We're back! The USMNT returns for another 3-game window before the final set of 3 qualifying matches in March. For this set, 2 home and 1 away. Spoiler: it's going to be f****** cold
Thursday, 1/27 - v. El Salvador, 7:30 PM - Lower.com Field, Columbus, OH (ESPN2)
Sunday, 1/30 - @ Canada, 3:05 PM - Tim Horton's Field (aka "The Donut Box" LMAO), Hamilton, ON (Paramount+ probably)
Wednesday, 2/2 - v. Honduras, 7:30 PM - Allianz Field, St. Paul, MN (ESPN2)
Exact kickoff times for USMNT's World Cup qualifiers:1/27 vs ES in Columbus 7 pm ET (ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN)1/30 at CAN in Hamilton 3:05 ET (Paramount+, Universo, Telemundo)2/2 vs HON in St Paul 7:30 ET, 6:30 local (FS1, Univision, TUDN)TV programming will begin earlier— Steven Goff (@SoccerInsider) January 22, 2022
El Salvador and Honduras sit near the bottom of the qualifying table. They are two of the weakest opponents in the Octagonal and while not mathematically eliminated, their chances of qualifying at this point are astronomical. The temperatures for these matches will be extremely (dangerously, IMO) cold and most of their players are out of season. I don't like to say this because things happen, but there is absolutely no reason we should not win both of these matches.
Canada has been a bit of surprise this time around, jumping out to the top spot in the Octagonal just past the halfway point. Having watched them a few times outside of their match with the US, they look very strong. However, their star player, Alphonso Davies, will miss this whole window with a (reportedly mild) case of myocarditis secondary to a recent bout with COVID-19. Hopefully, it is mild as they say and best wishes to him during his recovery. In addition, Canada recently cancelled a camp they were going to have in Florida to get into shape for this window due to COVID numbers in the area. They may be a bit rusty as most of their players (they have more players in MLS that we do) are still out of season. It will also likely be cold in Hamilton, but at least it is in the afternoon.
- Canada- 16
- USA - 15
- Mexico - 14
- Panama - 14
- Costa Rica - 9
- Jamaica - 7
- El Salvador - 6
- Honduras - 3
- Gio Reyna - Injury sustained on USMNT duty in the September window. Back in training with Borrusia Dortmund, but has not made a matchday squad yet. My guess is he will not be called up for this window.
- Tim Weah - Quad injury sustained in December. Back training and made a substitute appearance for Lille last weekend. I think he will come, but they might want to take it easy.
Hopefully none picked up this weekend!
- GKs: Only surprise is Slonina being included for 4. My guess is that this is in anticipation of Turner's transfer to Arsenal. He will need to leave camp to get that finalized and we'll need a 3rd keeper when he does. So, Steffen will likely start at least 2 of the 3 matches.
- Defenders: A couple of surprises here. Only 4 CBs while leaving off John Brooks seems like a bad idea, especially since 2 (Zimmerman and Robinson) are not in-season. There must be something going on between Berhalter and Brooks because he is better than McKenzie and we could really use his passing against teams that will sit deep like Honduras and El Salvador. Also, why do we have 4 right backs (Dest, Cannon, Yedlin, Lennon) and only 1 left back (ARob)? Gregg is trying to be cute with these fullback selections.
- Midfielders: A little surprised to see Busio left off (edit: apparently he tested positive and won't be able to come). Happy that de la Torre gets a chance, hopefully he plays this time. Other than that, not surprising.
- Attackers: This is literally exactly what I predicted, so not much to say here. Happy to see Jordan Morris back. Hopefully, Weah is eased back in a bit.
My guess below. I think it will be a fairly large roster given 1) 3-game window 2) MLS players are out of season - may want more rotation options 3) COVID. There is already an ongoing camp of non-Euro players, so there could be some new faces.
GKs: Turner, Steffen, Johnson
FBs: Dest, A. Robinson, Scally, Yedlin, DeJuan Jones - January camp attendee, has reportedly been very impressive
CBs: M. Robinson, Brooks, Richards, Zimmerman, McKenzie
MFs: Adams, McKennie, Musah, Lletget, Acosta, Luca De La Torre, Djordje Mihailovic - January camp, reports very impressive, very strong season for Montreal FC
Wings: Pulisic, Aaronson, Weah, Arriola, Jordan Morris
STs: Pepi, Zardes, Ferreira
That's 28. I don't think Berhalter has ever called in any more than that. Of course, he can call as many as he wants, so maybe there will be more. The first couple who missed the list are Roldan, Busio, Cannon, Sands, and Cameron Carter-Vickers. I'm sure I will be wrong, and don't rule out the possibility of last-minute changes or surprised exclusions due to transfers. The transfer window will close while the team is together and players making moves may have to leave early to complete medicals. I don't think many are rumored to be moving except Matt Turner (rumored to Arsenal). Arriola just moved to Dallas, so he should be good. Dike misses out due to his recent move to West Brom. I'm sure Berhalter will want to let him get settled. You could say the same for Pepi, but he's the starting 9, so we kind of need him.
Some people will say we need 9 points in this window and that is not true. It seems possible, but no one has done it yet this cycle. We have a decent chance with two weak opponents at home and a short road trip to Canada. But let me just warn you that you are likely to be severely let down if you are expecting 9 points. Personally, I think 7 is a reasonable expectation. I fully expect the USMNT to get there in the most roundabout way possible that makes no logical sense (i.e. - losing to El Salvador and beating Canada or something), but I think they will get 7.
Historically, 1.7 points/match has been the amount needed to qualify for the World Cup. With 14 matches, that comes to about 23-24 points. If the US gets 7 in this window, we are good to go. Honestly, the only important thing is how far ahead of Panama we can stay. Top 3 qualify, so as long as we are comfortably ahead of #4, I won't be worried. Panama has a tough set of matches, with trips to Costa Rica and Mexico and a home matchup with a Jamaica squad looking much improved with Michail Antonio leading the line. Hopefully, we can avoid an extremely stressful final window and take care of business in these matches before a difficult draw in the final round (@CR, MEX, v. PAN).
Edit: Added official roster and commentary