US striker Weah to miss Canada game due to vaccine issue

FILE - Tim Weah of the United States goes for the ball against Mexico's Hector Herrera during the first half of a FIFA World Cup qualifying soccer match November 12, 2021, in Cincinnati.  Weah, Jordan Morris, Sergiño Dest and Gyasi Zardes returned from injury to make the USA roster ahead of the next three World Cup qualifiers.  (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

FILE – Tim Weah of the United States goes for the ball against Mexico’s Hector Herrera during the first half of a FIFA World Cup qualifying soccer match November 12, 2021, in Cincinnati. Weah, Jordan Morris, Sergiño Dest and Gyasi Zardes returned from injury to make the USA roster ahead of the next three World Cup qualifiers. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

PA

American striker Tim Weah was unable to travel to Canada for Sunday’s World Cup qualifiers because he did not meet vaccination requirements to cross the Canadian border, coach Gregg Berhalter said on Saturday .

Weah, who was involved in the play that led to the winning goal in Thursday’s 1-0 win over El Salvador, received a dose of vaccine and was infected with COVID-19 before he could receive his second shot , Berhalter said.

Weah meets vaccination standards in France, where he plays professionally with Lille, but cannot enter Canada, Berhalter said.

“It’s something we can’t control, the nuances of the COVID protocol, and we just have to deal with it,” Berhalter said. “It will be about the next man who steps in and does his job.”

Berhalter said the team learned of Weah’s situation “a few days ago” and hoped it could be resolved before Sunday’s 3 p.m. game in Hamilton, Ont.

“It was a nuanced technique that we hoped would pass and unfortunately it didn’t,” Berhalter said.

Berhalter also said full-back Brooks Lennon was back at his MLS club Atlanta United to be “evaluated for a minor ankle injury” with an update expected “in the coming days”.

Weah’s absence means he will miss the chance to face Canadian striker Jonathan David, his teammate with reigning French league champions Lille. David scored Canada’s second goal in Thursday’s 2-0 win at Honduras.

“He’s my guy,” Weah said of David after Thursday’s game in Columbus, Ohio. “We always go there. More importantly, I love seeing him succeed. A great guy, one of my best friends on the team. I only wish him success. Seeing what he does was really great, and it pushed me to work even harder. Having this brotherhood, we like to compete a lot. We’ve been waiting for this game all year, we’ve talked about it, we’ve joked about who’s going to win, who’s going to score.

Weah didn’t play for Lille between December 1 and January 19 due to a quadriceps injury. He missed a 1-1 draw with Canada last September due to a thigh injury that sidelined him between August 21 and September 18.

Canada is undefeated in nine games and leads the group, one point ahead of the US, in second and two points ahead of Mexico in third. Panama is in fourth place, five points behind Canada.

“They’ve definitely improved a lot over the last two years,” U.S. defenseman Walker Zimmerman said of Canada on Saturday. “I think there’s been a change in their mentality and they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder, they’re playing with something to prove and they’re playing with a very high intensity.”

Canadian coach John Herdman compared Sunday’s encounter to a “derby match” between local rivals.

“It’s a fight for the top of the table,” he said. “That’s all I need to say in terms of what it means for us now. It’s World Cup qualification, a big game. It’s not a friendly game. I want to say, you are playing against your biggest rival, the United States.

Canada and Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies is unavailable for this three-game window due to evidence of heart muscle inflammation discovered after Davies was infected with coronavirus. Even without the quick Davies, Berhalter said Canada’s roster offers plenty of attacking talent.

“They still have great players,” Berhalter said. “When you think of Tajon Buchanan’s speed, he can do it. When you think of Jonathan David, he has quality. He’s one of the best strikers in Europe right now. Cyle Larin has always been a very good striker. They have weapons.

This is the first trip north of the border for the U.S. men’s team since a 2-0 loss at Toronto in the CONCACAF Nations League in October 2019.

“That first away game for Canada in the Nations League is where we really fell flat competitively,” Berhalter said. “That’s the focus in this game. We know they are going to be fired. We know they are playing in front of their home fans and we know they are going to be confident. It will be a competitive game. If we can accept that, everything will be fine. It’s a good opportunity for us to move up the rankings.

The temperature of 29 degrees in Columbus on Thursday tied the record for a U.S. qualifier at home. Defenders Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards were the only starters on either team to wear short sleeves.

“I just didn’t think it was cold enough,” Zimmerman said. “It was pretty good. I’d rather be a little cold than too hot.”

The forecast temperature at kick-off on Sunday is 23 degrees with a mix of sun and cloud. With the wind chill, it will be 14 degrees on the artificial grass surface.

“It’s going to be a tough field,” Canadian coach John Herdman said after his team practiced late Saturday afternoon. “It’s one of those fields where at four o’clock the ice kind of settled in and it ended up getting hard.”

Zimmerman said he’ll decide on his outfit after Saturday’s practice and Sunday’s pre-game warm-up.

“I know these next games will be colder,” he said.

The United States wraps up the current qualifying window on Wednesday when they host Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Canada started the window playing on grass in the heat of Honduras, and will see the same in El Salvador next Wednesday. Herdman’s team played two games in freezing conditions in Edmonton last November, wins over Costa Rica and Mexico.

“I definitely didn’t have enough diapers,” Herdman said. “I was frozen.”

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