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Ricardo Pepi responds to not making USMNT World Cup roster


Ricardo Pepi was not selected for the U.S. men’s national team’s final World Cup roster last week and responded in the best way possible with FC Groningen.

Pepi scored his seventh goal of the season across all competitions in Groningen’s 3-2 Eredivisie defeat to Fortuna Sittard. It was Pepi’s sixth goal in eight league appearances for the club, continuing an impressive loan spell from Bundesliga club FC Augsburg.

Josh Sargent, Jesus Ferreira, and Haji Wright were chosen by USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter over Pepi for the Americans’ trip to Qatar, leaving the 19-year-old to remain in the Netherlands over the World Cup break. Despite Pepi riding a strong run of form this fall, the former FC Dallas academy product was not selected, and now heads into a four-week break from club action before resuming the league schedule in mid-December.

“Disappointing because I felt like I gave myself the best opportunities to be in the World Cup roster,” Pepi said during a postmatch interview on Sunday about his reaction to not being included in the USMNT roster. “I felt like I had a chance, but also not disappointing at the same time because, like I said, I did my thing, I went out there, I played many minutes, I scored my goals. I’m really happy with that situation. At the end of the day, it’s a coach’s decision that I can’t control.

“I feel like it can be a question, but after [Berhalter] told me that I wasn’t in the selection, then I just had to listen to what he said and I didn’t really ask any questions,” Pepi added. “I feel like once he told me, I wanted to flip the page as soon as possible and just focus on the game now. I can’t keep thinking about why I didn’t make it or why I did.”

Pepi endured a tough period with Augsburg, failing to score in his first 16 appearances for the club, but since has looked like a new player in the Netherlands. He has started in all 10 appearances for the current 15th-place side, helping FC Groningen defeat PSV earlier in October and also advance in the KNVB Cup.

A total of 11 of Pepi’s 12 USMNT caps came during the Americans’ World Cup Qualifying campaign, with him delivering goals against Honduras and Jamaica in back-to-back appearances. Now with Pepi set for an extended break from club action, the goal will be to rest and recover before an important winter schedule begins for FC Groningen.

His World Cup absence remains a shock, but it’s new motivation for Pepi to use as he prepares for a similar role during the second half of the season.


  1. Kid is scoring goals. I ride or die with the hot hand. Bring him in, no reason for Roldan or Morris to be in. With service Pepi can do things Sargent does not. Form should matter.

      • people do realize norwich is c’ship not EPL, right? also interesting we have 3 guys who didn’t set the B.1 afire and one way of looking at the decision is he favored the guy who dropped out first over the ones on loan from or still playing there. not sure how chronology makes one better than the other. you can call it form but it could also be they are in 3 leagues of varying quality. i tend to prefer tiebreaking based on NT performances and sargent has the longest time since he did anything for us. pepi hasn’t scored for us a in a few? before the summer sargent hadn’t been in a US team since september last year and he still hasn’t scored since november ’19. how about that for a cold spell.

        and if i wanted to get punchy GB can’t know sargent is going to score 9 goals in the c’ship or pefok will struggle in germany when he makes the june and september decisions. i think he’s kind of spinning some after the fact stats outcomes into those decisions he was already making before they happened.

      • IV: Fro said “Form should matter.” I was just pointing out Sargent is also in form. No one is saying the Championship is anywhere near EPL level but none of our strikers are lighting up the EPL now are they. Now that Bundesliga teams have tape of Pefok he’s gone cold too. Using your what have they done in the shirt ideal Zardes should be in Qatar. Ferreira scored 18 in MLS, Wright on top of Turkish league, Pepi scoring 8 g or a in 9 matches in Eredivisie, Pefok golden boot in Switzerland. None have greatly distinguished themselves for NT. So it comes down to what is the coach looking for in his striker. Might not be what others would want in their “system” but Gregg isn’t running the IV system.

