3 keys to USMNT's World Cup success
Yahoo Sports soccer writer Henry Bushnell - who will be following the U.S. Men's National Team up to the World Cup and will be on the ground in Qatar - breaks down a trio of things that will determine the Americans' level of success in this year's tournament.
HENRY BUSHNELL: Welcome to Yahoo Sports' countdown to the 2022 Men's World Cup. I'm Henry Bushnell. I'll be covering the entire tournament in Qatar, and most of all the U.S. National team. So let's take a look at three things that will define the USMNt's success or failure. The first, is that their strength, a really youthful, lively midfield, has to be a legitimate strength in Qatar.
There's a world where Tyler Adams, and Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson, in various combinations become a top 10 midfield at this tournament. But they're also young, and injury prone, and susceptible to some pretty inexplicable dips in form. And if even one of those players like Musah, for example, misses a game or two, the balance and rhythm of everything could just go awry.
Number two is the big question mark at center back. Everybody in and around this team is confident in Walker Zimmerman at this point. He was a late bloomer, but he's been rock solid for the USMNT at one center back spot over the past year. The issue is that he doesn't have a reliable partner.
Ever since Miles Robinson went down with a torn Achilles, we all assumed that Chris Richards would be the replacement. But he hasn't been fit, so Aaron Long has started every single game since. And Long is a fine MLS center back, but there are a lot of fears that he'll get eaten alive by Harry Kane, and Mehdi Taremi, and the type of strikers that he might face at a World Cup.
And finally, we have our own striker problems. The USMNT has not had a consistent one since Jozy Altidore's sharp decline. A few years ago. Now it has Jordan Pefok who's starting week in and week out for the German Bundesliga leaders, but doesn't really fit the U.S. system apparently. We've got Jesus Ferreira who does fit the system, but can't really score for the national team.
We've got Ricardo Pepi, who had to move to the notoriously wide open Dutch league to break an almost year long scoring drought. And we've got Josh Sargent, who's barely even played for the national team over the past year. If you were to set the over under for 2022 World Cup goals for any of those four players, the number would probably be 0.5 for each of them. And that's a pretty scary thought as November 21 nears.