NEW YORK (AP) — In the eyes of U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, Chelsea’s decision to fire manager Thomas Tuchel could benefit American star Christian Pulisic.
“I’m not happy a guy lost his job. But if this means more opportunity for Christian, then it’s positive because he’s a guy that’s proven that he can perform at that level," Berhalter said Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Pulisic was used as second-half substitute in Chelsea’s first five Premier League matches before starting in Saturday’s 2-1 win over West Ham. He entered in the 75th minute of Tuesday’s 1-0 loss at Dinamo Zagreb, Tuchel’s final game.
Berhalter, a cousin of former Boston Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, met with Yankees' front-office officials before exchanging jerseys with New York manager Aaron Boone. The 49-year-old left-hander, a member of the 2002 and 2006 U.S. World Cup rosters, threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
“The Yankees are the Real Madrid of baseball,” Berhalter said. “It’s really fascinating to be up close in this organization and just hear what the expectations are. Their expectations is to win every single year. And so you see what standards they have. You see what level they work at. And that’s been fun. That’s been really eye-opening.”
Berhalter plans to announce a roster of 26 or 27 players on Sept. 14 for the Americans’ final two pre-World Cup exhibitions, against Japan at Düsseldorf, Germany, on Sept. 23 and vs. Saudi Arabia four days later at Murcia, Spain. He will announce his 26-man World Cup roster on Nov. 9.
He said his Cup roster is about 85% settled, meaning just four spots remain open if no one else gets hurt.
“I’m sure there’s not going to be anything drastic, but there may be a couple of guys that pop up,” Berhalter said.
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen has missed three straight games for Middlesbrough with a knee injury.
“We’ll just see what he does this weekend," Berhalter said. “We’re just getting information on a daily basis.”
Steffen, Matt Turner, Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson have been the top four goalkeepers this cycle. Turner could make his Arsenal debut in Thursday’s Europa League opener at Zurich.
Berhalter did not appear to be considering Maccabi Haifa keeper Josh Cohen, a 30-year-old Californian who has never played in the U.S. national team program.
“He’s playing Champions League, and that’s great,” Berhalter said. “We’re watching every game he plays. I don’t see a lot of uncertainty in the goalkeeping position. I think we have guys that have proven it and done a great job for us in the past.”
Union Berlin forward Jordan Pefok missed last weekend’s Bundesliga match against Bayern Munich because of a muscle injury, and the club says he won’t dress for Thursday’s Europa League’s opener against Belgium's Union Saint-Gilloise.
“It’s a surprise that he wasn’t able to play in the game this weekend,” Berhalter said.
Atlanta defender Miles Robinson, who will miss the World Cup because of a torn Achilles, was arrested last weekend in suburban Atlanta on a misdemeanor theft charge.
“I know Miles very well, and he’s a guy who I can trust in his character,” Berhalter said. “I’m not exactly sure what happened. I wasn’t there that night. So it’s really hard for me to comment on the exact circumstances. But what I know is Miles is a fantastic guy.”
After traveling to Scotland, Spain and Portugal to view players in action last weekend, Berhalter planned to attend the Major League Soccer match Wednesday night at Citi Field featuring Johnson and Cincinnati forward Brandon Vazquez. Berhalter said he had not decided whether to select Vazquez for his last pre-World Cup roster and a possible national team debut.
“I like his movement in the penalty box. I think that’s been excellent,” Berhalter said. “He really does a good job of attacking the ball in the box, finding open space. Hard worker, big physical guy. He’s good getting the ball, switching field when he has his back to the ball. So I think he’s had a great season."
Berhalter also plans on going to the Sept. 17 Revierderby between Gio Reyna’s Borussia Dortmund and visiting Schalke.
He does not expect to announce a taxi squad when he reveals his Cup roster. Many players are on clubs with matches on Nov. 12 and 13.
“If someone gets injured and they can’t go on that day, we’ll be ready with alternates,” he said.
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Ronald Blum, The Associated Press