Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, MLS All-Star heroes Matt Turner and Ricardo Pepi and Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, who last week tested positive for COVID-19, were among 26 players called up by U.S. national team coach Gregg Berhalter on Thursday for the start of a long, arduous final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.
The eight-team, 14-game qualifying tournament kicks off for the U.S. next Thursday with three games in six days, beginning in El Salvador. The U.S. will play Canada in Nashville on Sept. 5 and Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Sept. 8.
“We have spent the last two years building the foundation and culture of the team for this moment,” Berhalter said in a statement. “World Cup qualifying is a grueling challenge that demands a complete group effort in order to be successful. We are confident in our ability to respond to the challenges that are presented along the way.”
The roster called up by Berhalter has an average age of 24 years, 43 days and just seven caps combined in official competition, making it one of the youngest and least experienced qualifying rosters in U.S. Soccer history.
The U.S. failed to qualify for the last World Cup in 2018, falling on the final day of qualifying to miss the world championship for the first time since 1986. Just six of the 26 players Berhalter called to camp have played in a CONCACAF qualifier, led by Pulisic who has played in six. However Pulisic missed his club team’s last game after testing positive for the coronavirus.
Lletget, who had grown into a mainstay of the national team under Berhalter, is second on the team with 12 appearances this year.
Turner, the New England Revolution goalkeeper, was spectacular in helping the U.S. win this summer’s Gold Cup. He is the first U.S. keeper to post wins in each of his first seven starts, allowing just a goal over that time. He was named most valuable player of Wednesday’s all-star win over Liga MX after saving two shots in the tiebreaking penalty shootout.
Pepi, 18, made the game-winning penalty shot. Thursday’s call-up was his first to the national team. He has nine goals in 20 games for FC Dallas this season.
Nine of the 26 players come from MLS, including former LAFC defender Walker Zimmerman, now with Nashville. Zimmerman is the reigning MLS defender of the year. Eight of the MLS players were on the All-Star Game roster, including Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan, the MLS captain. Roldan’s brother was also on the team but he’ll be on the other side of the field next Thursday since he plays internationally for El Salvador.
The roster will be cut to 23 players by next week’s game in El Salvador.
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest), Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Defenders: George Bello (Atlanta United), John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Tim Ream (Fulham), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (New York City FC), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Sebastian Lletget (Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)
Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg), Konrad de la Fuente (Olympique Marseille), Jordan Pefok (BSC Young Boys), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Josh Sargent (Norwich City), Tim Weah (Lille)
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports