It might feel like the September World Cup qualifiers were ages ago, but the reality is the gap between September’s matches and the October qualifiers has flown by, and the U.S. men’s national team could soon be facing some issues that were first created in the last set of qualifiers.
Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna both suffered injuries in the September matches, and neither has made it back to club action yet. They are both set to miss this weekend’s club fixtures, meaning they will, at best, have one match worth of action heading into the October qualifiers, assuming either is close enough to recovering to be included.
Right now Pulisic appears to be closer to a return than Reyna, and the fact there are three qualifiers in October could lead Gregg Berhalter to call Pulisic in even if he might not be able to play in the first October match, against Jamaica.
The good news is that there are other previously injured players who have since returned to action to potentially help bolster the October roster, including Tim Weah, Yunus Musah, Gyasi Zardes and Paul Arriola.
One thing we have done in these latest projections is include a total of 30 players, and after seeing how the September group of 26 wound up being small for a three-match window, you have to think Berhalter will call up a larger group for the October qualifiers.
The possibility that some UK-based players could be prevented from playing in the Oct 10 road game against Panama due to UK-imposed restrictions could
With all that in mind, here are the players we could see being called in for the World Cup qualifying training camp ahead of September’s qualifiers:
Projected USMNT World Cup Qualifying Roster
Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath, Sean Johnson
Matt Turner enters the October qualifiers as the new first-choice option, though Berhalter could very well choose to give Steffen a game in the trio of matches.
One thing to note is our projection has four goalkeepers. Normally three are included, but if traveling to Panama becomes an issue for Steffen due to UK restrictions on travel to the Central American nation, then having Johnson in camp would make things much easier.
Missed the Cut: Bill Hamid, Brad Guzan
Sergiño Dest, John Brooks, Miles Robinson, Antonee Robinson, Joe Scally, Mark McKenzie, Tim Ream, Chris Richards, DeAndre Yedlin, George Bello
Centerback will be the position to keep an eye on as we see whether or not Berhalter gives Chris Richards a call. Even with an expanded roster, Berhalter will need to leave someone home and this projection leaves out both Richards and James Sands while including Walker Zimmerman and Tim Ream, who have earned regular call-ups.
It’s tough to see Berhalter call in more than five centerbacks, but you can see him going with a more experienced group for this set of qualifiers, so choosing Zimmerman over Richards wouldn’t be a total surprise. Berhalter could also choose to stick with James Sands over Richards given Sands’ ability to provide cover in defensive midfield (though his struggles in that role against Honduras make you wonder if that versatility is still working in his favor).
At fullback, Joe Scally should absolutely earn a call, and his versatility could help provide some depth at left back, where George Bello struggled in his September opportunity. Berhalter could choose to bring just four fullbacks given the fact Scally and Dest can play on either side, but our projection leaves Bello in for some cover. That said, Berhalter could leave out Bello, and stick with just four fullbacks to give him six central defenders to work with, increasing the chances we’ll see a three-centerback setup again at some point in October.
Missed the Cut: Sam Vines (injured), Reggie Cannon (injured), Bryan Reynolds, Matt Miazga, Walker Zimmerman, James Sands, Shaq Moore, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Kevin Paredes.
Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Sebastian Lletget, Gianluca Busio, Cristian Roldan, Kellyn Acosta, Brenden Aaronson, Yunus Musah
Will Weston McKennie’s exile end in October? That is a big question heading into the next set of qualifiers. McKennie has found his way back onto the field for Juventus pretty quickly following his September issues with the USMNT, and Berhalter could find it difficult to leave him out for another set of matches.
Gianluca Busio has become a regular starter for Venezia and his steady play in Serie A should earn him a national team return, while Yunus Musah should also be included in the squad as he has started to earn more playing time for Valencia since his return from injury.
One player who could be a surprise inclusion is Djordje Mihailovic, who is on an excellent run of form and is a player Berhalter has shown himself to be a fan of in the past. If Berhalter isn’t happy with the level of creativity in his midfield then he very well could include the CF Montreal playmaker.
Missed the Cut: Djordje Mihailovic, Tanner Tessmann, Luca De La Torre, Christian Cappis, Jackson Yueill
Christian Pulisic, Ricardo Pepi, Josh Sargent, Jordan Siebatcheu, Tim Weah, Konrad De La Fuente, Gyasi Zardes, Matthew Hoppe
Will Christian Pulisic make it back in time for the October qualifiers? That’s a big question at the moment, and the fact he still hasn’t returned from the ankle injury he suffered in the September win against Honduras could leave the Americans without both Pulisic and Gio Reyna.
Pulisic should earn a call, even if he winds up only playing in the final October qualifier against Costa Rica, while Gio Reyna appears unlikely to make it back in time for the October qualifiers.
Matthew Hoppe is settling in at Mallorca, and should earn a USMNT return, where he can give the team something different in a wide role. Sargent’s foray in a wide role against Honduras could also see him earn another look there.
The good news on the winger front is that Tim Weah has returned from injury, and is a good bet to earn a call, with he and Konrad De La Fuente giving Berhalter some good options out wide.
And what of Paul Arriola, who is back from injury and one of the more experienced winger options in the pool? He hasn’t been in the best of form since returning to action and just misses out here, though Berhalter could decide that he values Arriola’s experience too much to exçlude him.
At striker, Ricardo Pepi will be called in, as will Jordan Pefok, leaving us to ponder whether Berhalter might leave out Josh Sargent to make room for the return of Gyasi Zardes. For this projection, we’ll include both Sargent and Zardes, but if Berhalter winds up going with a smaller roster than expected, closer to 25 rather than closer to 30, then he’ll have to leave one of the aforementioned strikers home.
Missed the Cut: Gio Reyna (injured), Paul Arriola, Haji Wright, Daryl Dike, Nicholas Gioacchini, Emmanuel Sabbi
What do you think of this group? Who made the cut that you were happy to see included? Who missed out that you feel should have made the team?
Share your thoughts below.