Americans Abroad: How USMNT Call-Ups Fared in Final Pre-Camp Matches

As the first USMNT camp in over nine months kicks off in Wales, a pair of 17-year-olds enter in fine form, but there's a mixed big across the board.
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When the U.S. men's national team's roster for the November international window was revealed last week, it was always going to be contingent on a few things. There's the health and fitness of players, either those carrying injuries, or those with games to play, where injuries could occur. That's rather normal. What isn't normal is call-ups either hanging in the balance or being declined due to a pandemic's impact on specific regions.

As a result, Josh Sargent was not given clearance to leave Wolfsburg, and there was reportedly a chance that Weston McKennie was going to have to remain with Juventus, too, with Italian clubs becoming increasingly uneasy about releasing players with the coronavirus surging again in Europe. U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter put worries about McKennie's status to rest, though. 

"With Weston, he's arriving [Monday]," Berhalter told Fox Sports during MLS's Decision Day broadcast on Sunday. "We were able to get him out of Italy. We know the situations are changing by the hour ... but Weston is able to come."

That's a plus for the U.S., which is unlikely to get much in the way of on-field contributions from Christian Pulisic. The Chelsea star's hamstring injury kept him out of the Blues' Champions League match vs. Rennes and Premier League match vs. Sheffield United over the last five days, though he'll still be taking part in camp.

"Christian is in camp. He's listed as day-to-day," Berhalter said. "It really says a lot about Christian that he wasn't playing for Chelsea, but he wanted to come into this camp and be around the team."

At this point, given how taxing 2020 has been on just about every level, the U.S. will take what it can get. It's the first training exercise Berhalter will have with actual live players in over nine months, and the first with a (nearly) full complement of Europe-based players in a year.

The USA's second match of the year—and first of two in this window—takes place Thursday vs. Wales before the scene shifts to Austria for a friendly next Monday vs. CONCACAF foe Panama. With camp kicking off in full swing on Tuesday, though, here's how the attendees fared in their final matches before donning the national team kit:

USMNT's Yunus Musah, Gio Reyna and Konrad de la Fuente

GOALKEEPERS

None of Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Chituru Odunze (Leicester City) or Zack Steffen (Manchester City) featured over the weekend, which is not particularly a surprise. Horvath and Steffen assumed their customary roles as backups behind Simon Mignolet and Ederson, respectively, while the 18-year-old Odunze is a Leicester youth team fixture. 

The lack of regular first-team minutes will remain a subplot surrounding the USA's Europe-based goalkeepers, though Horvath and Steffen haven't appeared to have their performances slip much, if at all, in the scant opportunities they have had.

DEFENDERS

John Brooks (Wolfsburg) figures to be the anchor of the back line in camp, and he enters in decent form after a 2–1 win over Hoffenheim that has his club in sixth in the Bundesliga. Brooks has started all seven of his club's matches at center back, passing at about an 80% clip for the season.

Antonee Robinson (Fulham) started at left back, while Tim Ream was left unused on the bench in the Cottagers' loss to West Ham, and they enter the break just a point out of the drop zone through eight games played.

Reggie Cannon (Boavista) started a seventh straight match at right back in Portugal, albeit the latest one being a 3–1 setback to Farense in a match between two clubs fighting just ahead of the relegation places in the Primeira Liga. 

Matt Miazga (Anderlecht) started and played the full 90 minutes for a fourth straight game since joining his Belgian club on loan from Chelsea. Oddly, he's part of a back line with two other former New York Red Bulls defenders in Kemar Lawrence and Michael Murillo. Of note as it relates to U.S. camp, given the possession-based style Berhalter is trying to implement, is how much he facilitated out of the back vs. Gent, with Miazga completing 83.1% of his team-high 65 passes (5-for-10 on long balls).

Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich) were unused substitutes in their clubs' wins over Real Betis and Borussia Dortmund, respectively.

MIDFIELDERS

Yunus Musah (Valencia) was the shining star of the bunch. The 17-year-old, who maintains eligibility to England, Italy and Ghana and cannot be cap-tied in this camp, had a goal waved off after being caught offside on a penalty kick. He also earned one of Valencia's multiple PKs on the day, drawing a handball on Sergio Ramos after a VAR review saw the obvious. 

Though Musah was stationed on the right and performed admirably in both deep-lying and forward-surging roles, Berhalter says he envisions him as a central, box-to-box midfielder for the U.S.

Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) has slowly been making his way back to action after minor back and knee ailments. He was a late substitute in Leipzig's midweek Champions League win over PSG and again in Saturday's Bundesliga triumph over Freiburg. Any concern over his availability for camp was allayed with those appearances, which represented his first minutes since Oct. 20.

Weston McKennie (Juventus) played the last quarter of an hour vs. Lazio on Sunday, which included being on the field for his opponent's equalizer deep into stoppage time of Juve's third 1–1 draw in its last four Serie A matches.

Johnny Cardoso (Internacional) missed his club's Brazilian Serie A match altogether and last featured in Tuesday's Copa do Brazil win over Atlético Goianiense in the round of 16, while Owen Otasowie (Wolverhampton Wanderers) and Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven) were unused substitutes in their respective matches. Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy) was called in as Sargent's replacement and missed his club's MLS regular-season finale. The Galaxy had already been eliminated from playoff contention.

FORWARDS

Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) came up on the wrong side of Saturday's Der Klassiker, though he had a couple of close calls vs. Bayern in a 3–2 defeat. Midway through the second half he played what's become a calling-card play for Dortmund, a well-weighted, well-timed low pass in behind for Erling Haaland, though on this occasion the Norwegian star put his chance wide. A few minutes before coming off in the 69th minute, Reyna tested goalkeeper Manuel Neuer by capitalizing on Bouna Sarr's wayward header and putting a low shot on target, only for the German great to have it covered. Reyna's reaction after the save was indicative of a player who knew he didn't hit it like he'd intended.

Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen) is the only camp attendee who enters after scoring a goal. His stoppage-time winner vs. Nancy in France's second tier was a lovely combination and finish, and it came after all of 14 minutes on the field. Given Sargent's absence and the dearth of center forwards in camp (and in general), Gioacchini could wind up playing a more significant role than was initially expected in what will be his first U.S. national team experience.

Sebastian Soto (Telstar) is another candidate to play up top, and he enters after appearing for the second half of his club's draw vs. AZ Alkmaar II last Monday (Telstar plays next on Tuesday). He had scored five goals in his previous five matches. 

Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona) found himself in good company—on the subs list along with Lionel Messi for Barcelona's match vs. Real Betis. Messi entered at halftime and scored two goals, though, while Konrad remained rooted to the bench. Still, that the 19-year-old had been considered on match day with the first team represents a step forward from where he'd been a season ago.

Ulysses Llanez (Heerenveen) was another unused substitute, a distinction that's become rather familiar for the on-loan Wolfsburg forward. Llanez, who to date has the USMNT's only goal of the year (Feb. 1 friendly vs. Costa Rica), has played just 13 minutes in all competitions for his temporary Dutch club.

Tim Weah (Lille) came on late as his club came up short in a comeback attempt vs. Brest after trailing 3–0. Weah's minutes also have been extremely limited, with the 14-minute cameo this weekend the longest of any of his six appearances in all competitions so far.

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), as stated above, did not feature this weekend and hasn't played since scoring in the Champions League vs. Krasnodar on Oct. 28.