Gregg Berhalter announced the latest USMNT roster for two friendlies in September. The games against Japan and Saudi Arabia will be the final two for Berhalter’s side before the 2022 World Cup.
The roster for the friendlies includes the usual stars like Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie but also has several fringe players fighting for a spot on the plane to Qatar.
Latest USMNT Roster For September Friendlies
...Gregg Berhalter calls 26 players for upcoming matches versus Japan and Saudi Arabia » https://t.co/dAbRUfceXA#USMNT x @BioSteelSports pic.twitter.com/OybYQvBKiu
— U.S. Men's National Soccer Team (@USMNT) September 14, 2022
Some big names like Antonee ‘Jedi’ Robinson, Tim Weah and Zack Steffen are missing due to injuries. There are a couple of players not included in the roster that surprised fans. Here are three big omissions and three shock inclusions from Berhalter’s latest USMNT roster.
3 Major Snubs
3. John Brooks
With Brooks not being included on this roster, it’s safe to say that America’s hero from the 2014 World Cup won’t be participating in the 2022 edition.
His last appearance for the USMNT was a horrific performance against Honduras during World Cup qualifying in September 2021. Brooks was hooked at halftime and has yet to see the field or be included in another Berhalter roster since then.
Despite Brooks landing a free transfer to UEFA Champions League outfit Benfica, he just simply isn’t in Berhalter’s World Cup plans. The U.S. head coach has said publicly that Brooks has several aspects that don’t fit the game plan.
Gregg Berhalter’s full comments on the situation with John Brooks @herculezg(via Futbol Americas on ESPN+)
— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) July 20, 2022
2. Tim Ream
Ream was an outsider looking in for a spot on the September roster. His last appearance for the U.S. was a 90-minute showing during the 0-0 draw vs. El Salvador in the USMNT’s first World Cup qualifier in September 2021.
The 34-year-old is the captain for Premier League side Fulham and has looked solid in the club’s return to England’s top flight. It’s quite remarkable that a player who starts every game for an EPL club doesn’t make the national team.
1. Jordan Pefok
Pefok has been dynamite to start the 2022-23 season.
Some critics weren’t sold on Pefok’s golden boot from the Swiss Super League last season and wanted to see him in a more competitive league. He made the transfer to the Bundesliga with Union Berlin this summer and hasn’t slowed his scoring.
Pefok has helped his underdog side claim top spot in the Bundesliga contributing two goal and two assists through five league games. Not seeing his name on the roster is baffling.
He missed two games with Union Berlin recovering from a muscle injury but still played 75 minutes in the club’s last game vs. Cologne. He’s clearly ready to play.
Berhalter gave reporters a mysterious answer as to why Pefok was omitted from the camp.
“We’re pretty sure we know Jordan’s profile, we know what he can do,” Berhalter said. “And we didn’t feel like we had to see him in this camp to determine if he was on the list or not.
“The decisions are not easy decisions, and I understand that Jordan needs to be considered — he was. In the end we decided to go with these three strikers to evaluate them.”
This either means Pefok is a lock for the World Cup or not going at all.
3 Shock Inclusions
3. Jordan Morris
Morris certainly isn’t a fan favorite, and some were surprised to see his name included in Berhalter’s roster.
With Weah out injured and Morris on the fringe, it’s somewhat understandable that Berhalter wants to give him a chance.
Morris did get the equalizing goal vs. El Salvador in the Concacaf Nations League earlier this year and will need to keep impressing. The 27-year-old has 10 goals across 34 games for the Seattle Sounders this season.
Can Morris land a spot on the plane to Qatar?
2. Aaron Long
Long’s inclusion saw some of the more visceral reactions from U.S. fans. The New York Red Bulls captain missed a majority of World Cup qualifying after suffering an Achilles tendon rupture.
U.S. fans aren’t convinced that Long is fit to be on the national team, with one fan putting together an entire compilation of his errors. Yikes.
We really bringing this dude. pic.twitter.com/kZj1RRDF9u— Jack Stephen (@USMNTZ) September 14, 2022
Aaron Long over Tim Ream is a tough one. Ream has been excellent for Fulham in the Premier League.— Justin Moran (@kickswish) September 14, 2022
Aaron Long in the squad though pic.twitter.com/7Kj8m0cFll— Jesse Wilcox (@JesseWilcox12) September 14, 2022
1. Ricardo Pepi
Pepi has not scored a competitive goal for club or country in nearly a full calendar year. His last goal was in World Cup qualifying in October 2021 vs. Jamaica.
He’s at the lowest point statistically of his young career, and his German club Augsburg offloaded him on loan to Dutch side Groningen this summer.
Berhalter defended putting Pepi on the roster and said he wants to try to build the 19-year-old’s confidence.
Gregg Berhalter on Ricardo Pepi"Ricardo Pepi scored three goals in World Cup qualifying. We want to give him some confidence. He can be dominant in the Dutch league.” pic.twitter.com/PDlTzyfMa3
— USMNT Only (@usmntonly) September 14, 2022
Players like Haji Wright or Brandon Vazquez, who have actually been scoring goals in the last year at a consistent rate, can’t be feeling too great about this decision.
The USMNT will play Japan at 8:25 a.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 23, in Düsseldorf, Germany, and then face Saudi Arabia at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Sept. 27, in Murcia, Spain.