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Christian Pulisic clears coronavirus protocol ahead of USMNT’s first World Cup qualifiers

The U.S. men’s soccer team gathers at Lipscomb University in Nashville for the start of training camp. (Steven Goff/The Washington Post)
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NASHVILLE — U.S. soccer star Christian Pulisic cleared coronavirus protocol and participated in national team workouts Monday, three days before the Americans’ World Cup qualifying opener in El Salvador. It remains unclear, however, whether he will play in the first match.

The Chelsea attacker, who was vaccinated, tested positive about two weeks ago and, per British guidelines, remained in isolation at least 10 days in London. He was allowed to travel over the weekend, flying commercial via Washington with several English-based U.S. teammates.

Last week, U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter said several hurdles stood in the way of Pulisic joining the squad on time.

The question now, U.S. team officials said Monday, is Pulisic’s fitness level after being sidelined for about two weeks and missing two Chelsea matches. His most recent appearance came in the Premier League opener Aug. 14 against Crystal Palace.

“Everyone handles it differently,” Berhalter said last week about the impact of the coronavirus. “Everyone responds to it differently. Everyone recovers from it differently.”

Players and staff will be tested regularly throughout the 12-day camp. The Americans on Thursday will begin a 14-game qualifying schedule spanning seven months in San Salvador, then host Canada in Nashville on Sunday and visit Honduras on Sept. 8.

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Berhalter said last week that, even if Pulisic arrived on time, the staff would have to determine in which match he would make his first appearance. With three games over seven days, Berhalter is planning to utilize depth and adjust starting lineups each game.

Pulisic’s presence came the same day forward Tim Weah was scratched from the 26-man roster because of a thigh injury suffered with French champion Lille. He is expected to miss several weeks. Weah was in the mix for a starting job in one of the three matches.

U.S. officials did not say early Monday whether a replacement would be summoned right away, for the last two matches or not at all.

At least 16 players were available for workouts Monday, with others scheduled to arrive throughout the day after having club matches Sunday. With remnants of Hurricane Ida expected to hit central Tennessee, the Americans were preparing to practice in a football bubble Tuesday before flying via charter to San Salvador on Wednesday.

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