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Who Should the USMNT Start vs. Paraguay?


For the next few months and years, the U.S. Men’s National Team will be in the midst a process of defining itself. As things stand, we have no idea what the best USMNT will look like when World Cup qualifying begins again. The next year or two are about figuring that out.

Knowing that, the U.S. will be experimenting and shifting for quite some time, and you can expect more of the same on Tuesday against Paraguay.

Tuesday’s match is the first of the year featuring a full complement of European-based players, and it’s apparent when looking at a Euro-heavy roster. Regulars like DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood are back in the fold, leading a group with a number of veterans scattered throughout.

Still, there’s plenty of youth to be excited about and a number could make their senior debuts on Tuesday. It’ll be about finding a balance, sure, but expect some new faces and some new looks during Tuesday’s friendly.

With that said, here’s a look at how the USMNT could line up:






Some thoughts:

As exciting as it would be to go all out with a full youth movement, you have to expect some veteran holdovers to headline the squad. DeAndre Yedlin is the closest to a sure thing given his experience and the fact that an appearance on Tuesday would be his 50th cap. Over the next few years, Yedlin will be one of several players with the potential to step into a leadership position, and that begins on Tuesday.

In addition to Yedlin, it wouldn’t surprise to see a number of veterans headlining the USMNT lineup. At forward, there are interesting options in Rubio Rubin and Andrija Novakovich, but Bobby Wood seems a safe bet to get some run out to start the match. In defense, Jorge Villafana will likely get the first 45 minutes before a swap for someone line Antonee Robinson. The midfield, meanwhile, should be headlined by Darlington Nagbe, one of the few players in camp with legitimate playmaking skills and the ability to link the defense to the attack.

Starting with that defense, Tuesday could be the beginning of a long-awaited partnership between Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers. We’ve seen the two play together on the youth level with big-time success and, with both now getting minutes in Europe, it’s well past time to start bringing them along. John Brooks remains the USMNT’s prime centerback, but Miazga and Carter-Vickers have the chance to be 1B and 1C in the coming years.

The midfield picture could go a number of ways. In an ideal world, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie get another match together but, with McKennie dealing with a bit of an injury, it’s hard to predict how long he’ll get. In that case, playing Wil Trapp is the safe bet, and a deserved nod for a player that looked good in January.

Overall, expect a balance between the ambitious and the predictable. Sarachan likely won’t go full pedal to the medal with the young stars, and that’s fine. However, you should expect to see a number of new faces on the field as the USMNT program looks to figure out what kind of pool will be in place when a new coach comes in later this year.


  1. Whatever the lineup, we should use players and a formation like we are not afraid to lose. Even more than most friendlies, the final score is totally irrelevant and this should be all about building for the future. and, being at home, it should be all about attacking. So, play 2 up top and a lot of young players and don’t worry about the result.

  2. ————-WEAH——-NOVAKOVICH ——–



    Wish Julian Green was in a position to be in camp
    We know Bobby Woods strengths and weaknesses.
    Don’t know about Rubio Rubin

    • Word out of camp was that Adams has been playing primarily centrally, you could move him next to Weston and get Manneh and you wouldn’t need any MLS players. I did look up Green thought maybe they kept him to play in a club friendly but he did not play over the weekend against Bayern II in a friendly. Might have just asked for him to stay since they are in a relegation fight. Overall one of your most reasonable line-ups not sure Weah plays a lot in tandem forward, but who knows what PSG U19s do?

  3. On a side note, Carleton posted on social media that he was headed back to the states yesterday after participating in the first 2 friendlies for the U20s. No indication of injury so ATL must have wanted him for Saturday.

  4. ————–Wood——————

    Delgado for McKinnie if Weston can’t start.

  5. I’d go with a slightly different formation: 4-2-3-1


    Subs: Manneh, Moore, Novakovich, Hamid, EPB (@ CDM), Rubin

    Let the kids play. Let’s see what we have moving forward.

  6. Incredible thread here…shouldn’t expect anything less from the USMNT fanbase where all our young players suck if they’re not superstars by 20.

    In a year some will be writing off Pulisic too, I’m sure. Toxic.

  7. Statistics indicate that back lines need game time playing together to become effective. That is true at least in club soccer where teams who bring in new defenders to the starting lineup see their defense slump for 4-6 games before performing well. Presumably the coaches thought the new defenders were individually better than the old ones, but it takes time for the organization of the defense to gel.

