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.
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