Christian Pulisic has been named in the U.S. national team's squad for their upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago in a strong selection from manager Bruce Arena, but Gyasi Zardes of Los Angeles Galaxy has had to withdraw injured and Fabian Johnson has been left out.
Borussia Dortmund forward Pulisic will be joined by the likes of Major League Soccer stars Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore, while Newcastle United's DeAndre Yedlin and Stoke City's Geoff Cameron will look to add some Premier League quality to the side.
Here is the full squad, courtesy of the USMNT's official Twitter account:
U.S. Soccer @ussoccer
E pluribus unum. 26 players from across 🇺🇸 join forces for one objective » https://t.co/JwBSAmHukf https://t.co/X5go364sUK2017-10-1 14:57:49
Arena's side are struggling in the CONCACAF qualifying Hexagonal and find themselves in fourth place, one point behind the automatic spots for the finals in Russia, and ahead of Honduras only on goal difference.
Here's a look at the standings:
U.S. Soccer @ussoccer
Get results ➡️ Go to Russia. Here’s how the #USMNT can book its 🎟 to the 2018 @FIFAWorldCup. https://t.co/VKWik0zn2w2017-10-1 19:00:01
The Americans need to leapfrog upcoming opponents Panama to book their place in the World Cup finals next year.
Should they remain fourth in the Hexagonal, they will need to overcome either Australia or Syria in an inter-confederation play-off.
Results have improved since Arena succeeded Jurgen Klinsmann in November 2016, after the U.S. were left at the foot of the Hex table following defeats in their opening two matches.
And the former LA Galaxy head coach believes his side will avoid the playoffs and secure automatic qualification, per FourFourTwo:
"When I took the job last November, if you said to me you'd be in position in game nine to play a game at home that you had to win, I would say yes.
"So I think in 2017 we've had one blip in the Costa Rica game. All of the other results went along as we expected and maybe even an extra point in Mexico. If it comes down to where we need four or six points in our last two games I think that's fine and we'll get it done."
Trinidad and Tobago have lost seven of their eight qualifying matches thus far, and so a win in that match should be more or less a formality, but it may mean relatively little if they fail to beat Panama.
As 60 Minutes demonstrated, Pulisic will be vital to their fortunes:
60 Minutes @60Minutes
Pulisic has scored or set up 9 of Team USA’s last 11 goals.2017-10-2 00:14:32
There's a lot of pressure on the 19-year-old's young shoulders, but he's already so crucial to the U.S. national team.
He needs to be at his best in the upcoming matches—anything less and his side may face the prospect of a play-off or worse.