Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen both doubts for USMNT World Cup qualifiers

02 September 2021 09:15

The United States men’s national team faces several roster challenges ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers as they are expected to be without Christian Pulisic and first choice goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter expected the Chelsea forward to stay behind and continue training in Nashville as he regains full fitness following a case of Covid-19, however, others speculate that the Premier League club failed to allow Pulisic to travel to red-listed country El Salvador. 

While the team anticipated Pulisic to remain grounded, suddenly Berhalter faced roster decisions to replace goalkeeper Zach Steffen. The Manchester City player recently reported a flare-up of back spasms - an injury he has struggled with in the past.

To replace him, Berhalter called up New England Revolution player Matt Turner over Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Ethan Horvath. 

“It was a difficult choice, and it wasn't easy for us,” Berhalter said in Wednesday’s matchday-1 press conference. “Ethan performed really well in [Concacaf] Nations League and the friendly game after that, in the game against Switzerland. So he's had strong performances for us.

"And we just felt at this given moment, Matt is the goalie in better form, and we went with him. I have complete confidence in him and what he can do and his ability, and the next step is going to be for him to translate it into these ultra-competitive matches and see how he can manage that.

The selection is yet another confidence booster for the Revolution goalkeeper, who will take part in his first ever World Cup qualifier on Thursday. 

“It's tough to sum up just in one sentence or one paragraph, even,” said Turner.

“It's been quite the journey, especially 2021’s been an amazing ride for me. And so I'm just taking things as they come, try not to get too high, get too low, when things are coming and going. And just trying to continue to challenge myself to become a better goalkeeper, a better person, every single day in, day out.”

Berhalter trusts Turner to perform considering his last performances, but the head coach remains concerned other players will not be able to handle their opponent’s threatening attacks. 

“One of my concerns is verticality,” admitted the coach. “When you think about Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Timmy Weah, they give you that verticality that you need that really threatens opponents.

“And when you think about a guy like Gio Reyna and Konrad de la Fuente and Brenden Aaronson, potentially, it's more difficult for them. So that's something that we're really talking about with our winger group, is stretching the opponent, being vertical, using our pace, using our speed to get behind the opponent. We know that's an important part of our game.”

The USMNT faces El Salvador first, followed by the matches against Canada and Honduras. 

Source: 90min