      • JR: my point is the “form” most certainly isn’t NT form — wright has barely done anything in the shirt in minimal caps, and sargent had for about a year not been called, and hasn’t scored in like 3 years for us. and if it’s club form, he doesn’t seem to get every single one of the bubble guys had cycled through the same league with mediocre output. pefok was lighting up swiss league when sargent couldn’t hack B.1. so now you’re pointing out how pepi did in holland or sargent in a second division vs pefok in B.1.
        that isn’t really a meaningful evaluation if one steps back and looks at their whole cycle. not sure how that is more damning of one than another. they all do fine as long as they are out of the B.1, which is a top 2 league. apples to apples that should say they are about the same. not that the last of the trio trying the B.1 should get cut and the first one to ditch should be treated as the form player.

        and i’ve said it twenty times, form hasn’t been shown to carry over to international ball, and there is plenty of history of wondos. so if the heuristic doesn’t work can we get back to USMNT productivity or just overall talent?

        i would love it if GB altered his scheme and his choices were pointing there. but cycle history says my favorite games like honduras second half or CR friendly are “non-canon” exceptions. they tend to play exactly how they have been, they played that way the last friendlies. and they have a week to prepare now, in the heat, not 4-6 weeks someplace mild like california.

  2. Pepi needs to look at this as a blessing in disguise. Now that all of the World Cup distraction is off the table, he needs to take the opportunity to focus on his club form, get a big fat contract once his current one expires and set himself up for the rest of his life. It is a disappointment now but at the end of the day it really is just one man’s opinion.

  3. US roster F ages: reyna 20 ferreira 21 pulisic 24 morris 28 wright 24 weah 22 sargent 22. “miss out” F ages: arriola 27 pepi 19 pefok 26 zardes 31 booth 21 cowell 19 soto 22 nico 22 dike 22. on top of that sullivan 18 wolff 19 and others coming up from the pipeline behind them. pefok has 1 cycle left; morris, zardes arriola are done. i think the average USMNT fan has our historical process on their brain, whether literal or as an implied structure. most of these dudes are young, have 2-3 cycles in them. if you miss this one you will likely be pool going forward but i wouldn’t assume you are any more likely to make the next one. particularly if GB keeps his job ie the guy who just cut you. the guy taking your job is about your age. this is not the historical apprenticeship process waiting behind donovan, dempsey, or mcbride to age out. this is going to be thunderdome with the same kids fighting for the team over and over each roster, plus some more maturing into the competition.

    if there is hope for the cuts it’s either regime change or that buried beneath the rhetoric of “form” is the reality this coach is kind of fickle. i personally don’t think talent changes dramatically over time but if we don’t have 3 strikers filling the net with goals this coach gets antsy and may trip back over you later on. personally i think that’s not rigorous or a good talent eye but he just seems fickle.

  4. Gregg is from NJ in those areas/states peeps don’t know how to communicate, and do it in anger NJ, PA, and NY they have no filter; they talk to you crazy in those states and have no patients. Did you all see the press conference he had on us soccer yt page? Man, Gregg looks stressed, anxious, and was seemed like he was going to burst out crying in tears of frustration.

    • takes 2 to tango, i personally thought it was weak that with this burst of talent — the best in CONCACAF — we weren’t competitive with the similarly young and fairly talented canadians, and instead nestled between two “old man” teams we should have superseded — 2nd place mexico and tiebreaker qualifier CR. this is mediocre selection and a forced system not designed to the selection. that’s my semi-articulate grousing right back at him. i think he has plenty of tools and it’s his problem. it’s his job to sort out and articulate something that works. this is not 2018 where that took work to make competitive. this bunch can qualify “in spite of.”

