillman.

September’s roster continues to showcase the youth of this US national team. Thirteen players are aged 23 or under. After 14 World Cup qualifiers, the 11 U.S. starters 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 on 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 the American roster to play against an opponent from the Asian Football Confederation. The Americans will face another AFC opponent in Iran in their final group stage match at the World Cup in November.

The players will return to their clubs after the camp. Berhalter can host a camp in October for MLS players whose teams fail to make the playoffs, but the full USA roster won’t meet until after the 26-man squad is named. of the World Cup on November 9. The United States will open camp in Qatar on November 14, then open Group B against Wales on November 21.

Detailed list 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 Monchengladbach), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter 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 (Rangers)

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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