    In qualifying for a variety of reasons, JK’s like of change for change sake, injury and a new coach (Arena) the back line was anything but stable for the USMNT and the defense suffered as a result.

    There is a chance that Yedlin, Miazga and Carter-Vickers will get some time together to gel. That would bode well for the defense going forward. While Brooks is very good, you do have to question his injury history and if you want to count on him. ALso, left back does not yet have a clear choice. I can’t remember his name, but I thought the LB for the U-20s in their WC did very well. Starting a group of young guys who can have some time together would be a great beginning.

    • I think we need to see who can ball, but even if I accepted your theory, begs the question which people are the best and/or best-combined, that should be gelled. Half the point to the last round of WCQ is we allowed 13 goals and stunk on defense. It should be open season and in 6 months or a year based on performance we pick who sticks around and becomes the regular people gelled.

      I think you have it backwards, no one played well enough to stick to gel a routine back 4. The Germans we thought we could rely upon have disappeared. MLS didn’t produce anyone ready made. I could go down the short list that Arena and Klinsi kept repeating and the players all had bad games and/or are flawed. I am looking for the Popes and Bocas who don’t routinely let me down………which was like everyone last cycle……not a dependable one in the bunch.

      • Most of the German-Americans were struggling with injury issues down the Hex stretch. Fabian & Brooks both missed more games in the Hex than they played. Cameron also was just coming back from injury in the last 2 matches in the Hex. Chandler was frozen out by JK (last played Nov. 2016), and was never called up by Arena.
        The downfall of the defense in the Hex was Arena’s approach. He called up a scrub squad for the 2016 Gold Cup (Old MLS players), instead of calling up young, emerging prospects. Than was shocked when his MLS players got spanked in the Hex and he didn’t have tested replacements for the likes of Zusi, Bedoya, Bradley, Gonzalez, Cameron and the rest of the lack-luster player performances.

      • LIS. Were there really any “young, emerging prospects” who we passed over for the Gold Cup? The Gold Cup squad was a complete let down. Not a single players stepped up to say “pick me pick me”
        Guys like Acosta, JMo, Agudelo, Dwyer, Lichaj, Corona etc. all had several opportunities vs. weak competition to show they deserved more of a chance and all failed in that regard. Not terribly surprising considering some of the names I just listed, but I really can’t remember anyone else I thought should have been included at that time. I think people are forgetting that our player pool was/is is a very weakened state.

  8. the USMNT projection: anything will do but

    —————————–NO ALTIDORE——————————

    XXX————————-NO DUECE—————NO BEDOYA

    ————- NO BRADLEY—————-XXX————————


    ——————-NO HOWARD———————-

    lol 😀

    actually looking forward to this game with the hope of seeing something positive.
    I know its a friendly but still…….Go USA!!!!!!!

    • Head coach Dave Sarachan says:
      “…the air around this camp, where the average player age is under 24, has been one of “youthful confidence.”
      “…“They come in with what I’d say is a clean slate in their minds,” Sarachan said at a Monday morning press conference.
      “They’re looking to impress, so they’re pushing each day in training. The technical level of these guys … is very good. Obviously, with youth comes enthusiasm and energy, but I think the soccer has impressed me so far in training.”
      key words:
      youthful confidence – not entitlement
      clean slate – not bring baggage failure
      looking to impress – effort to gain a spot
      pushing each day – Spot not guaranteed
      enthusiasm and energy – no aimless joggers allowed
      ……I just wanna cry with joy right now 😀

      • Watch how they actually play. Buzzwords are nice. The articles re Lichaj were laden with them. See what happens when they play for real.

      • Yeah, that to me is precisely the sort of seniority for seniority’s sake that should be tossed for a team that didn’t qualify. Let’s pretend like Nagbe ever did anything and waste time making the kid flip the polarity. The kid plays in the Bundesliga and looked excellent when we capped him. Nagbe is no Mike Bradley. Give the kids a chance and if they can’t light the world on fire then we circle back around.

      • If he’s injured, send him back to his club to rest. That is a potential meal ticket player there is no point risking. I assumed if he was here he was healthy.

  9. I fully expect them to start the holdovers even if holding over squad is setting you up to repeat your mistake. Nothing about starting Villafana, Miazga, or arguably Yedlin screams “I get where it went wrong and we will change.” Even Nagbe is debatable on that score.

    To be more punchy about it, in the two mandatory participation rounds of WCQ we had the most GF each round, ie, most potent offense, but in the Hex we were in the bottom half on GA, ie, crap defense, and none of the teams in the bottom half on GA made it to Russia.

