ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Shaq Moore had just finished training on Wednesday with Tenerife when his mobile phone buzzed with a text from U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter.
“I was actually at home, chilling,” the 25-year-old defender recalled. “Gregg said: ‘We may have a situation here.’”
Reggie Cannon’s COVID-19 test had been inclusive, leaving the Americans with no cover for DeAndre Yedlin at right back.
At midnight Europe time, Berhalter told Moore to get on the next plane to meet the U.S. team in Orlando, Florida, ahead of Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Panama. Cannon had tested positive.
Moore called a taxi and headed to the airport at 5:15 a.m. to catch a 7 a.m. flight for the 2-hour, 45-minute trip to Madrid. After arriving at 10:40 a.m., he hustled to catch an 11:35 a.m. connection to Chicago, a 9 1/2-hour flight that got in at 3:30 p.m. After clearing customs, he caught another flight to Orlando that landed about 9 p.m. and arrived at the team hotel just in time to turn on Univision and watch the U.S. play at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, a match that kicked off at 10 p.m. EDT.
In the 26th minute, Yedlin got a yellow card that caused an automatic one-game suspension.
“It ran through mind that I may have to be in for the next game, so I kid of mentally got myself ready,” Moore said.
When Berhalter first alerted Moore, the player didn’t have any of his gear. So after informing Tenerife’s sporting director and head coach, Moore texted Angelito Suarez, Tenerife’s equipment manager. Suarez delivered Moore’s boots to the player’s apartment about 10:30 p.m.
“He had the keys to the stadium.” Moore said.
With two qualifiers left. the U.S. is dealing with injuries to half a dozen regulars.
Sergiño Dest, the top American right back and an occasional left back, injured his left thigh while playing for Barcelona on March 17. With no cover for starting left back Antonee Robinson, Berhalter replaced Dest with George Bello.
Erik Palmer-Brown, a central defender, took over for Yedlin in the 80th minute of Thursday night’s 0-0 draw.
“When we decided to bring Bello in, we felt pretty well covered at right back,” Berhalter said. “We were looking potentially at 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 picked for the all-tournament team at last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, starting every match and entering the final in the 65th minute as the U.S. won the title.
He started five of Tenerife’s first 21 matches in Spain’s second division this season, then was sidelined by COVID-19 during the Christmas holidays. He returned Jan. 7 but made only three brief substitute appearances over two months for a total 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 tying goal in the 53rd minute of a 2-1 win.
“I felt played really well,” Berhalter said. “Was really good getting forward.”
Berhalter still didn’t want to select Moore because Tenerife had a game last Monday at Almería.
“We didn’t want to take him away, hurt his chance from playing for the rest of the year at the club when we had enough cover,” Berhalter said. “He played really well again. So then it became clear to us: one v. one defending, really aggressive going forward, putting in great crosses, and he’s a guy that played in a Gold Cup final for us. So we’re very comfortable with him and we decided to go with the experience over Joe Scally in this case.”
A native of Powder Springs, Georgia, Moore trained with Dallas in 2014 and signed with third-tier Huracán in Spain for the 2015-16 season. He moved to Oviedo and then Levante, making his La Liga debut on Oct. 29, 2017, against Eibar.
Moore played for the U.S. at the 2013 CONCACAF Under-17 Championship and the 2015 Under-20 World Cup — with Zack Steffen in goal — then made his senior national team debut against Ireland in June 2018. He was loaned that summer to second-tier Reus and was among the players who left at midseason because of unpaid wages and signed with Tenerife ahead of the 2018-19 season.
Moore has made 13 international appearances, replacing Dest in the 77th minute of the 2-0 win over Jamaica on Oct. 7 and starting three days later in the 1-0 loss at Panama.
“Just to have an idea of what World Cup qualifying is, that helps me a lot going into a big game,” he said. “It’s good to get my feet wet, to know what to expect.”
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