United States
USMNT Stock Watch: Did anyone help their case against Japan, Saudi Arabia?
United States

USMNT Stock Watch: Did anyone help their case against Japan, Saudi Arabia?

Updated Sep. 29, 2022 7:18 p.m. ET

Editor's Note: "Plane to Qatar" is FOX Sports' weekly feature tracking the progress of players hoping to crack the United States Men's National Team's 26-player roster for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Truth be told, the most interesting part of this exercise are the players who are on the bubble of the United States' 26-man roster for the 2022 World Cup.  

Has estranged U.S. striker Jordan Pefok moved back in front of youngster Ricardo Pepi? Did Joe Scally do enough in his brief appearance in Tuesday's scoreless tie against Saudi Arabia to usurp fellow fullback Sam Vines, who struggled — along with the entire U.S. team — four days earlier in that ugly 2-0 loss to Japan? Who will be coach Gregg Berhalter's third goalkeeper choice in Qatar?  

(The answers right now are "maybe," "yes" and "still Sean Johnson.") 


As fun as all of that is, these are not the players likely to determine how the Americans do at the World Cup. Some of them, like the third keeper, almost certainly won't play at all.  

When the lights flick on in Qatar, the USMNT will go only as far as its best players take them. That means the likes of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and, of course, Christian Pulisic, must be better — much, much better — when the real thing kicks off than they were this month in the final U.S. tune-ups.   

"There's not many players," U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said following Tuesday's match, "that performed up to their normal levels in this camp."

Given the limited minutes and/or poor form of a number of projected World Cup starters leading into the September matches, maybe what transpired on the field this month shouldn't be as surprising in hindsight. 

So, keep a closer eye on the locks than on the question marks over the five-plus weeks before Berhalter names his final 26-man squad on Nov. 9. How well — and how much — Pulisic and the rest of the USMNT headliners perform for their club teams matters more from here on out than who'll claim the final few spots on the plane. 

First class 

F/M Brenden Aaronson (Leeds): Even the usually consistent Aaronson didn't look right this month. It was also a little surprising not to see him start the second match or get a look in midfield.

M Tyler Adams (Leeds): Like his club teammate, Adams wasn't nearly as good for the U.S. over the last 10 days as he has been in the Premier League this season.

D Sergiño Dest (AC Milan): A shoo-in as Berhalter's starting right back, Dest is also now clearly the No. 1 option on the left if Jedi Robinson can't go. 

F Jesús Ferreira (Dallas): Ferreira had the two best chances for the U.S. over the two games, and while he didn't score on either, he still outperformed Ricardo Pepi and Josh Sargent, the two other strikers in camp.

M Weston McKennie (Juventus): McKennie wasn't good for club or country in September. His starting job is safe for the U.S. but he might have a harder time staying on the field for Juve — something his country needs him to do.

*M Yunus Musah (Valencia): The U.S. desperately missed Musah, who was sidelined by a sore groin for both September games. (The Spain-based 19-year-old was in attendance on Tuesday, though). He can't get healthy soon enough.

F Christian Pulisic (Chelsea): Pulisic logged just 75 of the 180 minutes and while he didn't do much, the Blues' jammed upcoming schedule should offer opportunities to find his form.

*F/M Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund): Reyna's injuries woes continue. Two days after having being subbed out by the U.S. in the first half, Dortmund's coach confirmed the 19-year-old will miss at least the club's next two games.

*D Antonee Robinson (Fulham): In perhaps the best news of the week for the USMNT, starting left back Robinson has returned to training with his Premier League club.

^D Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach): One of the few bright spots against the Saudis, the in-form 19-year-old is now on track for a World Cup trip.

*F Tim Weah (Lille): Weah (sprained ankle) missed this widow but is expected to be back before the final squad is announced.

D Walker Zimmerman (Nashville): Zimmerman played every minute of both September games. If healthy, he'll anchor the back line at the World Cup.

