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Christian Pulisic to miss USMNT-El Salvador World Cup qualifier


Christian Pulisic’s recovery from his recent bout of COVID-19 didn’t stop him from joining the U.S. men’s national team for the start of its World Cup qualifying training camp, but the Chelsea star won’t be able to recover in time for the USMNT’s opening World Cup qualifier against El Salvador on Thursday.

Pulisic has not traveled with the team, which left base camp in Nashville on Wednesday, and will stay in Tennessee to prepare himself to be available for the USMNT’s home qualifier against Canada on Sunday.

Pulisic was diagnosed with COVID-19 on August 20, and missed Chelsea’s next two matches while undergoing a mandatory 10-day quarantine. That stretch of inactivity, which also included him not being able to train, may have cost him the necessary fitness level to be ready for Thursday’s qualifier against El Salvador.

With Pulisic unavailable, Berhalter will have a handful of lineup options to choose from as a replacement. Brenden Aaronson is the leading candidate, and heads into qualifying in outstanding form, though he has spent the current club season with Red Bull Salzburg playing in a central midfield role rather than as a winger, which is where he has played for the USMNT, including in the team’s friendly win against Costa Rica in June.

Berhalter could also turn to Konrad De La Fuente, who is in an outstanding run of form for Ligue 1 side Marseille since completing a transfer from FC Barcelona. De La Fuente’s lack of international experience could limit him to a substitute’s role though, at least for Thursday’s qualifying opener in El Salvador.

What do you think of this development? Who would you like to see start in place of Pulisic?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Here’s what I would have wanted. If Berhalter knew there was a good chance Pulisic wouldn’t play, why didn’t he bring in another player since we have had vacancies from other players unavailable? Yes, it’s only El Salvador, but what was the harm in calling in another player? It is an international window so he could have brought in just about anyone American.

    • It would be a little tougher than usually with Covid protocols. Technically we could call anyone but traveling across the world on short notice wouldn’t have been easy when Weah went down Friday. 3-5-2?
      ARob -Wes-Adams-Dest
      Subs: Aaronson, Bello, Yedlin, Acosta, Roldan (I think GGG plays him if possible in his parents homeland against his brother)

      • Here’s one suggestion. Bring in someone like Mueller who can play mid or wing and comes from Orlando. Even if he might not be a top choice, it is better than being caught short. Cade Cowell is another possibility. What if we lose a player to injury from those positions in El Salvador? Then we are really short. It is just so short sighted to not be ready for possible contingencies which are not at all unusual.

      • short notice? we knew pulisic was positive 2 weeks ago, before any roster was released. half my beef on hoppe vs konrad is if you know you have an issue the contingencies should be baked in the cake already. and one thing going unsaid is we have typically called 25 or so before for 2 game trips, with a cut already built in, for previous cycles. there are other teams carrying as many as 28, and 23 is just a game day roster limit, nothing to do with how many you bring in and fly around.

        i get the faith in aaronson, ok, fine, sufficient replacement, but this is 3 games and you need subs and rotation, that then impacts on calling 5 mids, that gets you to your third string LF rapidly. i think he would say he did contingency plan so my beef is more that it was konrad, who skipped the summer and has 1 cap, over hoppe.

        i think the man sells what he does as analytical and planned but we win so many games late, with subs, or with a radically different look and lineup than we started the tournament. it’s improvised. we’re about to see how improvisation plays out in quali and finals settings. i think we’re stepping up to a level now where a “clark” mistake gets punished. so the margin is dropping. i think we will be fine tonight. i am a little more concerned for games 2 and 3, when you need to be rotating and using the depth, and you have 5 mids, steffen’s back hurting, and we’ll see if christian is fit.

      • to elaborate, when the roster came out you could have planned international travel, hotel rooms, testing, or whatever other logistics for contingencies and added roster spots into the roster. it’s only “the day of,” so to speak, where if you tried to replace they have to be domestic. and fwiw if the logistics of added people last minute right now is so hard then that suggests a longer roster to start with, knowing you can’t wave a magic wand. my 30-man figure was let’s go ahead and assume injuries and positive tests and rotation. someone might beef about being along for the ride for a friendly window but for quali i am sure guy #30 who sits all week just in case is probably happy to have been there and hopeful it leads someplace next time.

  2. I’m interested in seeing the USA based players form the spine of this team (except for the European guys that have played minimal minutes) in the first game against El Salvador. The travel from Europe plus the short rest will put too much strain on those guys and we can keep the game 0-0, then let them sub in to win it.

