Bad news for the USMNT: Center backs Zimmerman and Long knocked out of MLS Cup playoffs early ahead of World Cup
- Nashville knocked out by Galaxy
- Red Bulls eliminated by FC Cincinnati
- Both center backs won't play competitive fixture until World Cup
WHAT HAPPENED? Aaron Long's New York Red Bulls suffered an early elimination in the playoffs, as they were knocked out thanks to a 2-1 loss to FC Cincinnati. Meanwhile, his potential center back partner, Walker Zimmerman, has also had his club season ended earlier than expected as Nashville SC were dumped out of the postseason thanks to 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy.
THE BIGGER PICTURE: With the loss, the USMNT's potential starting center back duo will play no more competitive games before the U.S. kick off the World Cup against Wales on November 21. That means that both Long and Zimmerman will go over a month without playing a real match thanks to their early exits.
Their misfortunate could open the door for the likes of Chris Richards, Cameron Carter-Vickers or Mark McKenzie to make a late run if they can make a statement over the next month with their club form.
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THE VERDICT: Zimmerman and Long may remain Berhalter's first-choice pair, even with their early playoff exits. Zimmerman is almost certain to start, as he's been the USMNT's most consistent defender for over a year, while Long is facing competition for his role. However, their sharpness will almost certainly be a question compared to European counterparts, who will play right up until the weekend before the World Cup period kicks off.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE USMNT? The good news is that the USMNT is planning an October camp for players that have seen their MLS season ended, with World Cup hopefuls set to join U-20 players in an attempt to keep fit ahead of Qatar. The camp is expected to begin on October 25 and run for 11 days.