The U.S. men’s national team will be without Zack Steffen for a second straight World Cup qualifier, and it remains to be seen if the same will be said for Christian Pulisic.
USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed on Saturday that Steffen would remain sidelined with back spasms, meaning Matt Turner could be in line for his second straight start in goal.
As for Pulisic, he was set to be evaluated late on Saturday to determine his availability, though he did take part in Saturday’s light training session at LP Field in Nashville.
“To be out for 10 days and have Covid isn’t the easiest thing to get over, ” Berhalter said. “So for us, it’s about seeing how he can come back in a safe way. That’s the most important thing.”
One player who wasn’t at training on Saturday is Gio Reyna, who played the full 90 minutes in Thursday’s 0-0 draw with El Salvador. As of Sunday morning, Reyna’s status had not been addressed by U.S. Soccer, but his absence on Saturday raises questions about his availability.
If Pulisic is not available to play, then Berhalter could turn to either Konrad De La Fuente and Brenden Aaronson to fill the void, and both could be called on to start against Canada if Reyna is also unavailable.
Sebastian Lletget and Kellyn Acosta are currently candidates to step in and start in central midfield, where Aaronson started and struggled against El Salvador, but Aaronson’s ability to play on the wing could make him the pick to play out wide if Berhalter’s two first-choice wing options aren’t available against Canada.
As for the goalkeeper position, Turner is coming off a solid shift against El Salvador, but Berhalter stopped short of saying Turner would get the call again on Sunday, with Ethan Horvath another option to start.
Berhalter did praise Turner’s performance against El Salvador, sounding very much like a coach ready to stick with the same goalkeeper.
“I think Matt performed really well in the game,” Berhalter said of Turner. “I was most impressed, I think with his calmness. It wasn’t an easy environment but he really made everything look easy. I think there might have been one play in the in the first half of the ball got away from a went out for a corner kick.
“Other than that, I think he was flawless. Caught the balls came out on crosses, distribution was good. So for me, it’s it was a good performance.”