By RONALD BLUM AP Sportswriter
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Shaq Moore had just finished training Wednesday with Tenerife when his cell phone rang with a text message from U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter.
“I was actually at home, chilling out,” the 25-year-old defender recalled. “Gregg said, ‘We may have a problem here.'”
Reggie Cannon’s COVID-19 test had been inclusive, leaving the Americans without cover for DeAndre Yedlin at right-back.
At midnight European time, Berhalter told Moore to get on the next plane to meet Team USA in Orlando, Florida ahead of Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Panama. Cannon had tested positive.
Moore called a cab and headed to the airport at 5:15 a.m. to catch a 7 a.m. flight for the 2-hour, 45-minute journey to Madrid. After arriving at 10:40 a.m., he rushed to catch an 11:35 a.m. connection to Chicago, a 9.5-hour flight that arrived at 3:30 p.m. After clearing customs, he took another flight to Orlando which landed around 9 p.m. and arrived at the team hotel just in time to turn on Univision and watch the United States game at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, a game that kicked off at 10 p.m. EDT.
In the 26th minute, Yedlin received a yellow card which resulted in an automatic one game suspension.
“It occurred to me that maybe I should go to the next game, so I mentally prepared myself,” Moore said.
When Berhalter first alerted Moore, the player had none of his equipment. So, after informing the sporting director and head coach of Tenerife, Moore texted Angelito Suarez, Tenerife’s equipment manager. Suarez delivered Moore’s boots to the player’s apartment around 10:30 p.m.
“He had the keys to the stadium.” said Moore.
With two qualifiers remaining. the United States are dealing with the injuries of half a dozen regulars.
Sergiño Dest, America’s top right-back and occasional left-back, suffered a left thigh injury while playing for Barcelona on March 17. Without cover for starting left-back Antonee Robinson, Berhalter replaced Dest with George Bello.
Erik Palmer-Brown, a centre-back, came on for Yedlin in the 80th minute of Thursday night’s 0-0 draw.
“When we decided to bring in Bello, we felt pretty well covered at right-back,” Berhalter said. “We were potentially looking for someone who could be right-back or left-back, and that’s where Joe Scally has done it before, Shaq less so. But then we decided to go for a pure left-back.
Moore was chosen for the All-Tournament Squad at last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, starting every game and entering the final in the 65th minute as the United States clinched the title.
He started five of Tenerife’s first 21 matches in the Spanish second tier this season, then was sidelined by COVID-19 over the Christmas break. He returned on 7 January but only made three brief substitute appearances in two months for a total of 36 minutes.
Moore’s start against Gijón on March 13 was his first since mid-December, and his cross from the right flank was headed in by Enric Gallego for the 53rd-minute equalizer in a 2–1 win.
“I felt very well played,” said Berhalter. “It was really good to move on.”
Berhalter still didn’t want to select Moore because Tenerife played a game last Monday in Almería.
“We didn’t want to take him, hurt his chance to play for the rest of the year at the club when we had enough cover,” Berhalter said. “He still played very well. So it became clear to us: one on one in defence, very aggressive up front, great crosses, and he’s a guy who played in a Gold Cup final for us. We are therefore very comfortable with him and we have decided to favor the experience of Joe Scally in this case.
A native of Powder Springs, Georgia, Moore trained with Dallas in 2014 and signed with Spain’s third-tier Huracán for the 2015-16 season. He moved to Oviedo and then Levante, making his La Liga debut on October 29, 2017 against Eibar.
Moore played for the United States at the 2013 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship and 2015 Under-20 World Cup – with Zack Steffen in goal – then made his senior national team debut against the Ireland in June 2018. He was loaned out that summer at the second tier. Reus and was among the players who left mid-season due to unpaid wages and signed with Tenerife ahead of the 2018-19 season.
Moore made 13 international appearances, replacing Dest in the 77th minute in the 2-0 win over Jamaica on October 7 and starting three days later in the 1-0 defeat at Panama.
“Just to get an idea of what qualifying for the World Cup is, it helps me a lot before a big game,” he said. “It’s good to get your feet wet, to know what to expect.”
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