McKennie to start vs shorthanded Jamaica in WCup qualifier
AUSTIN (AP) — Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna are out of the U.S. lineup due to injuries. Weston McKennie will replace them following his disciplinary controversy last month. For reasons that are still unclear, Michail Antonio is Jamaica’s top forward.
The Americans host Jamaica on Thursday night after getting five points in their first three matches of CONCACAF’s brutal, 14-game, seven-month final round of World Cup qualifying. As they attempt to make a return to soccer’s showcase, the Reggae Boyz are currently at one point.
“After three matches, I don’t believe it’s panic mode in any of the players,” Gregg Berhalter, U.S. coach, said Wednesday. “This is about just hanging in there and every round chipping away at it until you get to that number where you’re qualified.”
Reyna hasn’t played since a hamstring injury in the Sept. 2 opener at El Salvador, and Pulisic hasn’t recovered from a sprained ankle sustained six days later at Honduras.
Jamaica was informed Tuesday that Antonio, West Ham’s Premier League player of the month in August, did not travel. Theodore Whitmore, Reggae Boyz coach, wouldn’t confirm or deny that Antonio was upset that he could not bring along a physical therapist.
” I can’t comment on whether it’s a commitment,” Whitmore stated. It’s a difficult situation. There isn’t much I can do. … I’m not trying to point fingers. I don’t know who is at fault, All I can say is the player was selected.”
Jamaica will have only 20 players dress — including three goalkeepers — from the 23 selected, three shy of the total allowed to suit up. Whitmore stated that it was too late for clubs to release players.
“Personally, I wanted to take more than 23 players,” he said.
Berhalter also has 26 at camp. After a failed COVID test, Yunus Musah, a midfielder, trained on his own Wednesday. He was then given a negative PCR test. He was allowed to return to team activities in the evening.
” “It was a precaution that we had to take,” Berhalter stated.
McKennie was 90 in the 0-0 draw with El Salvador, but was unable to play in the 1-1 tie against Canada. He had violated team COVID protocols and was then sent home prior to the 4-1 win at Honduras. McKennie has not spoken to media about the situation.
” We’re dealing here with young players, and there will be moments when mistakes are made. Berhalter stated that it is important to hold McKennie accountable and learn from those mistakes. “Weston will start the game tomorrow. He has been very focused going into this week and we don’t have anything against him. Will he have to rebuild trust over a period of time that shows he is the leader we expect him to? Yes. However, there is nothing against him This set of matches also includes three games in seven days with a Sunday match at Panama and a meeting next Wednesday with Costa Rica at Columbus, Ohio.
Panama asks visitors who are not fully vaccinated, to quarantine for 72 hour, while Britain requires those who have visited Panama to quarantine on entry to the UK. This impacts goalkeeper Zack Steffen, as well as Antonee Robinson.
“We have all the players except one who are fully vaccinated. Berhalter said that another player has one of his shots and that we will have to work through it. “The English situation is constantly changing and we are working to figure that out. We don’t think it makes sense to travel Zack or Antonee if they have to quarantine for 10 days at the back end.”
Berhalter used 22 players in the first three matches, including 21 starters. Only Matt Turner, Miles Robinson, and Tyler Adams were on the pitch every minute.
He also added Kellyn Acosta and Paul Arriola to the team, as well as Tim Weah and Tim Weah. They were both recovering from injuries. Giancluca Buio, Matthew Hoppe and Chris Richards joined them in Europe a month later. Shaq Moore, Shaq Moore, and Luca de la Torre.
Berhalter added Josh Sargent, James Sands, and Jordan Pefok to their team. Ethan Horvath was the goalkeeper for No. 3, while Johns Brooks (injury), and Tim Ream, (family reasons), withdrew.
In the first World Cup qualifier in Texas, Berhalter is looking for speed — as he calls it, “verticality.”
“There’s moments in the El Salvador game, we get the ball, there’s a ton of space behind the back line, and we want to pass it to an open player so he can dribble instead of playing behind the line,” he said. “Look at the Canada game, where it’s a compact block, why not try to get behind that with the urgency more often.”
Jamaica lost 2-1 at Mexico and 3-0 at home against Panama, then drew 1-1 at Costa Rica.
“We know the intensity and the determination that it will take to achieve the result we want,” Miles Robinson stated.
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