NEW YORK (AP) — Jordan Morris, Tim Weah, Sergiño Dest and Gyasi Zardes returned from injuries to make the U.S. roster ahead of the next three World Cup qualifiers.
Gio Reyna and Aaron Long were left off along with defenders John Brooks and Tim Ream, and forwards Daryl Dike, Jordan Pefok and Josh Sargent — who scored his first two Premier League goals as the 28-man roster was announced Friday.
Training starts Monday ahead of the Jan. 27 match against El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio. The Americans play Canada three days later on artificial turf at Hamilton, Ontario, and host Honduras on Feb. 2 at St. Paul, Minnesota, with frigid weather forecast for all three games.
“We expect to embrace the conditions and enjoy the conditions,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said Friday. “All we want at the end of this window is to be in position for the March window to qualify for the World Cup.”
Second in qualifying with 15 points after eight of 14 games, the U.S. is one point behind Canada.
Mexico and Panama have 14 points each, followed by Costa Rica (nine), Jamaica (seven), El Salvador (six) and Honduras (three).
The top three nations qualify for this year’s tournament in Qatar, and the fourth-place team advances to a one-game playoff in June against the Oceania champion, likely New Zealand.
Brooks was left off for the third straight window.
“He has the opportunity to play a role with us in the future,” Berhalter said. “He wouldn’t be the best fit for this particular window. We’re hoping that he regains his form for Wolfsburg.”
Behalter called Ream “probably the best center back on the ball that we have.”
“Some of the game plan for this January window we think suits other players a little bit better,” Berhalter said.
Defender Joe Scally, who returned to the field for Borussia Mönchengladbach on Jan. 15 following a positive COVID-19 test, was left off, as was Venezia midfielder Gianluca Busio, initially picked before a positive test.
“We have to be very cautious with COVID,” Berhalter said. “It’s spreading like wildfire, and there’s a chance that anyone that is coming into camp can potentially be excluded based on that.”
Twenty-three players were on the roster for November’s home win over Mexico and road draw at Jamaica. Thirteen have been training in Phoenix since Jan. 7.
“We don’t expect the players to be 90-minute fit,” Berhalter said. “We expect to be approaching it in a platoon type of method where we put guys on, we take guys off.”
Among wingers, Morris played until the 78th minute in the 1-0 exhibition win over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Dec. 18, his first international appearance since tearing his left ACL on Feb. 20.
“Amazing amount of speed,” Berhalter said. “His timing, his movement has been very good, and I think the next thing to come is his finishing.”
Weah recovered from a quadriceps injury to enter in the 68th minute for Lille on Tuesday in his first action since Dec. 1. RB Salzburg midfielder Brenden Aaronson is in the midst of the Austrian Bundesliga’s two-month winter break and hasn’t played a competitive match since Dec. 11.
Among right backs, Dest returned from a back injury and a positive COVID-19 test. He entered in the sixth minute of extra time of Barcelona’s Copa del Rey match against Athletic Bilbao on Thursday, his first match appearance since Dec. 8. The same day, DeAndre Yedlin played his first match for Galatasaray since Dec. 18.
Zardes missed the November games with a sprained left knee and last played a competitive match on Oct. 20 for Columbus.
Reyna has been sidelined since injuring his right hamstring during the Americans’ opening qualifier at El Salvador on Sept. 2.
“We thought the best thing for him to do was to stay at Dortmund, train these weeks and try to get into their squad,” Berhalter said.
Players will average 24 years, 294 days when training starts Monday.
Defenders George Bello, DeJuan Jones and Auston Trusty were cut from the group that had been training along with Long, and midfielders Djordje Mihailovic and Jackson Yueill.
Long is regaining fitness after tearing his right Achilles tendon on May 15. Defender Sam Vines was dropped after being on the November roster.
Midfielder Tyler Adams, Yedlin and goalkeeper Zack Steffen enter with yellow cards and would be suspended if assessed another.
Goalkeepers: Sean Johnson (New York City), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago), Zack Steffen (Manchester City, England), Matt Turner (New England)
Defenders: Reggie Cannon (Boavista, Portugal), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona, Spain), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta), Mark McKenzie (Genk, Belgium), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim, Germany), Antonee Robinson (Fulham, England), Miles Robinson (Atlanta), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray, Turkey), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Los Angeles), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig,. Germany), Luca de la Torre (Heracles, Netherlands), Sebastian Lletget (New England), Weston McKennie (Juventus, Italy), Yunus Musah (Valencia, Spain), Cristian Roldan (Seattle)
Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg, Austria), Paul Arriola (D.C.), Jesús Ferreira (Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg. Germany), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea, England), Tim Weah (Lille, France), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus)
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