Gregg Berhalter’s first U.S. men’s national team roster in nine months features multiple pleasant surprises, chief among them the inclusion of Christian Pulisic, who missed Chelsea’s match on Saturday after pulling up with a pregame injury.
U.S. Soccer’s Election Day announcement covering the camp that’s set to kick off next week in Wales also includes two intriguing, uncapped junior internationals—England midfielder Yunus Musah, who plays in La Liga for Valencia, and striker Sebastian Soto, who plays for Telstar in the Netherlands and recently was being courted by Chile. Neither would be cap-tied to the USA with an appearance this month.
Finally, there’s news of a second game during the upcoming FIFA international window. In addition to Wales on Nov. 12 in Swansea, the USA will face Concacaf rival Panama at the Stadion Wiener Neustadt, a small stadium in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, about 30 miles south of Vienna.
Both games will be played behind closed doors.
Berhalter’s 24-man roster features nine of the 10 players whose clubs are in this season’s UEFA Champions League, a U.S. Soccer record, and 14 players who are 20 or younger. Ten are uncapped at the senior level, including rising Borussia Dortmund star Giovanni Reyna, Bayern Munich’s Chris Richards and Barcelona’s Konrad de la Fuente.
This camp will represent the first time Berhalter has had access to his European-based players since November 2019. There are no MLS players on the roster (clubs will be preparing for the MLS Cup playoffs during the break) and only one from outside Europe: New Jersey native Johnny Cardoso, 19, who moved to Brazil as a child and plays for Internacional.
“We are excited about getting this group back together,” Berhalter said. “I’m proud of the way the players have handled the challenging times. They really stuck together. We have built a solid foundation, and now we get a chance to continue our work together ahead of what is going to be a critical 12 months for our team.”
The U.S. has the Concacaf Nations League finals (June), the Gold Cup (July-August) and the start of 2022 World Cup qualifying (September) on the horizon next year.
Berhalter’s team will commence training in Cardiff on Nov. 8 ahead of the game against Wales four days later. Here’s a look at the squad:
Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City), Zack Steffen (Manchester City)
Steffen would seem to be almost certain to start against Wales. The 25-year-old has earned the back-up role at Man City, which is no small achievement, and has played twice so far this season. Both matches were EFL Cup games.
“Man City is a super high level,” Berhalter said over the summer. “To gain that experience for a year, to be in that training environment and have the opportunity to potentially break into that team is exciting, and I think it’d be worth it.”
Horvath is also a backup, but he played in the Champions League for Brugge on Oct. 20. Odunze is a product of the Vancouver Whitecaps academy and played at the 2019 U-17 World Cup for the USA.
John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Matt Miazga (Anderlecht), Tim Ream (Fulham), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), Antonee Robinson (Fulham)
Brooks, 27, has been ever present in Bundesliga play for Wolfsburg so far this season and likely will anchor the American defense. Options to play alongside him include Ream, Miazga and Richards, the 20-year-old who’s already made three senior appearances for Bayern this season.
U.S. fortunes at outside back improved considerably with the commitment to the program by Dest, who also could’ve represented his native Netherlands. Dest, 20, already has started for Barcelona and has said he’s comfortable playing on either flank. That would put him on the right if Robinson starts on the left, or on the left if Cannon starts on the right.
Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Adams and McKennie will the long-term hub of the U.S. midfield. McKennie returned from a positive coronavirus test and played for Juventus in last week’s Champions League loss to Barcelona and Sunday’s Serie A win over Spezia. Adams hasn’t played for the USA since March 2019.
But as much as there will be focus on the potential of their partnership, there also will be curiosity about Musah, 17, who scored his first senior professional goal over the weekend. The midfielder was born in New York City but has scant ties to the USA—he’s said his Ghanaian mother gave birth while on vacation. He lived in Italy as a child and then moved to England at 10, and he soon joined Arsenal’s academy.
But last year, Musah left for Valencia. Nevertheless, he’s appeared for England at various youth levels and captained the country’s U-18 national team. That doesn’t cap-tie him, however. He’s been playing on the right flank for Valencia but spent most of his youth career in the middle.
Cardoso is the first player since 1996 to be called in by the U.S. while with a club outside Concacaf or UEFA. Cobi Jones was the last to do it while playing for Rio de Janeiro’s Vasco da Gama.
Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona), Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Uly Llanez (Heerenveen), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Sebastian Soto (Telstar), Tim Weah (Lille)
It looked like more of the frustrating same for Pulisic this weekend, when he pulled up during warmups before Chelsea’s game against Burnley and left the pitch. Berhalter’s most important attacker missed the first three games of Chelsea’s Premier League campaign with a hamstring knock suffered in the FA Cup final, and he was out for almost two months last season with a hip injury.
Chelsea manger Frank Lampard delivered good news on Tuesday, however.
"He had a scan yesterday, which showed a very minor injury to his hamstring, and he's already back outside. He won't be fit tomorrow [vs. Rennes in Champions League] but we'll see after that,” Lampard said.
That apparently was enough for Berhalter to believe it was worth it to ask Pulisic to make the short trip to Cardiff. Time with the team will be valuable, even if he’s not 100% at the start. Whether Pulisic ultimately reports could be impacted by his availability for Chelsea's game this weekend.
Soto, a 20-year-old Californian, has been in contact with Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda regarding a potential switch. But he has now received a senior U.S. call-up after playing for the Americans at the 2019 U-20 World Cup, where he scored four goals. He’s already netted five times in six games for Telstar, which plays in the Dutch second tier.
Reyna is now a familiar name to U.S. fans and he’s started the season well at Dortmund, compiling two goals and four assists in nine games. Despite that hype and obvious talent, this is still his first call-up to the senior side.