Gregg Berhalter defends omitting Jordan Pefok from USMNT squad despite impressive form in Bundesliga

Gregg Berhalter explained his reasoning Wednesday for leaving Jordan Pefok out of his latest USMNT squad, as the Union Berlin striker was snubbed despite a hot start to life in the Bundesliga.

Pefok, who joined Berlin from Young Boys this summer, has two goals and three assists in his first five league games, but Berhalter selected Josh Sargent, Ricardo Pepi and Jesus Ferreira ahead of him for this squad.

However, Berhalter offered clues for his decision, and it may be the case that Pefok has already earned a spot for Qatar ahead of the final World Cup tune-ups vs. Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Gregg Berhalter named a 26-man squad for the pair of World Cup tune-ups this month

‘We’re pretty confident we know Jordan’s profile, we know what he can do,’ Berhalter told reporters via Zoom. 

‘And we didn’t feel like we needed to see him in this camp to determine whether he could be on the [World Cup] roster or not.

‘The decisions aren’t easy decisions, and I understand that Jordan should be in consideration – he was. 

‘In the end we decided to go with these three strikers to evaluate them.’

While Pefok has started well in Germany and tore up the Swiss Super League last season with 22 goals, Sargent and Pepi have had far drier years in terms of goals.

Jordan Pefok has been left out after a strong start to life in the Bundesliga

Jordan Pefok has been left out after a strong start to life in the Bundesliga

Pepi, who moved to Augsburg from FC Dallas last January, is nearing a year without a goal for club or country, and Sargent endured a difficult individual season on a woeful Norwich City side who were relegated from the Premier League.

Since then, he’s regained his form with five Championship goals already this season, while Pepi has moved to Groningen on loan in search of more regular playing time.

Notably, however, both Sargent and Pepi have stronger resumes than Pefok with the national team.

Ricardo Pepi is nearing a year without a goal but he's back in the USMNT squad

Ricardo Pepi is nearing a year without a goal but he’s back in the USMNT squad

Sargent has the most caps of the three (19), while Pepi started eight World Cup qualifiers and notched three goals in those games.

Pefok has nine caps, with just one qualifier start, one goal and one memorable miss vs. Mexico to his name.

Nonetheless, USMNT fans are well aware of Pefok’s bonafides, and some were disappointed not to see him selected Wednesday.

One Twitter user called his omission ‘disrespectful,’ while another said there is ‘zero reason’ not for Pefok to be in the squad.

‘He’s our best 9. But [Berhalter] will call in Pepi who hasn’t done s—,’ they said.

Still, Berhalter spoke loosely about what Sargent and Pepi’s inclusions meant, saying he wanted to ‘take a look’ at them, and it’s possible that they’re actually battling each other for a spot rather than Pepi (Ferreria is the projected starter).

‘We’re trying to get [Pepi] confidence, we’re trying to get him into the group and see if he can make a push for the final roster. That’s TBD right now.

‘Pepi has also had some good history with us, he’s started really important games and we just weren’t willing to give all that up right now. We still think there’s a big upside with him, we still think he’s got really good potential.’

‘He is a guy that we’ve counted on in the past and we wanna give him an opportunity in this window.’

While Berhalter employs a system that places an emphasis on movement and pressing from the striker, Pefok is more in the mold of a typical target man, which certainly could be working to his disadvantage.

Still, the 26-year-old has been extremely prolific in Europe, and may yet have time to convince Berhalter of his value – if he hasn’t already.

‘It’s important to keep in mind, that this is not the final roster,’ the coach emphaszied.

‘This is not the final roster for the World Cup. A lot can happen between now and November 9.’