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John Brooks ruled out of USMNT October qualifiers with back injury


The U.S. men’s national team will already be without one veteran centerback for October’s World Cup Qualifying schedule and now will be without a second.

John Brooks has been ruled out of this month’s trio of qualifiers due to a back injury suffered with German club Wolfsburg, U.S. Soccer announced on Monday. Brooks joins Tim Ream as the latest central defender out of action for Gregg Berhalter’s side this month. Ream withdrew from international duty due to family reasons.

The 28-year-old started the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Canada and Honduras in September, but will remain in Germany for injury rehabilitation. Brooks was a second-half substitute for Mark Van Bommel’s side in Wolfsburg’s 3-1 Bundesliga loss to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday.

Brooks has endured a difficult stretch, including his disappointing performances in the September qualifiers followed by some inconsistent play with Wolfsburg, which included Brooks being sent off in UEFA Champions League play. He has gone from being a lock starter for Wolfsburg to finding himself on the bench on multiple occasions in the past month, a product both of his own dip in form as well as Wolfsburg’s push to find playing time for a young core of central defenders.

With Brooks out, Miles Robinson enters camp as the leading candidate to fill one of the two starting central defender spots when the Americans take on Jamaica, with Mark McKenzie, Chris Richards and Walker Zimmerman in contention to start alongside the Atlanta Unite defender.

The USMNT opens its three-match schedule on Thursday in Austin, Texas against Jamaica before traveling to Panama on Sunday, and closing out the October qualifiers at home in Columbus, Ohio against Costa Rica.


  1. This just means Richards will play a lot more this cycle! Richards, M.Robinson v Jamaica. M. Robinson, Zimmerman vs Panama away, w/ Richards as a sub, then Richards, McKenzie vs CR. Friendly reminder- GB called in 6 CBs, played 5 last window.

  2. i think we have to make a distinction between the ability to use 27 rosterees as a cushion and arrive with 23 names for a 3rd game dress list, vs them be rested and healthy and be able to rotate players, which in practical terms last time required using more than 23 people. it’s not just showing up for the 3rd game with a team, it’s showing up rested and poised to do well. he seems to have forgotten last game 3 his roster had eroded, he ran out a significantly different lineup, he had a rotten first half, and then he had to go back to the well on players with some minutes on them, who it so happened set the world on fire second half at honduras. but one could argue the first half reflected how much of the attrition had gone unaddressed. kind of like gold cup group play and the slapped together teams we were running out. to me you need to not just burn the cushion but maintain it so that we can sub and squad rotate and not be just throwing bodies out there game 3. i agree he hasn’t learned the broader lesson, but nor has he really learned the lesson that honduras last time was kind of a lucky accident where i am sure the dress list was basically by default, and some people basically had to play.

    • in other words, it’s not just that you need an injury cushion to have enough people to dress, it’s that for strategic purposes such as rotation you might very well need more than 23 players for 3 games. which is how many people we used last 3 games — 23 — despite having 3 unused backup keepers and people who left injured. numerically this is only possible if you keep the numbers up.

      maybe he didn’t like how game 3 began but burning through 23 players (22 field) suggests he has to rotate sometime and perhaps the error was his for picking honduras away to try it.

  3. GB seems to have a high tolerance for risk in his roster or I guess it could be he doesn’t grasp the risk he is taking. Maybe he is the sort of guy who will eat gas station sushi for $hits and giggles or maybe he thinks gas station sushi is pretty good. Better Buckle up.

  4. i feel like some of the pro-sands arguments repeat some of the gibberish last time about players needing to finalize transfers. last time some of the players were said to have been left off to finalize deadline day transfers. but we had ongoing roster attrition and kept playing games through september 8, and called yueill up “late.” now, the argument goes, we can only call upon domestic players to fill roster holes or add players now that UK has changed its quarantine rules. where does it say this? it makes a tiny bit of practical sense except we’ve needed some swaps for a few days now — and don’t play for another two days. a domestic flight is short, but a guy on an international plane tonight their time would be here tomorrow our time. and we games for the next 9 days. we carried pulisic on the call sheet to spend 2 games doing fitness but we can’t call an in-season european based player, if not for thursday, then for games 2 and 3? i get if we need a replacement for a game tomorrow they have to be domestic and on a plane about now. i don’t get a week and a half. does not compute.

    and if you are scared about covid bubbles there are private planes. nothing says we have to run them through heathrow on commercial.

