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Injuries put a dent in USMNT roster options ahead of World Cup qualifiers


A recent rash of injuries (and one significant COVID-19 infection) have threatened to put a considerable dent in Gregg Berhalter’s roster options ahead of September’s World Cup qualifiers, and will provide a good test to the unprecedented depth in the U.S. men’s national team player pool.

Christian Pulisic’s positive COVID-19 status has left his availability for the USMNT’s opening qualifier against El Salvador on September 2 in question, but he isn’t alone among American players who are either already set to miss out due to injury, and those who are working to recover in time.

Here is a closer look at the recent injuries/illnesses that could keep some USMNT players out of September’s qualifiers:

Christian Pulisic

After testing positive for COVID-19 last Wednesday, Pulisic will be cutting it close to be available for the September 2 qualifier against El Salvador. A more reasonable scenario would be to have him miss that opening qualifier and focus on being ready for the September 5 home qualifier against Canada in Nashville.

Gyasi Zardes

A recent hamstring injury suffered with the Columbus Crew is set to keep Zardes for 2-4 weeks. That timetable would keep Zardes out of the September qualifiers, a disappointing development after his promising showing at the Gold Cup.

Tim Ream

The Fulham defender left his team’s recent match in the first half after a painful fall. There is no update on his injury status as of Monday, but if he isn’t included when the USMNT roster is announced later this week, that will be why. Ream has been in excellent for for Fulham at the start of their season.

Paul Arriola

A hamstring injury suffered with D.C. United during last week’s loss to New England has sidelined Arriola, who missed his team’s loss to Atlanta United. The injury isn’t expected to be a long-term one though, so he could theoretically still recover in time to be part of the USMNT camp.

Daryl Dike

Whether Dike is legitimately injured, or being stashed ahead of a loan/transfer to Europe, what is clear is that Dike has not played in almost a month (not since the Gold Cup semifinal against Qatar). Will Berhalter call him into the camp when he hasn’t been playing games?

Jozy Altidore

Though he was a longshot to be included for World Cup qualifying in September even if healthy, Altidore fell off the list completely after undergoing foot surgery that will sideline him for six weeks. The 31-year-old looks less and less likely to play his way back into the USMNT picture, especially considering how many promising young strikers there are in the pipeline at the moment.

Yunus Musah

An ankle injury has caused Musah to miss the start of Valencia’s La Liga campaign, and while he is working to recover, he failed to make the bench for Valencia’s last game. Musah suffered the injury a month ago during Valencia’s preseason, and it’s tough to see him being match-fit enough to play in September qualifiers.



  1. Please don’t forget that Hoppe is a natural # 9 even though he has not played there yet for the USMNT. I would love to see his kamikaze attack mode as a #9 in the first world cup qualifier.

    • True and he just spent a month with Gregg. He’s going to at least have some idea of the system and what he wants from the forward.

  2. As long as we don’t see Lleget as a false 9, I’m good with Sargent or Siebatcheu starting and splitting minutes between the 3 matches. I like 60-30, 70-20 rule for CFs. I also think, Pepi, Ebobisse, and/or super nova -Novakovich, should get a look at, if GB needs to bring in a 3 CF. There’s a lot of depth at winger, midfield, and CB.

    • Per the Abroad rewind from this past weekend….Andrija Novakovich is OUT (injury) for Frosinone’s home match vs. Parma on Friday.
      Pepi is an option if he’s willing to accept the call-up. He’s apparently being pursued by Tata for Mexico who, like the US, is struggling for a consistent CF.

  3. Ream, Arriola, & Jozy are not losses to the player pool. I wouldn’t put any of the 3 in our top 30 players. Their being injured just forces Berhaulter to pick someone else.
    Worse case scenario right now is that Pulisic won’t be available until the Canada game, which for me is the game we need him most. As long as he doesn’t have a setback he should be starting in Canada.
    Musah is a loss, but we have shown we have enough depth at his position to win without him. His getting healthy (and staying healthy) is more important.
    Dike & Zardes would be nice depth pieces…especially with the physical play away in El Salvador. That said I think Hoppe could provide that depth at CF. Maybe not the same kind of CF, but his grit/physicality should translate well.

