USMNT Player Tracker: Wright return, Pepi power and Pulisic’s unwanted breather

Haji gets it right — again — Pepi on point and red-hot Pulisic’s tantrum all play a part in this week’s USMNT player tracker.

Each Monday, we bring you updates on how the American players who play in various leagues around Europe fared over the weekend.

With the Copa America this year and the 2026 World Cup on home soil looming ever larger on the horizon, we’re keeping tabs on how they are performing.

How to follow the Copa America on The Athletic

Issue of the weekend

Haji Wright certainly has a penchant for the dramatic.

Best known in the United States for his World Cup goal against the Netherlands 14 months ago, the forward is busy adding to his portfolio of memorable strikes.

In the process, he is keeping alive a dream, as he relayed to The Athletic last month, to make the USMNT roster for this summer’s Copa America and another World Cup in two years.

Wright’s stoppage-time goal in Coventry’s remarkable FA Cup quarter-final victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday sent the Championship club into a semi-final at Wembley against Manchester United.

The 25-year-old was the coolest man in Molineux as he deftly stroked in a curling 100th-minute winner that sent the away fans into raptures.

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Wright knee-slides his way into the FA Cup semi-finals (Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Just when it seemed the 6ft 3in (190cm) striker’s weekend could not get any better, he was then called up for Thursday’s CONCACAF Nations League semi-final against Jamaica after the precautionary withdrawal of Josh Sargent.

It was just rewards for his excellent club form. He has scored 15 goals across all competitions for the Championship club this term, and there is a chance to help Coventry earn even greater plaudits if they can cause an upset against United in five weeks.

haji wright 2023 all shots

It will also put a wider smile on the face of club manager Mark Robins. “Haji’s finish is incredible and that just shows the international quality that he has,” Robins said. He had expressed disappointment that Wright had not been included in the USMNT’s original squad.

If Wright can maintain his current impressive form, he will be even harder to leave out in the future.



Haji Wright – the USMNT forward who settled a cup classic in Coventry’s favour

Player of the weekend

It was a weekend of timely interventions from American strikers.

PSV Eindhoven left it late to secure another win in their indomitable Eredivisie campaign, keeping the gap at 10 points between them and second-placed Feyenoord.

The disappointment of last week’s Champions League exit at the hands of Borussia Dortmund seemed to be hanging over Peter Bosz’s men as they struggled to assert themselves at home against third-placed Twente on Sunday. It seemed as if profligacy would undermine their efforts as PSV wasted seven Opta-defined ‘big chances’.

But everything changed once they turned to their formidable USMNT axis.

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Pepi’s winner saw off Twente (NESimages/Raymond Smit/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

On came Malik Tillman, who had been impressive across two legs against Dortmund, and then Ricardo Pepi. In the 96th minute, Tillman kept his composure after another attack seemed to fizzle out and delivered the cross that Pepi, nicknamed ‘El Tren’, converted with glee.

That’s seven goals this term for Pepi, who has been limited to a solitary league start (and 20 substitute appearances) such has been the form of veteran forward Luuk de Jong. Regardless, at 21, he is forging himself a reputation for seizing the moment at crucial times. Along with Wright, Pepi is a compelling option for Gregg Berhalter as he ponders how his attack will look this summer.



Dest, Tillman, Pepi interview: The quest to become ‘invincible’ at PSV and hopes for World Cup

Quote of the weekend

Pulisic remains in sensational form for AC Milan.

He was celebrating again at the final whistle of their 3-1 win at Hellas Verona on Sunday after notching his fourth goal in as many games — but the 25-year-old was not as happy at being substituted by manager Stefano Pioli in the 66th minute.

He banged the tunnel in frustration before sitting down to fume.

Pioli argued he was simply trying to keep one of his star players fresh. After excelling in Milan’s 3-1 Europa League win at Slavia Prague during the week, the manager decided Pulisic needed a rest.

“I saw Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Pulisic were a little tired,” he said. “It’s normal because we had played 72 hours ago. So we needed freshness and the players who came in gave it to us.”

A passionate Pulisic may not have thanked Pioli, but Berhalter might before Thursday’s game.

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Pulisic celebrates scoring his team’s second goal against Hellas Verona (Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Ciancaphoto Studio/Getty Images)

How did other U.S. players get on?

Name: Brenden Aaronson
Club: Union Berlin
Position: Midfield
Appearances: 30
Goals: Two

The 23-year-old was another late call-up by Berhalter for Thursday, with Luca de la Torre ruled out through injury.

Like Wright, he boosted his cause for involvement on Saturday with a goal in Union Berlin’s 2-1 win against Werder Bremen, a strike that continued to lift his side away from any lingering relegation fears.

Name: Antonee Robinson
Club: Fulham
Position: Full-back
Appearances: 35

Robinson’s pass for Rodrigo Muniz’s goal in Fulham’s 3-0 win against Spurs on Saturday was his sixth Premier League assist of the season.

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Robinson powers away from Tottenham’s Pape Sarr (Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

No defender has created more goals from open play in the Premier League this term than the USMNT left-back and he is on the verge of overtaking Clint Dempsey’s record for most assists (six) by an American in an English top-flight season.



Antonee Robinson: How Fulham’s front-footed full-back inspired another ferocious win

Name: Gabriel Slonina
Club: KAS Eupen
Position: Goalkeeper
Appearances: 29

The 19-year-old has been gaining vital experience at Belgian side Eupen, where he is on loan this season from Chelsea, and has kept four clean sheets in 28 league starts for a team struggling and third from bottom in the Jupiler Pro League.

But Saturday was a hard day at the office at Standard Liege as Slonina conceded four and the visitors’ relegation fears deepened.

Name: Folarin Balogun
Club: Monaco
Position: Striker
Appearances: 24
Goals: Six

One minute, two touches of the ball.

It was a brief and inconsequential outing from the bench for the striker in Monaco’s 2-2 draw with Lorient. If it was a great week for his competitors in the USMNT’s forward berths, life remains frustrating for the 22-year-old in France. The goals have dried up lately, with just one in his last 11 Ligue 1 appearances.

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Balogun has struggled at Monaco since his early flurry of goals (Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)

What’s coming up?

(All times Eastern)

An international break is upon us but, once domestic leagues resume, look out for Tyler Adams, who is hoping for more minutes for Bournemouth as they host Everton (Saturday, March 30, 11am, Peacock Premium).

At the same time, Auston Trusty and Sheffield United will kick off against Robinson and Tim Ream’s Fulham (Peacock Premium).

The following day, Johnny Cardoso will be in La Liga action for Real Betis against Girona (10:15am, ESPN+) and Lennard Maloney’s Heidenheim play Stuttgart (11:30am, ESPN+).



‘It felt natural’: Tyler Adams on his injury comeback and USMNT return

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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