The U.S. national team will be without three key players in must-win games with Canada and Cuba after captain Michael Bradley and forward Christian Pulisic were left off coach Gregg Berhalter’s 23-man roster because of injuries.
Bradley, who plays for Toronto FC, withdrew after injuring his right ankle during Sunday’s MLS Cup final loss to Seattle while Pulisic sustained a hip injury in Chelsea’s win over Crystal Palace last Saturday. He could be cleared to join the U.S. in training camp in Orlando, Fla., for evaluation ahead of Friday’s CONCACAF Nations League match with Canada.
Starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who plays in Germany for Fortuna Dusseldorf, withdrew last week with tendinitis in his right knee. Atlanta United veteran Brad Guzan will likely start in Steffen’s place but the U.S. has no obvious replacements for Bradley or Pulisic.
“It’s the next-man-up type of mentality. Injuries are part of the game,” Berhalter said. “Christian is officially at this stage ruled out.
“This was a collaborative decision with [Chelsea], looking after the best interest of the player. These decisions are always difficult because this group and the coaching staff want nothing more than to have Christian here, but it was a risk we weren’t willing to take at this time.”
The U.S. must beat Canada on Friday and Cuba in the Cayman Islands next Tuesday while making up a four-goal differential to win its three-team group and advance to the semifinals of the first Nations Cup.
“We’re a developing group but we still have goals and we still have objectives and we still have priorities,” Berhalter said. “And along the way comes winning things. And this is an opportunity to win something.
“We can only do that with two wins in this window.”
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Defenders: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Sergiño Dest (Ajax), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Midfielders: Sebastian Lletget (Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
Forwards: Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC)