US soccer team signings signal key spots remain open

Malik Tillman, Haji Wright, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Djordje Mihailovic join the US national team for four World Cup pre-season games next month, signaling there will still be spots left on what is expected to be a 26-man roster in November.

“There is space around the edges,” said US coach Gregg Berhalter on Friday after announcing his 27-man squad for two exhibitions and two CONCACAF Nations League games. “And if a guy is in shape and doing a great job, I can expect him to commit to being on the list.”

Tillman, a 19-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder, is switching allegiance to Germany. He was born in Germany to a father in the US military and a German mother. He played for the US U15 national team and Germany at several youth levels in 2016.

Tillman made his Bundesliga debut at Bayern Munich on December 14 and has made four league, two Champions League and one DFB Cup appearances this season. The US Football Association said it had applied to FIFA for a change of affiliation.

“It was just about painting the vision of our program and where we could possibly fit it,” Berhalter said. “Really talented between the lines… knack for goals, good calmness in the box, good scoring technique, both footed, such an interesting player.”

Wright, a 24-year-old forward from Los Angeles who is a goalscorer in the Turkish league, is also among the players who could make her US debut. So could Borussia Mönchengladbach’s full-back Joe Scally, who was on the squad for the World Cup qualifier in November, but didn’t get into a game.

Wright played for USA alongside Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams at the 2015 U17 World Cup and attended a national team training camp in May 2019, which also included young players. He scored 14 goals in 32 league games for Antalyaspor and had a seven-game streak that ended in Friday’s season finale.

The US has exhibitions against Morocco on June 1 in Cincinnati and against Uruguay four days later in Kansas City, Kansas. The team will then play CONCACAF Nations League games in Austin, Texas on June 10 against Grenada and four days later in El Salvador.

The Americans plan two friendlies in Europe in September before opening the World Cup in Qatar on November 21 against Wales, Scotland or Ukraine. They play England four days later and Iran on November 29th.

Carter-Vickers, 24, helped Glasgow Celtic win the Scottish Premiership in his first season with the club, scoring four goals in 33 league games. The son of former NBA player Howard Carter, he has eight caps since 2017, all in exhibitions and none since June 2019 against Jamaica.

Mihailovic, 23, has scored six MLS goals for Montreal this season. He played six times for USA in 2019 and 20 but not since.

Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie has been called up and has been able to play for the first time since breaking a bone in his left foot on 22 February.

“Hopefully we can get to a point where he can start in one of the Nations League games,” said Berhalter.

Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna (leg injury on 28 7) and Norwich striker Josh Sargent (ankle on April 30) and will miss games through injury.

Hoffenheim defender Chris Richards (out since April 17) is trying to regain fitness after injuring his right thigh, and Portland midfielder Eryk Williamson (torn ACL on August 29) is still gaining ground.

Berhalter wants to experiment with a chain of three.

Wolfsburg defender John Brooks and Augsburg striker Ricardo Pepi were among the notable omissions. Brooks, a 29-year-old defender who was in the 2014 World Cup squad, has not been selected by Berhalter since qualifying last September and plans to switch clubs before next season.

Pepi has been playing continuously for 15 months and has not scored in 24 games for club and country since October.

Venezia midfielders Gianclua Busio and Glasgow Rangers’ James Sands were also given a rest after a move from European clubs.

Also absent are goalkeepers Sean Johnson and Gabriel Slonina; defense attorneys Mark McKenzie, Matt Miazga, Shaq Moore, Kevin Paredes, Tim Ream, Bryan Reynolds, John Tolkin and Sam Vines; midfielders Richy Ledezma and Sebastian Lletget; and forwards Konrad De La Fuente, Daryl Dikem Matthew Hoppe, Brandon Vazquez and Gyasi Zardes.

“This camp doesn’t dictate who’s on the team,” Berhalter said. “We’re going to have a lot harder talks after September and that’s where I think it’s going to be a lot harder for everyone.”

FILE – Schalke’s Haji Wright, left, and Bayer Leverkusen’s Dominik Kohr challenge for the ball during their German Bundesliga soccer match in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, December 19, 2018. Wright, a 24-year-old forward from Los Angeles who is on a top scorer in in the Turkish league, is also among the players who could make his US debut alongside Borussia Mönchengladbach full-back Joe Scally, who was included in the squad for November’s World Cup qualifier but failed to play. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file)
photo FILE – France’s Olivier Giroud, left, battles for the ball with Cameron Carter-Vickers of the United States during a friendly soccer match at the Groupama stadium in Decines, near Lyon, central France, June 9, 2018. Glasgow Celtic defender Carter-Vickers and Montreal midfielder Djordje Mihailovic was called up by the United States on Friday, May 20, 2022 after being bypassed in the 14 qualifiers from September to March. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani, file)
photo Philadelphia Union midfielder Jose Andrés Martínez, left, and CF Montreal midfielder Djordje Mihailović battle for the ball during the second half of an MLS soccer game Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Chester, Pa. (AP Photo /Matt Rourke)

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