    You show up with a similar looking defense for this cycle and you should expect the same darned not good enough results.

    • Are you going to mention who you think should be back there or just complain for an entire paragraph? That’s actually a back line I want to see aside from villafana… because he’s essentially there by default. Agreed on Nagbe.

      • You “want to see” half, three quarters of the sort of backlines that left us by the side of the road in terms of Russia? The internet game of “but who would you pick” doesn’t work as well when the default state is losers in the bottom half of the Hex and out of Russia. All due respect but “anything but” is pretty defensible where I am sitting with a team that failed to qualify.

        I am open to individuals fighting back into contention, but Yedlin is a fast athlete with poor defensive instincts, Villafana has decent soccer IQ but is too slow, and Miazga had a nightmare game and didn’t earn a slot. Each appeared very flawed to me, and I would clear the decks and let the best man win, with the old guard shoved aside as a signal that change is expected. The old guard can come back if the kids can’t take their jobs first.

        This includes Cameron, Ream, Gonzo, and a few others. Nobody on that backline earned tenure.

        Personally I’d jump to the next generation of pipeline players, Parker, EPB, CCV, Robinson,

        If I was going to bring in older talent immediately it would be someone like Opare or Zimmermann that have been successful but not really tried yet. The people who have tried and failed should be deeper in the order on the basis of having a history and bad tape.

      • One key thing is there needs to be more emphasis on basic defensive understanding and competence. Over time there has been an unfortunate movement towards players seen as good going forward and less concern with are they shut down defenders. You don’t pick forwards on how they defend. That is gravy. Get back to, can they run, can they defend, and then maybe if you have two equal guys think about who can get forward and hit a cross.

      • Goals allowed:

        1990 – 3 (5 teams, 8 games)

        Hex era:
        1994 – Host
        1998 – 9
        2002 – 8
        2006 – 6
        2010 – 13
        2014 – 8
        2018 – 13

      • Did Miazga even appear in a qualifier? I get what you’re saying about new players but let’s not overstate the case.
        In reality this game matters little to not at all. It’s a run out for a few young guys to get their feet wet in an international friendly/camp. A great or terrible performance by any player doesn’t really give us anything new to work with. The new coaching staff, whenever we get one, will make their own judgements on the player pool and I’m confident this game will not weigh heavily on their minds.
        Our only hope is they’re instructed to press high, attack and make the game watchable. Good luck to the guys tomorrow night. Hope they have fun

      • Yedlin started: 1-2 TNT, 1-1 MEX, 4-0 PAN, 2-0 TNT
        Villafana started: 1-2 TNT, 0-2 CR, 1-1 PAN, 4-0 PAN, 2-0 TNT, 6-0 HON
        Miazga I don’t think played a Hex round qualifier because he had issues in other games.

      • So those 3 players combined for 3 appearances in hex matches where our defensive issues manifested…that doesn’t really help your argument.

      • Doesn’t help? They were in the lineup for 2 of the 4 losses, including CR home and TNT away. We gave up 2 goals in each of those games, where we are not usually drubbed.

        I have a feeling there are other players even worse like Brooks, but at a certain point snubbing documented bad days is anti-science and -math. Let’s just pretend they had good days or we qualified or something.

        TNT was killing us down the wings and you’re basically like, start the wingbacks from that game.

      • In the lineup for 2 of the 4 losses is why they shouldn’t start a meaningless friendly? Im really not a supporter of either player but this is throwing th baby out with the bath water.
        The team had so many flaws this cycle but I don’t think Yedlin was one of them (Villafana maybe). Miazga obviously wasn’t because he played 0 part in qualifying.
        You’d be better off saying I just was someone with 0 caps to play because I’m still mad and really don’t care if that makes any sense or not.

      • He’s 24 man, sure he isn’t perfect defensively but he is still learning and growing in a very competitive league. We aren’t a powerhouse. You want all these guys to battle it out… I’m sure they’ll do just that. We don’t even have a coach yet so naturally the slightly “experienced” younger guys are going to have a chance first. If somebody comes a long and takes their spot, good. Take a breather, the more you ramble the less imperative your voice.

