NASHVILLE, Tennessee – United States manager Gregg Berhalter said that the fitness of attacker Christian Pulisic will be evaluated later on Saturday, at which point a determination will be made as to his availability for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Canada.
“He’s made some progress and we have to see if it’s enough to actually include him in the game day squad and play,” Berhalter said about Pulisic during a Zoom call with reporters.
Pulisic tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 18, forcing him to quarantine for 10 days. In an exclusive interview with ESPN, Pulisic said he had “basically no symptoms through it all” though he was forced to do fitness work from home.
But Pulisic didn’t travel to El Salvador for last Thursday’s 0-0 draw to open CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, and was left to work on his fitness with U.S. Soccer staff. It’s still unclear the extent to which he’ll participate in Sunday’s match.
“We’ve been getting him up to speed with training,” Berhalter said about Pulisic. “We’re trying to see what he can tolerate, and see what type of workloads he can do. And I think that’s the first step. To be out for 10 days and have COVID isn’t the easiest thing to get over, so for us it’s about really seeing how he can come back in a safe way. That’s the most important thing, and we’ve been having conversations and asking him about how he’s tolerating loads and everything, and we’ll see if he’s ready.”
Berhalter added that goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who also didn’t travel for the El Salvador match, remains out with back spasms. That likely means another start in goal for Matt Turner, who kept a clean sheet in his first World Cup qualifier last Thursday.
“I think Matt performed really well in the in the game,” said Berhalter. “I was most impressed I think with his calmness. It wasn’t an easy environment, but he really made everything look easy. I think there might have been one play in the first half of where the ball got away from him and went out for a corner kick. Other than that I think he was flawless; caught the balls, came out on crosses, his distribution was good.”
The U.S. will be facing a Canada side that tied its first qualifier at home against Honduras, 1-1, adding some urgency for both them and the U.S.
“I don’t know exactly how they’re going approach the game,” said Berhalter. “I do know that they’re well coached. I know that they have a good squad, and I’m sure they’ll be prepared. Now it’s up to us to do the same, and for us to show the right mentality in the game which we’ve been demonstrating for the last month.
“And now it’s a home game. We get to play in front of our fans. These are the moments that we’ve been waiting for.”