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USMNT calls up Johnny Cardoso to replace injured Yunus Musah for September friendlies

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Gregg Berhalter’s hopes of seeing his first-choice midfield in some pre-World Cup friendlies is out the door, but the U.S. men’s national team coach will now have a chance to take a closer look at another promising midfield prospect ahead of upcoming matches against Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Internacional midfielder Johnny Cardoso has been added to the USMNT roster for the upcoming camp for September’s friendlies, replacing Yunus Musah, who has been diagnosed with a groin injury.

The 20-year-old New Jersey-born has established himself as a regular starter for Internacional, currently the second-place team in the Brazilian Serie A. His play in Brazil earned him some praise from Berhalter during Wednesday’s conference call with media to discuss the roster selection for September.

“At center mid Johnny Cardoso is playing every week in Brazil, and we like what he’s doing,” Berhalter said. “His team’s doing really well.”

Cardoso has three caps for the USMNT, with his last appearance coming in a 1-0 win against Bosnia and Herzegovina in December of 2021. Cardoso was also previously a member of the U.S> Under-23 men’s national team that failed to qualify for the Olympics in 2021.

While Cardoso has profiled as more of a defensive midfield option for the USMNT in the past, he has the ability to play in a more advanced role, which he as been doing with Internacional this season. His versatility makes him an enticing option due to his ability to cover any of the three positions in the USMNT central midfield setup.

Musah was forced out due to a left groin injury that has kept him out of training with Valencia and will now keep him out of this weekend’s match against Celta Vigo.

The USMNT will play Japan on September 23 in Dusseldorf, Germany before facing Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain on Sept. 27.

Comments

  1. Man, I know I’m late to this thread but I love this community of soccer heads. The passionate engagement and the desire to mix it up a little bit (but with respect) is why I have always love the SBI mafia.

    I think Johnny is a good call. I’m glad it’s finally happened again. I wish he would’ve been brought in ahead of Roldan on many of the occasions. I see him as a better version of Christian already at the age of 20. He is also far more tactically flexible in that I believe he can play all three midfield positions: six (in tandem), eight (as shuttler/distributor), and more recently as a ten (assist man/trequartista).

    Even though he was not the subject of this thread, I feel badly for Eryk Williamson. I think he’s a better player than Kellyn Acosta is right now but his injury and recovery timing could not have been worse. He may not have the motor that Acosta has but he seems to be a better passer, better tackler and has better positional understanding to shield the back line and distribute from deep. The “incumbent” bias with GGG is very strong but to be fair he has allowed a few of the “shiny new things”into the team as well.

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  2. There’s a clip from the USSF on Twitter with Cardoso doing some early training this week, and Berhalter had to show him that he needed to open up his hips for the next pass.

    This is a guy playing in Brazilian 1st division and he doesn’t know that he needs let the ball come across his body to the back foot for the next pass? Really astonishing to see.

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  3. GB evolving this squad nicely imo, and surprisingly with this call up, at least surprise to me. from the beginning of the window right up until now he’s been getting production from up and down the depth chart and cultivating the depth while still qualifying with road results in CONCACAF

    I’ve had my doubts on GB like all, but he’s answered many bells so far imo. Hope Cardoso gets the chance to impress and that he does

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  4. A pleasantly surprising decision by Gregg, but one we shouldn’t read too much into. If you’d asked me 2 days ago who Gregg would have called in if McKennie or Musah were injured I’d have bet money that he’d have called in Roldan, Busio, or Lletget. If this had been an injury during training before our 1st WC game (when we’d still be allowed to ID a replacement) I’d still put money on one of those 3.
    I actually like Cardoso and he looks to be turning a corner in his career. If he continues to progress I could see the him working his way into the conversation for the 2026 cycle player pool. It won’t be easy, nor is it assured he’ll make it considering who his competition is (McKennie, Musah, Adams, Luca, Tillman & Busio) but it isn’t out of the question either.
    The biggest question for 2026 will be who the coach will be. IF Gregg is extended we’re not likely to see a true 10 type (Reyna) used centrally in competitive matches. If Gregg isn’t extended than whoever is hired and the formation/style they play will dictate how many defensive CM’s will be in the running.

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    • I actually hope the staff has been watching Johnny play further forward or use Malik in the Musah spot. Kelyn hasn’t done well in the 8 spot just can’t push the ball forward too many back passes.

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  5. GB played Johnny as a 6 vs Bosnia, last December. I think we’ll see more of Acosta as an 8/RM this window, especially w/ Musah out. Captain Adams is the starting 6 both matches. McKennie, Acosta, Tillman rotate as the left and right midfielders w/ Johnny getting garbage minutes for Adams. Note- LDT will sit the bench until the last 8 minutes of the Saudi Arabia match, cuz ‘Gregg gonna Gregg!’

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  6. Listen to the “protest” when Lletget and Roldan are mentioned…..lol, priceless. Interesting to see what Johnny Cardoso brings to the USMNT.

    youtu.be/AJhyzGIpAzE

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    • That was my immediate take. We could also see Aaronson at RW and Gio at the 10. But you’d think those four will be starting in some combination now.

      Interesting that Gregg seems to have Cardoso ahead of others like Djorde Mihailovic and Erik Williamson. Is that legit to those who are familiar with all three? I’ll admit I’ve never seen Cardoso play…and I really like Mihailovic and Williamson and I think both are Top-5-league quality guys and should already be in Europe and probably would be if not for injuries.

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      • Could be that both Montreal and Portland asked Gregg not to call them since both have had injury issues.

        Cardoso looks a lot better now as an attacking 8.

      • 2tone-

        Where would you put his ceiling? Being just 20 and starting as a CM in Brazil is pretty impressive, but is that his ceiling or does he look like a guy who’s tracking to a Top-5 league in Europe?

      • Mihailovic hasn’t been nearly as productive since his injury. Also I think he’d probably project more as wing replacement over an 8.
        ——————————
        Williamson not sure he hasn’t looked outstanding to me when I’ve seen him, not bad just not as good as pre injury.
        ——————————-
        I haven’t seen Internacional since this spring. It’s my understanding that Johnny’s been playing as a winger or an 8 as opposed to last season when he was usually a dual 6.

      • to me AMs and DMs aren’t interchangeable parts, you either want one or the other. dirty little secret GB loves him some defensive mids. i like green and holmes, you like mihailovic, but that means running out something closer to a 10. IMO this coach wants to run out 3 fairly defensive mids and at most a couple people you could loosely call “8s.” he is not interested in a super technical midfield, despite the “new way of playing soccer” sales pitch that fools the fanboys. johnny actually fits his post-yeuill MO more than people think.

        odd part to me is why put all this effort into pressing forwards and midfield defense then water the sucker down with wingbacks who want to cheat up? pick a lane. to me, if we’re gonna play this attacking wingback stuff then don’t bother with DMs, dump some jet fuel in the tank and put some 10s out there.

      • JR: all due respect but he’s more of a scorer this season than an assists guy for them and they’re in the playoffs doing it. that’s a usage change where he does what his team needs. i doubt a guy good for 16 assists last season can no longer deliver a ball where he means to. this is where i find the form obsession silly. you don’t do 16 assists without a definite careerlong type talent. a coach with a brain and less green lampshade feel would understand he’s still the 16 assists guy underneath, if he wants that.

        that and you and i both know they could spend some time in the MLS postseason camp cleaning any rust off him. montreal ain’t long for the playoffs.

      • IV I think you misunderstood I don’t think Mihailovic is fully right after his injury 7g 3a (15 matches) before the ankle injury that kept him out of June camp. Since he has 1g 1a. Perhaps just isn’t fully confident to take risks yet on that ankle but his last 11 matches he hasn’t shown the same level of dangerous.
        ———————-
        MTL is third in Supporters Shield standings so you never know in single elimination but they aren’t likely an easy out with first two rounds likely at home.

      • “Interesting that Gregg seems to have Cardoso ahead of others like Djorde Mihailovic and Erik Williamson.”

        As he should.

        Johnny is much more similar to Yunus than either of those two.

