By Doug McIntyre
FOX Sports Soccer Writer
Editor’s Note: “Plane to Qatar” is FOX Sports’ weekly feature tracking the progress of players hoping to crack the United States Men’s National Team’s 26-player roster for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Tuesday was a mixed bag for some of the USMNT’s most important players. Christian Pulisic made just his fourth start of the season for Chelsea and took advantage of the opportunity, setting up Kai Havertz game-winning goal in the second half of a 2-1 win in Salzburg — a victory that sent the Blues into the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League with one group game to spare.
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Giovanni Reyna went 87 minutes in Borussia Dortmund’s scoreless draw at mighty Manchester City on Tuesday. That marks the longest shift of the season so for Reyna, who has been beset by injuries.
It was also the first time that the 19-year-old attacker, who scored his first goal in more than a year over the weekend, has started consecutive games for club or country since August of 2021. Meantime, Weston McKennie scored for the second time in as many games in Juventus 4-3 loss at Benfica.
It wasn’t all good news. A muscle injury kept Sergiño Dest out of AC Milan’s 4-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb. Cameron-Carter Vickers was extremely lucky not to be punished for a missed tackle in Tuesday’s 1-1 tie with Shakhtar Donetsk. And in England’s second tier, Josh Sargent didn’t score for the third game in a row.
With U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter set to name his squad two weeks from Wednesday, here’s where 37 World Cup hopefuls stand.
*M Tyler Adams (Leeds): Adams missed the match with an injury. “We’re hoping it won’t be longer than a few days,” Leeds manager Jesse Marsch said on Tuesday. He’s not alone.
*D Sergiño Dest (AC Milan): Dest was having his best performance this season before the injury forced him off at halftime of Saturday’s 4-1 win versus Monza. He was wasn’t healthy enough to dress on Tuesday.
F Christian Pulisic (Chelsea): The hope is the USMNT headliner can string together a few starts between now and the World Cup.
F/M Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund): Reyna is rounding into form at the right time. His goal over the weekend was a gem:
D Antonee Robinson (Fulham): Jedi went the distance at left back in both of the Fulham’s two wins last week, helping the club climb to seventh place in the Premier League.
^G Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough): Steffen has been quietly excellent for Boro lately. He made four good saves in Saturday’s scoreless draw with Huddersfield, and he’s making a case to reclaim the No. 1 U.S. keeper job he held through most of World Cup qualifying.
^G Matt Turner (Arsenal): Turner posted his third consecutive clean sheet the Gunners UEFA Europa League win over PSV last week in. The rematch is Thursday in Eindhoven.
F Tim Weah (Lille): The winger has come off the bench in three consecutive Ligue 1 games since returning from an ankle injury.
D Walker Zimmerman (Nashville): Center back Zimmerman is one of nine World roster hopefuls participating in “fitness workouts” with national team coaches in Frisco, Texas through Nov. 5, U.S. Soccer confirmed on Tuesday.
M Kellyn Acosta (LAFC): The gritty dead-ball specialist set up the goal that sent LAFC into Sunday’s Western Conference final against Austin.
M Paul Arriola (Dallas): Arriola played all 90 minutes Sunday in FCD’s season-ending loss to Austin. He and club teammate Jesús Ferreira will stick around Toyota Stadium for the next 10 days in an effort to maintain their fitness.
D Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic): Carter-Vickers conceded a penalty in Celtic’s 4-3 weekend win at Hearts and was bailed out of another mistake on Tuesday:
M Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo): An unused substitute in the previous three La Liga games, De La Torre came off the bench for the final 12 minutes of Monday’s 1-1 draw with Getafe. He’s appeared in just five of Celta’s 11 matches this season, logging a total of 50 minutes.
⌄F Jesús Ferreira (Dallas): For months, Ferreira seemed like the U.S. striker most likely to start in Qatar. That’s no longer the case after his season ended with a seven-game goalless drought.
G Sean Johnson (New York City): Johnson made two top-drawer saves Sundayin the Pigeons’ 3-1 playoff win in Montreal. NYCFC plays at Philadelphia next Sunday for an MLS Cup trip (8 p.m. ET FS1/FOX Deportes/FOX Sports app)
With Carter-Vickers, Mark McKenzie, Erik Palmer-Brown and Tim Ream all playing regularly right up until the World Cup, Long – who didn’t have a great MLS season after missing most of 2021 following Achilles surgery – could be in trouble.
D Mark McKenzie (Genk): The center back has played every minute of the Belgian leaders last 11 games. Genk is 10W-0L-1T over that span with just seven goals allowed.
M Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders): Participating in fitness workouts through Nov. 5.
D Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach): Has started every game for ‘Gladbach this season, including Bundesliga and German Cup losses last week.
D DeAndre Yedlin (Miami): Participating in fitness workouts through Nov. 5.
G Ethan Horvath (Luton Town): Horvath allowed four goals for the first time this season in Sunday’s loss in Watford. His gaffe gifted the hosts one of them:
D Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes): The center back returned to the French club’s lineup Sunday following a one-match absence.
F Jordan Pefok (Union Berlin): The French-born striker is scoreless in four games for the Bundesliga leaders following Sunday’s loss to Bochum.
*D Chris Richards (Crystal Palace): A projected starter when healthy, Richards has played just 135 minutes of first team soccer since April and still hasn’t returned to training with Palace. It’s hard to see a scenario in which the unquestionably talented center back will be fit enough for World Cup games four weeks from now.
D Tim Ream (Fulham): At 35, Ream’s career season continues. He’s played in every Prem game this season for the Cottagers.
M Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders): Participating in fitness workouts through Nov. 5.
F Haji Wright (Antalyaspor): Held scoreless in Friday’s 2-1 win over Istanbulspor.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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