    IMO a 3-4-3 with the Europe guys coming in to turn the game in the second half would be the best case scenario. That way we can save the European guys for the final game away against a hopefully tired Honduras.

    Try to limit the El Salvador scoring chances for as long as possible, we can play counterattacking soccer mixed with dangerous set pieces, then find the winner in the last 15 minutes.

    Lletget Sargent Gio

    Antonee Acosta McKennie Roldan

    Zimmerman Sands Miles


  3. Should be:

    KDF Reyna Aaronson
    McKennie Adams
    Robinson Brooks Robinson Dest

    Will be

    Lletget McKennie Reyna
    Dest Ream Brooks Robinson Yedlin

  4. this is fine, would’ve thought he’d like to be there in a leadership role at least, but makes sense to spare him the travel while he works on fitness.

  5. It used to be Landon and the USMNT. This is a deeper, more diverse group and should be able to win w/o CP.

    El Salvador will be a good time to prove they can do so in a game that really matters.

    The formula for qualifying has always been win at home, draw away, so 5 points from these three games would work but they should get all 9 points.

    This 3 game set should tune them up. After that they should win the remaining 6 Octagon games they have before the end of January 2022.

    The main thing is to avoid a loss in the early going of the Octagon.

  6. this is why hoppe and not konrad. this is why more than 5 mids. it’s now, the 3rd LF will see minutes as the sub, and you can’t double count aaronson as a mid when the injury commits him as a LF starter. and with covid it should have been foreseen he could still be sick or be unfit from quarantine.

    • i thought there was a 24-48 hour roster deadline that might have triggered this announcement but i can’t find any. i find it hard to believe he’s so unfit he couldn’t be a 10 minute sub but better safe than sorry. that being said, from an “adams” perspective, little concerned that on a “game every 3 days” tempo how do you get someone ready in half a week, or even 6 days. you couldn’t run him outside during ida and if you did have a fitness coach after him every day your next game is in 4 days which sets up a potential “pre tournament friendly” scenario where we always look exhausted from fitness work the first game we play after two-a-day practices. anyhow, a race against the clock.

  7. Obviously we’re still huge favorites and should still expect 9 points. I think, by the way, that the way to not qualify is to go into three games trying to get 6 points. Do I lose my fan card if I admit I’m kind of looking forward to seeing Aaronson over Pulisic?

    • “I’m kind of looking forward to seeing Aaronson over Pulisic?

      On paper, the USMNT doesn’t need CP to qualify. They should be able to beat any of the Octagon teams without him. The key word is “should”.

      Couva was about sheer unadulterated arrogance and condescension. Hopefully, there should not be any of that this time around.

      This time there’s zero excuse for the USMNT to fail to qualify. They should cut through the Octagon like crap through a goose.

      If that doesn’t happen heads should roll.

      • yeah i know it sounds stupid. I’m not saying aaronsen is better, but we know pulisic’s ceiling now and we don’t know aaronsen’s. just fun to watch him get better. and he has more upside in this game. I’ll bet he scores.

      • Not only park Pulisic but make sure the cream is rested for Canada. As far as I’m concerned 2018 was lost due to Mexico and Costa Rica beating the US at home. Take care of the home field and qualification in guaranteed. Canada should be the focus. The Gold Cup team should be able to handle El Salvador.

  8. Honestly, not that big a deal. El Salvador is arguably the weakest of the WCQ opponents we will face, and we should get a positive result without him. The toughest opponent for away WCQ games is usually poor fields, questionable officiating, and seasonal heat. Canada is the toughest test for the September round, so let him get prepared. Honduras will struggle with fresh legs, even at home, after 3 games in such a short time span.

    • Agreed. The hardest thing for Berhalter to do was going to be to park Pulisic but I think he needed to park Pulisic because we needed him fresh against Canada and Honduras and if he was available I think it was going to be hard for Berhalter to NOT start him…and I was frankly worried about him being targeted and hacked incessantly down in El Salvador every touch of the ball and being banged up and unavailable against Canada and Honduras.
      This forces Gregg to keep him safe. It forces other guys to step up and not rely upon him from the jump, which is good; we want the USMNT to be a collective, not dependent upon a talismanic figure, and this sets that tone right away.
      So in a lot of ways this is good…and if we secure the W without him it goes a long way to fostering the notion that the collective is strong and Pulisic just makes it stronger, and that we’re not dependent on any one guy for a result.
      Of course I also don’t wanna think about what happens if we don’t get that result. Ugh. We need a good start in the worst way.


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