One of the true shockers of the United States men’s national team’s World Cup roster reveal was Shaq Moore making the cut. His inclusion, alongside striker Haji Wright, appeared to come the most out of left field for diehard fans of the Stars and Stripes. Moore has had recent call-ups, played in four of the USA’s 14 World Cup qualifiers, and was in the squad that won the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Moore had sufficient momentum to be under consideration, yet left some scratching their heads as to what they missed.
I believe his lack of buzz came from two factors. First, he played at the United States’ second deepest position. After attacking midfielders and non-striker forwards, which the USMNT defines similarly, the fullback or outside back position was as loaded as any. We knew Sergino Dest, Antonee Robinson, and DeAndre Yedlin were getting called to Qatar. At most, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter would’ve called in two more fullbacks to the team. I figured if it was just one more, Joe Scally would get the nod. If it was two, Reggie Cannon, due to his ability to play anywhere in the back four, would be the other. Cannon’s name wasn’t mentioned at all last week during the roster reveal and ensuing press availability. Scally is also headed to Qatar with Moore joining him.
The second reason most didn’t forecast a Moore call-in was his lack of memorable moments with the national team. That’s exactly why it came as such a shock to see Ricardo Pepi’s name off the squad. Moore scored about 20 seconds into the United States’ Gold Cup group stage match against Canada last year. It’s his only goal in 15 appearances with the Yanks. The pre-reveal buzz is never the best indicator of who gets to be on the World Cup roster. None of the online “experts” got all 26 right. Even without missing a minute of a USMNT match since the Nations League semifinal victory over Honduras, I only got 19 correct with what I felt was the American’s best-case scenario. One of my correct projections — Moore.
I put Moore on the roster as one of the last additions. I’m certain I wouldn’t have included him if the usual 23-man roster size was in place and I’m not sure Berhalter does either. My decision to include him came from being teammates with a roster lock in Walker Zimmerman and that recognition would be useful in adverse situations in Qatar. By himself, Moore has great pace from the outside and is a solid defender. That is also true for a few others on the U.S. roster, which is why his name didn’t stand out when called to come to Qatar.
Moore’s contributions at the World Cup should be small, if he sees the field at all. He’s the third-best fit at his best position — right back — behind Sergino Dest and DeAndre Yedlin. I see Berhalter heavily relying on that duo throughout the tournament, as opposed to Moore. If the middle of December comes and Moore is a household name, it’ll likely be because of injuries above him in the depth chart. Knowing the USA’s guaranteed games against Wales, England and Iran feature a trio of teams who don’t mind leaving themselves exposed defensively to have a better attack, Moore’s ability actually could be useful off the bench, compared to writing him off completely.
In 2014, only two non-goalkeepers never saw the field in Brazil, Mix Diskerud and Timmy Chandler. Both of them flamed out with the USMNT soon after and we haven’t heard much from either since. That means Jürgen Klinsmann used 18 outfield players in four games. FIFA upped the number of substitutes allowed per game from three to five for this World Cup, meaning Berhalter is likely to deploy close to his entire non-goalkeeper roster in Qatar. It might be for just one game, but Moore could get his chance to shine. If he sees the field, I like his odds to not crumble under the pressure, especially if he’s in a familiar place, next to Zimmerman.