Jordan Pefok scored an audacious bicycle kick this week for Union Berlin, helping the German side advance past the first round of the DFB Pokal and stating his case for a USMNT World Cup roster spot in the process.
The 26-year-old moved to the Bundesliga club this summer on the back of two successful seasons at Swiss club Young Boys, where he totaled 39 goals and even scored twice in the Champions League.
It looks like he’s brought that form to Germany, by scoring on his debut.
Jordan Pefok scored a brilliant goal for Union Berlin Monday vs. Chemnitzer
For the goal, Pefok’s teammate Andreas Voglsammer clipped a ball into the American with his left foot before Pefok was able to twist his body to make contact with the ball.
The forward will be hoping the deft finish catches the attention of USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, who left Pefok off his last June squad (after he injured himself in May) and lacks an overly obvious candidate to start up front in Qatar.
The current favorite to start is FC Dallas’ Jesus Ferreira, who has 12 goals in MLS this season and, more importantly, has started five of the US’ 10 matches in 2022 up front.
Next in that category is Ferreira’s former teammate Ricardo Pepi (three starts in 2022), who left Dallas for Augsburg last winter and endured a frankly miserable spell over the rest of the season.
Pefok joined Union Berlin after a strong two-year spell at Switzerland’s Young Boys
He started just four games after joining in January and did not score for the German club, who – in fairness to him – were flirting with relegation.
After a string of starts in World Cup qualifying, it now seems like the job is Ferreira’s to lose.
Elsewhere, Norwich City’s Josh Sargent is nowhere near the squad after once being Berhalter’s starting No. 9 – he hasn’t played for the national team since September 2021 – and Daryl Dike has also fallen out of favor recently after battling injury at West Brom.
It’s clear Berhalter values actual performance over just picking players in the best leagues, but that makes the case against Pefok more curious.
He has tested himself against Europa League and Champions League clubs and scored vs. Manchester United and Atalanta last season.
Daryl Dike has made eight appearances for the USMNT but hasn’t featured as much of late
While Pefok was omitted from the June squad (he was in the March one), another European-based player – Antalyaspor’s Haji Wright – was rewarded with his first call-up for a strong season in Turkey.
Ultimately, Pefok’s standing with the USMNT could very well come down to something out of his control: how Berhalter wants to play.
Among the candidates for the striker spot, Ferreira is the outlier in terms of his size.
He’s listed at just 5-foot-8 by the team’s website while Pepi, Dike and Pefok are all at least 6-feet. Tim Weah, a winger who has sometimes played up front, is also 6-feet.
It seems likely at this point that Berhalter will opt for Ferreira’s movement over a traditional target man, but goals like Pefok’s bicycle should certainly keep him in the mix.