NEW YORK (AP) — Josh Sargent, Ricardo Pepi and Jesús Ferreira are in at forward, while Jordan Pefok, Haji Wright and Brandon Vazquez are out.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter announced his 26-man roster Wednesday for the Americans’ final two World Cup warmups, and he emphasized time remains for players to move on and off before he reveals his final Cup roster on Nov. 9.
“I know we’re not going to be the most talented team at the World Cup and we’re going to have to compensate for that by being a cohesive unit, by working for each other, fighting for each other and having a great team spirit,” Berhalter said. “So part of it is leaning on guys that have been there before and been around the group before and understand the team culture and understand their teammates extremely well.”
Like Sargent and Pepi, defenders Sergiño Dest, Chris Richards and Sam Vines, and winger Gio Reyna were picked after missing the four previous matches in May and June.
The 13th-ranked Americans face No. 23 Japan on Sept. 23 in Düsseldorf, Germany, and 53rd-ranked Saudi Arabia four days later in Murcia, Spain. Berhalter plans to announce his 26-man roster for the tournament in Qatar five days before the FIFA deadline.
Six players from the late spring games were dropped: defenders George Bello, Erik Palmer-Brown and Antonee Robinson, midfielder Cristian Roldan, winger Tim Weah and Wright.
Robinson, Roldan, Weah and goalkeeper Zack Steffen have been sidelined by injuries.
Other notable omissions included defenders John Brooks, Tim Ream and Shaq Moore, midfielder/defender James Sands and midfielder Djordje Mihailovic.
“There’s still some time that they can try to earn their way onto the team,” Berhalter said.
Back in the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament, the U.S. opens against 20th-ranked Wales on Nov. 21, plays No. 5 England in a Black Friday matchup four days later and closes group play on Nov. 29 against 21st-ranked Iran.
Sargent appeared in the first three qualifiers last September but was dropped by the U.S. during a scoring slump at Norwich, which was relegated from the Premier League to England’s second tier. He has revived his play this season, scoring six goals in his last six matches.
Ferreira is fourth in Major League Soccer with 18 goals for Dallas. Pepi was left off the spring roster to rest, and he is scoreless in 30 games for club and country since Oct. 7.
“Keep in mind, this is a guy that scored three goals for us in World Cup qualifying and has had a tough time since then,” Berhalter. “We’re trying to get him confidence. We’re trying to get him into the group and see if he can make a push for the final roster.”
Pefok had three goals in six games with Union Berlin.
“It may not be the best forward that is in the group. It’s a guy that fits what we’re doing the best,” Berhalter said.
Injuries and lack of playing time remain a concern.
Central defender Miles Robinson will miss the tournament after tearing his left Achilles on May 7. Steffen, loaned to second-tier Middlesbrough by Manchester City, has been out since Aug. 20 due to a knee injury that required a PRP injection.
Weah has not played in the French league this season because of a sprained ankle but could return to team training by the end of next week, Berhalter said. Left back Antonee Robinson sprained his right ankle on Sept. 3.
“At this stage, it’s probably better not to rush it and give him the proper recovery time,” Berhalter said.
Roldan has been out with a groin injury since Aug. 23.
Goalkeeper Matt Turner has played just once this season at Arsenal, where he is Aaron Ramsdale’s backup.
“Maybe a little bit of rhythm and rust could come into play,” Berhalter said. “Would I like him to be playing every week in the Premier League? Yes, but that’s not the case.”
Christian Pulisic has one start this season for Chelsea, and Luca de la Torre has played just 12 minutes over two games in his first season with Celta Vigo.
Reyna, coming back from leg injuries that decimated his 2021-22 season, was limited to four second-half substitute appearances since April 8 before starting at Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Dest has only a pair of substitute appearances since April 24 and Richards has made three substitute Premier League appearances totaling 47 minutes in his first season with Crystal Palace.
Berhalter’s roster will average 24 years, 201 days as of the start of training on Monday. Nine players have changed clubs in recent months. Eight players are in MLS and nine each in Europe, and and in England and Scotland. Berhalter plans a training camp for MLS players as their teams are eliminated.
Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Luton Town, England), Sean Johnson (New York City), Matt Turner (Arsenal, England)
Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Boavista, Portugal), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Glasgow Celtic, Scotland), Sergiño Dest (AC Milan, Italy), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Chris Richards (Crystal Palace, England), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach, Germany), Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp, Belgium), DeAndre Yedlin (Miami), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Los Angeles), Tyler Adams (Leeds, England), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo, Spain), Weston McKennie (Juventus, Italy), Yunus Musah (Valencia, Spain), Malik Tillman (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland)
Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Leeds, England), Paul Arriola (Dallas), Jesús Ferreira (Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen, Netherlands), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea, England), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Josh Sargent (Norwich, England).
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