  5. Lots of people are criticizing Berhalter for not calling in more players, but do we know for sure that it is his decision, or are there some bean counters at the USSF limiting the number of call ups? Inquiring minds want to know.

    One thing that would be smart if GB had some latitude would be to call in a small group of worthy MLS players and have a mini camp in Columbus in to hedge against the likelihood that our team will be depleted when they arrive there for game 3.

    • flaw in your analysis is -ream + zimmermann nets out roughly even as either “man” or “money” accounting — one out, one in — but -brooks +0 nets out a man short and they perhaps save money. your argument is fair if the question is adding personnel beyond the original quota. but 27 down to 26, not so much. in theory they should have back in the budget one player’s worth of logistics at the cost of european travel from germany. that would cover anyone we could want short of perhaps turkey or poland. you change the name on brooks’ tickets. voila.

  6. Besides Brooks ruled out of the October WCQ, I also noticed Larry Henry Jr. has been writing the articles the past couple days. Is Ives out, or just taking a short break?

    • I’m disappointed that Berhalter did not call in a replacement before the Jamaica game. Why not execute things proactively, instead of reactively waiting until after the Jamaica game? The fact that we only have 26 healthy bodies in camp, he can actually fly in 2-3 players and give them a head start to practice along with the current squad & understand the game plans, even though the 2-3 players will most likely not dress for the Jamaica game. This is totally poor management.

      • neither domestic nor international. and it’s worth noting on that, that while some seem leery of calling someone from europe, the nature of the beast is they are routinely on a plane just days before the first game. in this case 3-4 days perhaps. we are 5 days to panama and 8 days to CR.

        also, GB seems to not be considering the cumulative impact of such decisions. setting aside my wish for a bigger roster, if you let the smaller roster erode, and don’t respond, and more and more people fall out, we got down close to 23 last time by the end, and at the last game, yeah, you run out of options to do a thing about it. so if you want to stay “flush” you have to keep numbers up while you can control it.

        last point, people are ignoring that historically we have had about 25 people or so in quali camps for the old 2 game windows. there may have been some contingency to that, but it was also used to have competition for the dress roster. like there would be “cuts.” if you don’t keep the numbers up you lose that bit of motivation.

    • IV I think your romanticizing the past. Yes, you’d have “cuts” before WC itself sometimes before GC but qualifying rosters weren’t tryouts. Any other long time fans remember it that way. You’d always take 24-26 in case of injuries or card accumulation but not as a tryout. If someone else can confirm IV on that I’ll gladly say I was wrong.

      • I can’t co-sign with IV on that JR. I don’t remember any US coaches using qualifying windows for tryouts. From Bora to Arena 2.0, they figured out their personnel before WCQ. At the same time, none of these coaches had to deal with a pandemic. Also Certainly not this deep of talent as GB has at his disposal. ..and we know with talent comes expectations. I think, WCQ is calculus (anti-derivatives & algorithms), not algebra, (linear equations), dealing in unknowns.

      • dude, i detest people who spin what you say. i think i pretty clearly said call about 30 and maybe 1-2 max would be trial players. and your argument about the “25 man” before now is wrong. if someone got hurt we called new people for game 2. so the point historically was not an injury cushion so much as roster competition and the ability to adjust to what shows up in camp. they would have cuts. people would sometimes get sent home. new people would show up game 2 and someone wasn’t even hurt. you’re spinning twice. don’t change history. don’t mislead about what i meant. how about we have an honest conversation?

      • i am not talking about deep “tryouts.” i am simply saying you can have a guy or two like pulisic or pepi who is special or who might address a bad need area. i made pretty freaking clear before that world cup is money on the table and that the use of noobs would be limited to practice fodder — for evaluation by the coaches — and playing at the end of blowout games in garbage time. you seem to be painting me as extreme when your favorite coach ran out pepi TO START HIS FIRST CAP. all i am saying is add roster player #27 or #28, you don’t even have to play them, but you can examine them in a controlled practice environment and begin developing an opinion.

        i am sure we do some practice drills that are straight game prep. that would not be “when.” that time is for starters. i am also sure before we get there, that we do a little 5 or 11 a side, and the coach makes sure everyone can still run and kick a ball straight. i am sure we either rotate teams or sub in players. you give the rookie a few minutes in those drills. if they wow you, you fast track them. if not, they maybe don’t even dress. and they only play for real if a game is basically over.

        i think one fallacy here is every bit of every practice must be game prep. i think not playing much actual soccer but instead doing situational work all practice would be bad. that might be the last practice or two the day before. before then you’d be getting the travel lead out and making sure they look fit and fluid, and let them get back used to each other.

    • IV: with your comment of cuts and no longer being that pressure you made it sound like guys who had been playing would get dropped for being poor in training. I don’t remember that ever happening. Maybe that’s not what you meant.

      • again, spinning. how many people do you really think are in danger of a cut when you call 27 people for a 23 man? not most. nor do i think starters should be in danger of the axe for practice play. but what it does create is roster-back-end pressure to be on form and show up serious. guys 20-27 might be fighting. you might see them as roughly equal on talent, you might have seen one player more than the other, and you liked them enough to call, but you feel like an actual choice exists. in which case one guy shows up shanking practice passes and the other guy looks ready. QED. you have your choice. i generally favor talent — and i am not saying turner or adams or aaronson should be subject to how practice goes. but if someone at the margins shows up rusty or unfit, a backup keeper can’t catch, or a noob looks exceptional, maybe you fiddle at the end of the 23 a little. i mean, when pulisic gets 10′ at the end of guatemala, it’s not as a pure tryout, it’s klinsi was already raving about him from practice. and some very average attacker who might have even missed a previous window gets cut so he can play. i’m not saying he gets dempsey’s job on 2 practices. i’m saying maybe he plays instead of mixx or nguyen, you know, OK players at the margins of being involved. that’s who you’re fighting for a slot and for sub minutes. you then maybe get 10′ when we win 4-0 if he loves you.

      • that being said, before you start spinning, if someone is sitting as much as steffen or horvath are then we should be kicking your tires at NT practices to make sure you can still catch. personally i think the smarter play is roster 4 keepers and see them in person than pick 3 on club form. hence 30 instead of 27. injury margin plus you can make edge-roster decisions based on how they look in front of you as opposed to form speculation from tape and spreadsheets. i mean, forest’s coach got fired and their results flipped like a switch. maybe they hated hughton and that one day you keep harping on horvath was a victim of them tanking the coach so he’d get fired. you then punish horvath because of how his team was giving up for a few weeks. btw what horvath did this summer wasn’t because bruges played him at all. y’all continue to go back to that well.

  7. Well one thing is for sure…then bAckupsshoul d. E getting experience together cause chances are Brooks will be injured

  8. I’m concerned about what Michail Antonio is going to do to our center backs. Panama was apparently successful at cutting off service to him; we’ll have to do the same or it could get ugly.

  9. I wouldn’t say we still have 4 “good” center backs so we don’t need to call in one more just in case.
    McKenzie looked like crap in the gold cup, and had one decent half against a team that was strung out, exhausted and no threat..
    Not calling Miazga just in case is stupid

    • Miazga was pretty bad against Panama last fall as well. At least half responsible for both goals. I saw the Athletico match. They’re style really fits his game, sit deep and defend crosses. Not much danger of anyone running in behind if you never leave the box. I’d be happy if they brought him in but I’d be happy if it was Sands too. I wouldn’t even be sad about Kessler.

      • Yea I gotcha, even though Sands was garbage last month I know he’s better in the back. It just defies all logic – He brings in a replacement when Ream drops, but not now..stupid. Maybe he’s got Jackson Yuell waiting by the phone…

      • While Miazga has his weaknesses (who doesn’t), there is this. According to reports, Vincent Kompany, one of the best CB’s of his generation, wanted to buy Miazga for his Belgian team, but Man City declined, wanting to keep him and now he is playing in the Primera League. You know what, I think Kompany is probably a good judge of talent at CB.

      • Maybe US Soccer doesn’t have the resources that Turkmenistan has? Or not as much depth? I’m being sarcastic, this shows how idiotic Berhalter and USSSF have been. Earnie Stewart should force Berhalter to bring more players in, unless he agrees with this stupid policy.

    • Friendly reminder!! McKenzie didn’t participate in the GC! Try again, I’m confident there’s a CB who ‘fits the description!’

    • personally i think miazga = brooks and this is addition by subtraction. he would have eliminated everyone i see as a vulnerability from the CB pool this time. i do think it’s about 50/50 between him and sands who GB would likely call, neither of which i would trust. i would like to see CCV or EPB but that won’t happen.

      in terms of your comment that we have 4, while i have been pimping richards, he hasn’t given him much chance — and none this summer. that is risky. he comes under my heading of “try in practice and for 10-30′ in a blowout.” 4 backs is kind of like you’re likely going to play. i’d have someone in i trusted to mark in a qualifier. then keep richards as a 5th option. so i’d add one. i’d agree with you if all 4 were veterans, but they’re not.

