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Sebastian Lletget to miss USMNT friendlies; Christian Pulisic speculation is batted down

News and notes

September 6, 2018 at 4:06 PM

Sebastian Lletget of the Los Angeles Galaxy has not made a U.S. appearance since March 2017. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who waited 17 months to return to the U.S. national team, departed training camp ahead of Friday’s friendly against Brazil because of a lingering abdominal strain. He was not replaced on the roster, leaving 24 players for 20 active slots against the world’s third-ranked team at MetLife Stadium.

Lletget, 26, last played for the Americans in a World Cup qualifier in March 2017, scoring against Honduras in a 6-0 victory. In that game, he suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for the rest of the MLS season. This year, filling roles as an attacking midfielder and on the flanks, Lletget has appeared in 23 league matches (16 starts) and posted three goals and one assist. …

Related: [When will USMNT hire a coach? Ahead of high-profile friendlies, the search is taking shape.]

Christian Pulisic’s injury absence from the matches against Brazil and Mexico (on Tuesday in Nashville) has raised some speculation about his commitment to the national team. Interim coach Dave Sarachan put those concerns to rest Thursday, saying: “We haven’t had him as much as we would like, for a variety of reasons. He is injured. There is nothing you can do about that. Not having him here is disappointing. The next opportunity he is part of things, I think he will jump right in and we won’t feel as though he has been disconnected from the group. This is still a pretty close-knit group of guys.”

If healthy, Pulisic is expected to rejoin the national team for October friendlies against Colombia and Peru, as well as games in November against England and Italy. …

Related: [U.S. soccer is moving to a new generation in goal. Zack Steffen could be first in line.]

Tim Weah, an 18-year-old forward, will see three Paris Saint-Germain teammates in Brazilian colors: Neymar, Thiago Silva and Marquinhos.

Any banter before they left France for training camps?

“We joke about it. On a group chat, we talk about it: ‘I’m going to beat you!’ ‘No!’ They are really good guys and they said, ‘Good luck; let the best man win.’ I told them the same thing. That’s the vibe I am getting off them.”

Weah said he considered going on loan to gain more playing time than he’ll probably receive at star-studded PSG.

However, “I just felt it wasn’t the time for me,” he said. “If I go to a smaller club, there’s going to be super-high expectations to win the league, and I don’t think I’m ready to take that on yet. PSG is the best thing for me. I am training with the best, so it’s just going to give me time to get better. Maybe in January [for a loan], we’ll see.”

Weah scored in consecutive matches last month — in a trophy game and a Ligue 1 game — and started in a league match before returning to PSG II for one appearance. …

John Brooks debuted with the national team just five years ago, but because he is one of the few holdovers from the failed World Cup qualifying effort, it seems as if he has been around much longer.

“Some people think,” Sarachan said, “he is a 30-year-old guy.”

Brooks is 25. And with experience from the 2014 World Cup and in the Bundesliga (now with Wolfsburg), the coaching staff wants him to embrace a greater role.

“He had to develop on the field and off the field and really get a sense of the demands of a national team player,” Sarachan said. “I’m seeing a guy enjoying being here, wants to be here, has demonstrated a passion to play for this country. And now as far as leadership, I have seen more of it from John. Hopefully this is another starting point for him.”

Brooks is with the national team for the Brazil match only — the USSF granted Wolfsburg’s request for an early release — but is expected to return for the October matches. …

The United States is 1-17-0 against Brazil and, with some of Selecao’s biggest names on the tour, “I don’t have to do a lot of motivating,” Sarachan said.

“Is it intimidating for guys? Maybe for some guys. When we played France in France for their [World Cup] sendoff game, that’s an environment that’s hard to replicate. … The good thing about youth is they approach it with not a lot of fear. Sure, they are a little nervous. We showed some nervy moments against France, but they settled in and plowed through it and competed” in a 1-1 draw in Lyon. …

On Friday, the USSF wil announce the venue — it’s in the Eastern time zone — for the Oct. 16 match against Peru. It will not, as the federation had explored, be at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. (The sides were unable to strike a deal.) The USSF is also waiting for Italy to finalize a venue for the Nov. 20 friendly. It will take place at a neutral site in Europe. The U.S. match at England on Nov. 15 will be at Wembley Stadium. …

As of Thursday afternoon, ticket sales for Friday’s match were around 25,000, a disappointing figure given Brazil’s high profile. … The listed starting time Friday is 7:30 p.m., but kickoff will not occur until a little after 8 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 and Univision.

Steven Goff has covered soccer for The Washington Post since the early 1990s. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the U.S. national teams. He has been on assignment at every World Cup since 1994, plus four Women's World Cups.

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