Comfort Plus

M Kellyn Acosta (LAFC): While Acosta manned Musah's usual spot against the Saudis, he still fits best as defensive midfielder on the USMNT. Either way, he's going to Qatar.

M Paul Arriola (Dallas): The tenacious veteran replaced the injured Reyna on Tuesday and immediately helped prevent a goal inside his own box. That's why he's here. 

*D Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic): For a guy who wasn't there, Carter-Vickers's chances of actually playing in Qatar got a boost as Aaron Long and Mark McKenzie both struggled.

*D Reggie Cannon (Boavista): The Portugal-based right back/center back was poor against Japan before getting injured, but he should still make the World Cup 26.   

M Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo): Ineffective in a starting role against the Blue Samurai, the playmaker will be a bench option in November. Keep an eye on his playing time in Spain, though. 

G Sean Johnson (New York City): There's no reason to think that the popular 33-year-old has fallen behind Ethan Horvath on Berhalter's goalkeeper depth chart. 

D Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls): Long still doesn't resemble the dominant presence he was before rupturing his Achilles tendon last year. Despite this, he's started the last six games for the U.S. He'll be on the squad (and quite possibly the field) at the World Cup. 

M Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders): While Morris didn't distinguish himself in 45 minutes against Japan he didn't hurt himself, either.

^F Jordan Pefok (Union Berlin): Possibly the biggest winner of the September window despite not being called in. After his other strikers struggled, Berhalter will have a hard time justifying leaving Pefok home if he keeps scoring in the Bundesliga.

*D Chris Richards (Crystal Palace): There's a sense that Berhalter's ideal center back pairing at the World Cup includes Richards. If healthy, can he start in Qatar even if he's not featuring regularly for Palace? Richards has played fewer than 200 minutes for club or country since mid-April.

F Josh Sargent (Norwich City): Sargent entered for the final 45 minutes against Japan but didn't do much. He should keep his roster spot if he keeps scoring for the Canaries, though.

G Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough): As much it seems like Steffen has lost the starting job, he's been Berhalter's first choice through most of the coach's tenure. Don't be surprised to see him in the net against Wales on Nov. 21 if he's playing regularly.

G Matt Turner (Arsenal): Turner was the Americans' best player over the two friendlies, and he could get up to six Europa League and domestic cup matches for the Gunners over the next two months. Will that be enough for him to keep the gloves for the USMNT?

D DeAndre Yedlin (Miami): With Cannon out, Yedlin started at right back in the final tune-up. His seat is safe barring injury. 

Standby list  

M Johnny Cardoso (Internacional): The box-to-box type replaced De la Torre for the last 23 minutes against Japan. He's closer than many think but still likely an injury or two away from surviving the final cut.

G Ethan Horvath (Luton Town): There's a possible scenario in which Horvath ekes out an idle Johnson if NYCFC gets eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs early. 

D Mark McKenzie (Genk): Added to the roster because of injuries to others, McKenzie, who came on as a sub in both friendlies, may have played his way out of the running for a World Cup trip.  

D Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes): Summoned with McKenzie only after two center backs went down, Palmer-Brown didn't play in either game. 

⌄F Ricardo Pepi (Groningen): Pepi got the start in the final tune-up and while he didn't show much, a run of goals in the wide-open Dutch league would keep him in the running until the end.

*M Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders): He's hurt and Seattle is all but eliminated from the MLS postseason after Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Cincinnati. Roldan has also been a regular with and the ultimate glue guy for the USMNT under Berhalter, so you never know.

M Malik Tillman (Rangers): Tillman wasn't effective in two substitute appearances. He'll still have a shot if his performances in the Champions League improve dramatically. 

⌄D Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp): Vines had a golden opportunity this month to snare the left back spot behind the injured Jedi. He didn't take it.

F Haji Wright (Antalyaspor): All Wright can do now is keep scoring in Turkey and hope that one (or possibly two) of Pepi, Pefok or Sargent go cold.

Added: None 

Dropped: Shaquell Moore, James Sands 


^Bumped up 

⌄Bumped down 


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