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USMNT’s 26-man squad announced for the 2022 World Cup; one-time Hound Steffen among snubs

Photo courtesy Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

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United States Men’s National Team Head Coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff released their squad for their upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar last Wednesday.

The 26-man team includes many familiar faces, but also some surprising choices as well. The players come from the top leagues in Europe and many play in Major League Soccer (MLS) here in the states.

With the World Cup starting on Nov. 18 and the United States’ first match the day after, this group of players will be up to a difficult task against some of the world’s greatest players.

Goalkeepers: Matt Turner (Arsenal), Ethan Horvath (Luton Town) and Sean Johnson (NYCFC)

Defenders: Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream (Fulham), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Sergiño Dest (AC Milan on loan from FC Barcelona), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic), Shaq Moore and Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC), Aaron Long (NY Red Bulls) and Deandre Yedlin (Inter Miami)

Midfielders: Tyler Adams (Leeds United), Luca De La Torre (Celta Vigo), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC) and Christian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

Forwards: Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Brendan Aaronson (Leeds United), Timothy Weah (Lille), Josh Sargent (Norwich City), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas) and Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)

Nine players of this group play in the MLS and six players play in the English Premier League. There are two players each in Serie A (Italy), La Liga (Spain), the Bundesliga (Germany) and the English Championship (Second Division). There is also one player playing in the Süper Lig (Turkey), Ligue 1 (France), and the Scottish Premier League.

Who are the biggest snubs?

Starting with the goalkeeper position, Zack Steffen is the most obvious omission to this list. Steffen who played briefly in Pittsburgh in 2016 on loan to the Riverhounds, functioned as the No. 1 until injuries and poor form at the club level allowed Turner to rise into that starting spot and excel.

Once upon a time, PSN’s John Krysinsky penned this piece during’s Steffen’s rise to prominence.

COLUMN: Steffen makes his case to be USMNT top keeper

Steffen started six of the 14 matches World Cup Qualifying matches, with Turner starting eight of them. Most people believed that Steffen still had a spot, but the discussion focused more on who would start in the World Cup.

Reports came out last Tuesday from Roger Gonzalez of CBS that Steffen would not make the roster. This stunned people, but it also made them look at his recent history as to why he didn’t make it.

After a big move to Manchester City in 2019, Steffen served as backup goalkeeper to Ederson, who also starts for the Brazilian national team. He only saw time playing in the Carabao Cup and the FA Cup, making 21 appearances.

Steffen went out on loan to Championship Club Middlesbrough to get more playing time this season. Despite a tough stretch for the team to start the season that saw their manager sacked, Steffen is improving and helping his team move up the table. This didn’t impress Berhalter enough and Steffen will not play in Qatar, despite being the favorite to do so for years prior.

The other big snub is forward Ricardo Pepi. Pepi burst onto the international scene last September, as he scored go-ahead goal on the road against Honduras in World Cup Qualifying in his debut for the national team. The U.S. fell behind at the half and his goal kept Berhalter in the job after two poor draws to start the campaign.

Pepi then scored twice in the next U.S. game against Jamaica in a 2-0 victory to put them on the course to qualify for the World Cup.

With the momentum from scoring internationally, Pepi moved from FC Dallas to FC Augsburg in Germany. The deal reportedly cost $20 million with add-ons, making him the most expensive MLS player to move to Europe.

The big money move for the recently turned 19-year old proved a big challenge for him. He found himself in a relegation battle and struggled to find the form he had in the MLS, scoring zero goals in 15 appearances.

He made a loan move to FC Groningen in the Eredivisie this season. He is currently back to goal-scoring form, scoring six times and providing two assists in nine games.

Despite his return to form, Berhalter chose to go with Ferreira as the Americans’ No. 9. Gonzalez also reported that Pepi and his camp were livid with the decision to not include him in the squad.

Other notable snubs are midfielder Malik Tillman and forward Jordan Pefok.

Tillman is a German-American, whose father is American and mother is German. Born in Nuremberg, Tillman spent his childhood in the German youth set up and played for various youth German national teams.

He made the shocking choice to commit his national team duties to the U.S. in May of this year. He made four appearances for the U.S. after he made that decision.

Finding time to play increasingly hard at the top Germany club, Bayern Munich, the 20-year old made a loan move to Rangers, one of two great teams in the Scottish Premiership, along with Glasgow rivals Celtic FC.

Tillman played some important moments for Rangers as they qualified for the UEFA Champions League. He scored a goal in the second leg of the third round of qualifying against Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise, which ended up being the winning goal after his team fell behind 2-0 in the first leg.

Berhalter chose to include MLS players like Acosta and Roldan over Tillman, potentially looking for more experienced players to add in with the young stars.

Pefok plays for Bundesliga side Union Berlin and his start to the season looked promising for him to make the World Cup roster. He scored three goals and provided three assists in the team’s first six games as they rapidly moved up the Bundesliga table.

A dip in form for Pefok coincided with the team’s performance and he has not scored since Sept. 18. Berhalter even said that he would’ve included him on the roster if the announcement occurred a month earlier.

With only one appearance this year for the U.S., Berhalter chose to leave him off for Wright and Morris.

If you’re looking for more content on the U.S. team going forward during their World Cup run, stay tuned to Pittsburgh Soccer Now and our Sounding Off on Soccer, where there will be analysis, the opponents and more on the World Cup, including our Pittsburgh World Cup media draft challenge and predictions.

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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