It has been no secret that we’ve struggled to develop our striker pool. The issue there has been long and the well dry for the USMNT. The US has struggled to score goals period under Gregg Berhalter and it was never a strength of any of the clubs he has coached. There have been short lived blips of excitement and loads of potential littered throughout the youth ranks, but the payout has not arrived.
The USMNT have struggled to score goals from anywhere, but not having a striker has been a crucial pain point. Josh Sargent had looked like the winner and found his way to the English Premier League, but has continued to struggle to find the back of the net for both club and country. Jordan Pefok has had tremendous club success, but not been able to translate it to the national team level. Gyasi Zardes and Daryl Dike have seen wonderful domestic club success, scored a few goals for the national team, but been unable to show enough health and consistency to own the position.
Currently, we look at Ricardo Pepi as the difference maker, but the transfer window looms merely days away and his short and long-term fate could go in a variety of directions. With Pepi’s time off from his club and impending transfer in mind, let’s look at the striker pool for the upcoming final six games of the 2022 World Cup Qualifying cycle. Gregg could also look to put a Christian Pulisic, Nico Gioacchini or Timo Weah up top to provide a more attacking threat with our strong winger group.
Final Games of Their Competitive Season
November 2021 Final Competitive Games
Gyasi Zardes (10/21-1/27: 98 days)
Ricardo Pepi, Jesus Ferreira (11/7-1/27 : 81 days) * – played in December friendly 12/18: 40 days
Daryl Dike (11/23-1/27: 65 days)
Jordan Pefok (12/19-1/27: 39 days)* – Young Boyz have a competitive match on 1/27
Nico Gioacchini may play through January with Montpellier (1/9, 1/16, 1/23 fixtures)
Matthew Hoppe may play through January with Mallorca (1/8, 1/19, 1/23 fixtures)* needs to return from injury – expected back in January
Josh Sargent may play through January with Norwich (1/9, 1/15, 1/21 fixtures)
Tim Weah may play through January with Lille (1/8, 1/16, 1/22 fixtures)* needs to return from injury – no return date set
Who Will Be Ready?
Will Gregg Berhalter lean into the guys that got him this far and have the USMNT in second place in the table for World Cup Qualifying? The likes of Ricardo Pepi who’s been a key contributor to his success. Does he trust his pool and the December and January camps to provide enough training along with the friendlies to provide value when the time comes?
Gregg could instead dive into his winger pool to provide the answer. There are other European based options like Johan Gómez who has scored 4 goals for Zwickau in 3 Bundesliga, Charlie Kellman who’s bagged one in League One for Basildon. Andrija Novakovich has scored and assisted in Series B’s side Frosinone. Christian Ramirez (Aberdeen, Scotland) , Sebastian Soto (Porto B) and Andrew Wooten (Osnabrück, 3 Bundesliga) will all be playing for their lower tier clubs, Ramirez has 8 goals in 20 games. Would Gregg go after a goal scoring player in a lower tier that he’s never leveraged before? It’s highly unlikely as he’s never shown that prowess before.
However the US will face real challenges in the next 90 days. Many of the smaller CONCACAF nations will park the bus. There may be several opportunities to finish, but the inability to finish is a real problem, breaking down the low block has also been a real problem for Gregg’s squad. Rust from 40-100 days off will take a tole, we already saw in December that Pepi lacked the killer instincts we had seen only a few weeks before.
Hoppe and Weah will be returning from injury and more injuries may happen in a busy European winter. Not all the players are starting or getting lengthy minutes in Europe’s top leagues outside of Pefok, who will be headed into a winter break himself.
Many of CONCACAF’s clubs will face the same challenges of having their seasons finished as they rely mostly on North American leagues for their player pools. However, most of them will be satisfied, especially the smaller ones with a 0-0 or 1-1 draw. Gregg has big decisions to make over the winter on who he will bring in and lean on for his shallow competitive game-ready striker pool.