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


The U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team has put itself in a position to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. Now, the task is to seize that position as the U.S. is 90 minutes away from reaching its ultimate goal.

All things considered, the U.S. took care of business on Friday, earning an away goal in a 1-1 draw with Colombia. Entering Tuesday’s second leg, a scoreless draw would be enough to send the U.S. through and into the Olympics.

Earning a draw is anything but a certainty, though. Throughout Friday’s contest, Colombia was on the front foot as the U.S. was repeatedly bailed out by the defensive duo of Tim Parker and Matt Miazga. The U.S. did have chances against a leaky Colombia back line, though, and could look to exploit those chances on the counter attack.

Heading into Tuesday’s clash, head coach Andi Herzog will have to balance protecting his side’s lead with being proactive in chasing series-clinching goals. With that being said, Herzog has some difficult decisions to make following a grueling opening leg.

Here’s a closer look at a lineup Herzog could go with on Tuesday:






Some thoughts:

The U.S. enters Tuesday’s contest with a slight advantage, so Herzog will not be pressed into doing anything reckless tactically. The U.S. has the luxury of letting the game come to it and will not need to chase the game early with an overly-aggressive lineup.

With that said, Tuesday’s successes will likely start with the team’s defense yet again. All things considered, Miazga and Parker looked spectacular as a partnership, with the latter showing particularly well in the opening leg. The duo cleaned up messes time and time again and should be penciled in immediately as the first-choice centerback partnership.

The player who sits behind them will be up for debate. Following Ethan Horvath’s injury, Herzog may have to make some decisions in goal. If Horvath is in any way still shaken up, Cody Cropper is more than capable of stepping into the starting gig. Tuesday’s game is too big to rest hopes on a goalkeeper that is at less than 100 percent, and the U.S. may need some goalkeeper heroics to survive the assumed Colombia onslaught.

Fullback is also a position that could see some changes. After shining in USMNT camp at the position, Kellyn Acosta struggled throughout Tuesday’s draw, even before conceding the penalty kick. Matt Polster has the versatility and defensive chops to step into the lineup should Herzog look to change things up, while Eric Miller has the ability to start on either side of the centerback duo.

Wil Trapp should generally be penciled into the midfield, while the player who plays alongside him is usually a bit more up in the air. Given the U.S. advantage heading into the second leg, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Fatai Alashe given the start. Although limited on the attacking end, Alashe provides a legitimate presence defensively that should help frustrate Colombia’s attack. If the U.S. does end up having to chase a goal, Herzog can insert a player like Friday’s goalscorer Luis Gil to help bring a more creative presence to the midfield.

Following a strong performance on Friday, Emerson Hyndman has done more than justify a spot on the field for the second leg. The Fulham midfielder was generally the team’s most creative player. While defense is far from his strength, Hyndman showed to be capable in Friday’s clash and could always drop a bit deeper into a more central three if the U.S. decided to sit a bit.

Out wide, it was surprising to see Jerome Kiesewetter limited to just a substitute appearance. After a grueling game in ridiculous temperatures, the Stuttgart winger will enter with fresh legs and should prove a handful for what looked to be a shaky Colombia back line. The other flank could see a similar situation with Paul Arriola, while Gil and Julian Green also remain options to play out wide.

Finally, Jordan Morris remains the team’s premier striker. Morris came a crossbar away from scoring last time out while also breaking away from the Colombia defense on one or two occasions. Fitness is a concern, though, as Morris did look exhausted late, but options like Kiesewetter or Mario Rodriguez could replace Morris should his legs become too heavy.


  1. Let’s face it: even with a front line of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez this team is going to bunker hard because that’s what we do against good teams and we need to start practicing the 9-0-1 formation as early as possible. It’s not like Herzog is going to learn how to tactically set up a game plan overnight. He just doesn’t have it and he never will.

  2. Desevio Payne is better technically and defensively than either Miller and Acosta. Herzog is a JK disciple so anything is possible but if i know one thing to be true, if we pick a outwardly defensive team we will lose. We can’t have our wingbacks just punting the ball up field as soon as they feel a bit of pressure and having Payne on either wing will diminish that. Would love to see Arriola and Green too, they have been pretty good in their respective leagues and we know what Kiesewetter gives up but i’d be fine with him starting too.

    • How could you possibly know that about Payne vs. Miller/Acosta? I’ve watched every game the U-23 & U-20s have played and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that is true. Have you been watching his reserve side games in Holland? Because he has only played in a handful of games this year for the first team.

  3. i would keep Mario on the field but i agree Arriola has to be on the field for this. that means Gil is likely the odd man out, but it seems worth it. in a simple 4-4-2:


    the backline is tough, but I think you have to get Payne in there.

  4. I’m not really a fan of this lineup at all, invites too much pressure, and I don’t really agree at all with morris being a number 9, cause yeah he’s not. This lineup is built to counter attack, yet doesn’t have a hold up striker, so yeah great tactical acumen there. I like this look:


    Gives us some possession in the middle and the threat of those two on the wings is dangerous, don’t play with the backline too much, i actually didnt think acosta was all that bad, just payne is a better option than him at fullback.

  5. We should go for the win (not likely what Herzog is going to do), so I would like to see this line-up:


      • OMG, the sky is falling and the world is ending!! I guess the team might as well stay in the locker room and not play the game. Could you be any more pessimistic? And I thought that people here were fans of American soccer.

      • @Gary Page Dude, did you even see the game? It was an embarrassment for anybody who considers themselves a US fan. Iceland is unfortunately not exaggerating: it was a 90-minute team defense exercise.

        If anything, the US will come out just as defensively as they’d be happy with a 0-0 draw. Not much room for optimism.

      • Gary, If you watched that game and felt there was anything to be happy about other than the result and the CB pairing looking solid then I don’t know what to tell you. Making the decision to just hang on for dear life the entire second half was pretty pathetic and a fair result would have been a 2-1 loss.

      • I watched the entire game Bryan. We got an early lead and played pretty even in the first then sat back second half until the mental error pk. Colombia didn’t have any amazing chances. CBs did a great job clearing. Holding on for a 1-1 draw is nothing new to the sport and doesn’t mean we’re terrible or any of the such

      • We sat back all right. To the tune of like 20% possession or whatever it was. Stu was pretty beside himself with our tactics. But I guess I’ll defer to you and the football wizard Gary Page.

      • I watched the Locker Room on BeIn Sport last night and Jaun Pablo Angel was talking about how difficult it was going to be for the senior men’s Colombia team to play at altitude in Bolivia then return to Barranquilla given the temps there. I would presume that the US may have had trouble dealing with the heat all throughout the game which may have in some part contributed to the bunkering and lack of possession. Hopefully Colombia tired themselves out chasing the game and the US can use that to their advantage.

  6. Maybe Herzog should play Acosta in his natural position of defensive midfield instead of playing turnover and foul machine Alashe.


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