The first U.S. men's national team camp since last winter will kick off in a week, and some developments overseas of the weekend could well have impacted just who will be participating.
Between a frustrating injury setback and a few goal contributions, players have provided just about all the evidence they can before a group is gathered for at least a friendly vs. Wales (U.S. Soccer had been working on securing a second opponent) and for some much-needed training together.
The women's national team just completed their first training camp since March's SheBelieves Cup, and for a couple of core players who were not part of the mix due to their club commitments overseas, their time was spent lifting a prestigious trophy at one of the world's most storied venues.
All in all, there's plenty to sift through from a weekend abroad for U.S. talent. Here's what stood out the most:
Pulisic hurt at yet another inopportune time
With one freak pregame slip, Pulisic is back on the shelf.
The U.S. and Chelsea star was all set to face Burnley, the club he burned for a hat trick last season. While taking part in casual warmup exercises, though, he appeared to slip and tweak something, walking off the field in a huff as he threw his neon training pinny to the ground. He was promptly yanked from the Chelsea starting lineup and now has an uncertain immediate future after just making his return from injury about a month ago. He's reportedly undergoing scans on Monday to determine the severity of this latest setback.
"He had a small sensation in his hamstring, so we had to pull him out," Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said after Chelsea's comfortable win. "He couldn’t play after feeling that in the warmup so we’ll have to scan it. He’s got fit and played three games, so obviously he’s frustrated."
The timing couldn't be worse, with Chelsea hitting the halfway point in the Champions League group stage this week and with the first USMNT camp in 10 months (and the first that the vast majority of European-based players can attend in a year) set to begin next week.
Injuries at inopportune times, and muscle ailments in particular, have been a hallmark of Pulisic's young career—the one blight that seems to keep holding him back from finding true long-term continuity and rhythm. For Pulisic's sake, the hope is that this is but a minor setback and something that won't cost him much more time in the rehab room. It's surely a source of immense frustration nevertheless, both for Pulisic and his club and international managers, and with Tyler Adams still out for RB Leipzig, Gregg Berhalter might not be able to play with a full deck on the training field in the U.K. next week.
Mewis, Lavelle win Women's FA Cup
Two U.S. women's national team stars have followed in the footsteps of their international teammate.
Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle helped Man City Women lift the FA Cup on Sunday, replicating what Carli Lloyd was able to accomplish with the same club three years ago. This final was the completion of last season's competition, which had been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. This season's Women's FA Cup is currently in the qualifying-round stages.
The defending champion for that competition will be Man City after it gutted out a 3–1, extra-time win over Everton on Sunday, with Lavelle going the first 70 minutes and Mewis going the distance.
Mewis opened the scoring by being the first and highest to meet Alex Greenwood's corner kick in the 40th minute. She has always been a set-piece threat given her size and aptitude in the box, and she delivered her second goal in the competition, after scoring the eventual game-winner in the semifinals.
"It was great service from Alex,” Mewis said after the match. “We had been working on that this week and obviously I kept missing in practice, so it felt great to put one away."
Mewis joins Lloyd as Americans to score in the final at Wembley Stadium (Pulisic did so for Chelsea in the Aug. 1 men's final vs. Arsenal, before suffering the injury that had kept him out for two months), and the silverware is just the latest for her and Lavelle, two midfield cogs on the USWNT's 2019 Women's World Cup team.
Goals in Germany for Sargent, Green
Josh Sargent is on the board in the Bundesliga, with the 20-year-old forward netting his first in league play this season and second in all competitions for Werder Bremen in a 1-1 draw vs. Eintracht Frankfurt. His goal Saturday was a quality finish, as he got in behind down the left channel and confidently finished with a low, right-footed drive inside the near post.
"Before the game, we discussed how Frankfurt like to press and defend with a high line, so I made the most of the free space in behind in counterattacks," Sargent said. "I missed a few chances in the first half, so I was glad that it worked out in the second half.”
Werder Bremen, which just avoided relegation last season, is off to a considerably more successful start from a points perspective (eighth place, nine points in six games), but it has scored just eight goals in that time, meaning the opportunities for Sargent have been limited.
"I am incredibly happy for Josh, because he has worked so hard for the team over the past weeks," Werder Bremen manager Florian Kohfeldt said. "Josh is a natural finisher and defines his game through goals, but I can see how hard he works for the team. Today he did both and got his reward.”
A tier below the Bundesliga, Julian Green continued his strong play for Greuther Furth, scoring the opener in a 4-1 win over Hannover. For Green, the former Bayern Munich product who has found a home after spotty stints with Hamburg and Stuttgart, the goal was, like for Sargent, his first in the league and second in all competitions this season. His was the result of not quitting on a play and being in the right place to poke home his shot.
Sargent's involvement in the upcoming U.S. camp should be a foregone conclusion, but Green's should be as well, given the level of consistency he has hit and that the camp is expected to be heavily comprised of European-based talent. He's yet to be called in under Berhalter, but a first time would certainly be warranted.
Ledezma debuts, assists for PSV
Another player who could be in frame for a call-up this week is Richie Ledezma, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder at PSV Eindhoven. Ledezma made his first-team debut on Sunday, coming on in the 74th minute vs. ADO Den Haag and assisting on Ryan Thomas's goal 10 minutes later.
The goal was by far and away more eye-catching than the pass that set it up, with Ledezma serving a casual ball into Thomas's path from inside the ADO Den Haag box. The New Zealand international turned in a fierce, curling finish.
Nevertheless, the first-team showing (he didn't misplace one of his 16 pass attempts in his brief time on the field, per WhoScored.com) and contribution to the scoresheet are building blocks for another of the USA's growing contingent of talent overseas and could become a springboard to bigger things for both club and country.
Unselfish McKennie assists Morata
Weston McKennie found himself back in Juventus's starting XI on Sunday and delivered an early assist, setting up Alvaro Morata for the opener vs. Spezia. As has become customary for any ball Morata puts in the back of the net, a VAR review to determine whether he was offside ensued, but the goal was given.
It was extremely unselfish of McKennie to pass from where he did, given he was 1-v-1 with the goalkeeper from point-blank range after making a run from a deep-lying position, but he spotted Morata to his left and passed up the opportunity to score his first Serie A goal.
The win, which coincided with Cristiano Ronaldo's return from a coronavirus-induced absence, snapped a two game winless run in the league (both draws), and was a needed boost on the heels of a Champions League defeat to Barcelona.