Canada vs. USMNT: Vaccine requirements keeps Tim Weah out for World Cup qualifier; who could fill his spot?

The top two teams in Concacaf World Cup qualifying will clash in Hamilton, Ontario, as the United States men’s national team take on the Canadian national team in frigid temperatures. Kickoff on Sunday is set for 3:05 p.m. ET and coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. ET on Paramount+ with Kate Abdo anchoring the pre-match show alongside analysts Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu and Charlie Davies. On-site in Canada, Andres Cordero and Maurice Edu will be on the call alongside Kaylyn Kyle and Jenny Chiu, who will be on the sidelines.

Both teams have been in great form as of late with only one point separating them in the standings as Canada leads the group with 19 points — one point ahead of the U.S. — with five games to go. With a little help, one of these teams can punch their ticket to the World Cup in Qatar this triple-fixture window but it all starts with a victory here.

U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter will need to cope without Tim Weah for this match as he was not able to cross the border and travel to Canada over vaccinated requirements. Berhalter told reporters during Saturday’s pre-match press conference that Weah received one dose of the vaccine and then contracted COVID before he was scheduled for his second shot. Since he has recovered, Weah is considered to be fully vaccinated by France’s standards, but does not meet the Canadian government’s vaccination requirements, which, according to Berhalter, USSF only learned of the problem Thursday. Weah will be available for the third and final match of this international window against Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Tuesday but he won’t be able to square off against his Lille teammate Jonathan David in Canada.

Weah missing this match is a slight blow as he created quite a several chances despite being isolated in a few instances. That said, Berhalter has depth in the wing that he can turn to against Canada. Since John Herdman has the Canadians playing a flexible style that adapts to their opposition, it would make al the sense in the world for Brenden Aaronson to deputize instead of Jordan Morris. Aaronson can play either wing or as a true No. 10, giving Christian Pulisic a freer role to operate in. Pulisic’s dead-ball delivery was also disappointing against El Salvador and Aaronson provides an upgrade in those situations as well.

Miles Robinson will likely return to the lineup as well, offering a more composed presence than Chris Richards. Robinson and Walker Zimmerman are the top U.S. pairing and they’ll need to be on their game to stop David from scoring at will. David and Cyle Larin have combined to score 19 goals for Canada in World Cup qualifying — eight of which have come in the final qualifying round — and will be prepared to lead the line in the absence of Alphonso Davies for the match.

Ricardo Pepi coming in for Jesus Ferreira is the third likely lineup change to be expected. Pepi’s movement and ability in the air will bring something different in comparison to Ferreira, while he also moves in space to open lanes for the other American attackers.  Brooks Lennon has returned to Atlanta with an ankle injury, but with DeAndre Yedlin up to speed now after his late arrival from Turkey, he would need extreme circumstances to feature with the national team during this window.

The United States will lean on experience during this match which isn’t something that the core members of the squad had earlier in World Cup qualifying. All eyes will be on Pulisic to see if he improves, but any success in Canada will come on the spine of Matt Turner, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Zimmerman.

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