If the U.S. men’s national team is going to beat longtime regional nemesis Trinidad and Tobago over two games this month and advance not just to the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals but also next summer Copa America on home soil, it will do it without two of its best players.
Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah — who accounted for two of the USMNT’s three goals at last year’s World Cup — both suffered recent hamstring injuries, and were both left off of the 24-man roster U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter named Thursday ahead of the home-and-home, total goals series against the Soca Warriors that begins Nov. 16 in Austin, Texas.
Pulisic went down late in AC Milan’s 2-1 win Tuesday over Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League. Juventus’ Weah pulled up lame during an Italian Serie A match with Verona on Oct. 28.
Most of the same squad that beat Ghana and lost to Germany in home friendlies last month return, though, including No. 1 goalkeeper Matt Turner, back line mainstays Sergiño Dest and Antonee “Jedi” Robinson, locked-in midfield starters Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah and first-choice striker Folarin Balogun. World Cup veterans Brenden Aaronson, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tim Ream and Gio Reyna are also included, with Aaronson’s younger brother, Paxten, perhaps the biggest surprise.
But the U.S. will still miss its top two wingers; Pulisic scored in both of the October games. Reyna is likely to replace Weah on the right with Brenden Aaronson on the left, though neither is currently a starter for their respective clubs in Germany’s Bundesliga.
Defenders: Carter-Vickers, Celtic (Scotland);Dest, PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands); Ream, Fulham (England); Antonee Robinson, Fulham; Kristoffer Lund, Palermo (Italy); Chris Richards, Crystal Palace (England); Miles Robinson, Atlanta United (MLS); Joe Scally, Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany)
Midfielders: McKennie, Juventus (Italy); Musah, AC Milan (Italy); Reyna, Borussia Dortmund (Germany); Paxten Aaronson, Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany); Johnny Cardoso, Internacional (Brazil); Luca de la Torre, Celta Vigo (Spain); Lennard Maloney, Heidenheim (Germany); Malik Tillman, PSV Eindhoven
Forwards: Brenden Aaronson, Union Berlin (Germany); Balogun, Monaco (France); Kevin Paredes, Wolfsburg (Germany); Ricardo Pepi, PSV Eindhoven; Alex Zendejas, Club América (Mexico)
The USMNT has a long history against T&T, which famously denied the Americans a trip to the 2018 World Cup. Three decades earlier, the U.S. prevented the Caribbean island nation of 1.5 million its first trip to soccer’s marquee event by beating them in the final qualifying match for the 1990 event in Port of Spain, breaking the country’s 40 year World Cup draught in the process.
The Americans and Soca Warriors have met twice since the 2017 U.S. loss in Couva, Trinidad that marked the lowest point in the modern history of the program. The USMNT won both by a combined score of 13-0.
After next Thursday’s match in Austin, Berhalter’s team head to Trinidad for the decisive contest on Nov. 20.
The U.S. won the first two editions of the Nations League and is desperate to add a third. That the games double as qualifiers for Copa America – a tournament that would pit the hosts against top South American foes like reigning world champion Argentina and five-time winner Brazil – only adds to their importance.
“It’s going to take focus and determination to get past Trinidad & Tobago,” Berhalter said. “We want to finish the year on a strong note and position ourselves to compete in two important competitions next year.”
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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