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Walker Zimmerman ruled out of Gold Cup, Henry Kessler and Cade Cowell join USMNT camp


The U.S. men’s national team’s quest to win the 2021 Gold Cup has taken a hit after Walker Zimmerman was ruled out for the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.

New England Revolution defender Henry Kessler and San Jose Earthquakes forward Cade Cowell are set to join the USMNT in training camp in Texas ahead of Sunday’s Gold Cup quarterfinal against Jamaica, though the Americans have yet to formally apply for any roster changes.

No other injury updates were provided by the USMNT on Tuesday evening, but forward Daryl Dike did suffer a shoulder injury late in Sunday’s 1-0 win against Canada, while Paul Arriola has remained sidelined since suffering an injury in the USMNT’s Gold Cup-opening win against Haiti.

Concacaf announced on Monday a change to Gold Cup guidelines, instituting medical replacements for the knockout rounds. Under the new guidelines, teams can make injury or illness-related roster changes up to 24 hours prior to their quarterfinal matches, if the roster changes are approved by Concacaf.

Zimmerman’s departure is a big blow to the USMNT’s defensive setup, and will leave Berhalter pondering how to set up his defense in the quarterfinals against Jamaica. The emergence of James Sands as an ideal central centerback in a three-centerback system helped turn the 5-3-2 formation into the USMNT’s preferred formation at the Gold Cup, but losing Zimmerman could force Berhalter to revert to the 4-3-3 the Americans normally play when at full strength.

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

One of the best rookies in MLS in 2020, Kessler would bring another sharp-passing central defender into the fold, and while he has more experience playing in a two-centerback system, Kessler does have some familiarity playing in a three-centerback setup.

Kessler has yet to make his USMNT debut, but he did play with the U.S. Under-23 men’s national team at the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament in March and took part in the USMNT’s January camp.

Donovan Pines struggled badly in the second half of Sunday’s win against Haiti after he replaced Zimmerman. The D.C. United defender started out well enough, but committed a series of errors in the second half that the Americans were lucky not to be punished by.

With Pines looking so shaky, Berhalter could be forced to deploy Miles Robinson and James Sands together in a 4-3-3, a setup, which would limit Sands ability to influence the game by shifting into midfield, as he did effectively in the first half against Canada.

As far as Cowell goes, he would make sense as a replacement option if Dike is unable to recover from the shoulder injury he suffered against Haiti. Cowell can operate as a striker and a wide forward. The 17-year-old is one of the most exciting teenagers in MLS, and has not made a USMNT appearance before. Cowell is also eligible to play for Mexico, and an appearance in the Gold Cup would cap-tie him to the United States.

The fact that the USMNT didn’t call in any natural wingers to join the camp suggests Arriola is closer to recovering from his injury, though Berhalter has until Saturday to submit any changes and can still draw from the 59-player preliminary roster, a list that includes wing options such as Chris Mueller and Corey Baird.

The Americans will take on Jamaica on Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas after the Reggae Boyz suffered a 1-0 loss to Costa Rica that gave the Ticos first place in Group C.


  1. I was disappointed with Gregg’s initial roster selection for the Gold Cup squad so I don’t know why I expected his selections for replacement players to be any better. Of the 2 listed in the article I’m more favorable with the possible inclusion of Cowell than I am Kessler. Unfortunately I don’t think Cowell is ready just yet to contribute to the Sr. National Team, but at least he could one day be an option.
    Kessler on the other hand proved during his Olympic Qualifier Tournament that he isn’t international quality…and probably never will be.
    At least it’s unlikely we’ll have to watch this piss poor squad beyond the next game against Jamaica.

  2. Henry Kessler will do fine and should start. Arena basically hid him in the run up to the naming of the team. Once the team was named, he’s started every game since (including tonight im sure)

  3. Know we all have different opinions on players and roster decisions, so I’ll throw mine here as well: If trying to actually compete and potentially win this tournament — and still looking to the future — I would have much rather seen Chris Mueller and Justen Glad called up than these two. For me, Glad is the better and stronger CB at this time, and showed that in the Olympic qualifiers, and Mueller brings similar energy with more maturity up-top / on the wings…I don’t think Cowell is ready for this level, and Kessler to me is ok, but would be second-choice after Glad. Looking back, I think the early injuries to Ariola (Haiti match) and Zimmerman (Canada match) really took the air out of us — both veteran and vocal leaders on the field, IMO.

    • Mueller is only starting about half the time for OFC, even after he had that great run of form with 2g 2a in four matches. I don’t know if there’s some minor injury or it’s just rotation. Might also be a tough conversation “hey Orlando your starting striker just got hurt for us hope that doesn’t effect your 15 million dollar transfer of him, by the way can we have your RW to replace him?”. Cowell would also be capped for the US and ineligible to play for Mexico for 3 years (new U21 switch rule wouldn’t completely tie until the 4th match).

  4. Just here for the comments, not the names I expected to be brought in, also nitpicking but pretty sure Pines sucked against Canada, not against Haiti, but who knows he could have been giving bad advice from the bench.

    • I thought it was clear that Pines was a liability against Haiti as well, I shuddered when he came in for Zimmerman, I would have gone to 2 in the back in order to keep Pines out vs Canada.


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