USMNT Stock Watch: Christian Pulisic continues to make an impression with Chelsea

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Christian Pulisic made his third consecutive start for Chelsea, notching an assist in Saturday's 3-2 win over Norwich City. (Daniel Leal/Getty)
Christian Pulisic made his third consecutive start for Chelsea, notching an assist in Saturday's 3-2 win over Norwich City. (Daniel Leal/Getty)

With U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter expected to announce his roster for next month’s friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay later this week, let’s cut right to the chase.

Here’s how some of the players who will be included (and some who won’t) on the first USMNT squad since the Gold Cup are faring with their club teams both in MLS and overseas.

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M/F Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (Premier League)

The 20-year-old started his third straight game for Chelsea and played a season-high 84 minutes, assisting on Mason Mount’s goal in a 3-2 win over Norwich:

Takeaway: Pulisic is looking more comfortable in the Premier League with each passing game. Plus, the growing chemistry between the American and fellow youngsters Mount and Tammy Abraham could make it difficult for manager Frank Lampard to remove Pulisic from the lineup even after veteran Willian (his replacement off the bench for the second match in a row) returns to full fitness in the weeks to come.

M/F Tyler Boyd, Besiktas (Turkish Super Lig)

Boyd signed with Besiktas last month and walked straight into the Turkish titan’s lineup. He started the club’s final four preseason games and its two league matches so far, including Friday’s 3-0 win over Goztepe.

Takeaway: The 24-year-old New Zealand-born dual-national was the national team’s breakout player at the beginning of the Gold Cup earlier this summer before losing his wing spot to Jordan Morris by the end of the tournament. But he’ll keep himself in the mix for that job if he continues racking up minutes in Istanbul.

John Brooks is expected to return to the USMNT next month after missing this summer's Gold Cup because of injury. (Getty)
John Brooks is expected to return to the USMNT next month after missing this summer's Gold Cup because of injury. (Getty)

D John Brooks, Wolfsburg (Bundesliga)

A week after his concentration lapse handed Cologne a stoppage-time goal in a 2-1 win, the towering center back was a brick wall in a 3-0 victory over his hometown former club Hertha Berlin.

Takeaway: Overall it’s been a solid start to the season for the 26-year-old Brooks, who missed the Gold Cup via injury but who remains the USMNT’s most experienced defender and a lock to start against Mexico (at least) in what would mark just his second appearance under Berhalter.

M Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Bundesliga)

Morales has opened the new Bundesliga season in fine form, starting both of Fortuna’s games and scoring in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen:

Takeaway: Morales hasn’t been summoned by the U.S. in more than three years, failed to impress in his previous 13 appearances, isn’t in the 65-man player pool listed in the 2019 USMNT media guide, and, as a central midfielder, occupies one of the deeper positions in Berhalter’s squad.

But being on the same club team as starting U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen can’t hurt, and the coach has also said repeatedly that the door remains open for any deserving player. Morales is still young enough that it could be worth seeing him go head-to-head in training with the likes of Cristian Roldan and Wil Trapp at some point over the next few camps.

M/F Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders (MLS)

Morris set up both Sounders goals and was generally a handful in Seattle’s 2-0 win at blood rival Portland.

Takeaway: Morris is undervalued by many USMNT fans but beloved by the coaches. A starter under Berhalter, former U.S. bosses Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann both said that Morris’ absence during World Cup qualifying two years ago because of injury contributed mightily to the Americans’ failure to reach Russia 2018.

Sure, the 24-year-old has his limitations. He’s also still learning how to play out wide. But his unique combination of speed, size, explosiveness, defensive awareness, and finishing ability is the reason he remains ahead of Boyd, Duane Holmes and others, at least for now.

D Tim Ream, Fulham (English Championship)

Saturday wasn’t Ream’s finest hour — he was beaten on both of Fulham’s goals in a 2-1 loss — but he started and played well in the second-tier Cottagers’ previous three matches, all wins.

Takeaway: A Berhalter favorite, there here is no reason to think that the 31-year-old veteran won’t keep his spot at left back next month.

M Joel Sonora, Arsenal de Sarandi (Argentina Primera Division)

The 22-year-old Boca Juniors academy product continues to see the field in South America’s top league. Last Friday, he started and played over an hour in 2-0 loss to San Lorenzo.

Takeaway: Sonora is well known to U.S. Soccer, having been on the 2015 U-20 World Cup roster alongside current senior team mainstays Steffen, Paul Arriola and Matt Miazga. So it’s not impossible that he gets an invite at some point, even if next month seems too soon.

F Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew (MLS)

Zardes hadn’t been great for the Crew since returning from the Gold Cup, but he had perhaps his best match of the season in Sunday’s 3-1, Ohio Derby win over FC Cincinnati. The second of the 27-year-old’s two finishes was particularly deft:

Takeaway: It’s going to be interesting to see if Berhalter goes with his former Crew striker or the even hotter and vastly more experienced Jozy Altidore up top against El Tri.

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Josh Sargent didn't get off the bench in Werder Bremen's 3-2 loss to Hoffenheim. (Getty)
Josh Sargent didn't get off the bench in Werder Bremen's 3-2 loss to Hoffenheim. (Getty)

F Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (Bundesliga)

The 19-year-old striker didn’t get off the bench in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Hoffenheim, with manager Florian Kohfeldt preferring 40-year-old vet Claudio Pizarro as his final sub with his team searching for the equalizer.

Takeaway: Sargent has played just eight minutes through Werder’s first two games. If history is any indication, that won’t be enough to convince Berhalter — who overlooked him for both the March friendlies and the Gold Cup — to extend an invite.

D Matt Miazga, Reading (English Championship)

Miazga was forced to leave Reading’s eventual 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town after just 10 minutes because of an apparent hamstring injury.

Takeaway: It’s not yet clear how serious the ailment is, but the timing means that Miazga, who supplanted Walker Zimmerman for the semis and final of the Gold Cup, probably isn’t likely to be included in Berhalter’s squad.

D Walker Zimmerman, LAFC (MLS)

Zimmerman was beaten on all three LA Galaxy goals in Sunday’s pulsating 3-3 draw in the latest battle of Los Angeles.

Takeaway: It’s not fair to single out one player when things go sideways defensively, and there’s no shame in losing battles with forwards like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristian Pavon. It still wasn’t the sort of performance likely to make Berhalter think Zimmerman is ready to take the next step with the national team after impressing early this year.

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