    • Yedlin has nothing to do with either goal vs. T&T and I don’t recall him being responsible for any other goals in the Hex while CCV and Miazga weren’t involved at all. The main culprits in the past were OG, Brooks, Cameron vs. CR and Villafana on a wonder goal vs. T&
      T. His main fault there was not picking up the attacker early on, who then scored from about 30 yards out; something that happens very rarely. We need better than Villafana, but your remarks don’t apply to the other defenders being mentioned here.

      • Oh, hogwash, Yedlin could not defend to save his life. He gets up the line but that’s not defense. He can recover fast but he lacks a basic sense of positioning to be a reliable defender.

    • In the interest of sweeping out the old and bringing in the new you want to get rid of 22 year old Miazga to give a shot to 24 year old Parker? I’m a Red Bulls fan and love Parker, but I want to see more of Miazga.

      Miazga’s got all of 4 caps. 2 were blowout wins over minnows; I couldn’t find information on his other two caps.

      I’m not sure what you’ve got against Miazga. Even if he was terrible in those other two caps, he’s still pretty young and over the last year he has established himself as a solid starter on a good team in the Dutch first division. It is possible that he has improved a bit since his last run with the national team. Certainly worth giving a shot to in a friendly a year before we play a meaningful game.

      • Largely playing Devil’s Advocate here, but for what it’s worth, my understanding is Villafana has been playing his best soccer these past few months.

      • I know the difference between Parks and Parker. I would like both in camp. I think Parker — who came up through the USYNT system — is the sort of physical, defense-first defender we need right now. I also would like to see Parks, McKennie, and all the other mids, if healthy, getting their chance there. I am not confused whatsoever. I just think for some reason Parker hasn’t gotten a long look for back despite a US youth pedigree.

        Miazga has some promise, too, but to me he had a chance last cycle and we should initially be looking at players we have not seen much of who were not vetted last cycle and shoved aside.

    • Miazga has played in 4 matches the US is 3-1-0 in those matches he’s played the one tie to Portugal. In the roughly 240 minutes he’s been on the pitch the opposition has scored 1 goal, that one goal a complete howler by Horvath that he lets go between his legs. How you think that makes him responsible for the US failing to qualify is beyond me?

    • Imperative–your animosity toward Yedlin is hard to understand. He is a consistent starter in the EPL. Rafa Benitez obviously thinks much differently than you about his quality. And if not Yedlin, who do we have playing at a higher level? Plus Yedlin is still young. You’ve lost your mind on this one.

      • When fans come to these sites with anger and a narrative to pitch, the best thing anyone can do is let them have their moment! I’m just as angry as the next man when it comes to not qualifying for Russia, but at what point does the bitching and blame game become old?! The easiest thing to do is to say the players that “failed should never suit up again”, or that “they are worthless”. The logical thing to understand is that some of those players will still have a part to play, and should, no matter what fans say, especially ones that decry the play of Yedlin, who has matured and progressed as a everyday player for Newcastle. These are the same people that also diminish the play of MLSers, when in fact it was some of our european players that weren’t up to the level that many think they are in qualifying, namely, Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron and Bobby Wood!

      • It’s not animosity for animosity’s sake. I played defense. He does not understand how to play his position defensively. As a result, despite physical gifts, he is a weak link. The “but he’s only 24” arguments miss that most players at his position are fully formed at this stage. Forward and keeper are the positions where some players are late bloomers or “get it” later in their career. Defender you either get how to position and play angles and when to tackle, or you don’t. You can take some of the edge off that with recovery speed — Yedlin — but on key plays in key games you either get it or not.

        Newcastle is a recently promoted team in the lower middle of the EPL table allowing 10 goals more than it scores. Man City allows half as many goals. Please do not make the lame suggestion that “EPL = good.” You can be relegation bait EPL. You can be “gives up a goal and a half a night” EPL. When he’s the starting right back on the best defense in the EPL I’ll think he’s the equivalent of Tim Howard. For now he’s an athletic kid who is decent but at our level we need great.

      • ronniet:
        I never said failed, shouldn’t suit up again. On this and other similar threads what I said was bring back the few consistent high quality old guard players as transitional mentors but otherwise shove aside the last generation in favor of seeing what the new generation has. When the new generation has had its chance, as in prior cycles, you go back full circle to the Lichajs of the world and give them their third chance. But to me it undermines the exercise to be looking again at (and starting) several of the same people who played against TNT and weren’t good enough. And re the defenders held over, it was not the offense that laid an egg in TNT — they scored — it was the defense that couldn’t hold TNT to less than 2. If the defense allows 1 goal to the worst team in the Hex we are in Russia and this whole exercise is academic.

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