The United States men’s national team is set to face North American rival Mexico on November 12 in Cincinnati for the most anticipated home World Cup qualifier in the Concacaf Octagonal.
But as excitement builds and the game approaches, uncertainty looms over the USMNT squad.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter must now navigate through major injuries and accumulated yellow cards when calling up players to the November roster. While the United States stands in second on the Concacaf table, they cannot afford to slip up.
Tyler Adams, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, Jordan Pefok and Weston McKennie are all one yellow card away from a one-match suspension, and given the already limited number of players available, losing just one could alter the lineup entirely.
Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, two crucial figures for the USMNT, remain doubtful for their respective clubs after each picked up an injury during the September qualifiers.
The Premier League forward suffered a tear to the ankle when facing Honduras on September 8, and has not seen the pitch since. Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel originally set November 6 as a target date for the player’s comeback, but has included him in the roster for their UEFA Champions League match against Malmo on the 2nd.
Pulisic’s return would serve as a great sign for USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, but it does not eliminate the uncertainty of his involvement in the US vs. Mexico match. The forward has not seen minutes in over six weeks, and may not be up for the demanding challenge that is Mexico.
Reyna, on the other hand, does not appear to be nearing a return for Borussia Dortmund after enduring a hamstring injury after the first World Cup qualifier on September 2.
“There’s no sign yet as to when he’ll be back,” said Dortmund manager Marco Rose.
That is a major setback for the USMNT after Reyna played an integral role in their 3-2 triumph over Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League final.
To combat injuries, Berhalter played Tim Weah, Brenden Aaronson and Paul Arriola on the attack for the October round of qualifiers. His strategy earned two victories and one loss against up-and-coming contender Panama, leading the head coach to wonder if it could work versus first place Mexico.
In goal, the head coach must choose between Zach Steffen and Matt Turner. The Manchester City goalkeeper was unable to travel during the previous international window due to Covid and back issues, prompting Berhalter to risk it with Turner.
The Major League Soccer regular proved himself worthy of the spot rather quickly, but now Berhalter must choose whether to prioritize momentum over experience when selecting his anchor.
The match against Mexico holds more value than any other qualifier due to its history and the rival’s position on the Concacaf table. While uncertainty hangs heavy over the USMNT, Gregg Berhalter cannot let the situation affect the outcome.
Time will tell if the USMNT can overcome the challenges to earn the first place spot on the Octagonal round table.