How USMNT injury substitutions for Moses and Richards could affect World Cup preparations

The US men’s national team held in Cologne, Germany over the past few days looks different from what anyone expected.

The original roster already contains some of the names that have been removed due to injury: Tim Weah and Anthony Robinson. And goalkeeper Zach Stephen has not played for several weeks due to injury and has been left out of the squad, although he started against Middlesbrough last weekend.

Coach Greg Berhalter hinted at the draining effect a typical season could have for the club when that roster was announced last week, and it is true that there were last-minute changes to the 26-man squad preparing for friendlies against Japan in Germany on Friday. And Saudi Arabia in Spain next week.

Midfielder Younes Moussa withdrew due to a thigh injury. He was replaced by Johnny Cardoso of Internacional. Defenders Cameron Carter Vickers and Chris Richards then withdrew due to their injuries. Eric Palmer-Brown and Mark McKenzie have been called upon in their stead.

Altogether, these are seven names one would have reasonably expected to be here, but it is not. Such absences, last minute and otherwise, occurred during the World Cup qualifiers and Berhalter knows they will likely happen before the World Cup itself.

“A lot can happen between now and November 9, when we announce the final (World Cup) roster,” Berhalter said. “The actual date of FIFA is November 14 and a lot can happen between the 9th and the 14th. So just keep that in mind. That was the conversation I had with players who were not selected in this camp, which is that a lot can happen in some situations where We are looking forward to evaluating some of the players we don’t have enough information about and there were no other players. t selected.”

At the moment, it doesn’t look like any of the players who have lost this camp will miss the World Cup due to their injuries. But that doesn’t mean the butter isn’t inactivating.

Changes in the central defense are an area of ​​special interest. The United States has been looking for a trusted partner for Locker Zimmerman since Miles Robinson suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in May. Richards, who started four games and looked strong in the World Cup qualifiers, looked to have a good chance of getting into the role, but has now missed the USMNT’s final three camps due to injuries. He hasn’t played much since moving to Crystal Palace either. The combination of these two developments leaves his standing in relation to Qatar in doubt.

Carter-Vickers has a more stable position at the club (he’s a secured player at Celtic), but doesn’t have representatives with the US. He played three games during the June window and looked mostly solid, but wasn’t called up for anything. in the playoffs and had limited time with Zimmermann. Their substitutes, McKenzie and Palmer-Brown, looked shaky in a limited time with American Aaron Long, another defender on the list, not at his best on the international stage since returning from ripping his own hock earlier this year.

That’s a huge amount of uncertainty in a position that was already one of the weakest in the United States.

“You obviously want things to be consistent, just to be more comfortable, and know the inclinations of the players,” said US goalkeeper Matt Turner. “I would argue that with the way this team is, the tight-knit nature of our group, it doesn’t really matter who gets involved. You know what the expectation is, you know how they’re supposed to play, you know the inclinations of every player. Because even though it was a rotating staff, you know what the expectation is. Of the characters, except that it was kind of the same as a few people.”

Robinson’s absence at left-back offers a huge opportunity for the two players to battle it out for one place on the Qatar national team’s squad: Sam Vines and Joe Scully. Both are trying to prove that they can be Robinson’s support in Qatar. They must both get a toy in this window to prove their case.

The absences of both Moses and Yah opened up an entirely different set of decisions for Berhalter. More on that below…

Younes Musa’s replacement options

If there’s one American player who seems ready to kick off the World Cup, it’s 19-year-old Moses.

The former England youth international has grown into a key player for the United States after switching to the US national team program in early 2021, going from a Nations League spectator last summer to a key player in the World Cup qualifiers.

Two months into Qatar, Moussa’s performances for club and country have caused some buzz about how high his ceiling is.

“Jones to me, this kid is absolutely amazing,” said USA right-back Deandre Yadlin in a recent interview. the athlete. “Honestly. It’s unbelievable. I think on the big stage – it wouldn’t surprise us (us), because we all know what he can do – but maybe people who don’t know what he can do, I think he’d surprise a lot of people. I think he’s going to have a really great tournament.” “.

For this reason, the news of Moses’ injury hit this camp especially hard.

Berhalter made a few tweaks to the team’s structure last summer, dropping Moses deeper to get the ball more often and help midfielder Tyler Adams lead in possession. The tactical adjustment appears to be working well, allowing more room for Christian Pulisic to work into the pockets and allowing Moussa more opportunities to influence the ball. With Moses out, the United States will likely make changes to its approach.

Berhalter has a few different options.

Luca de la Torre is perhaps the most similarly similar variant. The 24-year-old San Diego-born player did well in the World Cup playoffs, but has only managed 17 minutes so far this season after moving to La Liga’s Celta de Vigo. He would be an easy stylistic replacement for Moussa, but his lack of playing time and ability for other options in midfield probably makes him an unexpected player in Qatar.

Brendan Aaronson and Gio Reina could also play central roles, and both provide a legitimate game-changing ability in the position. Aaronson played there for club and country, and his pressure from a central position has been effective for Leeds this season. Aaronson also scored in a friendly match against Morocco playing a pivotal role for the United States. Perhaps he offers a bit more offensive ability in an advanced midfield role than Weston McKinney, who is likely to start in the spot if de la Torre were to replace Moses.

Rina is perhaps the most interesting option. Injuries severely limited his 2021-22 season for both Dortmund and the United States, and when he played for the national team he was a right winger. But Moses’ absence opened the door for Berhalter to see Reina in his favorite position. Reina’s creativity will add another threat around the box to the US squad as he plays against Adams and McKinney and inside wingers Pulisic and Aronson look relatively bewildered, although it will require some increased defensive vigilance from other midfielders. Berhalter might run Reina’s minutes in this window, but expect to see this look in at least one of the matches.

The United States may have to change how they approach possession in these friendlies, but Berhalter will likely gain some important insights into his options in those central attacking roles.

Matt Turner remains confident despite Arsenal role

A year ago, Turner was successfully — albeit surprisingly — making three starts in the inaugural US World Cup qualifiers and concluding the regular season with a New England Revolution team that was on its way to the MLS points record.

Things look a little different for him today. Turner started three games for the United States in January and February, then missed three months due to injury. He started five games for New England and two more for the United States before leaving in mid-June for Arsenal, appearing only once as a backup for Aaron Ramsdale. In all, he played only 11 times in 2022, which is a far cry from the 42 games he participated in last year.

His sharp drop in playing time led to some natural questions about his level, but both Turner and Berhalter shrugged them off, insisting the 28-year-old had already done so. to improve Since his move to Arsenal. Turner said the steady pace and intensity of training, as well as the technical requirements and global competition in training, pushed him every day.

“I think the important thing for me is that I recently had a meeting with the goalkeeper coach where we watched videos from my first few days of training, and then videos from the last few days of training because I think it’s easy for us to get it,” Turner said. Looking back at that time and now, the difference between me in goalkeeper is huge. She has changed drastically and (I) am looking forward to representing the country again and having these opportunities hopefully show everyone else too.”

It will be significant news for the United States if this proves true. Stephen’s uneven form and his absence from that camp put Turner in pole position to start in Qatar, but he’s probably less proven than any American goalkeeper starting in the World Cup since the United States returned to the tournament for the first time in the modern era. 1990. If it starts, it will definitely be tested in Qatar. If he can handle these challenges better than he did when he did well for the United States in the 2021 Gold Cup and during the playoffs, then the Americans should have a real chance in every game they play at the World Cup.

(Photo: John Dorton/ISI Images)