US forward Timothy Weah was unable to travel to Canada for Sunday’s World Cup qualifier because he failed to meet vaccination requirements to cross the Canadian border, coach Gregg Berhalter said on Saturday.
Weah, who was involved in the game that led to the lone goal in Thursday’s 1-0 win over El Salvador, received one dose of vaccine and was infected with Covid-19 before he could get his second shot, Berhalter said.
Weah meets vaccination standards in France, where he plays professionally, but cannot enter Canada, Berhalter said.
“This is something we have no control over, the nuances of the Covid protocol, and we just have to deal with it,” Berhalter said. “It will be about the next guy to step up and do his job.”
Berhalter said the team became aware of Weah’s situation “a few days ago” and hoped it could be resolved before Sunday’s game.
“This was a nuanced technical detail that we hoped would go through, but unfortunately it didn’t,” Berhalter said.
Berhalter also said fullback Brooks Lennon has returned to his MLS club, Atlanta United, to be “evaluated for a minor ankle injury”.
Weah’s absence means he will miss the opportunity to face Canadian forward Jonathan David, his teammate at Lille OSC in France. David scored Canada’s second goal in Thursday’s 2-0 win in Honduras.
“That’s my man,” Weah said after Thursday’s game in Columbus, Ohio. “We always go for it. Most importantly, I like to see him succeed. Great guy, one of my best friends on the team. I wish him nothing but success. It was great to see what he has done and it has pushed me to work even harder. With that brotherhood, we really like to compete a lot. We’ve been waiting all year for this game, we’ve talked about it, we’ve joked about who’s going to win, who’s going to score.”
Weah did not play for Lille between December 1 and January 19 due to a quadriceps injury. He missed a 1-1 draw against Canada last September due to a thigh injury.
Canada is nine games unbeaten and leads the group, one point ahead of the US in second place and two points over Mexico in third place. Panama is in fourth place, five points behind Canada.
“They’ve definitely improved a lot in recent years,” American defender Walker Zimmerman said of Canada. “I think there’s been a change of mentality and they’re playing with a chip on their shoulder, they’re playing with something to prove and they’re playing with an intensity that’s very high.”
Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies will not be available to Canada for this three-game period due to evidence of heart muscle inflammation discovered after Davies was infected with the coronavirus. Even without the speedy Davies, Berhalter said Canada’s roster offers plenty of attacking talent.
“They still have some great players,” Berhalter said. “If you think about Tajon Buchanan’s speed, he can. If you think about Jonathan David, he has the quality. He is currently one of the best strikers in Europe. Cyle Larin has always been a very good striker. They have weapons.”
This is the first trip north of the border for the US men’s team since a 2-0 loss in Toronto in the Concacaf Nations League in October 2019.
“In that first away game in Canada in the Nations League, we were really disappointing from a competitive point of view,” Berhalter said. “That’s the emphasis in this game. We know they will be fired. We know they will play for their home fans and we know they will have confidence. It will be a competitive match. If we can embrace each other, we’ll be fine. It’s a good chance for us to move up in the standings.”