Christian Pulisic

The US men’s national team are without star forward Christian Pulisic for Friday’s friendly against Asian powerhouse side Japan, their first of two remaining matches before the Qatar 2022 World Cup begins in November.

But head coach Gregg Berhalter doesn’t expect Pulisic to be out long-term, sounding optimistic he’ll return for Tuesday’s final tune-up in Murcia, Spain against Saudi Arabia, another World Cup qualifier from Asia.

“He just took a knock in training and it's precautionary,” Berhalter told ESPN’s Sam Borden pregame from the Merkur Spielarena in Düsseldorf, Germany. “We spoke to the club, we got it checked and day-to-day. Hopefully he can take part on Tuesday.”

Missing Pulisic

With Pulisic out, the USMNT started FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira in the No. 9 role and two European standouts – Brenden Aaronson from Leeds United and Giovanni Reyna from Borussia Dortmund – out wide against the Samurai Blue.

Pulisic has a history of muscle and ankle injuries after bursting onto the scene with Dortmund in Germany’s Bundesliga and then securing a $73 million move to Chelsea in January 2019. He helped the English Premier League side win the 2021 UEFA Champions League title over Manchester City.

With the USMNT, Pulisic has 21 goals in 51 appearances since debuting back in 2016 as a 17-year-old. The captain memorably had a hat trick in a 5-1 World Cup Qualifying rout of Panama last March, a huge result in securing passage through the Concacaf Octagonal.

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For this September camp, the Yanks are already without left back Antonee Robinson (Fulham), center back Chris Richards (Crystal Palace), midfielder Yunus Musah (Valencia) and forward Tim Weah (Lille), among others, to injury.

Back in the World Cup for the first time since 2014, Pulisic and the USMNT are drawn into Group B. They’ll open Nov. 21 against Wales, then also face England (Nov. 25) and Iran (Nov. 29). The group’s top two teams advance to the knockout rounds.