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McIntyre's USMNT Stock Watch: Christian Pulisic could return for Chelsea this weekend

Christian Pulisic could return from injury to play for Chelsea against Leicester City this weekend. (Darren Walsh/Getty)

U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter provided an update on a number of his players on a conference call with reporters on Monday, both those who are currently training with the USMNT ahead of Saturday’s year-opening friendly against Costa Rica (4 p.m. ET, ESPNNews, TUDN, UniMas), as well as others who are in the middle of their seasons with their European clubs.

His comments were insightful. Timely, too, as far as this week’s Stock Watch is concerned. Let’s jump right in.

USMNT players trending up

F/M Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (England)

Originally expected to be out until mid-February with a muscle injury, it turns out that the 21-year-old could feature for the Blues in Saturday’s Premier League match against Leicester City, according to Chelsea’s website.

Takeaway: Whenever he returns, Berhalter isn’t overly concerned.He had played a lot of games in a short period of time over Christmas. The injury didn’t appear that significant,” Berhalter said of Pulisic. “He’s a young player playing at an extremely competitive level and it takes a physical toll on your body. Him coming to terms with that is normal for the process of adapting. We’re comfortable [with] where he’s at.”

D/M Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig (Germany)

The 20-year-old made his third consecutive start for the Bundesliga leaders, returning to right back after manning the middle of the field last weekend.

Takeaway: The more interesting development regarding Adams is Berhalter’s declaration that he plans on using the versatile New Yorker in central midfield when the full-strength USMNT convenes later in the year.

D Reggie Cannon, FC Dallas (MLS)

Cannon established himself as a regular starter at right back during his first year with the senior national team. Still just 21, he’s now emerging as a leader.

Takeaway: Expect Cannon will be a key part — and perhaps even the captain — of the U-23 side that will attempt to qualify for the Olympics a couple of months from now. “Reggie is a player that has done a great job to increase his status within the [senior] team,” Berhalter said. “He’s got a lot of respect from his teammates and a lot of respect from the coaching staff.”

F Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas (MLS)

The 19-year-old son of former Colombian international and MLS MVP David Ferreira could make his senior international debut this weekend if FIFA gives the OK; the younger Ferreira just received his American citizenship last month and but is still waiting for approval to represent the U.S.

Takeaway: Whatever happens with the paperwork, Ferreira, who had eight goals and six assists in his first full season with FCD in 2019, has impressed Berhalter and his staff this month. We wanted to get a look at him and he’s done a great job so far,” the coach said. “It’s a pleasure to work with him. He’s another young player with a lot of potential.”

D Julian Araujo, LA Galaxy (MLS)

The 18-year-old right back is behind both Cannon and veteran DeAndre Yedlin on the senior squad’s depth chart, but he’s held his own during his first senior camp, especially defensively. “We were looking for a profile of a very dynamic fullback, a player that’s able to join the attack aggressively, good capacity to run, good top speed, tenacious defense, and Julian fit that profile,” said Berhalter, who is hoping the youngster can build on the 10 starts he made for the Galaxy last season.

Takeaway: In the short term, Araujo will be with the U-23s. “We’re looking for him to compete for a position in that group,” Berhalter said.

F Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew (MLS)

Zardes is a frequent target of U.S. fans, who like to complain about the 28-year-old’s limitations. But Berhalter made it clear on Monday that he believes the striker — the top American goalscorer in MLS in each of the last two seasons — brings a lot to the table.

Takeaway: Zardes isn’t going anywhere. “He gives you 100 percent work rate in every single game he’s in, and there’s something to be said for that,” Berhalter said. “He’s a very unselfish player and he can score goals. Those things make him valuable. We don’t have a lot of depth in that position right now.”

USMNT players trending down

Michael Bradley (4) will miss several months after undergoing surgery for the ankle injury he suffered in Toronto FC's MLS Cup loss in November. (Omar Vega/Getty)

M Michael Bradley, Toronto FC (MLS)

The 32-year-old veteran is expected to be sidelined up to four months after undergoing surgery last week in New York for the ankle injury that he suffered in November during Toronto FC’s MLS Cup loss to the Seattle Sounders.

Takeaway: The prognosis rules Bradley — who already missed the final two group stage matches the CONCACAF Nations League because of the injury — out of the March friendlies against Wales and the Netherlands. He should be back for TFC well before June’s Nations League semifinal against Honduras, but Adams could be firmly entrenched as the national team’s first-choice defensive midfielder by then.

G Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (Germany)

Steffen missed his second straight Bundesliga match because of an ongoing knee issue.

Takeaway: The silver lining for the U.S. is that the 24-year-old Manchester City loanee has time to recover before the March matches.It’s a priority of ours to have him back on the field,” Berhalter said. “I know the club wants him back.”

D Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls (MLS)

The Red Bulls recently rejected an offer for Long from English Premier League side West Ham, the second time since July that the club has turned down a bid for its star center back.

Takeaway: There’s no question where Berhalter would prefer to see Long play. “The Premier League is arguably the best league in the world,” he said. “That would be a step up for him.”

F Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen (Germany)

Sargent had a rough outing in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Hoffenheim, a defeat that left Bremen sitting in the Bundesliga’s relegation zone.

Takeaway: Werder’s overall struggles aren’t helping their 19-year-old forward.They haven’t been creating a lot of chances and that’s difficult for a striker at times,” Berhalter said. “For him, it’s [about] hanging in there, continuing to do the things that got him to that level, continuing to think about his movement off the ball and in the penalty box. And when he gets the opportunities, making the most of them.”

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