    • Even 27 was doable but now 27 is 26. An injury or a card situation and now we’re playing a game with only 3 CBs. I understand that Sands and Kessler are a two plane ride away but why not have them there now or at least say they’ll arrive in camp Friday.

  10. Another CB out, this one a likely starter. The logical thing would be to bring in somebody like CCV, Matt Miazga or someone else who has been playing at a relatively level. Let’s see how stupid US soccer has become. Remember if someone says it’s too late, remember we want to rotate our players and if all the replacement does is play some minutes in the last of the 3 games, that can still help.

    • Berhalter said what he learned last window was they needed to rotate players. What he missed was he was unable to rotate players because of injuries and suspensions. If he’d replaced Weah, he’d have had a wing to start instead of Sargent. If he had brought more RBs he wouldn’t have had play Adams at RB. Yes Dest can play both but when he got hurt we were short at both spots. This window we have the looming problem of yellow card accumulation too that will also take players. I really hope they’re just giving time for arrangements to be made and Sands will be in training Friday morning but I’m concerned.

      • I know. This is freaking insane, 101-level type basic stuff, and he keeps right on blowing it.

        Why the #$%# would he self-impose limits when he doesn’t have to? This is just throwing points out the window, and there is zero good reason for it. At the very least, call up a US-based CB like Sands so you have the body if you need it.

      • What we should have learned about this manager is that he has learned how to SAY all the right things but he does not follow up on them or if he does it is only slowly and grudgingly.

        He’s become a better BS artist in public.

        He may have a point. He’s unlikely to have to suspend someone for breaking protocol this go around. As for injured wingers, I never understood his point about a lack of “verticality”, another buzzword.

        His best bet for that is to deploy Dest and Antonee as real wingbacks. Of course that would mean he would need to find a decent back 3, something he hasn’t been able to do it seems.

      • vacqui — ironically, to me, reyna and pulisic are more “technical” of players and he actually gains “speed” and “verticality” starting the others. this time by default, he has no choice. if he’s saying losing them makes us less speedy he’s clueless. they are more half court players. weah was the one flying down his wing against costa rica. this is half the reason i want them converted to mids is i actually agree we could use a speed element wide, on at least one side. something where we can just burn downfield in a hurry and not have every possession be some 20-pass water torture. i appreciate keepaway but every possession need not be work. my favorite all time goal i assisted in men’s league the kickoff went to the LB. skip pass across to me as RB. i see the other team is narrow and hit a long ground pass like 70 yards to the forward, who rounds his man and scores. 3 passes, 15 seconds. like moore’s goal. this really doesn’t have to be this much work, not with this pool of players.

      • Imperative voice.

        Apparently the trendy buzzword verticality means direct to goal.

        No one does that better than Pusilic but that’s when he is with Chelsea where some one will give him the ball in a spot where he can run at goal. That’s not happening with the USMNT who can’t get him the ball so he has to get it himself.

        When you put Gio in the wing what you get is a #10 playing on the wing. He does fine there but he’s better in the middle of the park. Which is why BVB have moved him there.

        Weah has done well with his conversion to midfield at Lille. But he’s best at wing forward, think Marcus Rashford.

      • vacqui: to me pulisic after a point started trying to dribble everyone from the wing in NT games and that has not gone as well. he has a better supporting cast now than before, and just needs to beat one guy and then make his play. i also felt like relative to aaronson he’d gotten in a rut where for the US he gets the ball and pauses to dance like dempsey used to. what i want to see is him get that ball and (finger snap) right after them. when he holds it a second the defense gets back and he has to dribble 5 people. i think he has the ability but he got some mix of cute or selfish. he needs to get right after a defense and realize this is no longer 2017. with pepi and aaronson and mckennie etc. he doesn’t have to do it all alone. he can beat a guy, commit a second, then pass to someone else. he doesn’t have to fake 3 guys out and score it personally.

  11. On such short notice and with travel overseas, Sands seems the most likely option if a replacement is called after Jamaica. Given the compressed schedule, injuries are to be expected. We are fortunate to have built up some depth.

      • Vacqui: I would have called in 30. But, as things stand,we still have 4 good CBs on the roster for October. Should be enough for 3 games… unless we see an injury.

    • Agree with PN and Quaker Otis. Four is enough. If someone else is injured call in someone else most likely domestic and Sands makes sense to me,


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