      i think we are going about things backward. you hire a winning coach who can vary their tactics. they look over the pool and identify the best players who perform in US games. only when that is sorted is it worth your time to force some system down upon this, which should be driven by which set of names you want to emphasize. to me he wants to shove a UCL fanboy all star team into a particular system whether it works or not. i don’t think the all stars are the best talent actually, and i don’t think we have a system leveraging the players we select. i keep hammering on this but are we trying to score bushels or run clean sheets. are we trying to create chances or possess. is team defense a priority. we end up someplace in between with a sloppy unit trying to possess, attackers told to press, defenders told to attack. we ended up the 2nd best offense — despite the best attacking talent — and remain a weak defensive team — 4th best GA. far as i am concerned the de-emphasis of organization , team defense, selection of backs for marking, whether we want keepers as shot stoppers or sweepers, all contribute to a mediocre defense that drags this team down. did last cycle when we led concacaf in GF but didn’t qualify. still does now where we barely made it automatically. and the worst part is the underlying principles seem to be fanboy gospel. long as we have an attitude where defense doesn’t matter we will struggle — particularly if the offense is sloppy and suboptimal the other way. least the fanboys could do is be snobs about how the offense looks, if they want this to be an “offense first” team. at least if the offense was clicking we’d have a chance to win games 3-2 type scores. as it stands we seem to want to keep the score low and controlled but then aren’t scoring much and can’t pitch a clean sheet. which is a recipe for struggle or maybe porridge.

      • for example, i read GB talking up daniel james wide for wales. i too was impressed by his speed off the bench for FFC. so GB can see talent and do his big club fanboy thing. england will have luke shaw and others. response: prioritize dest and jedi. the ones who either can’t mark or don’t stay home. this is the sort of tactical disconnect i see.

      • we shall see. i am not sure how technically adept you have to be to create havoc if you can meg dest or be 20 yards behind where jedi likes to set up formational shop for offensive purposes. scads of green space have a way of making sloppy players look tidier. i hope not, but i had davies PTSD watching the ManU game. that plus ream shipped a goal for the second straight week and he’s potentially our plan B to sweep up any wing who blows by his man. some see ream and jedi as some slick production but they don’t create many goals and i see it as a defensive nightmare.

    • “Gregg is from NJ in those areas/states peeps don’t know how to communicate, and do it in anger NJ, PA, and NY they have no filter; they talk to you crazy in those states and have no patients.”

      Thanks, now I’ll know what to look for when I go to that part of the country. You may have just saved my life.

    • sounds clever except we had questions of who was going to make the team at several dual national slots, eg, keeper, wingback, DM, striker. pepi arguably SHOULD have made it. araujo might have been competitive out wide with our injury situation. so i see a mix of debatable coaching decisions or conversely athletes who made the wrong decision from a selection perspective.

      this argument also feels like a contradiction or caveat with GB fanboys acting like he’s so efficient securing duals. this is like the fine print, or even an academic gloss of the fine print. “well, honestly, he lost some, but it didn’t matter.” i think mexico had a more successful team lately, i think they have kept older players in their pool longer as a result, and as such it will take a few years to see how the players involved mature and integrate there. and then our coach is poor so i don’t take for granted at any time he’s properly sorted the team, not the easy stuff like roldan, not the more subtle stuff like his penchant for sloppy mids, risky wingbacks, and the lack of a coherent and effective concept how we’re gonna try to score (and selection to that).

    • “He’s still young and just needs to be patient.”

      He needs to score regularly on a more consistent basis. Then he needs to move to a more competitive level and then do it again.

      If he does that , he’ll get better and make more money.

      The national team thing? That will take care of itself.

      If he does what I just described they will come crawling to him.

      • Just like Haji Wright did 😒 right? If he continues on he’ll get opportunities come next cycle. Gregg hopefully is gone and as well next coach will value in form and goal scoring over feel good guys like Roldan and Morris. Seriously late game need to dump ball in box being pragmatic do you even use Morris? He isn’t going to break down anyone at this level with speed, but Pepi or Pefok might snap a header in to secure a tie or win. I just think Gregg is so bent on pressing forwards that he forgot about situational futbol. Talk about an area of real digression under him set pieces lack any bite. That’s really sad as it used to help the US immensely.

      • Mr. 69.

        Wright is on the World Cup team isn’t he? That’s lifetime achievement for some. There are players who are three , four times as good as Hadji who have not and may never get anywhere near the World Cup.

        He has nothing to complain about. Zero.

        Gregg has a decent shot at retaining his job.

