The U.S. men’s national team won’t have Christian Pulisic when it faces Neymar and Brazil in Friday’s marquee friendly in New Jersey.
Pulisic missed Borussia Dortmund’s most recent match with what the club called a muscular injury and while a USMNT spokesman said the ailment isn’t considered “significant”, the 19-year-old attacker didn’t travel from Germany for the match (7:30 ET, FS1) against the five-time world champions and another exhibition against Mexico next week.
Even without Pulisic, the 24-man roster named Sunday represents the strongest squad the U.S. has convened since it failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup last October. First choice center back John Brooks, who has made a strong start to the new European season with German side Wolfsburg, is included for the first time this year. Another Bundesliga regular, Schalke’s Weston McKennie, also returns. So does LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who hasn’t appeared for the U.S. since breaking his foot in an early 2017 World Cup qualifier, and Kellyn Acosta of the Colorado Rapids, who also makes his 2018 debut.
But several other veterans who could play a role in getting the U.S. to the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022 – Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Brad Guzan among them – weren’t summoned by interim coach Dave Sarachan, who opted to continue with the young group that impressed during three games in May and June, including a 1-1 tie with eventual World Cup champion France. Altidore scored twice for Toronto FC on Saturday, while goalkeeper Guzan has backstopped Atlanta United to the best record in MLS this season.
“We wanted to continue where we left off with the makeup of the group, Sarachan said in a press release, noting that the U.S. has four more games remaining in 2018 after this international window closes. The U.S. will play Colombia, England Italy – all ranked inside FIFA’s top 20 – and an opponent to be announced (likely Peru) this fall. “Moving forward into October and November, we will look at a broader mix of players.”
Newcastle fullback DeAndre Yedlin’s 58 caps lead this squad, which has an average age of just 23 years old. Paris Saint Germain forward Tim Weah, 18, is its youngest member and one of 13 employed by European clubs. The other 11 play in MLS.
“Weah has been included in our roster primarily because he is coming off a very good preseason with PSG’s first team, has logged a lot of first-team minutes and already has a goal to his name this season,” Sarachan said. “Timmy has earned the right to be called in.”
The New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew each contributed three players. Crew midfielder Wil Trapp captained the USMNT in the spring, while Zack Steffen is the clear first choice in goal with Guzan left home. Columbus forward Gyasi Zardes is the top American goal-scorer in MLS this season and the squad’s third-most experienced player after Yedlin and fellow forward Bobby Wood.
Red Bulls central defender Aaron Long started in the MLS All-Star game last month and is the only first-time callup. Midfielder Tyler Adams and defender Tim Parker, who both impressed against Les Bleus are New York’s other reps.
Eighteen-year-old striker Josh Sargent remained with Bundesliga team Werder Bremen, where he has yet to debut. Also overlooked was Erik Palmer-Brown, who hasn’t appeared for Dutch club NAC Breda this season.
Sarachan admitted that the U.S. would miss Pulisic, who has played just once for the U.S. since last year’s qualifying debacle.
“It’s disappointing that we won’t have Christian involved,” he said. “He wanted to be a part of things and we certainly wanted him here, but unfortunately he won’t be available.
“That said, we haven’t had Christian in with the group aside from one game in the past six friendlies,” Sarachan added. “So I feel confident that this group will continue to build on what we’ve started.”
Goalkeepers: Alex Bono, Toronto FC (Canada); Ethan Horvath, Club Brugge (Belgium); Zack Steffen, Columbus Crew.
Defenders: John Brooks, Wolfsburg (Germany); Cameron Carter-Vickers, Swansea City (Wales); Eric Lichaj, Hull City (England); Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls; Matt Miazga, Nantes (France); Shaq Moore, Reus Deportiu (Spain); Tim Parker, New York Red Bulls; Antonee Robinson, Wigan (England); DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle (England)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta, Colorado Rapids; Tyler Adams, New York Red Bulls; Paul Arriola, D.C. United; Julian Green, Greuther Furth (Germany); Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy; Weston McKennie, Schalke (Germany); Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders; Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew; Tim Weah, Paris Saint-Germain (France)
Forwards: Andrija Novakovich, Fotuna Sittard (Netherlands); Bobby Wood, Hannover (Germany); Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew
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