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2022 FIFA World Cup: USMNT panic meter with Chris Richards barely being used; Christian Pulisic’s limited time

Written by on October 20, 2022

When the World Cup in Qatar was moved to November to avoid the summer heat, one of the benefits was supposed to be that players would be in midseason form. But for the United States men’s national team, that late start could be a weakness. While some members of the team such as Tyler Adams are in the midst of good runs for their clubs, others like Chrisitan Pulisic are struggling for regular playing time. 

For those who aren’t playing regularly but will likely be on the plane to Qatar, it’s good to take a look at how concerned Gregg Berhalter should be about core members of the team who have played in less than half of the available minutes for their respective teams this season. Some players are trending up to be strong contributors for the World Cup but others may be making it hard to take them to Qatar. 

Let’s take a look at the players in our USMNT panic meter:

Center back Chris Richards (Crystal Palace)

Missing every crucial window to state his case for the World Cup, Richards is a member of this list who may not make it when the final roster is released, but for the Crystal Palace defender, he could have the most upside of anyone in the center back pool. With Aaron Long expected to start when things kick off against Wales, Richards may be needed if things don’t go well. The move to Palace was seen as a promising one for Richards but it may take more than a year for it to begin bearing fruit. Like Luca de la Torre at Celta Vigo, this may be a move that’s better for the 2026 World Cup than the 2022 edition which would be disappointing for such a talented defender.

Panic level: 7

Winger Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)

One of the leaders of the national team, Pulisic has had a tough season at Chelsea. While he reportedly wanted to leave the Blues during the summer due to lack of playing time, Graham Potter has utilized Pulisic more than Thomas Tuchel did, but playing fewer than 300 minutes across 11 appearances isn’t enough for the most important player for the USMNT to have a successful World Cup. Pulisic has to be decisive in his decision making and that hasn’t consistently been there for Chelsea in these limited minutes, causing concern to grow that he’ll be able to be marked out of games for the national team. If that happens, there aren’t many players who have the quality to score past a team like England which could lead to the United States crashing out in the group stage.

Panic level: 5

Right-back Sergino Dest (AC Milan)

Frozen out at Barcelona, Dest was handed a lifeline with a loan move to AC Milan. But so far in Serie A, Dest has shown that Xavi made the right decision freezing him out. Suspect defensively and only average going forward, Dest will need to clean up his game to earn more minutes in Italy, but if he can’t, he could be at risk of losing his starting spot with the national team. With a veteran like DeAndre Yedin behind him, Berhalter may opt to go in a different direction where he knows what he will get. Reggie Cannon is also on the fringe of the squad as right-back is one of the deeper positions on the team.

Panic level: 7

Winger Tim Weah (Lille)

One of the few players on this list where lack of playing time may be a help, now that Weah is back for Lille, he will enter the World Cup with relatively fresh legs compared to his competition. Weah didn’t make his season debut for the French club until October 9th against Lens before following that up with a two-assist performance against Strasburg. Weah will likely start on the right wing for the national team as no one has his ability to get in behind a defense on the counter. Able to cut inside and shoot or play his teammates into good positions, Weah’s role will be important to provide balance to the front line so finding form at the right time is critical. 

Panic level: 0 

Midfielder Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo)

While de la Torre needed a move after Heracles Almelo were relegated from the Eredivisie, Celta Vigo may not have been the best move for this World Cup cycle as the Spanish side have a well-established midfield already. As a long-term move, it’s a great place for de la Torre to learn but in the short term, only logging 38 minutes this season won’t put him in a good position to retain his role as the first midfielder off the bench for the national team. Like Pulisic, decision-making is critical to de la Torre’s game as he has to know when to dribble and know when to pass the ball to other attackers to drive the team forward, but there isn’t a chance for him to shake off rust with the national team when he’s already coming in without minutes.

Panic level: 8

Winger — Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)

Borussia Dortmund have been taking things slow with Reya as he has missed so much time with injuries over the past few years. With how he has been eased into things, Reyna may not be able to start for the national team in Qatar, but since they had to get through World Cup Qualifying without him, his inclusion will be a boost from the bench. Reyna has two assists for Dortmund coming off the bench this season and his direct style can play well against tired legs at the World Cup. While it would’ve been great for Reyna to be in a position where he’d be a surefire starter for the team, the right-wing is a position of depth with Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah in the fold.

Panic level: 2

Keeper — Matt Turner (Arsenal)

Turner should arguably be the starter after his performances were the only reason that the matches against Japan and Saudi Arabia weren’t more lopsided during the September international window. While Berhalter will likely run with Zack Steffen in goal as he’s back between the sticks for Middlesbrough, Steffen’s performances could play him out of the starting role. With Turner getting regular reps in Europa League for Arsenal, he should be ready to step in if needed.

Panic level: 0