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USMNT roster for key World Cup qualifiers; Berhalter on omissions, McKennie return

Joe Prince-Wright, Andy Edwards and Nicholas Mendola explain why American players have struggled to impress abroad recently.

Gregg Berhalter has named his USMNT roster for the key upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Berhalter’s final words to the USMNT squad after they won at Honduras in their last World Cup qualifier was this: we attack October.

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Well, the USMNT will have to attack October without plenty of key players, as injury issues keep stars Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna out of the squad. Initially.

Berhalter did suggest Pulisic and Reyna could be called up at a later stage during this camp, but it seems unlikely.

“It’s a tough one,” Berhalter explained. “It is really about their ability to perform. Would I want them on the team and being able to play? Absolutely. But it’s lack of team training. Gio has been out since September 3, he hasn’t trained with the team. That is a long time. It is a good chunk of time.

“It is about building them up in a safe way to get them on the field. We are in day-to-day communication and to be honest it is unlikely they’re going to be able to perform. But with players like that you want to leave the door open as long as possible.”

What are the big talking points?

The other big storyline is that Weston McKennie returns after being sent home from USMNT camp for breaking team protocols during the September World Cup qualifiers.

Berhalter was asked by reporters about McKennie’s situation and said he considers the matter over, and hit out at some of the coverage of the Juventus star being sent home from camp.

“Like any player, you talk through and work through it and the player takes responsibility and there is part of it and you move forward and you say, ‘okay, it’s a clean slate for you,’” Berhalter explained. “There is a certain amount of trust that Weston needs to rebuild with the group and he’s willing to do that. That is the important thing.

“The one thing I didn’t love about how this whole thing got spun, the lack of tolerance, lack of understand for a players’ situation” Berhalter added. “We have a young group and this group needs to learn. I think we are way too quick to condemn people and not really understand a players’ perspective. His behavior was unacceptable. He took responsibility for it. We move on. Will he be held accountable in the future? Absolutely. That’s going to be a part of it. He understands that and the group understands that.”

McKennie should line up in midfield alongside Tyler Adams, who is fit enough to take part after a recent injury issue at RB Leipzig.

However, strikers Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok have both been dropped in the most surprising news. Plenty of forwards who featured in the Gold Cup success in the summer have been recalled instead of calling up the Norwich City and Young Boys forwards.

“Jordan [Pefok] was a difficult decision...,” Berhalter explained. “It was based on how we see the games playing out.”

Plenty of returnees

Gianluca Busio, Chris Richards, Shaq Moore and Yunus Musah are all back in for the USMNT, while Paul Arriola, Gyasi Zardes, Luca de la Torre, Tim Weah and Matthew Hoppe all return too to bolster the USA’s attacking options.

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The main takeaway ahead of these three huge World Cup qualifiers is that there are so many big questions swirling around this roster.

Berhalter knows his side need to kick on in these games against Jamaica in Austin, Texas on Oct. 7, at Panama on Oct. 10 and against Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio on Oct. 13.

Huge October slate ahead

The USMNT picked up five points from their first three World Cup qualifiers against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras, and a little tension is growing around their bid to reach the 2022 World Cup.

Anything less than seven points in these three qualifiers will be seen as a bad return by the USMNT fanbase, but Jamaica, Panama and Costa Rica will likely be battling right until the end with the U.S. for a spot in the top three of the standings.

A top three finish in the eight-team group secures qualification to the 2022 World Cup, while CONCACAF’s fourth-place team will be in an intercontinental playoff.

Here is the 27-man USMNT roster in full:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 23/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 10/0)

DEFENDERS (10): George Bello (Atlanta United; 4/0), John Brooks (Wolfsburg/GER; 45/3), Sergino Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 13/1), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 7/0), Shaq Moore (Tenerife/ESP; 11/1), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 3/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 15/1), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 12/2), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 67/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 17/2)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 40/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 17/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 6/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED: 3/0), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 32/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 25/7), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 6/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 28/0)

FORWARDS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 10/5), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 8/0), Matthew Hoppe (Mallorca/ESP; 5/1), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 1/1), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 13/1), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 62/14)

Check out the USMNT’s full CONCACAF World Cup qualifying schedule

at El Salvador — Sept. 2 — Draw 0-0 | Player ratings | Three things we learned
vs. Canada — Sept. 5 — Draw 1-1 | Player ratings | Three things we learned
at Honduras — Sept. 8 — Win 4-1 | Player ratings | Three things we learned

vs. Jamaica — Oct. 7
at Panama — Oct. 10
vs. Costa Rica — Oct. 13

vs. Mexico — Nov. 12
at Jamaica — Nov. 16

vs. El Salvador — Jan. 27
at Canada — Jan. 30
vs. Honduras — Feb. 2

at Mexico — March 24
vs. Panama — March 27
at Costa Rica — March 30

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