USMNT-Panama: How Greg Berholder’s spin strategy will work when qualifying for the World Cup?

It is rare for a team to always have their entire team in the World Cup qualifying round. This cycle, the final round lasted almost seven months in five different international windows, meaning that each team in Concacaf had to deal with fluctuating form, injuries and stumbling season schedules between Europe and the United States. This is one of the main reasons why United States men’s team manager Greg Berholder has poured his next-man-up mood throughout the entire player pool, making sure every player on the list knows their position within the program. He sometimes goes deep into the player pool and everyone knows they can be called in a second notice.

There are 38 players in the World Cup qualifiers so far, 21 of whom have played 90 or more minutes so the cycle is ready for the team. Two-time former USMNT manager (and current New England Revolution boss) Bruce Arena said the best advice would be to never have your best team so you can fill at least 1.5 teams to make up for it.

That policy has become important. In the run-up to the USMNT’s crucial home qualifying round against Panama on Sunday in Orlando, Berholder is looking to change his list. With Sergino Dest, Reggie Cannon and DeAndre Yedlin out of the squad due to injury or suspension, Perholder has called on Shock Moore to fill the gap. During this window Moore traveled to meet the team, despite his club team Tenerife struggling for promotion in the second division of Spain.

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Moore has not been on the national team since the USMNT first lost to Panama in October, but before that he was a member of the tournament’s Gold Cup Top XI last summer when he played for the USMNT mostly rotated team. Perholder knows what he will get in the right back. Moore was under consideration to feature in the squad when he was injured in the Test shortly before this window, but at the time George Bello was eventually selected as he needed a natural left back. Tests could be played on both sides if needed and to the right of the USMNT were Reggie Cannon and Di Andre Yatlin. Now Yatlin has been suspended and Covon is on the cove, so the situation has changed.

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Berhalder noted that Moore’s position has also changed since the list was selected two weeks ago.

“The funny thing is, Shock didn’t play before we named that roster, basically the weekend after we named it to the list he started in that game, [and played] 90 minutes, “Berholder said.” I thought he played well as a right back [vs. Sporting Gijon]. He had an assistant that day and was very good at making progress. ”

But Berlder made a tough decision because there were games in Tenerife, and bringing in Moore at that point could affect his chances of playing for the rest of the season. Since Cannon was still there at the time, Moore stayed in Spain and started another match for Tenerife, performing well before receiving a call-up to camp.

Berholder openly described his reasoning: “He’s a guy you know, who played a Gold Cup final for us. So we’re very comfortable with him, and we decided to go with Joe Scaley’s experience in this matter.”

Scully has only found a few minutes to make the club team, having only twice started for Borussia Monchengladbach at the Bundesliga in 2022, although those two matches came this month. But it is important to know what Berhalder is going to get from his teammates, and when Scaley was on the team in November, he had not yet appeared in the competition for USMNT under Berhalder. So this is a balancing act for the manager. He depends on the rotation, but he needs to know what he gets from the players he brings. So Moore, with his international experience, got the call.

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Berhalter has averaged three to four changes per game in the qualifying round. The only time he did not spin like that was the biggest setback of this cycle. After defeating Mexico on home soil in November, Berhalter made only one change before heading to Kingston to face Jamaica. That led to the suspension of Miles Robinson to Chris Richards. The whole team was tired and the draw at 1-1 was disappointing. Had they won that match, a draw against Panama on Sunday would have been enough to secure a place in the World Cup. Now, even with a win, they could be technically at risk for Wednesday’s qualifying round final in Costa Rica.

Keeper Zach Stephen does not think similar issues will arise this time around, however, he thinks they are in a very strong place mentally after the draw against Mexico on Thursday.

“At this point, I think, we’re getting to a point in Azteca, with all the energy and emotion pouring in there, we’re not too high,” he said. “We’re not too down, coming back to Orlando, where I’ll focus on staying this time, focusing on what we can control, that’s getting our body back on preparing our minds and focusing on tomorrow.”

This change of mood is again a credit to Berholder, who makes sure his comrades are ready for any challenge that may come their way. And with Panama on the horizon, everything built by Berholder will be in order. The rotated team, which exhibits new legs and higher energy levels than Panama, will be able to dominate the match, playing at short rest.

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Panama must win and try and score, and the USMNT can certainly take advantage of the space created. Take care of the business, this would justify Berholder’s approach to creating a deep team where everyone is ready to move forward. However, if it fails to do so, the mood of the USMND under pressure will actually be tested by the trip to Costa Rica and the venue for the World Cup. This is the challenge of international football. No matter how prepared you are, disaster will always have one or two consequences hidden.

Berholder has built a great team in the hope that he can prevent those disasters. It’s time to find out if they do.

How to see Panama and the odds against the USMNT

  • Date: Sunday, March 27 | Time: 7 pm ET
  • Location: Exploreria Stadium – Orlando, Florida
  • TV: FS1 | Live Stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
  • Contradictions: USA-245; Draw +310; Panama +675 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

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