  4. People here love to hate on Zardes because he isn’t Lukaku, but the dude scores for the USA. He has scored big goals against big teams and should get more respect. I love Sargent, and believe he could be the next Brian McBride, but how many goals has he scored for the red white and blue? Not as many as Zardes.

    • I’m just curious what are these big games you speak of that Zardes scored? I like Zardes and sadly he is currently our top 3 CFs but we gotta do a lot better then Zardes

      • He scored against the Netherlands in Amsterdam, he has scored against Canada in both legs of the Nations league, Ecuador in the copa America, plus I believe he scored a few times in World Cup qualifying last time out. Something none of our othe forwards can claim.

    • Zardes Career NT Goals: make your own judgments
      Netherlands 1
      Cuba 1
      St V & G 1
      Bolivia 2
      Ecuador 2
      Guyana 1
      Trinidad 2
      Canada 2 (both in 2nd leg)
      Martinique 1
      Qatar 1
      By Competition
      WCQ 1g 4 app
      GC 6g 22 app
      NL 2g 2 app
      Copa America 1g 6 app
      Friendlies 4g 27 app
      Confed Cup 0g 1 app

      • the vast majority of those are eliminated caribbean teams or years ago. the deal is you put him in a game with mexico he disappears and we get our production elsewhere. you can pretend that a holland game years ago suggests otherwise, but i am going with 2 straight gold cups of trying it and failing. i would put my money on wood or AJ or pulisic to get the job done at 9 against a good team. zardes to me is wondo. he will run around and chase — and coaches love that — but striker is there to score and after many chances he doesn’t get it done. you’re setting up the next “belgium miss.” to me put the guy out there who sent panama home. or the guy who has goals on a bunch of good teams — not just holland in a friendly almost a decade ago while playing wing — including regional elite opponents. or take a risk on someone i don’t know for sure will choke.

  5. Pulisic is the only real “dent” in the plans. Dike and Musah would be welcome if they were healthy but we have PLENTY of talent capable of filling these spots

    I don’t care who’s center forward as long as Konrad fills LW hole left by Pulisic, and the midfield includes Adams, McKennie, Reyna and either Aaronson/Weah

    Goals will come

    • konrad came off the bench for OM shortly before the riot yesterday. i think that bubble needs to deflate a little. i like him but i doubt he skips the summer queue unless we take like 30 people. hoppe has more chance of playing. hoppe showed up and played well.

      • If Konrad is on the bench this window cause Hoppe is seen as a more reliable/experienced replacement on the left? I’m fine with that

        But I’m a bit confused…are you implying that Konrad not starting the last OM match was because his club form dropped? or it’s somehow negative?

        He started against Montpelier and Bordeaux…if you watched those matches and think he was benched for poor performances or somehow let the coach down, i’d be shocked

    • you’re forgetting it’s 3 game windows and 5 subs and we will probably be getting deeper into the roster than usual. i agree most of the players lack pulisic’s importance. i disagree that a player at the edge of the 23 wasn’t going to play in this particular schedule. i see this like nations league. we will probably exhaust the 23 (except perhaps keepers) with at least a sub.

  6. I am not sure I would cap new players in El Salvadore except for a late game appearance after the result is pretty much settled. Bring in Bruin isn’t a bad idea as cover for possible injuries, he is solid, can take physical abuse dished out in CONCACAF away games and as was shown in his last MLS game can still score. It is likely Pulisic will be back in time for Canada so either of those options as backup security are probably not needed after El Salvadore.

      • he’s going to first call his guys, hoppe, nico, green, soto, ferreira, before he gets to wood. i don’t see him ever getting to bruin because there are too many options and he wasn’t even on the provo roster. i would assume anyone we call was either nations league or provo roster or was reported by the press as explicitly turning it down (reynolds, richards). MLS who weren’t on the provo list, at gold cup, or in a winter friendly, unlikely.

