USMNT still in recovery mode ahead of crucial Panama World Cup qualifier

Lizzy Becherano
USMNT are tired after facing Mexico at the Estadio Azteca on Thursday
USMNT are tired after facing Mexico at the Estadio Azteca on Thursday / John Dorton/ISI Photos/GettyImages

The United States faces one of their most important World Cup qualifiers to date when hosting Panama at Exploria Stadium on Sunday. 

The American side could clinch their ticket to the international tournament with a victory and if neighboring results go their way, but the players have detailed it will not be easy.

After Thursday’s monumental battle between the USMNT and Mexico at the Estadio Azteca, the former are still in recovery mode. 

“I feel like I do second day after every game I play; pretty tired,” left-back Antonee Robinson told reporters when asked about his physical state. 

“In terms of recovery, we've been given as much resources as been available. The boys are doing cryotherapy, they’re getting on with the physio, so everyone's doing as much as they can to put themselves in the best condition going into the game tomorrow. But you can't take away from the fact that we played two days ago.

“People are going to be tired going into games tomorrow and it's the same for the opposition. Everyone's in the same boat. So it's just going to be one of them that you've got to kind of forget that you’re tired, put it to one side, give your all and know that we've got five subs available to come on if you're pushed to your limit.”

Beyond recovery, the United States has seen several setbacks in this final round of World Cup qualifiers. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter navigated through several injuries to formulate the 27-player roster as Weston McKennie, Brenden Aaronson, Matt Turner and Sergino Dest watch from the sidelines. 

Reggie Cannon also tested positive for Covid-19 after being called up, making him unavailable to play during the March window and Shaq Moore called up as a replacement. On top of that, the team must face Panama without Tim Weah and DeAndre Yedlin after both players accumulated yellow cards. 

“Qualifying’s a lot of games and a lot of different camps and guys have injuries, and different guys are called in all the time,” admitted Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

“I think we have a very good camaraderie in terms of whoever gets called steps up and does their job. And we have a lot of that, and you guys have seen that in the qualifying games. It’s exactly what we need, and that's exactly why we're here.”

The United States currently sits in second place on the Concacaf table with 22 points in 12 games, behind Canada and tied with Mexico. With a victory against Panama and a Costa Rica defeat, the USMNT are headed to Qatar.