Sergiño Dest’s injury hampers USMNT’s push to Worlds qualifiers


The US national team, already missing their best player in midfielder Weston McKennie, may have lost another Thursday when full-back Sergiño Dest fell just a week before the first of three crucial qualifiers that will decide the Americans’ return to the world , picked up an apparent leg injury Cup this fall in Qatar.

McKennie broke a foot earlier this month while playing for his club side in Italy, while Dest limped off the field in the 56th minute of Barcelona’s Europa League win over Galatasaray.

Coach Gregg Berhalter said there was no replacement for McKennie.

“He was so important to this group that we’re not going to hook up a guy and get like after like,” he said. “But that’s okay. We’ve won games without him. And we’ll do it again.”

LAFC’s Kellyn Acosta was among the players Berhalter said could play in McKennie’s absence, along with Luca de la Torre, Brenden Aronson, Gio Reyna and Cristian Roldan.

The trainer also has a plan in case Dest isn’t available.

“That’s not good news. The initial diagnosis appears to be a hamstring injury,” Berhalter said. “We may need to replace him and we have already identified candidates.”

He did not say who exactly he will be called up as a replacement. But that’s not exactly the best start to the most important two weeks for Berhalter’s national team.

The USA, second to Canada in the eight-team CONCACAF qualifying table, must finish in the top three to automatically secure a place at the World Cup and their three remaining games will be played by their three closest pursuers. The Americans will open on March 24 in Mexico City against Mexico, who lag behind the United States on goal difference, before meeting fourth-placed Panama, four points behind the United States, in Orlando, Florida, on March 27.

Berhalter’s team will then complete qualifying on March 30th in Costa Rica. Five points from three games would guarantee a World Cup spot, meaning the USA, who have never won a qualifier in either Mexico or Costa Rica, cannot afford to lose both.

It’s a grueling schedule of three games in seven days that makes it unlikely anyone will play the full 90 minutes in all three.

“It’s something you can get through,” Berhalter said. “Our job is to put 11 players on the field who can win the game.”

The 27-man squad Berhalter has at his disposal is young, averaging 24 years and only making 12 appearances in competitive games. They include four teenagers, including 19-year-old Reyna, who has not played for the USA since suffering a hamstring injury in September’s opening qualifier in El Salvador.

He proved his fitness in a 21-minute performance on Wednesday, setting up the only goal in Dortmund’s Bundesliga win over Mainz.

Also returning are centre-backs Aaron Long and Erik Palmer-Brown and goalkeeper Ethan Horvath. It has been a long time since his Achilles tendon rupture last May, Palmer-Brown’s last international camp was in 2018 while Horvath is back for the first time since qualifying began in September.

They will join a core centered around Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic, who has recorded three goals and one assist in his last six appearances in all competitions for his club side. He also scored in a USA 2-0 win over Mexico in Cincinnati in November.

In addition to McKennie and perhaps Dest, Berhalter is also missing New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner through injury. Turner has not played for club or country since February’s qualifying win over Honduras in sub-zero temperatures in Minnesota.

Among those dropped from the squad are former Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who played in the first four qualifiers, starting twice and scoring one goal, and centre-back John Brooks.

But Lletget, now at New England, has not played since losing in October in Panama, while Brooks has not been called up since September.

The roster

Goalkeeper: Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest), Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Zack Steffen (Manchester City).

Defender: Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Erik Palmer-Brown (Troyes), Antonee Robinson (Fulham), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (Rangers), DeAndre Yedlin (Inter Miami), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

Midfield player: Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Gianluca Busio (Venezia), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

Forward: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (FC Dallas), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Tim Weah (Lille) Sergiño Dest’s injury hampers USMNT’s push to Worlds qualifiers

Andrew Schnitker

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