When Christian Pulisic was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, one of the leading names expected to step in to replace him for the U.S. men’s national team if necessary was Tim Weah, but now it appears the Lille winger won’t be available for the September World Cup qualifiers at all.
Weah missed Lille’s 2-1 win vs. Montpellier on Sunday with what Lille manager Jocelyn Gourvennec described as an injury that will sideline for several weeks.
#LOSCMHSC Jocelyn Gourvennec : « Les joueurs avaient besoin de gagner pour retrouver de la confiance. Ça change beaucoup de choses. Il y avait bcp de joie dans le vestiaire. Les hics : les blessures de Tim Weah et Jo Bamba qui vont être indisponibles plusieurs semaines. »
— Samuel Duhamel (@SamuelDuhamel) August 29, 2021
It is unclear whether Gregg Berhalter will call in a replacement for Weah, though the USMNT coach stated on Thursday that part of the reason he called in a 26-player squad for the team’s upcoming training camp was to help cover for potential injury and illness absences.
Weah’s injury would seem to increase the chances that we see Konrad De La Fuente have an opportunity to start, especially if Pulisic winds up having to miss the El Salvador match on Thursday due to any delays in his recovery from COVID-19.
Berhalter could also turn to Brenden Aaronson given the Red Bull Salzburg midfielder’s outstanding form, and the fact Berhalter has used him almost exclusively as a winger for the USMNT, but Aaronson would also have to be considered a candidate to start in central midfield given the fact he has been playing in a central role for Salzburg this season.
As far as players Berhalter could call in as replacements, Nicholas Gioacchini and Matthew Hoppe both played in wide roles during the Gold Cup. In terms of other options on the current roster, Cristian Roldan also has experience playing on the wing for the USMNT, as does Sebastian Lletget.
The winger position had already taken a hit with the recent hamstring injury suffered by Paul Arriola, further weakening a position that is already light on natural options.
The good news for the USMNT is that Pulisic arrived in Nashville for training camp on Sunday, which bodes well for his expected availability for the team’s home qualifier against Canada on September 5, but he may not travel for the El Salvador match if Berhalter determines it is better to save him after he will have gone two weeks without playing and 10 days without training as part of COVID-19 protocols.
Gio Reyna will be expected to start on the right wing, as he did during the Concacaf Nations League finals in June, leaving the left wing to be manned either by Aaronson or De La Fuente.
The Americans take on El Salvador in their opening World Cup qualifier on Thursday in San Salvador (10:05 p.m., CBS Sports Network/Paramount+/Universo).
What do you think of this development? Who would you start on the wing for the USMNT against El Salvador if Pulisic and Weah are out? Which of the potential replacement options would you like to see called in?
Share your thoughts below.