Reyna and Pefok Return to USMNT Roster for Pivotal World Cup Qualifiers
Notable Omissions: Brooks, Sargent, Slonina, Lletget, Zardes, Scally, McKenzie. Out with Injuries: McKennie, Richards, Turner and Perhaps Dest
USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter released his 27-player roster on Thursday for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica. Winger Gio Reyna of Borussia Dortmund and center-forward Jordan Pefok of Young Boys return to the fold for the first time since September, and the U.S. will have to make up for the injury losses of Weston McKennie, Chris Richards and potentially Sergiño Dest, who came off with an apparent muscle injury in Barcelona’s Europa League game on Thursday.
Omissions include John Brooks, Josh Sargent, Gabriel Slonina, Sebastian Lletget, Gyasi Zardes, Joe Scally and Mark McKenzie. Players being called up for the first time in World Cup qualifying include Ethan Horvath, Aaron Long and Erik Palmer-Brown.
Here’s the roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest/ENG; 7/0), Sean Johnson (New York City; 9/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 26/0).
Notable Omission: Gabriel Slonina.
My Thoughts: Steffen’s inclusion and recent return to Man City’s roster suggest that he has recovered from his injury and will likely start. Matt Turner’s injury with New England will keep him out this month. Slonina’s omission is a surprise considering he was in the squad over Horvath in January and is in terrific form for Chicago. But Horvath is back playing again at club level and is older (26) and more experienced than Slonina (17) in an environment where experience will matter.
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DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 24/1), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 17/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes/FRA; 2/0), Jedi Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 22/2), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 17/3), James Sands (Rangers/SCO; 7/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami; 71/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville; 25/3).
Notable Omissions: Joe Scally, John Brooks, Mark McKenzie, Tim Ream.
My Thoughts: The starting centerbacks figure to be Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman, with Jedi Robinson the likely left back starter. Dest’s apparent injury could mix things up at right back, with Yedlin and Cannon competing for that spot. I have gotten to the point with Brooks, who is healthy and playing for Wolfsburg, that I do not think he will return to the USMNT as long as Berhalter is the coach.
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 48/2), Tyler Adams (Leipzig/GER; 24/1), Gianluca Busio (Venezia/ITA; 8/0), Luca de la Torre (Heracles/NED; 5/0), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 13/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 31/0).
Notable Omission: Sebastian Lletget.
My Thoughts: Who replaces McKennie? I suspect it’ll be Acosta, but we’ll see. Lletget’s omission is interesting, because he seemed to be someone Berhalter favored. Busio would have been called up in January if he hadn’t gotten Covid.
FORWARDS (9): Brenden Aaronson (Salzburg/AUT; 18/5), Paul Arriola (Dallas; 43/8), Jesús Ferreira (Dallas; 7/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 43/10), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys/SUI; 8/1), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg/GER; 9/3), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 45/18), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 9/4), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 20/2).
Notable Omissions: Josh Sargent, Gyasi Zardes.
My Thoughts: Pefok finally gets the call back to the USMNT having had a terrific scoring season in Switzerland and some memorable moments in the men’s UEFA Champions League. I thought Sargent would be in after Berhalter attended one of his games, but that wasn’t enough to earn the call. Zardes hasn’t been playing much for Columbus. Pepi has been out of form for a while, so I expect Pefok to start up top with Pulisic on one wing and Aaronson or Reyna on the other.
What are your thoughts on the roster? You can put them in the comment section below.
It’ll be good to have Gio’s free kicks back, especially after the assist to Witsel.
This is it, what they’ve been playing their whole lives for. Go get ‘em, guys!
Just hoping nobody gets hurt over the weekend and that Dest will be available at least by Panama.