NEW YORK (AP) — Christian Pulisic’s availability for the United States’ opening World Cup qualifier remains unclear following his positive COVID test.
The top American player was on the 26-man roster announced Thursday for the first three qualifiers after missing Chelsea’s match at Arsenal last weekend. The U.S. starts at El Salvador on Sept. 2.
“It’s going to be just day-to-day, seeing where he’s at,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “He’s still under quarantine conditions in England, and we’re going to have to get him stateside once he clears the quarantine and assess him. It’s really to tell if he will be available for the 2nd, for the 5th or for the 8th.”
The 22-year-old Pulisic is scheduled to report Sunday.
“There’s a lot of tests that he needs to go through before he arrives,” Berhalter said.
Pulisic is among six veterans of the 2017 team that failed to qualify for the World Cup, ending a streak of seven straight appearances for the U.S. Other holdovers include Kellyn Acosta, John Brooks, Sebastian Lletget, Tim Ream and DeAndre Yedlin.
Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and Zack Steffen are among 20 players who could make World Cup qualifying debuts.
The U.S. roster will average 24 years, 43 days, and 18 international appearances when training starts Monday in Nashville, Tennessee. Under the compacted schedule caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. travels to El Salvador on Wednesday for the opener, hosts Canada in Nashville on Sept. 5 and plays Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Sept. 8.
There will be three more qualifiers from Oct. 7-13, two from Nov. 12-16 and three each in from Jan. 27-Feb. 2 and March 24-30. The Americans had three draws and two losses on the road in qualifying for 2018.
The top three teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and the No. 4 team advances to a playoff for a berth. The final round was expanded from six nations to eight because of the pandemic and the start delayed a year.
Ten of the players are on teams that qualified for the European Champions League, led by Pulisic of defending champion Chelsea. He is joined by Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams, John Brooks, Sergiño Dest, Weston McKennie, Jordan Pefok, Gio Reyna, Zack Steffen and Tim Weah. Two others on Champions League teams did not make the roster: Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards and Club Brugge midfielder Owen Otasowie.
“I talk about the progress we’ve made as a team, a lot of it has to do with the individuals, as well, and the level that they’ve been playing at.” Berhalter said.
Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi is the only player with no previous international experience, The 18-year-old, who scored the winning penalty kick for Major League Soccer’s All-Stars against Liga MX on Wednesday night, played for the U.S. at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup along with George Bello and Reyna. Pepi also is eligible to play for Mexico.
“I am very proud to be Mexican-American,” he tweeted. “At the same time, I was born and raised in the USA. This team has given me and my country a home, and endless opportunities to achieve my dreams.”
Pepi and Konrad de la Fuente are the only players who were not on the roster for either the CONCACAF Nations League final four in June or the CONCACAF Gold Cup later in the summer. De la Fuente’s only appearance was in November 2020 at Wales.
Nine players are from MLS, six are based in England, three in Germany and two in France.
Known as Jordan Siebatcheu when he made his U.S. debut last March, the forward now wants to be known as Jordan Pefok, the USSF said. His full name is Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu Pefok.
Defender Tim Ream is questionable, according to Berhalter, after leaving Fulham’s match at Hull on Saturday with a hip injury. Aaronson is on the roster after coming off late with an ankle injury in RB Salzburg’s Champions League win at Denmark’s Brøndby on Wednesday, when he scored his second goal of the playoff round.
Twenty-three players can dress for each game.
Among those missing are New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long, who tore his right Achilles tendon on May 15; Valencia midfielder Yunus Musah, sidelined since injuring an ankle last month during preseason; D.C. midfielder Paul Arriola, who injured a hamstring on Aug. 18 at New England; Columbus forward Gyasi Zardes, who injured his left hamstring on Aug. 18 at the New York Red Bulls.
Others not included are Orlando forward Daryl Dike, who has not played since a Gold Cup semifinal on July 29; defender Matt Miazga, who transferred to Spain’s Alavés on Aug. 20; and defenders Reggie Cannon, Shaq Moore and Sam Vines, midfielders Jackson Yeuill and Giancluca Busio; and forward Matthew Hoppe.
“It’s nice to win a trophy in Nations League. It’s nice to win a Gold Cup trophy. It’s nice to be ranked 10th in the world,” Berhalter said. “It doesn’t mean anything if we don’t qualify for the World Cup. … Everything we’ve done until now is only a foundation.”
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest, England), Zack Steffen (Manchester City, England), Matt Turner (New England).
Defenders: George Bello (Atlanta), John Brooks (Wolfsburg, Germany), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona, Spain), Mark McKenzie (Genk, Belgium), Tim Ream (Fulham, England), Antonee Robinson (Fulham, England), Miles Robinson (Atlanta), James Sands (New York City), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray, Turkey), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville).
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado), Tyler Adams (Leipzig, Germany), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus, Italy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle).
Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Salzburg, Austria), Konrad de la Fuente (Olympique Marseille, France), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys, Switzerland), Ricardo Pepi (Dallas), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea, England), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Josh Sargent (Norwich, England), Tim Weah (Lille, France).
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