For the US men’s national team, injury concerns began last weekend before the European seasons even started.
Weston McKinney, an unusual midfielder, dislocated his shoulder during training and missed Juventus’ friendly match on Saturday against Real Madrid. Italian media reported on Sunday morning That the USMNT star will miss him for at least a month. Juventus said on Monday that McKinney had undergone tests at the club’s medical facility, where doctors confirmed a “purse” injury. “The player will begin rehabilitation, and three weeks of diversified work will be required,” Juventus said in a statement.
And so began three and a half months of anxiety in a World Cup year unlike any other.
Qatar 2022 looms in November, in the middle of the European seasons. While past World Cups offered month-long breaks between those seasons and the tournament’s kick-off, this one offers a one-week hiatus. Most of the 26 players who will make up the USMNT team will play high-intensity matches eight or nine days before the World Cup opener, and weekly or biweekly now and then.
So, with each passing day, the risk of any injury would increase—for Americans and others. Paul Pogba, McKinney’s Juventus teammate, walked off the field last week after rupturing his right lateral meniscus. He is said to be traveling to Lyon this week to meet with Dr. Bertrand Sonneri Cotette, an orthopedic specialist. Together they will decide if surgery is necessary – and not just how to improve Pogba’s long-term recovery, but how to improve his condition in mid-November.
For McKennie, the outlook is more optimistic, but the anxiety among fans is no less acute. It escalated on Sunday morning when Gianluca Di Marzio, an Italian insider who has 1.7 million followers on Twitter, said, chirp Link to an article with an unsourced paragraph with general recovery timelines. One Reddit user translated this to: “[Di Marzio] Weston McKinney can be out of the house for 3-4 months after a dislocated shoulder.”
There is no verified evidence that McKinney’s diagnosis is actually worrisome. Juventus doctors “squeezed” a dislocated shoulder immediately after the 23-year-old hit it. When he dislocated his left shoulder while playing for Schalke in 2019, he lost a month. average recovery time for professional football players in Germany, According to the injury analysis website Fussballverletzungen, it was about two months, but with great variance. Monday’s Juventus update appears to indicate that McKinney’s dislocation will not require surgery. (A Juventus spokesperson did not immediately respond to an email requesting clarification.)
In the regular season, such an injury would be devastating, and an unfortunate setback. In this, though, it’s a very serious alarm sound. November is the inflection point for any timeline. For the USMNT hopefuls, of whom only two have competed in the World Cup finals, any wound that continues after October will jeopardize a lifelong dream.
And the players know this, and it’s probably the hardest part. The surest way to lose a starting point, they know, is to play temporarily. Some coaches and coaches say the best way to get injured is to try to avoid injury.
However, the idea of prioritizing November rather than the present has entered some minds. Usually, “You always think, ‘Oh, I’m going to train, I’m going to compete without worry,'” USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman said in late May. This spring, “For the first time in my career, those thoughts leaked into my head.”
“I think a lot of people are going to think about wanting to be healthy so they can compete in the World Cup,” midfielder Tyler Adams admitted in May. “It’s just a fact of sports.”
Some players may even avoid addressing this reality. Zimmerman felt it was important to confront it and “really treat it.” He and other USMNT players have worked with coaches, including their “mental coaches” to do just that.
Takeaway? “Hey, that’s not the way to go,” Zimmerman said of any possible hesitation. “The way of thinking is, ‘How can I become a better player by November?'” “And in order to do that, you have to train hard, play hard, and keep pushing yourself, because that’s what got you here in the first place….You can’t change what you’ve been doing.”
“You need to focus on your club situation so those months roll around,” Adams said of November and December. “And you have to hope that when that time comes, you will be able to compete at a high level.”
So they’ll leave it up to chance, and chance can be cruel. He has already injured Miles Robinson, the potential center back who tore his Achilles tendon in May. The United States was sometimes left without key players in World Cup playoffs, ending McKinney’s 2021-22 season early. He has recovered from a broken foot and looked ready for a strong start with Juventus, unfortunately for him again.
In fact, in their careers, McKennie, Adams, Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Sergiño Dest, Tim Weah and Antonee Robinson have all missed dozens of matches due to illnesses. All of them were to varying degrees of susceptibility to infection.
Together, they form a young and ambitious team that will aim for a deep World Cup run.
Statistically, it is highly unlikely that many fans will realize that everyone will be healthy on November 21.