Midfielder Johnny Cardoso withdrew from the U.S. men's national team on Monday after being diagnosed with an ankle injury.
Cardoso pulled out of the squad before traveling from Brazil where he plays for Internacional to the U.S. ahead of the team's home-and-away series against Trinidad and Tobago in the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals. No replacement was named ahead of the games, which will take place at Austin's Q2 Stadium on Nov. 16 and Port of Spain's Hasely Crawford Stadium on Nov. 20.
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The player took part in both of the USMNT's October's friendlies and started the side's 4-0 win over Ghana on Oct. 17, and seems to be making a case for himself as an option in the center of the park as a defensive midfielder. His absence marks the latest shake-up in the national team's midfield, which has been a source of instability since Tyler Adams underwent the first of two hamstring surgeries in March. It also opens up a whole host of questions about how Gregg Berhalter's side will line up considering wingers Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah will also miss this month's fixtures.
Berhalter has trotted out a 4-3-3 in three games but opted to use a 4-2-3-1 against Ghana. Both systems will allow wingers to play a big role in attack and Berhalter seems poised to continue that trend even without Pulisic and Weah -- he implied in a press conference last Thursday that he had similarly-skilled talent who could slot in. The midfield shape could adjust to accommodate the attacking talent on hand, though, which includes the likes of Gio Reyna and Brendan Aaronson.
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Yunus Musah is the lone midfield constant since Berhlater's return in September, though McKennie started three of the team's four games since. Both are the favorites to re-appear in the lineup come Thursday, but the spot Cardoso occupied against Ghana could be free for several contenders. Luca de la Torre started frequently during the spring, while Malik Tillman started the team's 4-0 win over Oman on Sep. 12.
Another possible option could be Leonard Maloney, who earned his first cap against Ghana. The 24-year-old is more defensively minded than the aforementioned midfielders and has yet to start for the national team, but could enter the lineup for the first time and allow his teammates to assume more attack-focused roles.
The USMNT will play for a spot in the Nations League semifinals, which take place next March at Dallas' AT&T Stadium, as well as a berth at next summer's Copa America.