31-year-old U.S. international Eric Lichaj has torn ankle ligaments while playing for Hull City and is expected to miss a considerable amount of time, possibly the remainder of the season.
Lichaj, the Hull City captain, sustained the injury in the 70th minute of Hull City’s 1-1 road draw at Reading last weekend. He was absent for Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to Blackburn.
“Eric and Herbie [Kane] are going to be out for the foreseeable future – at least two or three months which means they’re probably going to miss the rest of the season,” said Hull City manager Grant McCann. “They’ve both torn ligaments in their ankles. It’s exactly the same injury, which is bizarre. It is two blows for us. I think both are going to get a second opinion from a specialist. But it is very unlikely we will see them again this season.”
Lichaj has missed just three Hull City matches this season, and the Tigers have lost all three by a combined 7-1. Otherwise, the right-back has been on the pitch for all 29 matches, seeing the field for all but 65 total minutes across those games. Hull sits 14th in the Championship table. The injuries are piling up for Hull City, who were missing a colossal 12 first-team players in the loss to Blackburn on Tuesday.
The timing is brutal for Lichaj, who had just worked his way back into the U.S. national team setup after a solid seven years on the periphery. Lichaj has 16 total caps for the U.S. national team, half of which came in 2010 and 2011 near his debut. After the 2011 Gold Cup, he made just three substitute appearances until returning to regular consideration in 2017, since when he’s made five appearances and has been an unused substitute 11 more times.
But also a positive one, as Eric Lichaj also and Terrence Boyd also headlined the weekend, with one assisting in Hull City’s commanding win and the other scoring in Germany’s third division, respectively.
Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.
Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — On Sunday, Pulisic viewed Chelsea’s decisive, 2-0 victory over Tottenham from the bench.
DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin was called off the bench by Steve Bruce towards the end of Saturday’s match, playing only a minute in Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes drew a yellow card in Derby’s 3-0 loss to Reading on Saturday.
John Brooks, Wolfsburg – The 26-year-old defender started and played 90 in Wolfsburg’s 2-0 draw loss to Champions Bayern Munich.
Weston McKennie, Schalke — McKennie is out with a shoulder injury.
Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen played all 90 minutes and recorded four saves in Fortuna Dusseldorf’s 2-1 win over Union Berlin. Morales also started and played all 90 minutes on Sunday.
Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen — Sargent is out with a hamstring injury.
Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams started and played 86 minutes as a fullback in RB Leipzig’s 2-1 win over Augsburg on Saturday.
Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach — Johnson didn’t feature for Borussia Mönchengladbach this weekend.
Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — Chandler started and played in Frankfurt’s 2-1 loss to Paderborn on Sunday.
Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest started and played 90 minutes in Ajax’s 6-1 win on Sunday.
Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker came off the bench and played 29 minutes in Venlo’s 3-0 loss to Vitesse.
Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — Payne didn’t feature for FC Emmen on Sunday.
Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah didn’t feature for Lille on Saturday.
Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu didn’t feature for Rennes on Saturday.
Preface: This is a long preface to a forthcoming Q&A and Best XI roundtable with the PST staff, inspired by a pretty passionate staff meeting on Wednesday.
Gregg Berhalter actually has more time to mess around with the USMNT than any manager in recent history, and that’s not a veiled shot at the federation hierarchy.
Winning Gold Cups and the CONCACAF Nations League would be great, and we’d love to see Jason Kreis’ U-23 men deliver a rare Olympic appearance and success, but the gold standard for the USMNT remains its performance in the World Cup.
Even a still-growing soccer culture like the American one should sleepwalk into a World Cup with adequate management, but we’ve seen failure is not an impossible when Jurgen Klinsmann and later Bruce Arena combined to give other teams a chance at their spot.
Qualifying is going to be come an after thought in just one more cycle when the field grows ahead of the 2026 tournament, and the 2022 World Cup qualification process is a bit easier for CONCACAF’s powers.
The Hexagonal remains as the final stage of qualifying for a World Cup, but the Hex members will not have to participate in a fourth round in order to advance to the stage. FIFA instead will give new responsibility to its Nations League.
The six teams to qualify for the Hex will be based on FIFA ratings, a heavy shot to any country not named Mexico and the Unites States (and, perhaps, Costa Rica). Not only are the FIFA ratings far from ideal, it’s a rarity that teams other than aforementioned three are in the Top 40.
Average rankings since start of FIFA system
Costa Rica: 45
Trinidad and Tobago: 67
El Salvador: 93
There’s one more step for the fourth place team after the Hex, which sees three teams qualify for the World Cup. The fourth place team previously would meet a playoff team from another confederation for a berth in the World Cup, but now has to face the “champion” of teams ranked 7th and lower in CONCACAF in a pre-playoff playoff.
All of this is to say Berhalter’s job, overly-simplified, is:
Qualify for the World Cup
Reach the final of all CONCACAF competitions
Look like an adequate footballing nation in other competitions
Make sure he doesn’t lose any talented dual nationals (also the GM’s job)
This is an awfully long runway to say that Berhalter’s USMNT is still a solid year away from playing a match that truly affects Goal No. 1 (The rankings used are from June 2020, and the Hex games will not begin until September).
No. 2 involves beating Cuba twice and taking at least four of six points from Canada over the next four months. The former should be straight-forward. The latter a challenge (especially if this group is tasked with stopping Alphonso Davies and Co.).
No. 3, so far, is a resounding meh. The Yanks have beaten a bunch of B-teams and then Jamaica and Ecuador. They’ve lost to literally everyone of consequence besides draws versus the B-plus teams of Chile and Uruguay (the latter coming Tuesday).
He has eight wins, four losses and two draws. The wins are over Panama (2x), Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Curacao, and Jamaica. The losses: Mexico (2x), Jamaica, Venezuela.
Home-and-away CNL matches against Cuba and Canada will finish his first year in charge.
As for job objective No. 3, the pressing matter is one Sergino Dest. The Ajax right back made his USMNT debut this international break, switched to the left side — he’s played some there as a youth, but almost exclusively on the right — in order to, we guess, see if he can be the answer to a USMNT question that goes back to DaMarcus Beasley’s defensive prime.
That’s actually okay, provided Berhalter let Dest know the objective. We have to assume that’s the case, because using him at left back in the “system” which utilizes center midfielder Tyler Adams as a right back would be an dramatic waste of pace and creativity.
Ultimately, that’s why the bad performances cause so much consternation amongst USMNT supporters. Berhalter is a good coach, but his management has been baffling from the outside looking into camp.
Berhalter believes he can “Herb Brooks” an amazing team out of components. He needs results to boost anyone’s confidence that’s possible, and is not getting them. Trusting the process is difficult when there hasn’t been a hat-hanging moment from a very protected schedule of fixtures.
We also have to note that the USMNT, not one of the deepest pools in the world by any stretch of the imagination, was without John Brooks, Matt Miazga, Adams, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and DeAndre Yedlin for both matches of this break, and lost Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Alfredo Morales, and Zack Steffen for the second.
Perhaps the overall American soccer community bears some responsibility for this, treating the process like blooding youth and ignoring experience is the way to get the job done.
That’s what cuts so deep about the USMNT problem, which is shared by so few countries in the world: The Yanks obviously aren’t a side like Germany, Brazil or even England, where the next player up is going to be guaranteed adequate during the experimentation process.
The question is whether they are more like Panama or Costa Rica, who are going to call in effective players regardless of whether there’s a 3 at the start of their age or not. Whataboutism is brutal, but shoot, if we’re going to spend two years and use every advanced stat we can find to berate Jurgen Klinsman for not calling up 30-year-old Benny Feilhaber and his 1 assist in 40 caps, then perhaps it’s fitting we discuss Bundesliga and Championship starters not getting called up in positions of weakness (Fabian Johnson, Eric Lichaj).
And, honestly, I want my national team to be one who takes a look at short-term solutions and in-form players. For example — and this is going to make a lot of people yell — if Berhalter is going to call up the 150th best player in MLS on a regular basis, can he put the same league trust in a 28-year-old having the best season of any American in the domestic league? For every 500-word think piece on Andrew Carleton when he’s 17 and how he projects, maybe trust information if it tells you a slightly older guy might be onto something?
Familiarity and “my guys” is a concept a lot of coaches choose, but let’s look at the 2019 seasons of the following wide men. Three were called up by Berhalter, while the fourth is the above-named player (via WhoScored’s comparison tool).
Moving on, consider this very basic exercise as simply an observation. Look at the players by their FIFA ratings (thanks, USMNT Only).
Getting past the hilarious 69 put on Timothy Weah and a pretty lofty 76 handed to DeAndre Yedlin, the names still in gold half-inspire this question: Should the American national team be ignoring players based on age?
For now, and at the Gold Cup, that’s okay. But the question is where are we as a nation? Fabian Johnson is 31 and Darlington Nagbe 29, but is it fair to completely rule them out of the fold due to perceived attitude and age? And should
Let’s leave Pulisic, Bradley, McKennie, Altidore, and any injured players out of the equation and ask the difference, if any, between these two sides in a theoretical match right now (Hint: It’s not about league).
Two notes: This assumes every player is convinced to accept a call-up, as Darlington Nagbe isn’t loving the Berhalter era and several vets would require a conversation.
Also, It was very hard to find a striker for the second squad with Sargent and Zardes in camp while Altidore is excused to be with Toronto FC. Thinnnnnnn….
Tuesday’s Starters vs. Uruguay
Cannon — Long — Ream — Dest
Lletget — Roldan
Boyd — Sargent — Morris
– versus –
Johnson — Green — Pomykal
Nagbe — Cameron
Robinson — Opara — Birnbaum — Lichaj
All of the above theoretical exercises are merely fueled by the end of a painful international break — both in results and activity, so thanks for coming back club soccer — but the fact that it isn’t a “Yeah, clearly the team that started would’ve won” situation should say something, and it’s also why we still really don’t know where we are with Berhalter Ball one year into the project.
Lichaj took advantage of hesitant defending and zipped in front of a Rotherham defender to send a low ball into the heart of the 18, where Campbell’s cute touch gave the Tigers a first lead of the game at 2-1.
The 29-year-old fullback joined Hull following 190 appearances for Nottingham Forest, and has also suited up for Aston Villa, Leeds United, Leyton Orient, and Lincoln City.
Lichaj has 15 caps and a goal for the USMNT, including four apps since July 2017. He is one of a handful of veteran players who may benefit from new eyes at the helm of the U.S. men’s national team.
“It’s a fresh start for me and I want to repay Hull City for the faith that they have shown in me by bringing me here. I’ll be working my hardest, as I always do, every day in training and on matchdays.”
The versatile American can play left or right back, and has pushed his way back into the national team picture. Lichaj has 15 caps with a goal for the USMNT.