Christian Pulisic on USMNT roster for World Cup qualifying after recent COVID-19 positive

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Christian Pulisic made the U.S. roster for next month's World Cup qualifiers. Whether he makes it on the field is still up in the air.

Pulisic remains in quarantine in England after announcing last week that he had tested positive for COVID-19. But Pulisic said on his Instagram story last Friday that he was fully vaccinated and had no symptoms, and coach Gregg Berhalter said the plan is for the USMNT's star forward to arrive for camp Sunday along with the rest of the Americans.

"There's a lot of things that need to happen before that for him to actually get on the plane and come," Berhalter said Thursday. "There's a lot of tests that he needs to go through before he arrives. And even then, everyone handles it differently. Everyone responds to it differently. Everyone recovers from it differently.

"And that's going to be the process that we're looking at."

The U.S. men play at El Salvador on Sept. 2, host Canada in Nashville three days later and close out this round of qualifiers with a Sept. 8 game in Honduras. The uncertainty surrounding Pulisic's availability is part of the reason Berhalter called up 26 players.

While not having Pulisic, arguably the most talented player the Americans have produced since Landon Donovan, would be a loss, the USMNT are better prepared to handle it now than past teams.

MLS NOTEBOOK: El Trafico highlights rivalry week

Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic.
Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic.

Of the 26 players called in for training camp, 17 play in Europe and 10 of them are on clubs still playing in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League. That includes Brenden Aaronson, who scored Wednesday to help seal Red Bull Salzburg’s place in the group stage.

"It's exciting, man, when we get in camp and a few of the guys are talking about competing against each other in Champions League," Berhalter said. "To think about having (10 guys on the roster) in the Champions League right now, it's amazing. It really is.

"When I talk about the progress we've made as a team, a lot of it has to do with the individuals and the level that they've been playing at."

And if there are qualifiers for Pulisic to miss, these would be it. Old foe Mexico and Costa Rica have been the strongest other teams in CONCACAF in recent World Cup cycles, and the Americans don't play them until October.

The U.S. men didn't qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a shock that continues to reverberate throughout the program. While only six of the players on this latest roster have experience in World Cup qualifiers, all but two were part of the U.S. teams that won the Concacaf Nations League and the Gold Cup earlier this summer.

With Berhalter using two different rosters, the Americans beat rival Mexico in both tournaments.

Pulisic scored the game-winner in the Nations League final on a penalty kick in the second half of overtime, and Ethan Horvath secured the title by saving a PK in stoppage time. Gio Reyna and Weston McKennie scored during regulation of the 3-2 win.

In the Gold Cup, Miles Robinson’s header in the 117th minute gave the U.S. the 1-0 win over El Tri.

"You know, it's nice to win a trophy in Nations League, it's nice to win a Gold Cup trophy. It's nice to be ranked 10th in the world. But it doesn't mean anything if you don't qualify for the World Cup," Berhalter said. "It would be a failure if we didn't qualify for the World Cup all the work would be undone and we qualify for the World Cup. So this is our next challenge."

Berhalter's rebuild has focused on younger players who can make an impact for the next decade 13 of the players on this latest roster are 23 or younger -- and he added another notable player Thursday with Ricardo Pepi.

The 18-year-old, who plays for FC Dallas and converted the game-winning penalty kick in Wednesday night's All-Star Game against Liga MX, played with Reyna and George Bello on the U.S. team at the Under-17 World Cup in 2019. But he was eligible to play for either the U.S. or Mexico at the senior level.

"It's going to be nice to have him in camp," Berhalter said. "I think he's a guy that can contribute, and it's just going to be about seeing how we can use him in games and how we can adapt to this level. But we certainly aren't afraid of his age because he's a quality player."

While Mexico could still try to recruit Pepi until he's cap-tied to the United States, Pepi indicated on Twitter that he has made his choice.

"I was born and raised in the USA," he wrote Thursday. "This country has given me and my family a home, and endless possibilities to achieve my dreams. It has supported me, it has lifted me up, and it has shown me when you work hard you will be rewarded. ... I will give my everything for you all."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USMNT World Cup qualifying roster: Christian Pulisic in despite COVID