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Who Should the USMNT Start vs. Martinique?

Photo by Jim Brown/USA Today Sports

The U.S. Men’s National Team opened the Gold Cup with an up-and-down effort against Panama. It was a performance featuring plenty of positives and negatives scattered throughout a trying 90 minutes for everyone involved.

Wednesday’s clash with Martinique should be a much simpler task for Bruce Arena’s USMNT, but there are plenty of decisions to make ahead of the USMNT’s second group stage match.

The first match of the Gold Cup provided the USMNT with what is expected to be the biggest test until the knockout stages. Panama battled the USMNT for the entirety of the match and, when all was said and done, Los Canaleros were likely the better team on the day.

Few if any are expecting Martinique to present that kind of challenge, no matter who Arena fields in his starting XI. Still, personnel decisions will be key as Arena looks to mix and match his lineup in preparation for bigger games ahead.

With that in mind, here’s a look at one potential starting XI for the USMNT:

Some thoughts:

Expect rotation, and plenty of it. The Nashville heat visibly sucked the life out of several USMNT players, especially in the second half as Panama pressed on and on while controlling the game. Knowing that, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see fresh legs on Wednesday night against a minnow like Martinique.

That’s not to say there will be no holdovers, though. If Dom Dwyer is your striker for the knockout rounds, and thus far he’s shown he can be, you could give him a run out on Wednesday before resting him on Saturday against Nicaragua. It would give him plenty of rest for the knockout stages while giving him one more chance at boosting his confidence even higher against lowly Martinique.

The same could be said of any number of individuals. Fellow newcomer Kelyn Rowe could get a chance to continue to boost his stock in his third USMNT appearance. Against what is expected to be a bunkered Martinique team, technical players will be useful, making someone like Rowe or Juan Agudelo a solid piece to help build the attack.

In the midfield, Arena could very well go with the Kellyn Acosta-Dax McCarty pairing once again to try and figure out where things stand after a frustrating performance. However, he could be tempted to rest the two for the weekend before giving them one final shot to prove their chemistry as a duo ahead of knockout round decisions.

Defensively, the USMNT has options, and one would expect Arena to use them. After the Ghana game, Arena said he expects Matt Miazga to take part in at least one of the group stage matches, and Martinique is a good a time as any to get him involved. Matt Hedges could also use the work after missing out against Panama as he looks to build on a good start against Ghana.

At fullback, Jorge Villafana struggled mightily in each of the last two games, so it may be time to give him a break and let someone else take their shot. Justin Morrow and Eric Lichaj are deserving of their chance, making them logical starters either against Martinique or Nicaragua.

In the end, it’s a balancing act. The next two matches will feature heavy rotation, but it’s just a matter of what spots Arena chooses to address and when. With the knockout round looming and changes set to be made, Wednesday’s match could serve as a final chance for some players to show they’re ready for a spot as the tournament wears on.


  1. I’ve seen enough of Bedoya, Zusi, Zardes for that matter. If we can’t beat this inferior of an opponent, even with experimental squads, I don’t know what that says about our player pool – regardless who the manager is.

    Start throwing in the new blood to cut their teeth, and let’s move past the players with low ceilings “that run hard”.

  2. I know this game is against a weak team but Acosta should start no matter what, at his age this is a test to see if he can bounce back after a poor performance and regain some confidence and show he should be on the pitch for the US. At 30 dax should be benched and let roldan get a chance and Miazga should get the start since he’s most likely leaving after the next game and arriola as well.

  3. I would much rather see Miazga and Hedges together as the CB pairing. Other than that, I could not be less excited for the players on the pitch. I am always excited to see the team play, but man there are very few players I come into the game wanting to watch. Maybe Dwyer to see if he can keep it going, but this is a lineup with almost nothing special about it!

  4. Outside of who to rest this game and who to rest in the next game, neither the personnel nor the formation should matter.

  5. Joe qyua scored in sonnenhof großaspach friendly the other day and CP22 played the second half in BVB friendly today

    • Mix scored over the weekend as well in an actual match. Elsewhere, Gaines scored again for Darmstadt this time against a fourth division side, so the competition is getting better. Hopefully, he and Boyd will be in the lineup when the Lillies face Fulham with Ream De la Torre on July 22. De la Torre scored last week as well in a friendly against a Czech squad. Maki Tall scored for Tours in a friendly. Also, Aaron Schoenfeld scored a goal in M.Tel Aviv’s advancement out of the first qualifying rounds of the Europa League. Gooch started one friendly and played the 2nd half of another for Sunderland, finishing second in fan voting for man of the match against League 1 side Bury.

