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Who Should the USMNT Start vs. Ghana?

Photo by Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports

The Gold Cup is just around the corner, and Bruce Arena will get his first look at his new-look U.S. Men’s National Team roster on Saturday afternoon.

Arena’s squad features a slew of new faces and players eager to make impressions while moving from the USMNT fringe to World Cup contention. That process begins on Saturday afternoon as the U.S. takes on rival Ghana for a pre-Gold Cup friendly.

Now, Saturday’s match won’t have the heat of the two teams’ previous clashes, but it is an important moment for the USMNT. It’s the start of a four-game set for players to make impressions and show Arena what they can do at the international level.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at one possible USMNT lineup:


Some thoughts:

It’s admittedly hard to predict which way Arena will go with Saturday’s lineup. There are so many new faces, so many variables at play that Arena is likely the only one fully confident in how the USMNT will line up against Ghana.

That said, there are several parts of the field to watch out for.

Centerback is an interesting one given the varying experience in the squad, but it would make sense for Arena to utilize his first-choice pairing to start Saturday’s match. Omar Gonzalez is almost certainly a starter given the fact he’s one of the few experienced members of the team, even if there will be reshuffling throughout the group stages. With that in mind, it makes sense to give Gonzalez a run out with someone like Matt Hedges to build chemistry. Someone like Matt Besler is also in the mix, but we know that Gonzalez and Besler have chemistry given their shared history, so it’s a good idea to get a look at someone else.

Fullback is also a tricky point as Jorge Villafana is battling back to full fitness. The defender has been out of action since the match against Trinidad & Tobago and admitted earlier this week that he wasn’t at peak fitness when he entered camp. Given his standing with the team, there’s no reason not to rest him for the real matches ahead while giving him a second half appearance to find his feet again. Luckily, the team has several veterans like Graham Zusi, Eric Lichaj and Justin Morrow to step in at the fullback position.

Meanwhile, other veterans, like Gyasi Zardes and Juan Agudelo, will look to make their mark after absences from the USMNT. The two have been a part of this group in the past but, with a World Cup looming, both are likely on the outside looking in as things stand.

The most intriguing players, though, are the newcomers. Cristian Roldan, Dom Dwyer, Kenny Saeif and Kelyn Rowe represent the USMNT’s newest faces, and one would expect at least a few of them to get involved at some point on Saturday, even if they aren’t named to the starting XI. Roldan is perhaps the most interesting given his skillset, and partnering him with someone like Kellyn Acosta could be a legitimate starting midfield pairing throughout the group stage.

All in all, expect a general blend of names in the starting XI and plenty of rotation. It’s a friendly, and it will be treated as such as the U.S. looks to fine-tune before the Gold Cup starts. The lineup will be very fluid and plenty will get their chances during what will likely be a fairly experimental match against a familiar foe.


  1. 3-5-2


    Saief instead of Rowe if fit…really want to see Miazga get some minutes at CB…maybe instead of Hedges…need a little more speed.

    • Can lichaj play the rb/rwb/rm hybrid roll? i have no idea someone let me know

      Let me see saief on the left?

      Also lets go all out and pack the midfield with a 3-4-2-1 so sub dax in for one of the forwards and push roldan up a spot. I think this formation is calling out for a veteran mid to help organize. I think that allows everyone else to play more comfortably.

      Also from what i have read rowe and roldan can bounce out wide so if they need to defend in a 5-4-1 they can do that without having to burn a sub

      I like your formation. And it seems like you are thinking of finding a backup for every position for the formation bruce rolled out in the azteca. That is very smart!!

  2. ——————Dwyer————–

  3. Wow, the SBI lineup is one of the least creative minded ones I have ever seen for a USMNT game. Who will be the playmaker? How are we supposed to see which forwards can shine if there is no service to them?

    If I was Bruce, i would use this game to look at partnerships more than overall team play. I would love to see Hedges and Miazga, could be a pairing for the future. I would play McCarty next to Acosta, mostly to allow Acosta to refine the role he will have once MB is back next to him. Allow Acosta to be the box to box player JJ used to be for us. I think Corona and Arriola on the outsides will give us the best chance to get service to the forwards, who would be Dwyer and Morris, who I think are better at crosses from the wings, where most of the balls will come from.

    I hope Bruce plays to win, and lets the guys go out and get it. A defensive formation does us little good in this contest.

