Aaron Long rides a stationery bike in Cincinnati. (Keith Furman/FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
As the next triple window of World Cup qualifying matches get closer, here are some updates on U.S. men’s national team players and their respective situations.
The players include center back Aaron Long, defender Sergino Dest, midfielder Gio Reyna and midfielder-forward Tim Weah.
Long, a Red Bulls, defender, is recuperating from an Achilles injury suffered earlier this year. He was with the team for the Nov. 12 WCQ vs. Mexico in Cincinnati and did bicycle work. He also attended the December camp.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter wasn’t certain whether Long will be good to go when qualifying resumes later this month. Long likely needs games to recapture his match fitness.
“His progression from Cincinnati to December to now has been right in line,” he said. “He’s doing a good job. For us. It’s about having fit players, having guys in rhythm available. I’m not sure he’s going to get there but hopefully he will be close. He goes back to preseason with his team, and he can play games there and the start of the season and hopefully March we’re having different conversations.”
Reyna recently returned to training with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. He hasn’t played since early September when he suffered a hamstring injury during qualifying. Weah, a key performer for the USA during the November window with a goal and key assist, incurred a quadriceps injury while performing for Lille in French Ligue 1 in early December.
“It’s too early to tell,” Berhalter said about both players. “We just don’t know yet. We have 14 days until we come into camp and those 14 days will be important.”
Dest, a right back who injured his back late last month, has been having trouble finding playing time at Barcelona.
“He’s in a situation where it’s probably at one of the biggest clubs in the world, and there’s a lot of pressure,” said Berhalter, who added that he speaks to the defender often. “There’s a lot of pressure every single week. I think he does a good job of dealing with that not letting it affect him too much. He’s a competitor. He’s a guy waiting for an opportunity and then when he gets his opportunity, he performs well. He’s resilient and he has the right mindset to do it. He’s been working hard. He had a little injury setback at the end of the year with his back. He’s committed to making it work and he has a great attitude towards that.”
The Americans’ next game is a WCQ against El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio on Jan. 27. That will be followed by a Jan. 30 qualifier against Canada in Hamilton, Ontario three days later. The winter window will finish with a Groundhog’s Day clash against Honduras in St. Paul, Minn.