When coach Caleb Porter announced a 19-player roster for Olympic qualifying last week, there was hope among fans that Bundesliga defender Alfredo Morales would be the so-called 20th man for whom the coach was holding a spot while negotiating a release with a European club. When that player instead turned out to be Estoril Praia winger Tony Taylor, it became clearer that Morales will probably miss out on the tournament.
Not that Porter wants it that way. The defensive midfielder, it seems, never had much of a shot to be released from his German club for the tournament, which falls completely outside of FIFA match dates.
If the loss of the flexible, battle-hardened Morales comes as a blow to the U.S., it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Hertha Berlin had no reason to let him go. He has featured regularly of late for the Bundesliga club in the midst of a relegation battle. They weren't about to let him go to the U.S. to play an international tournament when he's needed in Germany.
While Morales' absence (barring the minimal chance he is released for one or two games in the end) is disappointing, especially given his huge role in the friendly win over Mexico, making due without access to top youth players for CONCACAF events has become standard practice at U.S. soccer.