Pulisic, McKennie on USMNT squad for friendlies

    Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.

Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic, Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie, as well as the Leeds United duo of Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams are among those chosen for the United States men’s national team 26-player roster ahead of the last set of pre-World Cup friendlies.

The U.S. will play Japan in Dusseldorf, Germany, on Sept. 23, with another match against Saudi Arabia scheduled in Murcia, Spain, four days later. The team will convene in Cologne for the first day of training on Sept. 19.

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The U.S. opens the World Cup on Nov. 21 against Wales, with matches against England and Iran to follow.

“As we approach the World Cup, this is another opportunity for us to take a step forward as a group,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We have a strong roster and can use these games as a measuring stick against World Cup opponents as we continue to gain valuable experience ahead of going to Qatar.”

But given this is the last time Berhalter will see his players up close until it meets up in Qatar, the players who are absent are notable as well. Union Berlin forward Jordan Pefok, who has three goals and two assists so far this season, was among the omissions.

While he has been dealing with a muscle injury of late, he did log 75 minutes in last weekend’s 1-0 win over FC Cologne that sent Berlin to the top of the Bundesliga.

Left back Antonee Robinson was also excluded due to an ankle injury he picked up in a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur back on Sept. 3. His spot on the roster is secure if he’s healthy.

Defender John Brooks is another omission. Long on the outside looking in, and despite his playing pedigree from years spent in the Bundesliga, Brooks has yet to log any minutes for new club Benfica.

Even with Pefok’s absence, the competition at the forward spot figures to be intense.

Norwich City forward Joshua Sargent has been rewarded for his stellar start to the season in the English Championship, one in which he has scored five goals in eight league appearances. His call-up is his first since the first round of World Cup qualifiers back in September of 2021.

Ricardo Pepi earned a surprise recall, his first since the World Cup qualifying window held in March of 2021. Pepi has endured a barren spell in front of goal, having failed to score since October of 2021.

But Pepi contributed an assist for new club FC Groningen in last weekend’s 1-0 win over Cambuur, and was thus included.

Pepi and Sargent are joined by FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira, who tallied his 18th goal of the season in last Saturday’s 2-1 win over LAFC. That means FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez and Antalyaspor’s Haji Wright, both in fine form for their respective clubs, miss out.

The goalkeeper position is another one that has been a concern of late, given the lack of first team minutes for some members of the contingent.

A knee injury to Middlesbrough’s Zack Steffen has seen him miss four consecutive matches, and will prevent him from appearing for the Americans. Arsenal keeper Matt Turner, Luton Town’s Ethan Horvath and New York City FC’s Sean Johnson will vie for minutes during the upcoming window.


GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 18/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 27/1), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 17/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 27/3), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace/ENG; 8/0), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 2/0), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp/BEL; 8/1), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 74/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 31/3)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 52/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 30/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 11/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 35/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Malik Tillman (Rangers/SCO; 2/0)

FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 22/6), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas; 47/10), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 13/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 48/11), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen/NED; 11/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 51/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 12/4), Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 19/3)

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