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Who should the U.S. U-23s start vs. Canada?

U-23 USMNT lineup vs. Panama Olympic qualifying 28

photo by Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports


It is an uphill battle to reach the Olympics now, and the first hurdle to overcome is a do-or-die match against a familiar foe.

The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team missed out on a chance to directly qualify for Rio 2016 on Saturday and now has to do things the hard way, beginning with Tuesday’s CONCACAF Olympic qualifying third-place showdown vs. Canada (6 p.m. ET, NBC Universo) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

A victory is needed there in order to advance to a play-off vs. Colombia for a spot in the Olympics, and U.S. head coach Andi Herzog has plenty of thinking to do with regards to his lineup after seeing his side fall flat in a disappointing and frustrating 2-0 defeat to Honduras over the weekend.

The U.S. already defeated Canada once in the group stage of the tournament, but Herzog could opt to go with a completely different look this time around given that the U.S. struggled so mightily with possession in the semifinals bout with Honduras. Regardless, the intense pressure is on Herzog and his players, as the Americans’ Olympic dream depends, for now, on this match.

This is the group of 11 players Herzog could go with on Tuesday:







Some thoughts:

The U.S. failed to win the possession battle against Honduras and will need to improve in that regard in order to avoid a letdown vs. the Canadians. As such, U.S. head coach Herzog could go back to using the crafty Gedion Zelalem in place of Matt Polster in the midfield.

Luis Gil might also be sacrificed here to make room for Gboly Ariyibi, who offers a change of pace and is a more dynamic weapon to the U.S. attack. If that is the case, expect Ariyibi to man his usual left midfield spot while Emerson Hyndman flips to the right side. Zelalem would operate between them.

Another change that may be in the cards is young centerback Cameron Carter-Vickers being replaced by Will Packwood. Carter-Vickers is coming off his roughest performance in a U.S. jersey, and Packwood showed well in his lone start thus far vs. Panama. Herzog could easily chalk up Carter-Vickers’ struggles against Honduras to just one bad game and keep him in the lineup, however, especially given the chemistry he has with fellow projected starting centerback Matt Miazga.

A second alteration that we might see in the defense is Matt Polster taking Boyd Okwuono’s right back spot. Okwuono came off after the first half vs. Honduras, with Polster dropping from midfield to fill the void. Polster held his own at that position, just as he did in the Americans’ 3-1 win vs. Canada in the tournament opener, and that should give Herzog plenty of confidence in the Chicago Fire rookie.

The rest of the team will likely be what we have seen so far in the tournament. Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter figure to lead the attack again, U.S. captain Wil Trapp appears set to continue to serve as the defensive midfielder despite a less-than-stellar outing vs. Honduras, and Ethan Horvath is probably going to be given the nod in goal for the third straight match. Dillon Serna would be the left back, but there is a chance he could sit this one out if Marc Pelosi is healthy.


What do you think about this projected lineup for the U.S. U-23s? Would you prefer to see something else or different players? See the Americans coming out on top?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Juergen cannot wait to get his hands on Zelalem! He wants to introduce him at LFB in a meaningful qualifier. Just to show what a creative manager he has become.

  2. I like Miazga. Despite the hype for the attacking players he has been the best player for the U-23s. It is not a comforting thought, that a player whose primary role is to defend, no matter that he does it well with skill and a great soccer brain.

    Central Backs are not the position to look to for pretty attacking soccer, it is true the CBs must be able to make passes to teammates and Miazga does do that, but other than defending well, providing the opening pass, supporting possession by the midfield, and getting forward on an occasional set piece, there is little CBs can do to influence better play from the rest of the team.

    There must be more of a team in front of him.

  3. No matter who starts, I wonder if the team will look like they have some kind of coherent system in place. Probably not, considering what we saw against Honduras.

  4. To be honest I am not that disappointed about the rose bowl loss, great game and we were beat fair and square in a very close game. I am tho completely wrecked by this U23 team, again!

    The lineup here looks fine. The lineup on Saturday looked great too. I need to see some passion and grit from somebody in US Soccer to make me feel like we are not falling a part. So much talent but so little McBride, Hejduk, Howard, young Dempsey, pre injury Davies or Donovan types on our teams anymore that equal their talent with passion, grit and never say die attitude.

    We can beat Canada and then Colombia and anyone else in the Olympics with a total attitude adjustment where the US is never favored, we never under estimate anyone and we scrap our way beyond our expectations.

      • And not only did we just lump it forward, but neither Morris nor Kiesewetter are really target strikers. They have both been deployed more like wide forwards. Sending them longballs isn’t going to work against any team with a decent coach.

      • Yeah once we got down (and even before, sadly) we played some of the least imaginitive football I’ve seen anybody play in a long time. Made Millwall look like Barcelona.

  5. Zelalem is the best midfielder in the U.S. pool at any level, and it’s really not even close. Leave it up to the morons at USA soccer find a way to keep him out of the lineup.

      • But, but, but, the poster has seen some YouTube highlight reels. You really can’t argue with YouTube highlight reels.

      • He went there to learn how to deal with the physical part of the game. He had 3 Championship teams that wanted him too and he chose the Rangers And name another American that is rated as high as Gedion by just about every soccer/football website in Europe.

    • Wow, that’s an idiotic statement. He might have the most potential, but best at any level?
      Did you watch him platy in this tournament? There was a reason he was benched…he was lousy.
      Yes, I think he deserved another chance, and I’d like to see him against Canada, but it’s not like he was tearing up the tournament.

    • Are you serious? He might have the most potential, but best at any level?
      Did you watch him platy in this tournament? There was a reason he was benched…he was lousy.
      Yes, I think he deserved another chance, and I’d like to see him against Canada, but it’s not like he was tearing up the tournament.

  6. I think this lineup is myopic because is trying to fix a problem against an opponent that already left us in their rear view mirror (Honduras). Canada is not going to win the possession game against us, they are looking to counter. I never liked having slow, defensive lacking, ball circulating players as a way to beat an opponent. I like Hernandez instead of Gil or anyone else to play the CM. I would add another forward, Maki Tall and move Kiesewetter to RW, I’m very impressed with Kiesewetter work rate on both sides of the ball. With Ariyibi and Kiesewetter you have a potent power from the flanks that will cause Canada defense to shift thus allow Morris to beat their defense or setup Tall for the final run.

    • So if Canada looks to play defensively, we need to not play for possession and instead go with direct attack.

      Soccer rock, paper, scissors: Possession beats direct, direct beats defensive, defensive beats possession.

      That doesn’t mean constant long ball, but it does mean keeping your defensive shape and looking to minimize transition to attack and attack phases to as short a duration as possible, both because it maximizes scoring opportunities and because defenders tend to get caught up field less often on teams displaying some urgency. (For counterattacks to work, you have to catch opponent’s defenders out of shape.)

      • I didn’t imply with my player choices that long ball was going to be the answer, that group of players that I had in mind was good enough to retain possession against Canada. Sometimes when you sized your opponent you need to play to your strength, which for this team is speed to attack before the opponent defense gets a chance to set. Having slow moving ball circulators dictate the tempo will allow the opponent to set their defense and wait for us.

  7. Sit Morris for the first half, not because he isn’t good but because the other players can’t seem to help them self from wanting to try and lump it forward to him. Establish possession in the first half then bring on Morris.

  8. I’d say it’s less about the 11, more about the coaching. Watching the US was like watching a rec U12 team…kick it hard up to you fastest player and hope he does something.
    No style, no creativity.
    I know Zelalem hasn’t been in his best form, but they need him in there.


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