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

Photo by Chris Nicoll/USA Today Sports
Photo by Chris Nicoll/USA Today Sports

Just two games stand between the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team and an Olympic berth, but the next step on the road to Rio will be the most difficult yet.

Matched with Colombia in a two-game playoff, the U.S. is set to travel down to Barranquilla for Friday’s opening leg. Facing off with a perennial international powerhouse, the U.S. will head into a typically hostile environment in South America in the team’s first game together since fall friendlies.

Head coach Andi Herzog will face a series of questions heading into Friday’s clash. How does the U.S. prioritize the potential of scoring on the road against keeping things manageable at home? How can the team balance the successes of qualifying with the new faces brought in since October’s tournament? Most importantly, how does the U.S. fix the deficiencies presented during the loss to Honduras that caused the playoff appearance in the first place?

Here is a starting lineup we can see Herzog using  in Friday’s opening leg:

U23 Projected XI vs Colombia

Looking at the attack in particular, the U.S. should certainly go with what got them there.

The partnership between Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter flourished throughout the qualifying tournament. The two young forwards each provide a unique combination of speed and power, forming a formidable duo against any backline. Herzog could also be tempted to move Kiesewetter out to the wing, where the Stuttgart product flourished with the USMNT in January camp. No matter where deployed, both Kiesewetter and Morris will almost assuredly be leading the line in the U.S. attack.

If Herzog does opt to go with the two up top, the U.S. will have a variety of options to facilitate wide play. Julian Green has been in spectacular form for Bayern’s reserves this season, scoring 10 goals in 24 games. On the other side, Herzog can choose from several players with distinct styles, including Luis Gil, Dillon Serna and Paul Arriola.

The center of the midfield has proven to be one of the team’s strengths, and that should continue through the two-game series. Wil Trapp has long served as a leader for the U-23s, both on and off the field, while Fatai Alashe provides plenty of cover for a backline that will certainly look a bit different than it did in qualifying.

Matt Miazga’s winter move to Chelsea has resulted in few games, but the former New York Red Bulls star should be penciled in for one spot in the center of defense. Alongside him, the U.S. will need to make a change after an injury forced Cameron Carter-Vickers out of the lineup. Tim Parker was one of several U-23s called in to January camp with the senior team, and the Whitecaps defender has looked very good since breaking into his club team’s lineup late last season.

In the fullback positions, Herzog can go with less experienced options like Desevio Payne or Brandon Vincent. However, given the hostile environment, look for Herzog to go with January camp standout Kellyn Acosta and Eric Miller, who missed qualifiers due to a club decision. With Acosta and Miller out wide, Matt Polster is free to be utilized as a utility sub that can plug in either in defense or along the backline.

Herzog’s final decision comes in net, where the Austrian head coach will have to weigh there merits of starting either Cody Cropper or Ethan Horvath. While Cropper has made several appearances for English club MK Dons, Horvath’s Europa League experience with Molde should prove invaluable. Already accustomed to big-time tournament games, Horvath is expected to provide steady, calm hands for a U.S. team that may be on the back-foot in the opening game.

What do you think of this lineup? Who would you like to see start against Colombia?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. 4-2-3-1 look to counter. Payne in for Miller. Swap Green with Gil or Hyndman and drop UK to wing with option to join JMo up top at times. That should make them difficult to play against.

  2. ————–Morris———-


    I think we need speed and tenacity in the midfield. Thats why I like Acosta and Arriola

  3. On Friday I’d go a bit more defensive since it’s an away game. Something along the following:
    Subs: Green & Arriola to give fresh legs to the wide players. I don’t really trust Alashe but if we need to strengthen the defensive side late (hopefully to preserve a win) I would insert him for Hyndman to have 3 CDM types to create a block of 7 defensively.

    In the 2nd Leg I’d go with a bit more office….

  4. —————–JK———Morris——————-

    same backline as SBI. but Payne wouldn’t be a bad option at all. for the first game, maybe Alashe is a smarter play. don’t need him to do anything but sit back there and protect the back. then for the home leg, put in a more creative player like Emerson.

  5. Agree with most here. The key is not giving up too many goals. If we can hold them to 1 goal, then we have a good chance when we play in the US.

  6. It would be nice when you post these articles asking for our preferred line-up if you re-listed the full player pool. That way I don’t have to flip back and forth between two SBI stories. Anyways, I think we go more defensive in Colombia and see if we can’t come away with a draw. I expect it to be bunker ball with Colombia holding a large majority of the possession and offensive chances. That being said, here is what I expect:



    I think we will play a similar style we played in France a year ago. Not our best performances but defensively they played well (except for the game against France). I think they try and replicate that and then change things up as necessary in Columbus.

