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Who Should the USMNT Start vs. Bolivia?


Since the World Cup qualifying disaster, the U.S. Men’s National Team has continued on the path of a youth movement. A number of new faces have come into the picture in the months since Trinidad & Tobago as the U.S. has evolved in a major way with no World Cup looming.

On Monday, the U.S. looks set to unleash its youngest lineup yet featuring a squad loaded with exciting new faces.

A total of 15 players under the age of 22 make up the USMNT’s roster for Monday’s friendly against Bolivia, giving Dave Sarachan’s squad an even younger feel than the teams that preceded it. Several players seem to be in line for debuts in a squad that doesn’t feature many real regulars of the last qualifying cycle.

While we can expect Christian Pulisic, Matt Miazga, Weston McKennie and Cameron Carter-Vickers to lead the way, several other positions are less clear-cut. With that being said, let’s take a closer look at how the USMNT could line up on Monday:

Some thoughts:

While you can expect a youth-heavy lineup, Sarachan can’t go all out with the youth movement. There needs to be some sort of balance, so expect a few familiar faces to get into the lineup.

Playing the two experienced fullbacks make sense given the complete inexperience of the other two options. Eric Lichaj and Jorge Villafana can hold down the fort in the first half before Matthew Olosunde and Antonee Robinson join the fray in the second half if they’re deemed ready. The two could certainly factor into the European trip as well, so there’s no real rush in getting them into the action if they aren’t ready for the role.

The same can be said for Keaton Parks, even if the team is a little thin in central midfield. Weston McKennie takes on a big role as the defensive presence, and this match should be a good one when it comes to developing the Schalke midfielder as a key leader.  It’s unfortunate Tyler Adams isn’t in the fold, robbing us of the McKennie, Adams, and Pulisic trio, but Joe Corona can step in and provide a familiar presence while we wait for the three to find the field together.

At the forward position, Sarachan has limited choices, but expect him to go with the more experienced of the two. Despite having only one cap to his name, Andrija Novakovich has earned his chance to start following a standout season with Telstar and a strong cameo in his debut. Josh Sargent will get plenty of opportunities, and could be a good substitute in either a straight swap or as part of a two-striker set.

The wings are less clear cut with a number of different options. Rubio Rubin, Timothy Weah, Julian Green, and Lynden Gooch could be called upon to start by Sarachan, and each offers something very different. All four could be a part of the entire three-game set so, even if one or two miss out on Monday, expect them to see some time over the next few weeks.

Overall, expect a relatively young group with experience mixed in. Like the prior friendlies, there’s plenty of room for rotation but, with other matches looming, Sarachan has the ability to give an extended run out to players he feels deserve the chance.


  1. i think i agree with everything the imperative voice said, above. let’s use these games to test the unknowns, no lone striker. DiBo’s comment is particularly exciting, “DiBo
    It would be fun to see a 4 3 3 with Nokavich and Weah on wings and Sargent in center. Puliic could be a central attacking mid, McKeninie and Parks behind him.” the possibilities are exciting, indeed!

    • If not this game, then hopefully we should at least move toward that kind of attacking/pressing style. We are young and talented. We should go for it and then see where we are.

  2. Let’s face it, the only reason most of the teenagers are even in the discussion is because the USA does not have a strong group of players aged 23-28 who had the ability to supplant the near 30 year-olds that made up the USMNT over the last few years. Many were tried and were found wanting.
    The younger players will develop (or not) mostly based on their play for their club teams. A chance to play for the full USMNT is nice for them and they will get to meet some players who will be USMNT regulars in a few years, but it is really mostly a meaningless exercise in terms of player development; it is too early in their careers to identify who will stick and who will not, apart from Pulisic and perhaps McKinnie who already are first choices on talented club teams.
    That said, I will be in Chester to cheer them on.

    • Meaningless?? This is one of the most proud moments of their lives and they will finally know what it feels like to have the responsibility to wear the flag on their jersey. They will go back to their clubs much more confident about themselves and with a clearer picture of where they need to be. Nothing meaningless about these matches to the younger player. Older players? Well that may be a bit different. Enjoy the game. We are starting to see some real talent out there.

