US striker Pefok's bid for World Cup spot helps Union Berlin

US striker Pefok’s bid for World Cup spot helps Union Berlin

BERLIN (AP) — Jordan Pefok’s bid to make the United States’ World Cup squad is helping Union Berlin cast an unprecedented spell atop the Bundesliga.

Pefok scored the opening goal in the Union’s victory over Wolfsburg on Sunday, just four days after he was excluded from US coach Gregg Berhalter’s 26-man squad for games against Japan and Saudi Arabia.

“Who doesn’t expect to play in the World Cup when their country is qualified?” Pefok asked.

Berhalter said he already knows what Pefok can do. But with only two months to go until the tournament in Qatar, Pefok wants to make sure.

The 26-year-old striker tormented the Wolfsburg defence, slipping back again and again and then capping his display with a header that took his tally to three goals in six Bundesliga appearances this season so far.

Union won 2-0, opening a two-point lead over Borussia Dortmund after seven games. It is the first time that the Köpenick club has reached the top. Union was only promoted to the Bundesliga in 2019.

“I’d be lying if I said I knew how well it would go,” said Pefok, who joined the Union in the offseason from Young Boys, with whom he was the Swiss league’s top scorer with 22 goals last season.

“I joined a fantastic group: the club staff, the fans, a truly great atmosphere. And I think all of that is what makes us successful today,” Pefok said. “We really are a family that likes to spend time together, that likes to have fun together. Even after losses, we quickly put them out of our minds, talk, rest and move on. I hope it continues like this”.

Union have only experienced one loss in European competition this season, both narrow defeats to Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and Braga in the Europa League, which Union is playing for the first time after their remarkable fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga last season.

This season, they are the only undefeated team left in the German league.

Pefok has played a key role in that, forming an exciting partnership with Suriname striker Sheraldo Becker, who scored the other goal on Sunday, helping in defense and setting up two goals on top of the three he scored.

Pefok was speaking after Sunday’s game when Wolfsburg sporting director Jörg Schmadtke stopped by to congratulate the player on his performance.

The French-speaking American hopes that Berhalter is also paying attention.

The United States coach selected Josh Sargent from second-tier Norwich, Jesús Ferreira from Dallas and Ricardo Pepi, on loan to Groningen from Augsburg, for friendlies against Japan in Düsseldorf, Germany on Friday and Saudi Arabia four days later in Murcia, Spain. .

“We have been consistent in saying that he may not be the best striker in the group. He’s a guy that’s a better fit for what we’re doing,” Berhalter said.

Pefok said he will be ready for the World Cup.

“The coach decides,” said Pefok. “Me, I play the games with happiness. I keep trying to do my best. Later, as we say in France, it is at the end of the dance that we pay the musicians”.

Pefok, who has one goal in nine appearances for the United States, added: “I think it’s up to me to keep doing what I’m trying to do. Stay focused. I was not called up for this training camp, but there you have it, my chances are not zero. We will see in the end who is called up for the World Cup”.

Pefok, whose full name is Theoson-Jordan Siebatcheu, wears “Jordan” on his Union jersey and “Pefok” on his national team jersey. Pefok is his mother’s maiden name.

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