US missing many starters ahead of World Cup warmup vs Japan

Sep 21, 2022, 11:07 PM | Updated: Sep 22, 2022, 11:13 am
Weston McKennie, left, shows the way to Christian Pulisic, right, as they arrive during a training ...

Weston McKennie, left, shows the way to Christian Pulisic, right, as they arrive during a training session of the US soccer team in Cologne, Germany, prior to a friendly match against Japan, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.The USA will play Japan in a friendly soccer match as part of the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP to prepare for the World Cup in Qatar in Duesseldorf on Friday. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

(AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Gregg Berhalter’s U.S. roster as the World Cup approaches is as notable for its absences as for those set to play in Friday’s warmup against Japan at Düsseldorf, Germany.

Tim Weah, Yunus Musah, Chris Richards, Antonee Robinson and Zack Steffen are out with injuries for the Japan game and Tuesday’s final warmup against Saudi Arabia at Murcia, Spain. Miles Robinson will miss the World Cup because of a torn Achilles.

“It definitely sucks to see some of the guys that are injured at this moment right now,” midfielder Tyler Adams said Thursday. “But it also, in a sense, gives them time to to be healthy for a World Cup.”

Matt Turner, who has played just one match since Arsenal’s season started, will be in goal. Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long will pair in central defense, and Sam Vines will start at left back.

Rust is a factor: Christian Pulisic has played just 176 minutes this season at Chelsea, Gio Reyna 247 at Dortmund, Sergiño Dest 89 at AC Milan and Luca de la Torre 17 at Celta Vigo.

“We’ll manage those guys until they get fatigued and then when they can’t produce their actions anymore, we’ll get them off the field,” Berhalter said. “I think that’s the beauty of having six substitutes. I can imagine at the World Cup some teams will be doing that for players that aren’t playing 90 minutes and aren’t completely fit.”

Turner left a starting job at New England to become a backup at Arsenal.

“Depends on how you approach training. I’d say if you’re in it just to stroll about and you don’t think that you can change your situation no matter what you do, then you’ll lose a lot of that sharpness,” Turner said. “For me, I want to continue to get better. I know that my ceiling is has not yet been reached. And it’s going to take some hard work, some obviously some risky career moves.”

Pulisic, Adams and Weston McKennie, the team’s top players, all are available. They have started together just four times: a 2019 exhibition against Ecuador, World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Canada in January, and a June friendly against Uruguay.

Many players have club matches through Nov. 12-13, meaning more injuries are possible. Because FIFA jammed the World Cup into the middle of the European season, national teams will not have their three-plus weeks as usual to train and get players fit.

McKennie said players can’t dwell on avoiding injury.

“I don’t think anybody here is going to play less aggressive or play safe whenever we’re at our club teams or whenever we do play these friendly games,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re athletes. We compete. We will play to win. We don’t play to be available for future games.”

Berhalter plans to announce his 26-man World Cup roster on Nov. 9, 12 days before the Americans open against Wales. They play England on Black Friday and Iran on Nov. 29.

Berhalter listed Kellyn Acosta, Johnny Cardoso, Luca de la Torre, Brendan Aaronson, Gio Reyna and Malik Tillman as possible replacements for Musah in midfield. Reyna and Aaronson are more often used as wingers on the U.S.

Forward may be the most controversial position on the team. Berhalter opted not to include Jordan Pefok, Haji Wright or Brandon Vazquez, choosing Josh Sargent, Jesús Ferreira and Ricardo Pepi, who last weekend ended a 30-match, 345-day scoreless streak for club and country.

NOTES

The team celebrated Cardoso’s 21st birthday Tuesday with a cake, but didn’t have anything special for Pulisic, who turned 24 on Sunday. “We wished him happy birthday, and he can buy himself whatever he wants,” Adams said. McKennie, sitting alongside Adams, laughed and added: “I ain’t wasting my money on him. He ain’t buying me a gift.”

___

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US missing many starters ahead of World Cup warmup vs Japan