      • Thanks for the update, it’s always good to hear how our youth players are doing…even if it is only pre-season. Unfortunately Gaines, De La Torre, Tall, Schoenfeld, Wright, Mickennie and the like are still at least a year away from getting the consistency to push for a Sr. Roster Spot. IMO only Ream (slight chance), Boyd (slightly better), Gooch, Green & Saief are in positions to make a run at the WC squad if they have break-out club seasons.

  6. ……Dwyer…………..

  7. Martinique are no pushovers and no matter who the US fields, if they don’t put in a better effort than vs Panama (game we should have lost really but got pretty lucky), we’re in for a. nasty surprise.

    • Martinique’s not very good, but for whatever reason (regardless of who we trot out there), the USMNT struggles with the French-influenced Caribbean sides.

      Expect a grind-it-out, one-goal victory or a draw with the USMNT breaking out a new lineup. Heaven help us if they lose.

      I am expecting a comfortable W against Nicaragua, so I’m not really panicking. QF draw could be interesting though if USMNT ends up in 2nd or 3rd, because that likely equals a near full-strength CRC or Mexico. Reinforcements will need to be at the ready then.

  8. It definitely makes sense to rotate field players for the next two matches. I’m not sure about the goalkeeper position though, I would think, unless he has an injury, Guzan remains the starter for the rest of the way.

  9. Not too sure about the selection by SBI. Certainly some of the players used will be in starting XI, but I think there is a good chance 3 or 4 of those players won’t start and their respective positions will be adjusted as well.

    Again, the question is how we decide to line up. Are we going with a standard 4-4-2? Do we go for the 4-3-3? The answer to the formation will change the lineup quite a bit, I think. I’m not sure if Dwyer starts again. May be a good time to get him some rest and come on as a sub if needed. I think this is the time to let some of the younger guys get some minutes in, while still having some veteran presence (be it in terms of caps or age). I would do something like this, but I expect Bruce to have more experienced players out there in addition to some of the young guns. Thus, this lineup is not going to happen, but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it against Martinique.


    Perhaps use Morrow in place of Villafana. Furthermore, either Gonzo or Besler if you want one CB that has more experience.

    • No Pontious please. He was another player who shouldn’t have been called into camp, as he’s not international caliber nor does he have any prospect to be. Ether use Corona or Acosta in that roll….both are better options than Pontious.

  10. or




    3-4-3 stopped Mexico so having a 3 man backline is something we can do, with support wingers on the flanks (like TFC or SJ)

    ….either way with Bruce we cannot lose hahaha

    • I’ve go no issues with a 3-5-2 formation, but I’d tweak it a little….





      Not sold on Morrow, but worth trying him to see if he’s an option.
      Otherwise I switched the side you had Miazga on and inserted Besler over Gonzalez; dropped Bedoya for Acosta, pushed Roldan into the center as a quasi #6, and moved Rowe to RCM.
      Wouldn’t be surprised to see Arriola get the nod above Agudelo, but wouldn’t mind seeing Juan get the start with Paul coming off the bench. Hoping it doesn’t matter which keeper is used, but wouldn’t be surprised to see Guzan get the nod as the leader/captain of the team.

      IMO Bedoya is done. He’s been dropping fast in the depth chart due to his poor performances.
      I’m not a fan of Gonzalez as I see him as too slow, and too prone to gaffs against teams who are going to rely on the counter attack. Omar is good at defending crosses, but has been suspect when it comes to play over the top.

    • I’m not against having 3 on the backline either but lets be real it was a 5 man backline against Mexico, they might have said lets play 3 at the back but it was 5 and 5 the whole game.

      • Yes against Mexico it was predominantly a back 5, but we’re not playing Mexico we’re playing an inferior team in a game that we should control possession and control the tempo. Even though I’m saying it’s a 3-5-2 it will actually play much more like a 3-3-2-2 and provide plenty of options for overlaps & circulation of the ball.


      • Lets be honest a 3-5-2 can morph into a 5-3-2 or even a 6-3-1 when your team is under attack, or it can look more like 3-3-4 or 3-2-5 when you can keep the other team pinned back. Actually not only can it morph, it almost certainly has t0.

        The choice of personal and whether the back line has 3 or 4 are connected, but even with 4 in back many teams look temporarily like a back 3 when a fullback joins the attack.

        The starting formation is nothing but a static starting point that has to change with the flow of the game.

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