The US men’s national team are one victory away from clinching their 2022 World Cup spot, but their qualifying journey has not been an easy one.
The American side entered the decisive March international window without several key figures as Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, Brenden Aaronson and Matt Turner suffered severe injuries that kept them on the sidelines.
The team traveled to Mexico City for the first of three qualifiers, where Reggie Cannon tested positive for Covid-19 to make him unavailable for selection. Additionally, during the match against Mexico, DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Weah received yellows that benched them for the next qualifier due to card accumulation.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter was forced to call up Shaq Moore at the last minute to reinforce the backline, and tap into the team’s bench to overcome the hurdles.
“We really had to call on our depth in this window, and it being the last window, an impactful window where qualifying takes place, it was something where guys needed to step up,” the coach said after the big win at Exploria Stadium.
“We talked early on about the ‘next man up’ mentality. We have complete faith in anyone who's called in. We don't call people players in unless we trust them and we think they can they can perform at a good level.
“The national team is difficult, because you don't always have the guys that are in the best form or the guys that are most fit, because there's injuries that happen. So I'm really pleased with guys like Luca stepping up, Gianluca Busio, Jordan Morris is involved now, a number of guys. But it makes a difference when you can call on these guys to perform.”
Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna has been another key player for the USMNT this qualifying round, coming back from a hamstring injury to feature for the national team. Though he has yet to start a match, Berhalter has been using Reyna as a second-half substitute to breathe life into the game. He’s played just 14 percent of the total minutes, and created some of the most threatening opportunities against Mexico.
The American side currently stands in second place on the Concacaf table with 25 points in 13 games, tied with Mexico. The team travels to Costa Rica for the final match on Wednesday, where they must avoid a 6-0 defeat in order to qualify directly into the international tournament.