The biggest hammer never fell on transfer deadline day for fans of the US men’s national team. Christian Pulisic still wears the Chelsea blue, which will prove to be a blessing in disguise or what diminishes his power. America’s opportunity to go deep at this year’s World Cup. The Yanks captain and player of the year hasn’t played and likely won’t have much game time between now and November.
Many online reports have claimed Pulisic wants to leave the Premier League giants, either on loan or permanently due to lack of game time. He has not started one of Chelsea’s games this season so far. Curiously, of the USMNT courses that started in Qatar, Pulisic’s club situation was not the worst. That belongs to the old environment of Sergino Dest in Barcelona. Yes, the Spanish giants are prestigious, but that would destroy any momentum Dest had gained in his first World Cup. His new deal with AC Milan is fantastic, he is still playing for a UEFA Champions League team.
Thursday in itself is more important than either of the USMNT’s two late September friendlies, the last two times we’ll see the Americans in uniform before lining up against Wales in Qatar. Undoubtedly, the matches against Japan and Saudi Arabia also bound by Qatar on European soil are World Cup outfit rehearsals. Just like the night before a wedding, it’s fun and an introduction to everyone coming to town. It is not meant to come close to the competition of a major event.
A lot of USMNTers jostling for playing time in Qatar have benefited from this window. There may not be a better example of that than the goalkeeper. Matt Turner is a substitute for Arsenal, while Ethan Horvath and Zack Steffen are both on loan in the English Premier League, below the Premier League. Turner becoming No 2 at a senior EPL club is a tough situation Steffen will find himself in at Manchester City. A temporary move to Middlesbrough means playing time, not ideal training and competition. I bet USA head coach Gregg Berhalter prefers the old one. The fourth goalkeeper on this list, Sean Johnson, did not move from New York City FC.
There is no omission in Berhalter’s more recent USMNT personnel decisions John Brooks watching the games from home. He and DeAndre Yedlin are the only two Americans with previous World Cup experience. Brooks joined Pulisic, Dest and others in the group stage of UCL after moving from Wolfsburg to Benfica. It was an extraordinary move for him, even though Portuguese domestic football is not as highly regarded as some other leagues in Europe.
While Pulisic is the Yanks’ best player, tactically Tyler Adams is the team’s most important. He moved in the summer window too, alongside Brendan Aaronson to England to play for Leeds United. It’ll be hard to leave either of those two off the field at all in Qatar. Another solid choice to make the plane to the World Cup is Luca de la Torre, who now plays for Celta Vigo. The biggest question mark for the USMNT has been at striker for the last decade and it’s no different less than three months from the World Cup. Does Jordan Pefok’s transfer to Union Berlin or Ricardo Pepi’s loan to Dutch side Groningen make a difference? Nope. No option for Berhalter has been able to score consistently at the international level.
Did the USMNT’s prospects at the World Cup get better with all these summer transactions? No. Plenty of Berhalter’s Top Picks in Major League Soccer and their transfer window is different from that of Europe. That would turn out to be an advantage for Americans with longer tenure at the clubs. The moves made in the past two months have not changed that. A move by Pulisic with a lot of playtime that will make you think.