        As long as they are not humiliated in Qatar, Gregg is a loyal company man , he’s at the right price point, the USSF believes that this tsunami of world class American players will continue and Gregg can’t help but win the next World Cup with all that World Class talent. I mean we have guys starring and dominating at big clubs like Chelsea, Barca, Milan, Juve, etc.

    • dude, beyond perhaps ferreira you could say roughly the same thing on the next 2 he picked as well as pepi and pefok. they are all kids. they all either disappeared (sargent) or dried up. pefok then had a moderate production start to the season, but on one of the better teams in B.1. everyone else did pretty well in the fall but in much easier leagues. sargent hasn’t done anything for the US in years and wright had one ok game. i don’t see how their form is so wildly better. the coach made a choice, justified his choice with some standard prattle. pepi is in a goal happy league scoring goals. all i think he needs to do is get the heck out of the same B.1 that got pefok cut too. assuming this club form obsessed coach stays in charge.

      he needs to stay productive for his future but this is as much a fickle coach as anything.

      • “this is as much a fickle coach as anything.”

        Of course! That’s why he has stuck by Roldan and Long, two guys who arguably have no business impersonating World Cup level players. What a fickle guy huh?

        Gregg and I don’t talk but the impression I get is that , like just about every manager I’m aware of, he’s loyal and sticks by his guys, until he doesn’t.

        You saying Gregg is fickle is the same as saying he’s doing his job, which is fielding the players he believes give the team the best chance to win.

        And that can change very suddenly, because we fans don’t have access to all the data Gregg does.

        I don’t believe Gregg is a particularly good national team manager. I would have fired him three years ago. I still wish they had. But nevertheless, it’s clear he believes he is doing the right thing. The right thing for a manager is to field the players he believes makes the team better.

        And often, that can make him seem fickle. For example , lets’ say he comes to his senses and doesn’t play Ferreira one second in Qatar because he finally realizes that the guy is soft and will be eaten alive by Wales, Iran and England. That could be seen as being fickle. It might also, at least in my view, be exactly the right thing to do.

        Forget this fickle business. The only thing that really matters is every move he makes has to work.

        Roldan has to score a stoppage time winner vs. Wales.
        Aaron Long has to shut down Harry Kane.
        Sean Johnson has to win a penalty shootout vs somebody.
        They have to advance.

        Do all that and I don’t care how fickle Gregg is.
        I’ll applaud him.
        And wait till he screws up again before I ask them to fire him.

      • V: sorry but most international coaches would pick 95% of their team on either talent or system fit — and not move until they screwed up in our jersey once they liked you — and it wouldn’t change every window. they would maybe tiebreak 1-2 last roster slots as form choices based on who’s hot. i even grant that most US coaches have had an ensemble including some sort of roldan, olsen, or bornstein blind spot. but that ensemble stays chosen barring injury. what i am saying is BEYOND FICKLE is literally turning your starting 9 or keeper or wing (steffen, pepi, arriola, zardes) for years? months? into roster cuts. your career situation might vary but basic talent and quality shouldn’t. beyond a very few UCL fanboy favorites he oddly doesn’t seem to question even when they play bad — such as weston or pulisic — he actually has a small consistent ensemble and tends to be very fickle around it, based on his seeming laptop reading of how they are playing in club — not so much the NT. he tends to pick winners, give them all the time, then change his mind.

        no, the way this is usually done, you don’t pick a winner between keller and friedel when they are competing, they alternate games, then a winner emerges over time. you don’t follow their rayo or manchester situations obsessively — because it doesn’t tend to matter — you watch the US games. one guy earns it and you trust what you saw. sorry but buried beneath this form crap is too much faith in apples to oranges number crunching and too little faith in the US games themselves.

  5. The only person that can’t wait for GB to fired more than myself is Pepi. GB is easily one of the worst head coaches this program has ever had to endure.

