Pepi, Steffen out, McKennie in

United States coach Gregg Berhalter announced his 26-man roster for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Wednesday, to much fanfare in New York.

The list is made up of players who have now become household names for American fans, including Chelsea striker Christian Pulisic, Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie, Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna and midfielder Leeds United ground Tyler Adams.

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The biggest shock was the dismissal of Middlesbrough goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

When healthy, Steffen had been locked in a battle with Arsenal’s Matt Turner for the starting spot in World Cup qualifying, with Berhalter usually picking Steffen for the most important games.

His loan move to Boro from Manchester City was done to get more first-team minutes, and he more than achieved that goal, making 16 of the club’s 20 appearances in the second-tier Premier League.

But that wasn’t enough to make the list, with Turner, Luton Town’s Ethan Horvath and New York City FC’s Sean Johnson favourites.

Every World Cup roster has its share of near misses, and this one was no different, with injuries playing a part in the roster’s makeup. Centre-backs Miles Robinson of Atlanta United and Chris Richards of Crystal Palace both missed the game with Achilles and hamstring problems, respectively.

However, other players have healed in time – including McKennie, Turner and Norwich City striker Josh Sargent – at least before the weekend’s final set of club matches before the players are released.

“We are thrilled to bring this group to the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” said Berhalter. “Final decisions on the roster are always difficult, and we appreciate the contributions of everyone who has helped us get to this point.

“We believe we have a talented group, a strong team spirit and ready to compete. We are extremely proud and honored to represent the United States and appreciate all of the incredible support from our fans as we head to Qatar. .”

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In terms of surprise inclusions, Fulham defender Tim Ream was among the biggest.

The first World Cup qualifier against El Salvador in September 2021 was the only qualifier Ream played in. But injuries to Robinson and Richards, as well as his fine form for the Cottagers this year in the Premier League, paved the way for him to be selected. .

The centre-forward position has been an area of ​​focus for most of the cycle, with neither candidate really vying for a starting spot.

That said, the arrival of Antalyaspor striker Haji Wright at the expense of Groningen FC striker Ricardo Pepi came as a bit of a surprise.

Both players have been in excellent form lately for their clubs, Wright scoring nine goals this season – and four in his last four games – while Pepi had five goals and two assists since moving to the Netherlands on loan in september. .

Yet it was Wright who got the nod alongside Sargent and FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira.

Shaq Moore is another player who appeared to be on the outside, but with Sergino Dest struggling with an adductor problem, Berhalter opted for extra cover at right-back, with Moore selected over Boavista’s Reggie Cannon.

The 26-man roster will be the USMNT’s second-youngest roster at a World Cup, with an average age of 25 years, 175 days at the time of their World Cup opener against Wales on November 21. Only the 1990 team (24 years, 24 days) was younger.

After the United States failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, DeAndre Yedlin is the only player selected with previous World Cup experience, having been part of the USMNT’s run to the round of 16. final in 2014.

After facing Wales, the United States will face England (November 26) and Iran (November 29) in Group B.

USA’s full roster for the 2022 World Cup:

GUARDIANS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8/0), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75 /0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELDS (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARDERS (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ANG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4) , Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1)

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