FIFA Men's World Cup
USMNT Stock Watch: McKennie injury puts pressure on midfield reserves
FIFA Men's World Cup

USMNT Stock Watch: McKennie injury puts pressure on midfield reserves

Published Nov. 1, 2022 8:37 p.m. ET

Editor's Note: "Plane to Qatar" is FOX Sports' weekly feature tracking the progress of players hoping to crack the United States Men's National Team's 26-player roster for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The unknown variable was always going to be injuries. 

Now here we are, a little more than a week before U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter will name his World Cup squad at a gala event Nov. 9 in Brooklyn, and there are vexing health questions all over the field for a squad already down two potential starting central defenders in Chris Richards and Miles Robinson.

Can midfield star Weston McKennie, whom Juventus said Monday will be out at least 15 days with the  thigh injury he suffered last weekend, recover in time to play against Wales in the Americans' Nov. 21 curtain raiser in Qatar?


Will co-No. 1 goalkeeper Matt Turner be able to return for Arsenal's next Europa League this Thursday? What about in-form striker Josh Sargent, who will miss at least two matches for English second tier club Norwich because of a calf ailment, or attacking midfielder Luca de la Torre, who isn't expected to return from a left leg injury until the eve of the opener?

One way or the other, we'll know the answers soon enough. With two more weeks of club matches to go before the World Cup break begins, Berhalter knows he'll be lucky just if nobody else goes down.

Here's where the player pool is as it stands.

First class

F/M Brenden Aaronson (Leeds): Aaronson's fine form continues at club level; he was named Man of the Match after Leeds' stunning (and desperately needed) win at Liverpool last Saturday.

^M Kellyn Acosta (LAFC): The defensive midfielder's seat on the plane is assured at this point. Acosta and LAFC face Philadelphia in Saturday's MLS Cup (4 p.m. ET, FOX).

M Tyler Adams (Leeds): Adams returned from the muscle injury that cost him one Premier League match to go all 90 minutes at Anfield. Perhaps the USMMT's most irreplaceable player, his health is something to watch closely before the World Cup break.

D Sergiño Dest (AC Milan): Right back Dest also returned from a minor injury over the weekend, coming off the bench in the Rossoneri's 2-1 win over Torino. Milan faces FC Salzburg Wednesday in its final Champions League group stage match of 2022-23.

F Ricardo Pepi (Groningen): The Netherlands-based striker didn't score, but went the distance for the fourth straight Eredivisie game in Sunday's 0-0 draw with Emmen.

*M Weston McKennie (Juventus): McKennie won't play another Serie A match before the World Cup.

M Yunus Musah (Valencia): Surefire World Cup starter Musah, who doesn't turn 20 until later this month, served a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation in Valencia's 1-0 loss to Barcelona last week.

F Christian Pulisic (Chelsea): The good news is that Pulisic has started consecutive games for the Blues for the first time this season. The bad is that he and the rest of Chelsea's players had a day to forget in Saturday's 4-1 loss to Brighton. Already qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League, Chelsea closes out group play Wednesday versus Dinamo Zagreb in London.

F/M Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund): For all the USMNT's injury worries, Reyna is quietly returning to the height of his powers. Dortmund is still managing his brittle hamstrings cautiously – the 19-year-old played only the final half hour of last week's 4-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Reyna could return to the Black & Yellow lineup Wednesday in Copenhagen.

D Antonee Robinson (Fulham): Left back lock Jedi has been superb for Fulham on both sides of the ball in five Premier League games since recovering from the high ankle sprain he sustained in September.

G Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough): Steffen has long been Berhalter's odds-on World Cup starter if healthy and playing well every week. Steffen was excellent again Wednesday in ‘Boro's 3-1 win over Hull City.

*G Matt Turner (Arsenal): The 28-year-old was held out of the Gunners' 2-0 Europa League loss at PSV Eindhoven last week, though Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said the injury "didn't look serious." We'll see if Turner can return for Thursday's visit from FC Zurich.

F Tim Weah (Lille): After four straight substitute appearances, the winger made his first Ligue 1 start of the season Sunday, going 70 minutes in Lille's 1-0 loss to Lyon.

D Walker Zimmerman (Nashville): The center back hasn't played since Nashville's season ended Oct. 15. He'll be in Texas participating in fitness workouts with Berhalter and his staff through Nov. 5.

Comfort Plus

M Paul Arriola (Dallas): Participating in fitness workouts – which are taking place at FCD's facilities – with Berhalter and his staff through Nov. 5.

D Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic): A potential starter next to Zimmerman in Qatar, the U.S. coaching staff will be carefully watching the physical 24-year-old center back's Champions League performance Wednesday, when Celtic visits defending champ Real Madrid.

D Reggie Cannon (Boavista): Despite stiff competition at right back, there's little reason to think the versatile defender won't make the cut for Qatar.

F Jesús Ferreira (Dallas): Participating in the USMNT's fitness workouts through Nov. 5.

G Sean Johnson (New York City): Another excellent MLS season for Johnson ended Sunday with the Pigeons playoff loss at Philadelphia. The popular veteran remains the likeliest pick for the third keeper spot.

D Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls): Odds are that Long will be there in the end, but his spot might not be as secure as some suspect. He's right on the bubble after struggling to find his pre-Achilles surgery form throughout 2022.

D Mark McKenzie (Genk): McKenzie has played his way back into the mix at the club level will benefit from the injuries to Long, Chris Richards and Miles Robinson. He's still not a lock, though. 

M Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders): Hasn't played since the Sounders season ended on Oct. 9. Currently participating in the fitness workouts.

*F Josh Sargent (Norwich City): Sargent will miss Wednesday's game against Queens Park Rangers but could return for the Canaries Saturday at Rotherham.

D Joe Scally (Borussia Monchengladbach): Went 90 minutes for the third straight game in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Bundesliga-leading Union Berlin. The 19-year-old has started all 12 league matches for ‘Gladbach this season.

^M Malik Tillman (Rangers): If De la Torre's injury does rule him out, it opens up a spot for another central midfielder. Playing regularly in Scotland and the in Champions League – he was one of Rangers' few silver linings in Tuesday's 3-1 loss to Ajax – Tillman probably gets the nod over the idle Cristian Roldan.

D DeAndre Yedlin (Miami): Hasn't played since Miami was eliminated from the MLS playoffs on Oct. 18. Currently participating in fitness workouts with Berhalter and his staff through Nov. 5.

Standby list

M Johnny Cardoso (Internacional): The two-way, Brazil-based Cardoso will be in the mix if De la Torre or McKennie aren't healthy in time.

⌄*M Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo): His club manager insists he'll be OK for the World Cup. But the timing, combined with De la Torre logging just 50 La Liga minutes all season, puts his inclusion in serious doubt.

G Ethan Horvath (Luton Town): On Tuesday, Horvath posted his seventh clean sheet in 18 appearances this season with his second-tier English club. He's is at least giving Berhalter something to think about.

M Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal): De la Torre's injury keeps Mihailovic here and casts doubt on Berhalter's decision not to give the Netherlands-bound playmaker a look in September.

D Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes): It was a predictably long day for the big center back against PSG's all-planet front line of Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar last Saturday. Palmer-Brown conceded a second half penalty that Mbappe converted in Troyes' 4-3 loss.

F Jordan Pefok (Union Berlin): Pefok's scoreless streak now sits at six games.

*D Chris Richards (Crystal Palace): Sidelined since August, the center back still hasn't resumed full training, Palace manager Patrick Vieira confirmed last Friday.

D Tim Ream (Fulham): Given the USMNT's concerns at center back it's hard to believe that Ream isn't a roster lock based on his performances this season for the Cottagers, where he plays every week next to Antonee Robinson in the world's toughest league.

Ream hasn't been summoned by Berhalter since withdrawing from a trio of October 2021 World Cup qualifiers because of an undisclosed personal matter. Whatever the reason for his omission is, it will be a shame for both the 35-year-old and the USMNT if Ream isn't recalled for Qatar.

M Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders): Berhalter will be watching Roldan's numbers during the ongoing fitness workouts in Texas. If he likes what he sees, it's still possible that the coach takes the USMNT veteran over 2022 debutant Tillman even if Roldan hasn't played since Seattle's season ended Oct. 9.

^D Auston Trusty (Birmingham City): The 24-year-old former MLSer has been one of the best center backs in England's Championship this season, and he scored a beautiful goal over the weekend:

Trusty's been called up to the USMNT twice, most recently in January, but remains uncapped. It's still incredibly unlikely that he makes the 26. Given the issues in central defense, it isn't entirely impossible, either.

D Sam Vines (Royal Antwerp): In Belgium, the left-footed left back went 90 minutes for the third straight game.

F Haji Wright (Antalyaspor): The big striker scored his third goal in three outings in Monday's 2-1 Turkish Süper Lig over Sivasspor. Could Wright sneak onto the roster if Sargent's recovery hits a snag?


^Bumped up

⌄Bumped down

Added: Auston Trusty

Dropped: None


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