    • Honestly there are a number of players who are chomping at the bit for the day Gregg is either fired or walks away from the USMNT Manager’s role. Pepi is just one of many. That said there those on the opposite side of the coin….guys like Long, Roldan, Morris, & Arriola…who’re praying Gregg sticks around forever as that’s the only way they’ll continue to be part of the USMNT,

      • morris was picked by klinsi and arena and pre knee would have been making anyone’s team. long is one of the better man markers and box crashers from an injury weakened still-slack period. i think long might have been vulnerable to a more attacking choice if we had richards and miles healthy and he was likely bench and the coach considered tactical variety. i think with them hurt he makes the team as the second best defender in a shallow pool of central markers. i think some of the folks people propose like brooks and ream are laughable. cannot mark. ream is slow as molasses.
        i have watched ream ship a goal consecutive weeks for FFC. i push back on that one saying i think he would be “toast” for any coach but GB right back at you. only GB would be taking ream or brooks seriously after how switzerland went.

        i buy your roldan and arriola arguments but i think the others aren’t true, are anti-MLS. if morris’ knee holds up and he moves to wales the snobs would flip in his favor. he produces for the US. he just had awful luck when he tried to jump the pond. but coaches have seen his talent going back to klinsi who capped him in college.

        is it he looks like a football player? are we still stuck on the kenny cooper stuff.

      • I am day late, but Kenny Cooper? That is hilarious. Lets debate:

        Kenny Cooper – Conor Casey – Jozy Altidore — go!

  6. let’s be real, many of these guys are young players who probably feel like they owe GB what participation they have had, who probably feel like they have to kiss up until he gets fired, and who haven’t been through multiple regimes where they understand their power on such questions. plus critical USSF players tend to only go public when the coach is done, just as a matter of ethos and process. as such, pulisic’s canada stomp fit aside, the only public verbalized criticism i know of has come from either former coaches (arena) or players who are “out” as long as GB coaches (pomykal and miazga). any other critique tends to be vague and channeled away from the players competing for caps and time, eg, unspecified “parents of players” are upset. which is an odd and ineffective source anyway for adult players. when’s the last time an adult pro got fired over parental beefs.

    i’ll be curious what happens as players bank a world cup appearance, get older, get ambitious, flex their own power. i expect them to be professional and play their best to win this tournament. depending how it goes i will be curious what his support or player energy level is afterwards. it’s often been the first years of the next cycle do in bradley or klinsi.

    also be curious to see how long they are guarded and submissive like this if they begin to realize it’s going to be a lot of the same pool (plus some) butting heads for a decade. unlike previous cycles you can’t just “wait out” sargent, ferreira, etc. the competition are kids too. with a few exceptions, mostly in the back.

  7. Hard to understand this one. I don’t really question the Wright decision as much as Ferreira really (and this spoken as a FC Dallas fan.) Both have only really produced for the NT against very weak opposition. That’s true of all the 9s in our pool really.

    Roll back two years, and Daryl Dike was supposed to make this an easy decision, sigh. Curse the injuries.

    • “who probably feel like they have to kiss up until he gets fired, and who haven’t been through multiple regimes where they understand their power on such questions. plus critical USSF players tend to only go public when the coach is done, just as a matter of ethos and process. as such, pulisic’s canada stomp fit aside, the only public verbalized criticism i know of has come from either former coaches (arena) or players who are “out” as long as GB coaches (pomykal and miazga). any other critique tends to be vague and channeled away from the players competing for caps and time, eg, unspecified “parents of players” are upset. which is an odd and ineffective source anyway for adult players. when’s the last time an adult pro got fired over parental beefs.”

      Pepi is a professional athlete.

      Did you really expect Pepi or any of the players to tell Gregg to go shove it up his ass?

  8. I do think Pepi will be on future rosters. The kid has the knack, that sort-of-hard-to-define nose for goal that means he sees it and moves with zero hesitation and tends to finish with icewater in his veins; what I saw as limiting him was kind of an inconsistent first touch that I do think he needs to tighten up, and despite his tall frame he could get pushed off the ball a little too easy; he mostly needs to fill out that frame. I liked his athleticism, I thought his speed is a plus as well, and of course, I love his natural instincts for the spot. He does just seem to be so-so on the ball.

    He’s also that sort of big, smart striker that tends to get better into his ’30’s as well, so he could conceivably have three World Cups in him; the kid is still just 19.


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