The US national team has upgraded substantially over the past few years. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, and more have all demonstrated the increase in development that the US’s federation has emphasized. However, there’s one position where the team is unclear: striker.
In the US’s last ten games, four different strikers have started. Only two of those ten games saw the starting striker score, with both instances occurring with Jesús Ferreira up top. This normally wouldn’t be a major concern, as strikers can catch fire at any moment. However, many of the options aren’t performing well at club level, which means there’s a real dilemma. Here’s my assessment of the US’s striker situation:
Frontrunners: Timothy Weah, Jesús Ferreira, Ricardo Pepi, Daryl Dike
Timothy Weah will be, barring injury or disaster, on the team in Qatar. It’s just a question of where he plays: for the US, he tends to feature as a winger. At club level, it tends to be more mixed. However, a tall, fast forward who gets in good positions, Weah could realistically line up as a striker.
Ferreira is probably the closest thing the team has to a starting striker right now. Born in Colombia, the FC Dallas striker has seven goals for the US in 12 games and is one of the MLS’s top scorers. Ferreira also creates chances, chipping in with five assists in the league this season.
Ferreira’s former teammate, Ricardo Pepi’s stock has dipped in recent months. The Mexican-American was on fire with 13 goals last season and three goals in his first two US appearances. Pepi then moved to relegation-threatened Augsburg, where he has yet to score. He also hasn’t found the net in his past eight US appearances. Still, if he starts this season on a hot streak, he’ll more than likely be heading to Qatar.
Daryl Dike missed a large chunk of last season with an injury, which may move him down a few spots on the depth chart. Still, last season he scored double digits in the MLS before a move to England, and in 2021 he almost fired Barnsley to promotion. A strong, physical striker, he should be on the bench at least as a bruising super-sub.
Possible: Josh Sargent, Matthew Hoppe, Haji Wright
Josh Sargent is completely unpredictable. One minute, he’s missing a completely open net. The next, he’s scoring a completely outrageous flick. However, last season in total he scored just twice. That’s it. Both in one game. Granted, this was for Norwich, but he hasn’t exactly starred anywhere. In 19 US games, he has five goals and an assist. He’s not the guy to lead a team far into the World Cup.
Hoppe is someone I’ve mentioned before when talking about Schalke’s woes. The young striker scored a hat trick to end the club’s pitiful winless streak in 2020, scoring six goals total for a team that scored just 25 times all year. He then moved to Mallorca in a bad move that saw him play just seven times and score zero goals. Hoppe has one goal in six US appearances.
Haji Wright’s career took off last season, scoring 14 times for Antalyaspor in Turkey. This was enough to earn him a US call-up, where he has since played three times with one goal. A tall striker, Wright has been great recently but it may be too late as far as Gregg Berhalter is concerned. Wright might need a strong start to the season to make the team.
Wild Cards: Malik Tillman, Jordan Pefok, Nicholas Gioacchini
Tillman recently switched allegiances from Germany to the US, shortly before leaving Bayern Munich for Rangers (on loan). Tillman is seen as a top prospect and should gain valuable minutes with Rangers this season. Primarily an attacking midfielder, Tillman was a striker at youth level and could be used as a versatile backup at the World Cup.
Jordan Pefok, also known as Jordan Siebatcheu, was impressive last season in Switzerland. Unfortunately, he has yet to prove himself at a higher level. In Ligue 1, he managed six goals in over fifty games. Even in Switzerland, he scored 22 goals last year but just 12 the season before. He also has only one goal in nine international games. Now in the Bundesliga, he’ll need a strong start to make the squad.
Gioacchini is a long shot for Qatar. Last season in Ligue 1, he played 28 times but failed to find the net even once. Two prior seasons in France’s second tier resulted in just six goals. Still, he’s been solid internationally—three goals in eight games—and has just joined a strong MLS side, Orlando City. Desperation combined with a good few months for Gioacchini could result in him making the team.
Just Don’t: Gyasi Zardes
Gyasi Zardes is known for being somewhat of a fan favorite for Berhalter. He’s made 68 US appearances, with just 14 goals to show for it. This season, he has a total of four MLS goals. Thankfully, he hasn’t started internationally since a loss to Canada in January. Still, if the US are to have any hope of performing well at the World Cup, Zardes cannot be striker.
Image Courtesy of Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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