Pepi, Steffen out, McKennie in

US coach Gregg Berhalter announced his 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Wednesday to much fanfare in New York City.

The squad is led by players who have become household names to US fans, including Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic, Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie, Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna and Leeds United midfielder Tyler Adams.

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The biggest shock was the exclusion of Middlesbrough goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

When he was healthy, Steffen was involved in a battle with Arsenal’s Matt Turner for the starting spot in World Cup qualifiers, with Berhalter usually selecting Steffen for the bigger games.

His loan move to Boro from Manchester City was done to get more first-team minutes and he largely achieved that goal by playing in 16 of the club’s 20 games in the English Second Division league.

But it wasn’t enough for the squad, favored by Turner, Luton Town’s Ethan Horvath and New York City FC’s Sean Johnson.

“In some cases, it’s more about what we have than what we don’t have,” Berhalter told ESPN during Wednesday’s roster reveal show.

“With the three goalkeepers that are on the list, we feel great, we feel really good about it. We’ve seen a lot of progress from Matt Turner over the last six months, we know Ethan Horvath has played at a good level in Luton for the Championship and Sean Johnson has been a mainstay in this group from day one.”

Berhalter added that “the bias is towards” Turner, who starts in goal, but noted that “he had a minor injury that he’s been working on, so we’re going to get him into camp and see exactly how he’s doing goes.”

Every World Cup squad has its share of near misses and this one was no different, with injuries playing a role in the composition of the squad. Atlanta United centre-back Miles Robinson and Crystal Palace’s Chris Richards both missed out with Achilles tendon and Achilles tendon problems respectively.

But other players recovered in time – including McKennie, Turner and Norwich City forward Josh Sargent – at least ahead of this weekend’s final round of club games before the players are sacked.

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In terms of surprise inclusions, Fulham defender Tim Ream was among the biggest.

The opening game of World Cup qualifiers against El Salvador in September 2021 was the only qualifier Ream played in. But the injuries to Robinson and Richards , along with his fine form for the Cottagers this year in the Premier League , paved the way for his selection .

For almost the entire cycle, the focus was on the centre-forward position, with neither candidate really claiming a starting spot.

However, the arrival of Antalyaspor striker Haji Wright at the expense of Groningen FC striker Ricardo Pepi came as quite a surprise.

Both players have been in excellent form for their clubs lately, with Wright scoring nine goals in the season – and four in his last four games – while Pepi has five goals and two assists since he went on loan to the Dutch side in September .

But it’s Wright who got the nod alongside Sargent and FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira.

“In the case of Ricardo, it was a really difficult conversation that I had to have with him,” Berhalter said. “It’s always difficult when someone helps you get to the World Cup, they score three goals in World Cup qualifiers and they’re not going to be part of the program.

“And again, it’s more about who we added, who we felt good about.

“Josh is competing in the Championship, he played in the Premier League last year. We play against Wales and England; both teams are stocked with players from these leagues.

“Haji Wright is in great form with his team in Turkey and has scored nine goals so far. And Jesus has been good for us and a guy who really understands the game plan and how to execute it.”

Shaq Moore is another player who seemed to be looking in from the outside, but with Sergino Dest struggling with an adductor problem, Berhalter opted for additional right back cover, choosing Moore over Boavista’s Reggie Cannon.

The 26-man squad will be the USMNT’s second youngest squad at a World Cup, with an average age of 25 years and 175 days at the time of the World Cup’s opening game against Wales on November 21. Only the 1990 squad (24 years, 24 days) was younger.

After USA failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, DeAndre Yedlin is the only selected player with World Cup experience, having competed in the USMNT’s 2014 Round of 16 run.

After the duel with Wales, the USA will face England (26 Nov) and Iran (29 Nov) in Group B.

Full US squad for the 2022 World Cup:

GOALKEEPER (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town/ENG; 8 appearances for US/0 goals), Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 10/0), Matt Turner (Arsenal/ENG; 20/0)

DEFENDER (9): Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic/SCO; 11/0), Sergino Dest (AC Milan/ITA; 19/2), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 29/3), Shaq Moore (Nashville SC; 15/1), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG; 46/1), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 29/2), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER; 3/0), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami CF; 75 /0), Walker Zimmermann (Nashville SC; 33/3)

MIDFIELD (7): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United/ENG; 24/6), Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 53/2), Tyler Adams (Leeds United/ENG; 32/1), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo/ESP; 12/0), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 37/9), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 19/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 32/0)

FORWARD (7): Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 15/7), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 49/11), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 52/21), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund/GER; 14/4) , Josh Sargent (Norwich City/ENG; 20/5), Tim Weah (Lille/FRA; 25/3), Haji Wright (Antalyaspor/TUR; 3/1) Pepi, Steffen out, McKennie in

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