U.S. caretaker manager Dave Sarachan has continued with his youth movement for the upcoming international break in naming a 24-man roster for friendlies against Brazil and Mexico, although as expected, the list doesn't contain injured Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic.
All told, 14 of the 24 players named are 23 or younger, while the split between domestic players and those playing abroad is relatively even, with 11 players performing in MLS. Ten of the players are even age-eligible to take part in the 2020 Olympics.
"For these matches against Brazil and Mexico, the theme remains the same in that we are using the opportunity against these high-powered opponents to continue building on the foundation that we've laid," said Sarachan. "We felt it was right to continue allowing this group to get valuable experience for the big picture that includes competitive matches in the future with the Gold Cup, Olympic qualifying and World Cup qualifying."
An undisclosed muscle ailment has sidelined Pulisic for the two games. The injury is not believed to be serious, but it was enough for him to miss the Sept. 7 match against Brazil in East Rutherford, New Jersey, followed by the game against archrival Mexico in Nashville, Tennessee, four days later.
"I was excited to have Christian be a part of these games in September," said Sarachan. "As we all know too well, injuries happen and you can never predict timing. It's disappointing that we won't have Christian involved.
"I know that he wanted to be a part of things, and we certainly wanted him here, but unfortunately he won't be available. That said, we haven't had Christian in with the group aside from one game in the past six friendlies, so I feel confident that this group will continue to build on what we have started."
The roster does see the return of some players who were part of the team's failed qualifying attempt for the 2018 World Cup. Wolfsburg defender John Brooks, healthy after an injury-hit campaign last season, and Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta make their first appearances since the Americans' 1-1 draw with Portugal in November. Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes, D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola and LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget are also back in the frame after lengthy absences. They join veterans such as Newcastle United defender DeAndre Yedlin, fresh off scoring his first Premier League goal on Saturday, as well as Hannover forward Bobby Wood.
Conspicuous by their absences are the Toronto FC pair of midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore, but Sarachan appeared to leave the door open for them and other players to be brought back into the team later this year. Last month, Bradley told ESPN FC that there had been discussions between him and Sarachan about his possible involvement for the two upcoming games. Now it is clear that any possible return will have to wait.
"With six games remaining in 2018, we felt that at the beginning of the Kickoff Series we wanted to continue where we left off with the makeup of the group," said Sarachan. "Moving forward into October and November, we will look at a broader mix of players.
"Overall, we don't view the pool in categories by age. We look at what we think is the right blend that will help our team progress and ultimately get results."
Earlier this year, Paris Saint-Germain attacker Tim Weah and Werder Bremen forward Josh Sargent both made their international debuts. In the European club season that has just begun, Weah has seen time with PSG's first team while Sargent has been playing with Bremen's second team. This time around, only Weah was called in.
"Weah has been included in our roster primarily because he is coming off a very good preseason with PSG's first team, has logged a lot of first-team minutes and already has a goal to his name this season," said Sarachan. "With consideration for the senior national team, Timmy has earned the right to be called in."
"The decision to leave Josh Sargent off this roster was one made primarily because he is still getting integrated with Werder Bremen," added Sarachan. "He's working his way into the first team but has yet to feature for them. The feeling is that he is getting valuable playing time with the club's under-23 team, evidenced by the minutes he's played and goals he has scored so far this season. I felt it was best to allow him to continue to train with the first team with the hope of getting minutes in friendlies during the international break."
U.S. roster to face Brazil, Mexico
Goalkeeper: Alex Bono (Toronto FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC)
Defense: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Matt Miazga (Nantes), Shaq Moore (Reus Deportiu), Tim Parker (New York Red Bulls), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
Midfield: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Julian Green (Greuther Furth), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)
Forward: Andrija Novakovich (Fortuna Sittard), Bobby Wood (Hannover 96), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC)