Paxton Pomykal

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USMNT injuries are piling up at a bad time

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It looked like a major piece of the U.S. National Team future was finally back, healthy and ready to go.

And then he wasn’t.

Timothy Weah returned from a six-month absence but lasted just 10 minutes before succumbing to another hamstring injury this past weekend, deepening what is already a troubling situation for the USMNT.

Several key players have missed valuable club time of late, causing worry for fans who want to see their players in good form through the club season before the start of 2022 World Cup qualifying later this summer.

Weah is far from the only young and talented American who has been absent from club matches of late. Christian Pulisic, who had finally begun to hit his stride at Chelsea, has been out since early November with a groin problem and suffered a setback two weeks ago. Tyler Adams was felled by a calf injury after only recently returning from his frustrating groin injury. Michael Bradley is down four months after ankle surgery that suspiciously cropped up two months after the MLS Cup final. Paul Arriola just went down with a serious knee injury, believed to be a torn ACL, the same injury that just saw Eric Lichaj end his season early. Duane Holmes is out “several weeks” with ankle injury, the same problem that has Matt Miazga is out for a “significant amount of time.” Paxton Pomykal went under the knife for the third time in three years this past October and still hasn’t recovered, and his FC Dallas teammate Brandon Servania has also missed time this preseason. Fortuna Dusseldorf sent Zack Steffen back to Manchester last week for further testing on a troublesome knee.

What’s worse is these are not older players who you’d expect to be struggling with injuries, nor are they players like John Brooks who have been previously established as injury prone. These are young players or those contributing well at the club level who have ended up all on the shelf at the same time. Guys Pulisic, Weah, Adams Steffen, and Pomykal who are the cornerstone of the next USMNT generation. Guys like Lichaj and Holmes who are pushing for a spot on the roster with excellent form at the club level. Guys like Bradley who, while 32 years old, has been an iron horse throughout their careers. Guys like Miazga, and Arriola who have been regular contributors for some time now and could use a boost at the club level to push them to the next tier of importance on the international stage.

The USMNT reconvenes in March for friendlies against the Netherlands and Wales, and while the Olympics (if they qualify) aren’t until the summer and CONCACAF doesn’t begin 2022 World Cup qualifying until early September, club form going into those competitions are incredibly important, especially for young players still developing and those looking to break into the squad. It would follow that many of the aforementioned youngsters would be in the mix for the Olympic squad. These injuries only serve to get in the way.

What will injuries to Miazga, Weah do to USMNT roster?

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It’s Tuesday, we’re watching the U.S. Open Cup Final, and broadcaster Taylor Twellman has mentioned that four U.S. youngsters are going to be on Gregg Berhalter’s 23-man USMNT roster for the next international break.

The U.S. will play Mexico and Uruguay next month, and has been widely expected to call up Ajax teenager Sergino Dest and Werder Bremen youngster Josh Sargent.

[ MORE: League Cup roundup ]

Twellman seems to confirm that, adding that Miles Robinson of Atlanta United and Paxton Pomykal will make the cut as well.

Injuries to Matt Miazga (Reading) and Timothy Weah (Lille) mean there are more spaces than we suspected, so let’s take one more stab at Berhalter’s unit.

My how things change in a week.

Goalkeepers (3)

Still in:
Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Sean Johnson (New York City FC)

Out:
David Bingham (LA Galaxy)

In:
Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge)

Why: With Horvath now sitting behind Simon Mignolet, Berhalter may opt to take another look at him and allow Bingham to stay with his team ahead of the MLS playoff push. Just a guess.

Defenders (8)

Still in:
John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls)
Walker Zimmerman (LAFC)
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Sergino Dest (Ajax)
Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas)

Out:
Matt Miazga (Reading, injured)

In:
Miles Robinson (Atlanta United)

Why: We’re gonna trust Twellman that Robinson will still fit the bill. Will we see Antonee Robinson of Wigan Athletic instead of Cannon, or as a ninth defender?

Midfielders (6)

Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)
Weston McKennie (Schalke)
Michael Bradley (Toronto FC)
Julian Green (Greuther Fuerth)
Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas)
Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)

Out:
None

In:
Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew)

Why: We’d love to see Alfredo Morales here, who has slipped under the radar for several USMNT coaches despite being a serial difference maker in the Bundesliga (He hasn’t looked great in a U.S. shirt, and maybe it’s a personality thing? Seeing more Wil Trapp over him is a head scratcher besides the Columbus connection between the player and coach). We also think Julian Green may be out of luck, but we’re crossing our fingers given that he’s a Top 3 player in the 2.Bundesliga through a month of the season.

Forwards (6)

Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)
Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
Paul Arriola (DC United)
Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Out:
Timothy Weah (Lille, injured)

In:
None

Why: Weah got hurt! We’d like to see Tyler Boyd of Besiktas here, but are unsure if Berhalter is “up” on him and the youngster is new to the Turkish side. Plus, we think the Weah opening allows him to give Trapp two three four one more chance.

 

What to expect as U.S. kicks off U-20 World Cup

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Tab Ramos’ United States men’s national team may have a navigable U-20 World Cup group, but it doesn’t set-up nicely.

Not that supporters are ready to make excuses; The U.S. is expected to make a decent run over the next month in Poland.

[ WATCH: The U-20 World Cup on Telemundo ]

Timothy Weah, Paxton Pomykal, and the Baby Yanks meet Ukraine at 2:30 p.m. ET in their Group D debut, hopeful of a run past the quarterfinals. The Americans haven’t played three post-group stage matches since a fourth place finish in 1999.

A group win is imperative with loaded favorites France expected to win Group E and set for a spot on the other side of the knockout bracket.

Aside from Josh Sargent’s call-up to the full USMNT, the Yanks have every reason to be optimistic about their potential. The 21-man player squad breaks down to six players on German sides, 10 American-based players, two from the Netherlands, and one each from Portugal, Spain, and France.

Weah is probably the most exciting one of the bunch, having success at Celtic on loan from PSG and earning high praise from Neymar amongst others, but Pomykal is one of the best MLS products in some time as a center midfielder.

Both Pomykal and Chris Durkin are getting significant minutes at the Major League Soccer level, while Mark McKenzie has nearly 20 with the Philadelphia Union as a senior player.

Beyond that are exciting strikers Sebastian Soto, who debuted for Hannover 96 this season, and Wolfsburg prospect Ulysses Llanez.

But the Yanks will look to Weah for that extra special something, the 19-year-old scoring six goals between PSG and Celtic this season.

Friday’s debut will be followed by a Monday match against Nigeria before Thursday’s tango witj Qatar.

Winning Group D means the third-place team from B, E, or F, while finishing second is a Round of 16 match-up with France, who boasts a number of high-end players already playing regularly at the highest levels of European soccer.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

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The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).

Might there be a surprise name in Berhalter’s Gold Cup USMNT?

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Gregg Berhalter is fully aware that this summer’s Gold Cup is his first true showcase tournament, and so it won’t be a surprise if there are no real surprises on his roster.

That will be announced soon, but of course there’s a chance Berhalter does elect to bring a new name into the fold.

He may not use that player in a meaningful situation, but taking a hopeful along for the ride is not unusual (It happens at World Cups all the time).

It would make the most sense if such a call-up were to come from MLS, which will be in full flow when the Gold Cup arrives on our shores.

As usual, the best performers in MLS this young season have mostly not been American. While kids are playing more often, the influx of money into the league has clubs buying known entities or sexy foreign prospects rather than showing love to its youth (Paxton Pomykal and Djordje Mihailovic not withstanding).

Not only that, but the leading American goal scorer so far is 30-year-old CJ Sapong (4), while Benny Feilhaber and Chris Pontius are the only Yanks with a pair of primary assists.

Which brings us back to a name we mentioned earlier: Pomykal. The 19-year-old was one of FC Dallas’ next big things and through nine appearances is their current pretty big thing.

With attacking midfield having some supply but needing depth, Berhalter could well consider a call-up for the teenager. Pomykal has two goals and an assist, and is the second-rated American in MLS according to advanced stats site WhoScored. He could also be called up to the U-20 side as a key piece, so keep that in mind.

Two more names to look at are DC United center back Steve Birnbaum and Houston Dynamo creator Memo Rodriguez. Birnbaum is 28 and has been capped before, and could be an “older” piece for Berhalter’s back line currently led by John Brooks and Matt Miazga, but the center backs do appear set.

Rodriguez is pretty interesting, too, with four goals and an assist in 538 minutes. He’s also posted decent numbers in dribbling and key passes for Wilmer Cabrera’s revitalized Dynamo.