Soccer  

Ricardo Pepi scores for FC Groningen in first game since USMNT snub

Ricardo Pepi scored in his first game since being bypassed for the U.S. World Cup roster, putting FC Groningen ahead in a 3-2 loss to Fortuna Sittard on Sunday in the Dutch Eredivisie.

The 19-year-old from El Paso, Texas, tapped Ragnar Oratmangoen’s cross past goalkeeper Ivor Pandur from 6 yards in the 45th minute.

“It’s disappointing, but I feel like I’ve got to use that as motivation. I went on the pitch today. I showed that this isn’t going to bother me,”, Pepi said to ESPN after his team victory.

“I don’t make the decisions. It’s completely out of my control. It’s a coaching decision and I have to live with that and I’ve got to move on.”

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

Pepi has six goals in nine league matches and seven goals overall since he was loaned to Groningen from Germany’s Augsburg.

The former FC Dallas striker was left off the U.S. roster by coach Gregg Berhalter in favor of forwards Jesus Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Haji Wright.

“There is another world cup coming up. Hopefully, I can be in it. I’ve got the future with the team,” Pepi Said.

“I’m gonna focus on the rest of the season and hopefully I can help the team (FC Groningen) out.”

Pepi and Wright had been in excellent form of late for their clubs, with Wright scoring nine goals on the season for the Antalyaspor in the Turkish league.

“In the case of Ricardo, that was a really difficult conversation that I had to have with him,” Berhalter said last Wednesday after announcing the U.S. squad for Qatar. “It’s always difficult when a guy helps you get to the World Cup, he scores three goals in World Cup qualifying, and isn’t going to be a part of the program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.