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Ajax defender Sergino Dest and Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic top a list of nine European-based players called up Thursday for the U.S. men’s national team ahead of CONCACAF Nations League games with Canada and Cuba.
This weekend they will join MLS players already training in Florida, where the U.S. will meet Canada on Nov. 15. The Americans will conclude Nations League group play against Cuba on Nov. 19 in the Cayman Islands.
Starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen of Fortuna Dusseldorf was originally on the list of players to be called into camp but he pulled out because of an unspecified injury, a big blow to the U.S. heading into a pair of must-win games. To qualify for the knockout round of the inaugural Nations League, the U.S. must win both of its matches this month and make up a three-goal differential on Canada, the Group A leader after last month’s 2-0 win over the U.S.
Among the notable omissions from Thursday’s call-ups was Reading defender Matt Miazga, who started for the U.S. in the Gold Cup last summer.
Pulisic, 21, became just the second American to score a hat trick in the English Premier League during a 4-2 victory over Burnley on Oct. 26. He has four goals and an assist in his five matches for Chelsea, including an assist on the game-winning goal in a Champions League winner against Dest and Ajax.
Dest, who celebrated his 19th birthday earlier this month, recently committed to playing internationally for the U.S. over the Netherlands, where he was born. Because he has an American father he was able to represent the U.S. at the U-17 and U-20 World Cups and made his first two appearances with the senior team during exhibition games in September.
If he plays in either of this month’s Nations League games he would be cap-tied to the U.S.
“It was a tough decision for me when the Dutch team showed their interest,” Dest said. “But I have built up a very good feeling with Team USA over the last couple of years and I strongly believe in the plans and potential of U.S. Soccer.”
Dest, whose father served with the U.S. military in Holland, is the 11th son of a U.S. serviceman to play for the national team since 2008. Earnie Stewart, sporting director for the U.S. national team program, was also born in the Netherlands to a Dutch mother and father in the U.S. military. He went on to play in three World Cups for the U.S. before being inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
“As a dual national myself I understand the choices that these young players face,” Stewart said. “Our job is to provide a clear pathway and maintain honest and open communication. Then ultimately it comes down to a personal decision.”
Also joining the team this weekend will be Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie, who scored three goals in 13 minutes of a 7-0 win over Cuba last month. It was the fastest hat trick in national team history.
Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Sean Johnson (New York City), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)
Defenders: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Sergiño Dest (Ajax), Chase Gasper (Minnesota United FC), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Midfielders: Sebastian Lletget (Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
Forwards: Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Tyler Boyd (Besiktas), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)