      • fwiw wood has 2G 1A in 6 starts having bedded in with RSL. he scored on colombia, ireland, and a list of regional powers including mexico. more than up to the job. but i assume GB works down his rolodex before taking the risk of calling someone he’s left off for years on “form” theories.

      • IV: Dennis was responding to someone below that Bruin would be a good replacement given his being used to physical play in MLS. I think if you just want a veteran in MLS Wood is a better choice.

    • Let’s not forget Bruin’s hot streak was his first goal of the year after scoring 1 all last year and 2 the year before. Even Teal Bunbury has 2g this season and 8 last season. Jeremy Ebobisse has Concacaf experience in youth teams and CL he’s got 13 g the last two seasons. Corey Baird and Mason Toye have significantly more goals than Bruin the last three seasons. If you want an uninspiring MLS Forward there are plenty better than Will Bruin.

  7. There is a couple of “Blessing in disguise”.
    I didn’t want to see Ream ever again.
    I’m not impressed with Arriola either. A speedster that can’t score is not a big loss.
    I will be missing Zardes, he is a workhorse. That can handle extreme weather.

    • it depends who he calls. if the replacement for ream is miazga that is not positive. if the replacement for zardes is dike, ditto. eg roldan for musah. you might argue if he picks the wrong regular to replace it’s actually worse. i agree some of the list is frustrating. to fix that you have to pick better given the absence. to me he has a tendency to perseverate so he will bring back in someone also frustrating who themselves had finally started to drift off. i wish he used something like this to play richards, green, ferreira, etc.

  8. Unfortunately our newfound depth doesn’t really include striker. Sargent and Pefok the only options from this summer… We will have to get creative with the versatile attacking options available or call in a MLS veteran for backup. We’ve certainly done that before in previous cycles.

  9. It’s a Blessing in disguise that Ream got hurt as now Berhalter has no ability to burn a roster spot on him. This is why the US depth should be the difference this cycle. With the compressed games we were always going to have squad rotation. Pretty amazing to imagine substitute a player like Konrad or Aaronson for CP.

  10. It’s looking like Sargent and Siebatcheu will be the main options. I know it’s crazy, but Will Bruin may be able to be that emergency (only if needed) target man who can hold up play, at least for these Fall games. He’s 31 and obviously not a long-term answer at all, but at least for emergency purposes. He’s playing pretty well and has no problem doing the dirty work as the target man, which can come in handy with CONCACAF competition. Obviously a long shot, but an idea. Meaning the forward depth still needs a lot of work that I’m even considering talking about him.

    • Guy I might strongly start considering is Robbie Robinson for Inter Miami. He’s young, direct, snaky, good on the dribble, aggressive, and fearless, has some Matthew Hoppe in him but I think he’s faster. I watched him a fair number of times with Clemson and unsurprisingly I’m seeing him take off now some at Miami…he’s just 22 and I think he’s got a TON of untapped upside. I think he may offer more than Zardes already and his first touch is definitely better.
      I can definitely see him getting on the plane to Qatar if he continues to heat up.
      He absolutely roasted poor Omar Gonzalez the other night against Toronto. Check out the 1:30 mark.

      • @quozzel, I have watched extended highlights of the Inter Miami games, especially during the beginning of the season and noticed Robbie Robinson’s good play alongside big names Higuain, Pizarro, Matuidi, etc. Robinson can definitely play. It’s not even fair (in the video) that he easily dribbled by Omar who was already too slow during the 2017 WCQ cycle.

    • Since we are looking at maybe a backup role or some minutes at the end of the game, it might be a good time to give Pepi his baptism, especially if it is against El Salvador. Pulisic will probably be back after that game, if not before.

      • You’re absolutely right regarding Robinson. I saw Chile called him in meaning he has to decide or just sit out this cycle and decline callups. But he definitely has that skill to be one of those that got away if he accepts Chile’s invitation.

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