USMNT-Uruguay predictions: Who replaces Weah? Turner return?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The stakes in Monday’s Copa América group stage finale pitting the the U.S. men’s national team against Uruguay couldn’t be much higher. Not only is this the most important must-win game for the U.S. since the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but it could be the biggest until the next World Cup, too.

Because the U.S. is co-hosting the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico, there is no World Cup qualification, and combined with a crowded international calendar, the Copa America represents the only opportunity this cycle for the USMNT to play high-quality opponents in a tournament setting. The 2025 Concacaf Gold Cup won’t come close competitively.

Suffice to say, the odds are stacked against the USMNT. The U.S. basically needs to beat Uruguay to have the best possible shot to advance. The simplest way to think about it is the USMNT needs a better result against Uruguay (the group’s best team) than Panama gets against Bolívia (the group’s worst team) to guarantee advancing.

That means beating Uruguay alone might not even be enough. If Panama beats Bolivia by multiple goals — the most likely scenario based on Bolivia’s performances so far — the U.S. could be on course to lose the goal differential tiebreaker unless it beats Uruguay by multiple goals. All of those scoring chances that the Americans squandered late in their 2-0 tournament-opening win against Bolivia — which seems like ages ago — may come back to haunt the USMNT.

With that in mind, here are the five big questions — with some predictions — heading into Monday’s clash at Arrowhead Stadium.

1. Who replaces the suspended Timothy Weah?

Timothy Weah‘s loss cuts deep in a few ways, but the biggest is the pure speed he possesses that can stretch defenses, something that no other attacker on the U.S. roster has to the same extent. With that in mind, U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter would appear to have two options for replacing Weah.

He could plug Haji Wright into a spot on the left wing while moving Christian Pulisic to the right. Wright played in that position extensively for Coventry City this season, and Pulisic spent most of his time at AC Milan on the right. There would be a level of comfort in the switch for both players.

The other possibility is that Gio Reyna slides into Weah’s spot — where he’s played for the U.S. in the past — and Berhalter brings Yunus Musah into the lineup in a bid to reprise the “MMA” midfield with Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams.

Uruguay plays an intense, chaotic style, epitomized by midfielders Manuel Ugarte and Federico Valverde (assuming they’re not rested). Adding Musah would provide a bit more physicality in the middle of the park. This will have the added benefit of reducing Reyna’s defensive duties, and allowing him to tuck inside to play-make when the opportunity arises.

The latter approach seems the more likely option.

2. Matt Turner said his injury wasn’t serious. Does he play?

Initially, it didn’t look like Matt Turner would recover in time in the Uruguay match, despite his insistence after the Panama match that he would be “all right.” Turner didn’t participate in the start of Saturday’s training session, the only part that was open to the media. A U.S. Soccer spokesperson said he would take part in “limited training” later on in the session.

But Turner participated in the start of Sunday’s session and didn’t look like he was limited in his movements in any way. That said, Berhalter said at Sunday’s news conference that Turner was a limited participant and the team would “continue to monitor his status.”

Ultimately it will depend on how he feels and how the coaching staff thinks he looks. So long as his goal coverage — especially when diving to his right — isn’t affected, he will start. But if he’s compromised in any way, then Berhalter will have to go with Ethan Horvath.

There is some hesitation with the Horvath option. While there was plenty of blame to go around on José Fajardo‘s decisive goal in the Americans’ 2-1 loss to Panama, the shot was savable, which doesn’t exactly give Horvath a lot of momentum in terms of supplanting Turner.

Look for Turner to be in the lineup.

3. Does Ricardo Pepi get another chance despite poor finishing?

Let’s be clear. At this stage, no one is replacing Folarin Balogun in the starting lineup. The AS Monaco forward has been one of the few bright spots in this tournament for the U.S., and Berhalter can only hope that he continues his stellar form against La Celeste.

The question focuses on whom Berhalter goes with if he looks to his bench in search of a late goal. Ricardo Pepi has gotten minutes on the field, but has yet to convert on several glorious chances over the two games. There is the old cliché that at least Pepi is putting himself in a position to score, but at some point, he needs to convert.

The search for alternatives leads to another query: How healthy is Josh Sargent? Sargent did come on for a late cameo against Panama, but only for four minutes, which amounted to just two touches. The stint was so short that it did little to answer the question about Sargent’s level of fitness persists.

Lastly, is Wright an option centrally, or is he limited purely to the wing? His displays in the Concacaf Nations League showed he could play in a central role. If the U.S. is chasing a goal, Wright should get first crack.

4. Can the USMNT keep its discipline?

Over the past two years, the U.S. has shown that it is susceptible to the opponent’s “dark arts,” which are a staple of international soccer. Since the summer of 2022, the U.S. has seen players ejected on five different occasions. The stat spans 21 competitive games, including the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup when the U.S. sent a B team.

That is not a healthy ratio when it comes to keeping all 11 players on the field.

Youth can’t be offered up as a reason for why this is happening either. This team has been through the rigors of a World Cup qualifying campaign as well as the World Cup itself. At club level, players on the U.S. roster have played in some of the biggest leagues in the world and been involved in the game’s most intense derbies. Keeping their composure shouldn’t be an issue, and yet it is.

Is it the coaching? There have been three different managers during this period — interims Anthony Hudson and B.J. Callaghan — as well as Berhalter. It really comes down to the players harnessing their emotions and keeping their collective head.

5. Who will win? What will be the score? Will the U.S. advance?

Under Berhalter, there have been moments when U.S. has responded well when its back is against the wall. Think Honduras away and Panama at home during World Cup qualifying. There was the triumph over Iran in the USMNT’s last group stage game at the World Cup.

In this instance, the U.S. has some advantages over Uruguay. The Americans are playing at home, and while Uruguay haven’t totally clinched a spot in the knockout rounds, their superior goal differential means they can likely get away with resting some players. Uruguay manager Marcelo Bielsa is also suspended for the match due to his team twice being late to come out for a second-half kickoff, leaving the team in the hands of assistants Diego Reyes and Pablo Quiroga.

The USMNT will also be eager to make amends for the poor performance against Panama.

All of that said, Uruguay aren’t exactly going to lie down, and their trademark competitiveness will be on display. Our prediction? The U.S. will make a game of it and draw 1-1, but it won’t be enough to reach the knockout phases.

If that happens, it will almost certainly mean the end of Berhalter’s tenure as U.S. manager. Or at least, one would think.