September 22, 2021

Christian Pulisic latest update: USMNT star won’t travel for World Cup qualifier vs. El Salvador, per report

The United States men’s national team will be without star playmaker Christian Pulisic on Thursday for the game of the Concacaf qualifying campaign for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Grant Wahl reports. The Chelsea winger, who tested positive for COVID before the international window, did not travel with the team to El Salvador for Thursday’s clash, a 10:05 p.m. ET kickoff at Estadio Cuscatlan on CBS Sports Network and Paramount+.

Pulisic stayed behind in Nashville to regain fitness after a 10-day quarantine, according to Wahl. He could potentially be available for Sunday’s game against Canada at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

Not having Pulisic is a big blow for the U.S. in a game that likely won’t be a cakewalk. There is more excitement around the El Salvador national team than in a long time with former USMNT player Hugo Perez as coach. The team looked sharp at the Gold Cup while making the quarterfinals but hasn’t been to a World Cup since 1982.

Ahead of the match, who could fill Pulisic’s shoes in the starting XI? Here are three options.

1. Brenden Aaronson

This is the logical choice because he’s been an important part of the national team under Berhalter and offers a lot of the same qualities that Pulisic does, which includes beating guys one-on-one, a creativity to find others in the box and more. He’s just 20, so you have to be concerned with the inexperience, but the talent is there, as is the ability to produce something magical to secure all three points.

2. Konrad de la Fuente

This would be my choice. The Marseille man has dazzled in Ligue 1 since moving from Barcelona, registering two assists in four games. He has averaged over 80 percent completion of his passes and has done so well to pick up opening attackers after making a move to the endline. He’s earned the right to start, in my eyes, but we’ll see if coach Gregg Berhalter thinks the same. 

3. Nobody and shift formation

There is a chance we could see a striker move out wide. After all, Berhalter did that plenty with Matthew Hoppe at the Gold Cup. But there is also the possibility of shifting to a formation of having two strikers. Now, the team is kind of short at that position, and this spot would have gone to Tim Weah, but don’t be surprised if Berhalter has something up his sleeve. U.S. fans would love to see a shocker and Ricardo Pepi get the start, but don’t count on it. Expect it to be Aarsonson or de la Fuente.

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