    • – – – – – – – – Morris – – – – – – – –
      Green – – – – – Gil – – Kiesewetter
      – – – – Hyndman – – Trapp – – – –
      Vincent – Parker – Miazga – Miller
      – – – – – – – – Horvath – – – – – – – –

      • I think we go even more defensive than that down in Colombia. I think Alashe is in the for his bulldozing defense. Depending on the outcome of this game I think in Columbus we see something more like this:




        I think the change is slight but significant. I also don’t see how Acosta doesn’t play LB after his performance for the Nats. I don’t really know much about our LCB options all I know is Miazga prefers the RCB and should be played there. I know even less about our RB options. I hope that if we need a win that Yedlin fills in at RB and an even bigger boost would be having Brooks at LCB. However, I’m not sure Hertha will allow that.

  7. I watch every Tijuana game and Arriola tracks back A LOT to fulfill his defensive duties. If it comes down to him or Green starting I have to go with Arriola down in Colombia. I agree, we will have to be more defensively shaped in Colombia and then can bring out more firepower offensively, (probably will need to chase a goal or two), at home. Jerome and Jordan though for sure up top. Their partnership has been great! I love Hyndman’s calmness on the ball so I see him and Trapp as two of the guys in the middle.

    • yup, and he understands he HAS to track back to be a complete player. his interview with ASN yesterday drives that point home. Arriola is a must start on, preferably, the right side.

  8. ——————–Morris——————-

      • Johnny – crap, that was a typo. i meant plays almost every week.

        “Arriola has begun to come into his own of late at Club Tijuana—featuring in 21 Liga MX games since last fall, including three straight 90-minute outings under former Mexico coach Miguel Herrera entering the international break”

    • Kiesewetter has never played on the left and Green has never played on the right for us. You need to flip those two. Also, Acosta has never played RB for our youth teams only LB so he will either start or Payne, but not both. Also, Miazga’s preferred side is RCB so he will get his preferred spot and whoever is his partner will play LCB. Your guess is as good as mine for who plays RB.

    • Riggins, just curious but why would you start Hyndman over Gil? Gil had the same hype as Hyndman when he was in his 19-20s; Gil is currently older and more experienced than Hyndman; and Hyndman has been rotting on the bench for Fulham in the 2nd division for most of the season while Gil has been playing and starting in the first division in Mexico.

      During qualifying Herzog started Hyndman over Gil in the first game, but Gil subbed in that first game, and then Gil started the rest of the tournament. I believe he ended up playing more minutes than Hyndman when it was all said and done. Take that into account, and Hyndman’s lack of playing time, and Gil’s frequent playing time, and that tells me Gil is the guy.

    • I put Hyndman in because I rate him higher than Gil. I’d like to have Gil in the lineup but I see him more as an attacking player and I think there’s better Dmid options.

      With Acosta, he’s a two-footed player. So he didn’t play there for youth teams but that doesn’t mean he can’t, and I rate Payne as a better natural Left back than him, but I still want him in the squad and think he’s better than Miller. Vincent could easily be put in for Payne in my opinion.

      For Kiesewetter and Green I think they should be on the pitch together but could easily interchange. SBIs lineup had Green at R winger, so I just kept him there.

  9. Hell no! Not Alashe and Miller! Please play Payne, he has plenty of experience, and is the better player. Put Polster instead of Alashe, or Hyndman. Alashe has no touch, can’t pass, and is a turnover machine. We need to hold possession, not concede it and bunker from the jump.

    • We’ll have to see what Herzog rolls out – if he does not take this team to the Olympics, then he has to step aside. I agree Miller (who closely resembled a parking cone when the u23’s got hammered by Brazil in November) and Alashe (who will either foul you or win then ball and pass it back to the other team) are not the answer – I’m not so sure about Julian Green away in Colombia when you need a squad that will defend.

      • Of course he will step aside. If they don’t qualify for these Olympics then there is nothing left for the U-23s to do until next World Cup cycle. Both Klinsmann and Herzog won’t be U.S. coaches next cycle.

    • What makes you so sure? Hyndman hasn’t played much at all for Fulham and is probably in bad form. I’d guess Gil starts before Hyndman does.

      • He played in their last game and his lack of playing time has more to do with his contract situation. Apparently, some fairly big clubs are interested in signing him this summer.

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