Christian Pulisic stayed behind in Nashville when the United States men’s national team heads to El Salvador for its World Cup qualifying opener in Nashville.
He joins Zack Steffen (back spasms) and Timothy Weah (undisclosed injury) in members of the 26-man squad unavailable in San Salvador.
The Yanks will play their first World Cup qualifying since its humiliating draw in Trinidad and Tobago that kept them from the 2018 tournament in Russia.
Pulisic missed Chelsea’s last two Premier League matches after testing positive for COVID-19.
The American said he was fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, and head coach Gregg Berhalter will update his status later Wednesday.
It’s reasonable to think that Pulisic would’ve needed a negative test to travel to the United States and the Chelsea star could be either getting his fitness back up to speed for a tough test from Canada at the weekend or perhaps simply being rested rather than used in the most straightforward of the Yanks’ qualifiers this week.
And perhaps this was a possibility even with Pulisic at 100 percent, though it seems he’d still be with the team in that case…
Pulisic, 22, has seven goals and seven assists in 13 career qualifiers, all occurring before his 19th birthday. That includes four goals and two assists in Hex matches, and the Yanks have only lost once when he’s contributed to a goal (in Couva, ironically).
How will the USMNT lineup without Christian Pulisic?
We had Pulisic at his preferred right wing when we rolled out our predicted XI for El Salvador under the assumption that the team leader would be available to help send a(nother) stern message to the rest of CONCACAF.
There are several candidates to slot into his position, even with Timothy Weah pulling out of the squad with injury. Marseille’s Konrad de la Fuente would be comfortable on the right but that would give the U.S. a potential very young attack with Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson, and Josh Sargent.
In this USMNT, Pulisic is considered a veteran leader and we’re well aware of the value Berhalter places on experience and familiarity. Sebastian Lletget may’ve been starting over Brenden Aaronson or even Gio Reyna, anyway, so we’re going to assume that he gets the like-for-like positional swap or moves Reyna out wide.
There’s another move that would see Weston McKennie playing more advanced and free with Kellyn Acosta or Cristian Roldan playing next to Tyler Adams, or Josh Sargent could drop to right wing with Jordan Pefok going up top.
Here’s our bet:
Dest — Zimmerman — Brooks — A. Robinson
Adams — McKennie
Pulisic — Lletget Reyna — Aaronson