      • While I agree that individual players will welcome the chance and are excited to join the USMNT, it is still pretty much meaningless in terms of the teams development or in the development of the players over the next two years or so..

        The players will improve (or not) based on their club experience, some may get excited and work a bit harder because they were included, some others will work harder because they were not.

        The team development will pretty much have to wait until a non-temp coach is appointed. That will determine much more than these games which players will be included and what sort of tactical strategy the team will employ.

  3. The Bolivian team will be bringing young players as well. Should be a fun “partido”. Bolivia will have a Mexican coach (Fentanes) managing the team just for this game. Fentanes assisted Sven-Goran Ericksson back in 2009. *The Bolivian head coach (Cesar Farias) is busy with league play. For my friends who speak Spanish. Here’s a clip of Fentanes discussing about the upcoming U.S. game…

  4. First off, it’s a friendly at home versus a weak team. Bolivia is a team that probably wouldn’t qualify out of CONCACAF, except that they can count on winning at home since they play at 12,000 feet. Given that, we should be aggressive and play an attacking formation. I would put Novakovich and Green in the forward spots and play a 4-4-2. I hope we can control the ball and the game and if we don’t we have real problems. So, play youngsters in the back and don’t worry about it (no Lichaj or Villafana). This game should be solely to provide experience for the young kids and give them time on the pitch enough so they can be evaluated to see who can handle the pressure.

    • My problem with that philosophy is that playing Robinson and Olosunde just to play may cause weakness that would force the midfields to be stuck back covering. If they are ready, play them but if there’s doubt bring them on for 20 – 30 minutes in the second half.

      • Which begs the question is Olosunde or even Robinson here on merit or a P.R. move? If is merit then they should do ok. I watched Olosunde for some time and he has Yedlin speed with size (at 6’1), the question is, is he smart enough to play at this level? we shall see.

      • Thinking it over since I wrote my post, maybe we should try a 3-5-2 since we have a bunch of decent midfielders. I think this is a situation where a little experimenting like this doesn’t hurt.

    • Because with rookie forwards — “forward” in your theory — how are we expecting to possess the ball to the other end, take up residence in the final third, and score. It’s tough enough for Wood or Altidore to manage and now you’re setting up the formation to rely on one guy to hold the ball? Give him some help.

      Also, like I said above, I think forward is quietly an area that is going to be in transition and an issue and if you play one forward a night plus maybe a sub then it will take forever to figure out what our possible options are.

      • With CP and Weah, Green, or gooch on the opposite wing I think there will be enough offensive flow to where the lone striker won’t need to hold up as a lone striker and hopefully look more 433 in attack

    • It would be fun to see a 4 3 3 with Nokavich and Weah on wings and Sargent in center. Puliic could be a central attacking mid, McKeninie and Parks behind him.

  5. ————-J.Green ⚽ ————— A. Novakovich——–

    ————————– C. Pulisic ⚽ —————————-

    T. Weah———————————————– L. Gooch?

    ————————-W. McKennie—————————–

    A. Robinson————————————————E. Licaj
    ——————M. Miazga——–C. Carter-Vickers———–

    ————————–B. Hamid————————————

    USMNT 3 vs Boliva 1
    Articles have been harping over the M. Miazga / C. Carter-Vickers CB positions so lets see whats good
    We need two strikers up top (we learned our lesson from Altidore)
    Either way, whoever they field, we are going to see something nice!!!! ??!!! ??!!! ??!!!

    • It’s not a bad lineup but to me every time Lichaj sees the field in our shirt he becomes a jittery mess. I hope he overcomes it and I expect him to start, but if he plays like he has been, it’s a waste of time and you’re better off trying players we don’t know about.

      I also liked Zimmermann for defense and find Miazga underwhelming.

    • A 4-1-5 an interesting lineup. Who is going to help McKennie in midfield? Gooch, Pulisic, and Weah are all forwards. Even if Sarachan is smart enough to instruct Gooch and Weah to tuck in more, then you have two players whose biggest weakness is defense having to win balls and make tackles in the midfield. It also pins Weston deep because he can’t interchange and send Weah or Gooch back deep to cover.

