Roughly 9 months since being left off the United States’ Olympic qualifying roster, USMNT and FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi known as the snub a turning point to his season.
“It just made me hungry,” Pepi stated Friday. “It made me hungry to go on for the year. To do good for my club, do good for the national team and it was a turning point, for sure, in my career.”
– ESPN+ viewers’ information: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, extra
– Futbol Americas on ESPN+: MLS, Liga MX, USMNT, El Tri
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. solely)
Pepi was included in the preliminary 31-player coaching camp forward of the CONCACAF males’s Olympic qualifying championship in Guadalajara, Mexico, in early March, however did not make the minimize when the roster was trimmed to twenty gamers. The workforce did not qualify for the delayed Tokyo video games and three of the 4 forwards on that roster — Jonathan Lewis, Benji Michel and Sebastian Soto — haven’t been concerned in the combination for the senior aspect.
Since being left off the squad, although, Pepi has skilled a meteoric rise that has seen him set up himself because the beginning No. 9 for the United States throughout World Cup qualifying. Pepi is one in all a handful of gamers anticipated to begin in Saturday’s worldwide pleasant towards Bosnia and Herzegovina in Carson, California, that’s getting used to maintain the gamers sharp forward of subsequent month’s three-match qualifying window.
After scoring 13 targets for FC Dallas in 2021, Pepi has been the topic of hypothesis about a European switch, however he stayed coy about his membership plans, steering the main target towards the USMNT.
“That moment is not yet to be decided,” Pepi stated. “I feel like I have a game here ahead of me and that’s my main focus at the moment. I feel like we got to focus on the game and whatever happens is gonna happen, but we just got to be patient.”
Pepi, 18, selected to play for the United States over Mexico in August and since appeared in six qualifying matches and scored three targets.
The United States roster additionally contains Jonathan Gomez, a former teammate of Pepi in the FC Dallas academy and with North Texas SC in USL League One. Like Pepi, Gomez has the choice to play for Mexico or the United States, and skilled with El Tri throughout the summer season. He is headed to Real Sociedad in Spain when the switch window open in January after spending the final two seasons with Louisville City in the USL Championship.
Pepi known as Gomez’s choice about his worldwide future a individual one and that he’s prepared to be a sounding board for him or anybody confronted with comparable choice.
“I’m always open to talk to them,” he stated. “I always try to just tell him, ‘Do whatever you think is best. Go with your heart.”
And whereas Atlanta United FC left again George Bello will begin towards Bosnia and Herzegovina, United States coach Gregg Berhalter did not rule out the likelihood Gomez may spell him off the bench.
“It’s been great having [Gomez] in camp,” Berhalter stated. “He’s another player that is still maturing physically, still growing, but really a good competitor, technically good player. Very competitive. It’s been great working with him.”
Bello’s Atlanta teammate Brooks Lennon will begin at proper again and earn his first USMNT cap, Berhalter added. Nashville SC centerback Walker Zimmerman, who has grow to be an essential piece of the U.S. backline, is predicted to play the complete 90 minutes.
Seattle Sounders FC ahead Jordan Morris, who was sidelined for many of 2021 with a torn ACL, is predicted to make his return to the beginning lineup. He has not appeared for the U.S. since 2019, when he scored 5 targets in his final 5 appearances.
“He’s looked sharp the entire [camp],” Berhalter stated. “We knew that he had a long lay off. He got back into it with Seattle and they’ve done a great job of getting him back to a good point. He looks fit. He looks sharp. Really looking forward to him performing tomorrow.”
New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long additionally returned to the fold after a lengthy harm absence throughout this camp and whereas he has collaborating in full workforce periods, he’s unlikely to characteristic.
After the sport, the United States take a break earlier than reconvening Jan. 6 forward of the following qualifying window. The USMNT hosts El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 27, visits Canada on Jan. 30, after which hosts Honduras in Minneapolis on Feb. 2.
Eight video games into the 14-game qualifying schedule, the USMNT is in second place with 15 factors behind first place Canada (16 factors), forward of Mexico (14), Panama (14) and Costa Rica (9). The prime three finishers mechanically qualify for the 2022 World Cup, whereas the fourth-place finisher will play the winner of the Oceania Football Confederation in a single-leg qualifier in Zurich, Switzerland, in June.