Matt Miazga is going to be out for the season, the New York Red Bulls, suffering an Achilles injury in his right foot suffered on Saturday in the New York Red Bulls 1-0 loss at the Philadelphia Union. The injury also likely to cost the central defender a shot at World Cup qualifiers this fall.
Replacing him will be crucial and easier said than done.
For the New York Red Bulls, the news is bad (as broken here last night by FanSided). For the United States national team, it might be even worse.
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Long has emerged over the last two years as a reliable and steady option in the center of the United States defense. In MLS, the 28-year old’s athleticism allowed him to cover ground, win his aerial duels and cover vast amounts of acreage when teams hit on the counterattack.
At the club level, the Red Bulls can hit the open market and find a replacement either via trade in MLS or a transfer outside the league. The United States doesn’t have the same luxury.
With the United States national team, those same attributes on display in MLS are important to provide similar cover with the back four’s outside backs when they pushed up the field.
A look at some options for the United States and head coach Greg Berhaltter to replace Long in the Starting XI:
Walker Zimmerman – It has been another solid year in MLS for Zimmerman, who quietly has emerged as one of the best centerbacks in the league. While he doesn’t boast the high-end physical traits of Long, he reads the game very well with solid vision and the ability to pass between the lines. At times for both club and country he has struggled a bit with handling shiftier, speedy attackers but he should be able to slot into the center of the United States defense with very little issue.
Matt Miazga – After a solid season on loan with Anderlecht, Miazga is certainly in a good place in terms of playing time at the club level. He has struggled over the past two years in outings with the national team but the 25-year old has the most potential of anyone in this list to wrestle the job away for the upcoming Nations League matches this summer. Lapses in terms of positioning and awareness as well as giveaways on the ball have sporadically plagued Miazga, but after a season in Belgium’s top flite he could and should be ready to take the next step.
Mark McKenzie – After a foot injury sidelined him for the past month, McKenzie returned to the starting lineup last week for Genk and went the full 90 minutes in a win over Anderlecht. It has been a rough first season in the Jupiler League for the young American, but at times he has acquitted himself quite well. In terms of fit, McKenzie might have the most similar of skillsets to Long having played in a pressing system with the Philadelphia Union that forced him to read and react at a high level.
Chris Richards – All the buzz about Richards is warranted following his standout play at Hoffenheim on loan in the Bundesliga. He physically checks all the boxes and tactically is very sharp for being just 21-years old. Richards just had a recent injury of his own and might not factor into the Nations League this summer. But if he’s fit and playing regularly – either for Bayern Munich or on loan – then he is the likely starter alongside John Anthony Brooks.