How the USMNT should replace injured Tim Ream for Gold Cup and Nations League campaigns

Ream Trusty Richards GFX
The Fulham center-back will miss the summer tournaments after suffering a fractured arm, so who stands to benefit the most from the veteran's absence?

Who could have predicted that, in the year 2023, the loss of Tim Ream would be so massive for the U.S. men's national team. The 35-year-old defender, who looked to be done with the national team just one year ago, remains a key figure after starring for both Fulham in the Premier League and at the World Cup in Qatar.

He is now unlikely, though, to play any role this summer. A fractured arm suffered against Manchester City requires surgery, knocking Ream out for the rest of the Premier League campaign and, almost certainly, a busy summer for the USMNT. And he won't be the only one missing at center-back, with Cameron Carter-Vickers, another World Cup veteran, likely to miss out due to an injury of his own.

In the coming months, the U.S. will compete in both the CONCACAF Nations League and the Gold Cup and, if history is any indication, two different teams will be used. One will head to Las Vegas to compete in the Nations League, with a separate side contesting the Gold Cup a week or so later.

Based on last cycle, it is expected that many of the European heavy-hitters will play in the Nations League squad, with the Gold Cup being used as more of a proving ground for rising stars. So, with Ream and Carter-Vickers out, what does the U.S. center-back pool look like, and who may be in the squads for each competition? GOAL takes a look:

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  1. Walker Zimmerman

    Walker Zimmerman

    Not much of a mystery here as Zimmerman will certainly be involved. The question is where he goes. Do you send him with what will generally be an A-team or do you use him at the Gold Cup, as you did last cycle?

    To be fair, his role as changed drastically since last cycle, when he was very much on the fringes at the time. With that in mind, we'll put him in the Nations League team.

    SQUAD: Nations League

  2. Miles Robinson
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    Miles Robinson

    The Atlanta United star is a unique case. The USMNT are taking it easy with him after his disastrous Achilles injury a year ago.

    Knowing that, it makes sense to have him involved with the Nations League. He can play with Zimmerman in what really is a top partnership without all of the travel and extra games of the Gold Cup.

    No matter where he goes, though, Robinson is the starter. He's too good not to be.

    SQUAD: Nations League

  3. Mark McKenzie

    Mark McKenzie

    The Genk defender is one that can go either way, but, after playing such a big role for his club this season, he's a better fit for the Nations League.

    He's rebounded since his struggles in the same competition last cycle and can certainly be trusted to play if called upon. After that, he can take a well-deserved vacation, having played nearly 40 games in Belgium this season.

    SQUAD: Nations League

  4. Auston Trusty

    Auston Trusty

    What a rise it's been for Trusty, who is a posterboy for what happens when you find a good loan move.

    His transfer to Arsenal was perplexing, but his subsequent loan to Birmingham has been nothing short of fantastic. The 24-year-old center-back earned his first USMNT cap in the Nations League earlier this year and should be due for more.

    He's one player that could float to either roster, but after a nearly 50-game season in the Championship, the Nations League makes most sense.

    SQUAD: Nations League

  5. Chris Richards
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    Chris Richards

    The Crystal Palace defender could replace any of the two above him on this list, but Richards simply needs games. He has played just 10 times for Palace this season due to injuries and form and, at 23, may soon find himself at something of a crossroads at club level.

    The good news is that he'll be far from burnt out and eager to prove himself, so it makes more sense to have him start at the Gold Cup rather than likely sit on the bench in the Nations League.

    SQUAD: Gold Cup

  6. Matt Miazga

    Matt Miazga

    Miazga was frustrated during the last cycle by his lack of opportunities, so he'll have to seize this one.

    Having finally found a home at FC Cincinnati after years in Chelsea's loan army, Miazga is entering his prime as a defender. The 2026 World Cup definitely isn't out of the question, and this Gold Cup is a chance to work his way up the ladder before the new coach, whoever they are, comes in.

    SQUAD: Gold Cup

  7. Aaron Long

    Aaron Long

    A segment of U.S. men's national team fans is down on Long, and it's fair to question if he'll be a regular contributor this cycle. But he is a valuable veteran presence that should be just fine with the Gold Cup team.

    The squad will trend younger and be more inexperienced, for sure, so, even if he doesn't play a big role, Long can add something to the team.

    SQUAD: Gold Cup

  8. Erik Palmer-Brown

    Erik Palmer-Brown

    Like several of the names listed above, Palmer-Brown has endured a grueling season with Troyes in Ligue 1, but he's a bit further down the depth chart, which is why he ends up here.

    It hasn't been the best season for Palmer-Brown and Troyes, with the club looking likely to be relegated from the French top flight. Knowing that, Palmer-Brown does face some uncertainty, and a Gold Cup call-up could be a chance to get into the shop window a bit with some good performances.

    SQUAD: Gold Cup

  9. In the mix
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    In the mix

    There are several others that could be in this mix. First, though, it's important to remember that the Under-20 World Cup is this summer, so you can count those guys out. That means no Jalen Neal or Josh Wynder.

    The most interesting name that could be included is John Brooks, who is back playing at a high level with Hoffenheim. He's been out of the picture for so long but, at 30, he still has a few good years left. Can fences be mended for a return? It's certainly interesting to think about.

    James Sands is another intriguing one, although it appears he'll be thought of as more of a midfielder, while Henry Kessler or Donovan Pines could certainly be involved.