  4. Well I hope the Gold Cup is used to give a lot of time to untested players. Take Morris for example. He is a one trick pony and MLS has now seen his one trick. I dont think he is NAT quality but do think Dwyer could be. Why do we need to see more Morris? We know what he does. Arena should have brought Josh Sargent to camp. He is the next Pulisic and it wouldnt have hurt to see how he looks with older players. Opportunity lost there.

    I still think Arena was a mistake and will never make necessary changes with his aging first string. That is what he did in the past and I see no signs of anything changing. His blind spots continue as well. Is Zusi really NAT quality? Nobody else in MLS better? Zardes…. why is he here? Cause he plays for LA? It was things like this that got him fired first time and I see him heading the same direction. He may have been a quick flx to the Klinsmann mess but will never take us to the next level

    • He wasn’t hired to take us to the next level, only to get us to Russia. Bruce and US Soccer understand that missing the WC would do more to stunt development than playing veterans.

    • I assume this summer is a last chance for Morris and Agudelo going into the rest of qualifying, so I am okay with them now. If they do not perform, I think we will start seeing the younger kids coming up. As for Seargent, he had a very long spring, playing in the U17 and U20’s, and is now on loan in Germany. I think that is much more important to his maturation process. If he keeps it up, he will be in camp in January I am sure.

  5. Miazga should start if he looks good in camp, he is going to be leaving after group stage so might as well get a long look and let others that are Prolly leaving get looks as well. Really don’t see much difference in most of these players so play the ones who won’t be around all tournament.

  6. Morris and Dwyer have underperformed all year. I can’t remember how many times I have thought, “this is Agudelo’s opportunity.” Admittedly, he has scored 7 goals so perhaps he can get it going this tournament. Excited to see how McCarty handles himself. Hoping Acosta delivers, and honestly I think our strongest core are the defenders we’ve brought. Gonzo and Hedges? Lichaj finally getting some love, holy shit.

  7. As long as Zusi & McCarty are not part of the starting XI it’s fine. Preferably neither will see the field….but I’m fairly sure they will at some point.

    Personally I’d go with something more along the lines of….


  8. This is a meaningless home friendly ahead of a meaningless tournament. Why only one striker? I would go with a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. Whatever, just go for the win and try to score a lot of goals. Even our C team should outclass two of our group stage opponents who will likely bunker in.

  9. —————Dywer———
    subs: Miazga, Hamid, Morrow, McCarty, Hedges, Agudelo

      • Because it is past, and we already know what it can
        do, that it does not have much to offer, it is an
        important and good competition to do experiments,
        so I think that zusi should not even have been
        called, but considering that this is a position Where
        there are not many options I even understand he has
        been called, but it is not essential for the team

  10. Zardes has always struck me as an MLS 1.0 player. Runs hard, good athlete, and very little technical ability.

    While I acknowledge he’ll make the ocassional play, I’ve just never seen the “it” factor that people seem to fawn all over him about.

    • For me, his value would be as a late sub while holding onto a lead. He is tireless, tracks back well defensively, and could give you that threat on a quick counter. I think the time has passed for him to be a starter, but he does have some value, not to mention his experience at this point.

  11. Obviously I love Morris, Sounder, local boy.

    He and Zardes have done NOTHING to earn a spot this year. Living on last year, which wouldn’t be too bad, except we are 1/2 way through the season now.

    • could not agree more. hoping the Nicaragua, Martinique games are slump busters for those two, but I don’t think they deserve to be starting against ghana, panama or staying around for the ko rounds at this point.

    • Morris isn’t scoring goals and he’s not creating much either but one thing he is still doing fairly consistently is stretching defenses. Bruce has always liked speed, and I think he values what JMO brings as far as being one of the few strikers in the pool who can fairly consistently get in behind. As an aside, would have loved to see Johannsson on this roster had his current circumstances been more favorable.

      • Hey man I’m not trying to nitpick at your responses but this is what’s wrong with the US team, Bruce like u said knows zardes who isn’t very good but is athletic and Morris is playing poorly right now and offers nothing but speed. When is the US thinking process going to change that to be a good soccer/football nation they need talent and players with technical abilities to push them forward. Somebody will ask the question then who do I suggest, right now not really sure cuz there is a lack of depth in that department except for some younger prospects coming through the ranks.

  12. Never been a fan of Zardes to begin with but what has he shown recently that would suggest he should start. On the other hand Saief is an unknown.

    • Good question re Zardes, but all things considered, Bruce knows him. Bruce has said that Saief is lacking fitness so I would not expect him to start.


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