Gio Reyna still hasn’t trained with Borussia Dortmund. (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Like or not, the U.S. men’s national team must plow forward without its two most effective attackers in next month’s World Cup qualifying window.
Midfielder Christian Pulisic and midfielder-forward Gio Reyna will remain with their respective club teams in Europe as they recover from injuries suffered during September’s qualifiers.
Pulisic is recuperating from an ankle injury, while Reyna has had hamstring issues.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter admitted not including those two standouts to the 27-player squad was a difficult decision, but he noted that both players haven’t been training with their teams. Pulisic performs for Chelsea in the English Premier League, Reyna with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
Asked if he would call the duo in, just in case the USA was in dire need of them, Berhalter, replied, “I wouldn’t rule them completely out. I think that it is unlikely, just due to where they’re at, not even involved in team training yet. So, I think it’s unlikely the could participate, but we’re in constant communication with them. The situation is day to day.”
Berhalter admitted later that a decision to use either player was “a tough one.”
“It’s really about their ability to perform and not harming them,” he added. I would I want them with the team and be able to play, absolutely but the lack of team training. Gio has been out since Sept. 3. He hasn’t trained with a team. That’s a long time, that’s a good chunk of time. It’s about building them up in a in a safe way to get them on the field. … It’s unlikely that they’re going to be able to perform, but with players like that you want to leave the door open as long as possible.”
The squad’s three English-based players – goalkeeper Zack Steffen, defenders Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson – cannot travel to Panama because that Central American country is on England’s COVID-19 red list. That meant any returning player to the United Kingdom would need to take COVID-19 tests and quarantine for 10 days.
When the team leaves for Panama City, the trio will fly to Columbus, Ohio, where the USMNT will play Costa Rica in its third and final qualifier during the October window.
“We’d probably leave a physical coach and potentially a technical coach back with them to continue their training,” Berhalter said.