Although Coach Gregg Berhalter did not rule out calling in his two best attackers later, the chances appear slim.
“It is unlikely, just due to where they’re at, not even involved in [club] team training yet,” he said. “But we’re in constant communication with them, and I would describe the situation as day-to-day.”
Reyna was hurt in the Sept. 2 opener against El Salvador, and Pulisic was injured against Honduras on Sept. 8.
“It’s really about their ability to perform and not harming them,” Berhalter said. “Would I want them with the team and able to play? Absolutely. But [it has been] a long time” since they last trained.
To help compensate for their absence, Berhalter called in Mallorca’s Matthew Hoppe, D.C. United’s Paul Arriola and the Columbus Crew’s Gyasi Zardes. They are among eight newcomers to the qualifying setup. In addition, Tim Weah, from French champion Lille, is back in top form after withdrawing from the previous U.S. camp with a muscular injury.
“He was very forthcoming at the time and, as far as I am concerned, this is something that is done,” Berhalter said. “But there’s a certain amount of trust that Weston needs to rebuild with the group.”
McKennie will rejoin a squad that started the final round of qualifying for a place in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with disappointing draws against El Salvador and Canada before rallying from a halftime deficit to rout Honduras.
With five points, the Americans are tied for second with Canada and Panama in an eight-team group that will award three automatic berths to the World Cup. Mexico (seven points) is first. Each team will play 14 matches, ending in March. A fourth team will enter an intercontinental playoff next summer.
In addition to Pulisic and Reyna, Berhalter passed over several others who had been part of the earlier qualifiers. Striker Josh Sargent, who has struggled with the national team and with English Premier League side Norwich City, was dropped. In a surprise, Jordan Pefok, a striker who is playing for Swiss club Young Boys in the UEFA Champions League, was also left off.
Forward Konrad de la Fuente, goalkeeper Ethan Horvath and defenders Walker Zimmerman and James Sands did not make the cut, either.
Arriola, a national team regular, was not ready for the earlier qualifiers because of a hamstring injury. The winger is playing regularly for United and scored twice this past weekend against Cincinnati. Hoppe has settled in with his new club in Spain, and Zardes, who was hurt before the last call-ups, is in good form in MLS.
The other newcomers are from European clubs: midfielders Yunus Musah, Gianluca Busio and Luca de la Torre, and defenders Chris Richards and Shaq Moore.
Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen is eyeing his qualifying debut after missing the first three matches because of back spasms, then the coronavirus.
However, Steffen and two others based in England, defenders Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream, are not expected to accompany the squad to Panama City. Panama is on Britain’s coronavirus red list, and if they were to visit, they would have to self-isolate for 10 days upon their return to England. That would mean they would miss at least two matches and training time with their clubs.
After the match in Austin, Berhalter said, the trio would travel to Columbus and prepare for the third match. Steffen and Robinson are probable starters for the match in Austin, and Ream could see minutes as well.
With Steffen unavailable in Panama, the New England Revolution’s Matt Turner is almost certain to start. Turner started all three qualifiers this month.
New York City FC’s Sean Johnson is the other keeper in camp. He was a late replacement last time after Steffen tested positive. Horvath, who is not playing regularly for England’s Nottingham Forest, was not summoned for this camp.
Goalkeepers: Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City), Matt Turner (New England Revolution).
Defenders: George Bello (Atlanta United), John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Shaq Moore (Tenerife), Tim Ream (Fulham), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray).
Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders).
Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Matthew Hoppe (Mallorca), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Tim Weah (Lille), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew).
Read more on soccer: