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USMNT analysis

Zimmerman out while Kessler and Cowell join USMNT camp ahead of Jamaica

Gregg Berhalter took the first steps towards potentially changing his roster ahead of the quarterfinal matchup against Jamaica on Sunday. Walker Zimmerman has been rulled out. Henry Kessler and Cade Cowell have joined the team's camp in Dallas. ASN's Brian Sciaretta is here with his thoughts. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 21, 2021
7:00 AM

UNITED STATES national team manager Gregg Berhalter revealed important news to his Gold Cup roster on Tuesday night when he announced that winger Cade Cowell and central defender Henry Kessler were going to join the team’s camp on Wednesday. It was further announced that defender Walker Zimmerman has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament.

Per the amended tournament regulations, teams can replace injured players up to 24 hours prior to the quarterfinal. At this time, however, the United States national team has not made a formal change to the roster. These plans simply give Berhalter more leeway to make a switch.

The U.S. team learned it will face Jamaica on Sunday night at 9pm EST in the quarterfinals in Dallas. Changes for the knockout rounds therefore need to be made by Saturday night. 

Here are a few thoughts on the potential changes. 


Extremely inexperienced central defense


If New England Revolution defender Henry Kessler replaces Walker Zimmerman, the central defense is extremely inexperienced with it now consisting of Kessler, Miles Robinson, James Sands, and Donovan Pines. Prior to the Gold Cup, three of those four central defenders had zero caps and Robinson had just three. While Robinson and Sands have played well, it’s very little experience in the back and that will come into play as the tournament gets harder.

One thing to consider is whether this limits Berhalter’s ability or confidence to play three central defenders in the back. Pines was shaky at times against Canada and with these changes, three central defense adds to the inexperience of the entire team.

To drift away from the three central defense lineup, it will depend on how the winger situation is resolved. This team is thin on wingers and that limits the usage of the typical 4-3-3. To return to the 4-3-3 will depend on Paul Arriola getting healthy or Cade Cowell being ready. Otherwise, Berhalter will have to revert to variation of a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1.


Cowel’s versatility gives options


Paul Arriola has missed the past two games and Daryl Dike played the final 10 minutes against Canada with a hurt shoulder. Cowell has versatility to play both forward and winger so it remains to be seen who he could be brought into replace.

Cowell, 17, has been playing very well recently for San Jose so he has momentum heading into this tournament. This is a very big opportunity for Cowell who could get his first cap in a very big moment.


Berhalter has time to make more changes


One thing to consider is that the rules of the tournament give Berhalter until Saturday to make a change. Kessler and Cowell have yet to appear for the U.S. national team and it’s good that they are arriving on Wednesday for an added training session.

It’s important to note that MLS has a big slate of games on Wednesday night (and another two games on Thursday). Perhaps more announcements are on their way after these games?

There are a few possibilities – bearing in mind the names must come from the 60-player provisional roster. Moses Nyeman and Kevin Paredes recently trained with the U.S. team before the start of the Gold Cup. Chris Mueller is also playing well for Orlando (which plays on Thursday) and he plays as a winger, which could be needed. Jeremy Ebobisse is also in form for Portland and he is a striker option. Justin Che could add defensive depth and he at least trained with the team in May.

We will see if more players arrive in camp and if any changes are being made but for now it’s in flux.

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