      • I see your view but McKennie has played side by side with Max Meyer in Midfield, who is an Attacking Midfielder (3-5-2). He’s also played with Alessandro Schöpf (who played with Green in Bayern) side by side in Midfield (4-2-3-1), who is an attacking Midfielder. So, I think he should be okay with Pulisic in midfield in a 4-4-2

        I think the days of bunkering with 2 defensive midfielders are limited as Sarachan will want to establish and distinguish myself as someone different from Klinsmann or Arena. But we will see

      • As you point out Schalke plays with another midfielder next to Weston not on an island. Playing with two DMs doesn’t mean you have to bunker look at Red Bull’s or Columbus. Playing one DM isolates them and wouldn’t allow McKennie to get forward with two they can interchange.

  6. You are simply inserting guys because they are new. Miazga is just starting to become the player he will develop into. He is at least 1-2 years away from being anywhere close to his peak (and he’s at a relatively high level right now), so calling him a retread at this point is interesting.

    • I am soooooo over the recent US penchant for incumbency, no one has earned it, and players who have had bad games shouldn’t be preferred to younger big club properties who don’t have a mixed or poor track record.

      There is no choice at forward, and it’s so barren a call sheet you almost have to borrow nominal mids. At midfield, I do not see the value in building around Corona or testing him, but would rather want to move to the future with the serious younger players, and the center mids are exactly as I expect it to start under a new coach, while the wings are experimental tests of young prospects who didn’t get a full chance last cycle. And then on defense I did go completely new because it was a wreck last cycle and I think trying the veterans is a waste of time. The only one even close to worth considering is Miazga but I think he’s overrated and inconsistent, and I’d prefer to see what I don’t know rather than fake continuity off a bad team that gave up lots of goals. Keeper I go with Hamid on solidness and experience since the experimental younger options weren’t really the correct ones. I want to see more like Steffen but Sarachan went the wrong way.

      To me this is a non-qualified team that at this stage in the cycle begs for trying new things. You give a lot of people a chance and the ones who impress should stick. This needs to get back to a meritocracy and away from the newer generation having to always fight its way through games’ worth of pecking order politics.

  7. Novakovich/Weah

    I don’t see the point in going around in circles on Villafana, Lichaj, Corona, and to some extent Miazga. I expect all of them to start, I expect a 451, and it’s this sort of safe undereffectiveness which is why Sarachan will be joining Arena in unemployment come June.

    • The more I look at it the more I feel like he’s repeated a variation on the Bradley/Klinsmann era glitch we would have where Altidore rostered and go down and we hadn’t called enough forwards.

    • IVC – Saracahn was always short term and he knew it. His results don’t matter and everyone knows it. Lets wait to see who USSF appoints as the “GM” and who gets hired as the coach before we start talking about fatal flaws in call-ups, rosters and line-ups.

      That being said, while I root for Lichaj to be successful, i do not fully understand his call up due to his age and the fact that we are really looking 4 years down the road, not for the summer.

      • Really??? There are literally two specialist forwards rostered, period, Novakovich and Sargent. Weah and Pulisic might be able to double as forwards but then you are borrowing from one position to staff up another, particularly if people off this list last into the next couple games. Also, while I grant that Sarachan is not long for the job anymore, and in theory we have some time, I see forward as a sneaky place of transition that could sneak up on us despite prior strength. Dempsey HAS to get too old for the spot (35), and whether you like him or not, Jozy has absorbed PT and will start getting too old too (28). Wondo is 35. Wood has been injured and hasn’t yet shown the same form. Johannson is 27 and disappeared after his injuries. Sapong is 29. Dwyer is 27. What was a recent strength is about to hollow out and you will wish you were auditioning new prospects now. Otherwise in 2 years it’s Wood, Morris, Agudelo, and these kids. I’d like to broaden the options and test the kids now.

      • Counting out MLS players, I looked up available FBs to replace Lichaj and Villa for Imperative Voice earlier this week don’t remember which article it was attached to. The options were pretty light (obviously Yedlin but I would guess he asked not to be included for Monday and Chandler recovering from injury and rumored to not like flying) then it became some USL guys and a couple guys playing U19s in Europe somewhere with fewer appearances than Olosunde.

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