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USMNT News: Pulisic won’t start against Mexico, Steffen gets the nod in goal

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Christian Pulisic’s return from injury came just in time for him to be part of the U.S. men’s national team’s November roster, but his full recovery hasn’t happen quickly enough for him to start against Mexico in Friday’s high-profile rivalry clash in Cincinnati.

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed on Thursday that Pulisic will not start, but will be available off the bench against Mexico in Friday’s matchup of the top two teams in the Concacaf Octagonal standings.

Pulisic recently returned from two months on the sidelines with an ankle injury suffered in September’s World Cup qualifying win against Honduras. He had been limited to two brief substitute’s appearances for Chelsea since his return, and Berhalter acknowledged that it was overly ambitious to think Pulisic could jump from that level of involvement to starting in the most important USMNT match of the year, against arch-rival Mexico.

“Common sense is going to tell us you can’t start a guy in a game like this when he’s only been training for four days and he’s been out for two months,” Berhalter said on Thursday. “Our idea wasn’t to play him 180 minutes in this trip anyway. He’s not going to start (Friday). Hopefully, he’ll get some playing time, we’ll put him on the field, and he can make an impact and help us get the result that we want.”

Berhalter did reveal one of his starting lineup decisions, confirming that Zack Steffen will get the nod in goal ahead of Matt Turner. Steffen will make his second straight qualifying start after starting against Costa Rica in the 2-1 World Cup qualifying win in October.

Turner had been expected to start given the fact he has been playing regularly in MLS with the New England Revolution while Steffen has played one match in the past month, a start in Manchester City’s Carabao Cup loss to West Ham on October 27.

Turner does have experience against Mexico, having started and played well in the USMNT’s Gold Cup final victory over El Tri during the summer, but ultimately Steffen has secured the starting nod and will start against Mexico for the second time in 2021, having started against El Tri in the Nations League final. He was forced out of that match with an injury, paving the way for Ethan Horvath to deliver some late-game heroics in a USMNT victory.

With Pulisic not in the lineup, Berhalter will have a variety of wing options to choose from. Brenden Aaronson will be expected to slide into the left wing role he has occupied in Pulisic’s absence, while Tim Weah and Paul Arriola are the leading candidates to fill the right wing spot. Arriola started in the October qualifiers against Jamaica and Panama on the right wing, while Weah started and played well at right wing against Costa Rica, emerging as a late inclusion when Arriola was injured in pre-game warmups.

Pulisic is available to feature off the bench, and Berhalter sounded optimistic about the Chelsea star being able to contribute.

“He looks good,” Berhalter said of Pulisic. “For us it was about assessing him, giving him a couple of good days of training, building him up to this point where we can make him available. That was the whole idea. He’s a guy that you want him to be able to help your team no matter where he is. For us, it was assessing him, working with our medical staff and getting him ready to play. He will be ready to play, he won’t he won’t start the game, and hopefully we can get him on in this game.”


Comments

  1. The thing about USA v Mexico, is we always reserve the right to deploy a three center back back line based on its history in this game. It’s hard to see walker Zimmerman not starting this game, and Richards and miles Robinson are flanking him, with two more wing backs out wide. Another Robinson and probably yedlin, unless scally is just crushing it in training. Either way, that’s a good defensive setup, and you place Adams in the 6 and Weston in the 8, we can have two defensive minded center mids connecting defense and attack.
    If Pepi is starting, and maybe it’s not great to put your hand on the table so early, but Mexico now know pulisic isn’t starting. Dallas teammates can work together up top and arronson can play just behind them.

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  2. Looking forward to seeing Pulisic as a supersub. I’d like to see him and Weah off the bench after Aaronson and Ariola frustrate the heck out of Mexico – provided it’s with enough time for them to make a mark on the game. My biggest criticism of GB is the timing of his subs. He seems to always make them so late.

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  3. At this point I think we can say that Steffen is clearly the number one choice in goal for Gregg. Hope he gets off to a better start than he did in the last game in goal. Can’t wait to see the starting lineup for tomorrows game. If a certain couple of mls regulars get the nod the fans may lose it.

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    • when you think he’s learning and evolving he tends to revert back to what he was doing before. zardes keeps coming back in, horvath has gone back out. i also think that with the benefit of hindsight some decisions we thought were performance based really came down to injuries or availability problems. once those issues resolve he reverts. he has his own headspace ideas how this should come out and i think they override too much what objective people watching games see. steffen isn’t the club form guy. he’s not even the NT form guy. he’s the “i wanted him in net since 2018” guy, regardless if he’s playing like 2018 anymore. hasn’t since he hurt his knee. it’s not like he handed him an opportunity and he pitched a shutout picking balls out of the upper 90. he gave up a slow roller goal, one of the softest in recent memory. he’d shipped 2 goals to mexico before the injury replacement. 2 to panama, 1 to northern ireland, jamaica. 2 to canada, 3 to mexico, etc. and while he was the “1” when the cycle started, he has no more qualifying or world cup experience than turner. this is not howard grabbing his job back from guzan. this is an older player with more quali starts playing better than he is. matt turner has allowed 4 goals in 12 caps. a 0.3 GAA. i thought he had an off day against panama, but this is silly.

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      • Remember- Steffen’s pass to Jedi was the catalyst to the build up that led to Dest equalizer against Costa Rica at home. I like Turner but he’s not making a touch pass to his LB, that’s easy to bring down. If Adams has gotten better at passing & possession than the same can be said of Steffen. I agree with anyone who says “Just when you think the coach has learned…” GB will do 2 things, that has me thinking, ‘O, he hasn’t learned a thing has he?!’ Anyway, I’m rooting for who’s ever in the Stars & Stripes to beat El Tri!

      • What you’ve just written here amounts to:

        “I can’t predict what this manager is going to do. ”

        Some managers are predictably bad. Some are predictably good.
        Some are predictably unpredictable.

        In the USMNT’s case, the manager is predictably inconsistent and so is the team, no surprise there. This is largely because the manager is learning on the job.

        Which is hardly surprising. The USSF, the people who hired this manager just hired a manager for the recent Under 20 Revelations cup so late that he only had one walk around practice before the tournament .

        So some of our finest teenage talent , Cowell, Caden, Sealy, Che, etc. some of our brightest hopes for future just had what might have been a pretty useful tournament vs teams like Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, just pissed down the drain.

        Apparently the USSF does not think the manager is an important part of a tournament team. And it shows.

      • dudes: if you give up 4 goals in 12 games he doesn’t have to be the impetus on a counter play to overcome the soft goals he’s given up. hmmm. beyond that, we continue to undercut optimization of positions by emphasizing tertiary concerns. we shouldn’t be starting forwards for chasing tenacity or keepers for passing. precisely backwards. you wanna win games? forwards who can score, backs and keepers who don’t get scored on.

        personally i prefer turner whacking the ball past the half and we have a short field to finish. i think trying to build 100+ yards starting with ground passing from your worst technical players is asking for problems. anecdotal attack-starters aside, i’d bet we have cost ourselves more goals passing from the back than we’ve scored beginning that way. just like i’m sure dest costs us as much or more than he scores, so push him up until he stops costing.

    • Cause he used to play for GB. Period. Matt is far better than Steffen. We will now lose against Mexico and if that happens, we should all start the fire GB chant

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