The U.S. men’s national team will face North American rival Mexico on November 12 in Cincinnati for the most anticipated home World Cup qualifier in the Concacaf Octagonal.
But as the tension increases and the game approaches, uncertainty looms over the USMNT squad.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter now has to navigate through major injuries and collected yellow cards when he calls players to the November list. While the United States ranks second on the Concacaf table, they cannot afford to slip up.
Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Jordan Pefok and Weston McKennie are all a yellow card from a suspension on a match, and given the already limited number of available players, only a lost lineup can change the lineup completely.
Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, two crucial figures for USMNT, are still hesitant about their respective clubs after each suffered an injury during the September qualifiers.
The Premier League forward suffered a tear in the ankle when he met Honduras on September 8 and has not seen the pitch since. Chelsea’s head coach Thomas Tuchel originally set November 6 as the goal date for the player’s comeback, but has included him in the squad for their UEFA Champions League match against Malmö on the 2nd.
Pulisic’s return would serve as a big sign for USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, but that does not eliminate the uncertainty surrounding his involvement in the US-Mexico match. The forward has not seen minutes in over six weeks, and may not be ready for the demanding challenge that Mexico is.
Reyna, on the other hand, does not seem to be approaching a return for Borussia Dortmund after suffering a hamstring injury after the first World Cup qualifier on 2 September.
“There are no signs yet when he will return,” said Dortmund manager Marco Rose.
It’s a major setback for USMNT after Reyna played a key role in their 3-2 triumph over Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League final.
To fight injuries, Berhalter played against Tim Weah, Brenden Aaronson and Paul Arriola in the attack before the qualifying round in October. His strategy resulted in two wins and a loss against the future challenger Panama, which led the head coach to wonder if it could work compared to first place Mexico.
In goals, the head coach will choose between Zach Steffen and Matt Turner. The Manchester City goalkeeper could not travel under the former international window due to Covid and back problems, which made Berhalter risk it with Turner.
Major League Soccer’s regular proved to be worth the place pretty quickly, but now Berhalter has to choose whether to prioritize momentum over experience when choosing his anchor.
The match against Mexico has more value than any other qualifier due to its history and the rival’s position on the Concacaf table. Although the uncertainty hangs heavy over the USMNT, Gregg Berhalter can not let the situation affect the result.
Time will tell whether USMNT can overcome the challenges of getting first place on the octagonal round table.