        And Berhalter has had Johnny in the team much more recently than either Djorde or Erik.

        The next alternatives would have been the deeply popular duo of either Christian Roldan or that other teacher’s pet, Jackson Yueill.

      • Vacqui: Mihailovic likely would have been in camp in June if not for injury and Williamson for sure would have been in the January camp with Johnny if not for injury so I wouldn’t read too much into that.

      • JR,

        I’d like to bring Djorde into camp as well but he’s not a replacement for Yunus. Yunus not being there may or may not have opened up some kind of spot in Gregg’s mind but if Djorde walks into that opening, it’s not to replace Musah. At least not directly.

        “Williamson for sure would have been in the January camp with Johnny if not for injury so I wouldn’t read too much into that.”

        What I read into that is Eryk wasn’t in the January while Johnny was.
        Which means Johnny has been in one of Gregg’s camps and played with the guys much more recently than Eryk has.

        Experience with the current team matters to Gregg.

      • Vacqui: I know these threads get long it’s hard to remember what was said before. Way back at the top I said Mihailovic wasn’t a replacement for Musah because they don’t play the same position. Williamson couldn’t be called for January because he tore a ligament in his knee not long after starting the GC final. I can’t say for sure Gregg would have called him but based on others called he most likely would have. Williamson wasn’t fully back to form and confidence in June either, but I don’t think fully inform Eryk would have made that one given the competition in CM whenever is healthy.

      • JR,

        I’d like to see Djorde called in mostly because I’m curious to see if he is the new Stu Holden.

        But barring injury he isn’t going to Qatar. He’d have to beat out Pulisic, Gio, Brenden and Tillman.

        Malik is obviously the bright shiny new thing but he also just might be the real deal and Djorde , who is yesterday’s news already compared to Malik, is going to have a hard time beating him out.

        It’s a shame but that’s what can happen when you get injured at the wrong time. His USMNT career may already be over before it even began.

        The same thing with Eryk. Before he got hurt he might have beaten out Kellyn Acosta.

        Now , it’s hard to see that happening. I guess someone out there will make an argument that Eryk is better than Kellyn and he could be but it doesn’t matter.

        Kellyn is the incumbent. All things being equal, if you want to beat out the incumbent you have to be significantly better. Is Eryk significantly better? I don’t know, do you?

        It’s like Turner going to Arsenal. He knew that if teacher pet Steffen was even halfway decent that he was going to be the #1. So Matt took the Arsenal move . Among other things, he wanted to give himself a a chance leap frog the teacher’s pet in the WC pecking order.

        At the time none of us knew Zack was going to suffer such a steep decline.

        The USMNT have no ability to nurture and develop senior players that way so it’s on guys like Eryk and Djorde to jump through hoops and set their hair on fire to get noticed.

        Pepi my have misfired on the Augsburg move but the kid has big balls, something that’s missing from the USMNT players in general. and I give him credit for taking a risk and betting on himself. And he still has a chance to win that bet.

      • Vacqui: I think Mihailovic is much more a 10/Second Striker than Stu who I remember as an 8 but perhaps my memory is wrong. I don’t watch Montreal much but when I do he isn’t too interested defensively, but he’s not asked to be. I hope his move goes well at AZ because I think he slots into the winger role for NT and he’ll need to improve a lot to beat out Reyna, CP, or Reyna.
        ————————
        As far as Williams vs Acosta I think it depends on what position their being asked to play. If it’s the six Acosta is better positionaly, and has a more consistent moment. If it’s the 8 Eryk with his progressive passing gets my vote.

      • JR,

        You’re probably right about Djorde. I haven’t seen a lot of him but what I did see of him was pretty positive and he seemed comfortable in a variety of roles.

        Stu, however, was a very dominant player and had he not gotten hurt he would have drastically altered the USMNT career of Michael Bradley. In fact if Stu and Jermaine had both been healthy and in form for the 2010 WC, it’s possible that guys like Rico Clark and Benny might not have made the squad. It’s also possible that Bradley’s role might have been severely reduced.

        That just shows you the importance of being able to show up every single day.

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