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Who Should the USMNT start vs. Ireland?


The U.S. Men’s National Team’s win over Bolivia was as straightforward as can be. Monday’s match was a dominant one that saw a number of young stars shine against an overmatched opponent.

What happens next won’t be straightforward. It won’t be dominant and the opponent won’t be overmatched. The U.S. faces two significant steps up in competition to effectively conclude the 2018 World Cup cycle.

First up for the U.S. is a trip to Dublin where Dave Sarachan’s team will face off with a tough Ireland team. The Irish team isn’t a world beater, for sure, and they aren’t one of Europe’s elite contenders, but Saturday’s clash represents a significant step up following Monday’s 3-0 win over Bolivia’s B-team.

Even with a clash with France looming, the U.S. can’t look too far past a match that will require a bit of shuffling. A total of 10 new faces are in camp, and Saracahan can organize those faces in a variety of ways as he looks to balance the USMNT squad in the second match of a three-match set.

Here’s a closer look at one USMNT lineup Sarachan could go with:

Some thoughts:

Let’s start with the obvious: anyone who played extended minutes on Monday shouldn’t be in the lineup on Saturday. Not even taking jet lag into account, playing another 90 minutes in the aftermath of a long European season is a recipe for something to go wrong. That rules you out, Weston McKennie, who put in a very good 90-minute shift. The same goes for Erik Palmer-Brown and Antonee Robinson.

On the flip side of that, anyone that sat on the bench throughout the Bolivia game is likely to be in the starting XI in Dublin. That means we’ll probably get to see the Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga partnership in defense, and we’ll see Bill Hamid at goalkeeper. Hamid could be saved for the more intense France match, but it would also be nice to see Zack Steffen in that environment. For that reason, let’s give Hamid the start in Dublin as Steffen gets brought up to speed a bit more in camp.

With part of the defense pretty much sorted, you look at the outside backs. DeAndre Yedlin should step right in at right back and provide a bit of leadership while, after coming on as a substitute last time out, Jorge Villafana can come in again on the left.

In the midfield, there are a variety of options as this roster has significantly more central midfield depth than the last. While he remains an option, a start may be a bit too much too soon for Keaton Parks. That leaves Tyler Adams and Wil Trapp as the two primary central midfield stars. The combination of Adams’ energy and Trapp’s soccer IQ/passing ability should make for a good combination in the center of the field.

Things get a bit more interesting from there as the team lacks fresh attacking/wide players. Rubin Rubin had an extended run out. Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah did too. The latter two, in particular, are both still very new to this, so giving them a bit of a rest is a good idea.

Kenny Saief is a welcome addition as he can serve as a creator in the midfield, while Julian Green could step in on the other wing. Green’s best position is still up for debate, so that’s something everyone will have to keep in mind as he reintegrates.

Up top, Bobby Wood needs this start. After a difficult season in Hamburg, Wood must find confidence and, perhaps more importantly, boost his transfer value if another club comes calling. You could see Andrija Novakovich start alongside him but, by and large, Sarachan has stuck with a 4-2-3-1, and there’s no reason to think that will change just yet.

With a week off before the France game, any number of these players can be ready to go in the final summer friendly. However, this match in particular is about balance as the U.S. should look to rely on fresher legs following the win over Bolivia.


  1. My take on this game is he is not going to make wholesale changes. I see something like this…




    Stephen at the half for Hamid. GREEN for PARKS. TRAP for MCKENNIE. VILLAFANA for ROBINSON. My starting 11 may be very close to what we may expect in 2 years, only change would be PULISIC for SAIEF and switch wingers.

  2. It’s a meaningless friendly 1 year before the next Gold Cup, two years before qualifying begins in earnest, and 4 years before the next WC we might play in. Formations and personnel aren’t that important. The idea is to see which of these players can be counted on when games are meaningful. If there is ever a time to experiment, this is it.

  3. don’t we know by now that this is going to be a 4-1-4-1? didnt sarachan JUST tell us he thought Julian Green’s position was central? Haven’t we learned by now that Joe Corona is not a 10, not to mention you, yourself said anyone who played extended minutes against Bolivia isn’t going to start??

    2.5 to the author on lineup prediction likelihood.

  4. I think it is extremely important to see how Miazga, CCV, Yedlin and WM work together. This is the likely future of our defensive backbone. Has to start them all against best Ireland has to offer. After the 60th minute these games generally mean nothing.

    • Given how the last game went I think we are more at the “how do they look” stage than the “let’s start gelling” stage. I would leave those decisions to a full time coach.

  5. wood up top with saief and Weah on wings with WM , TA, with Trapp sitting behind them. Back line of of JV,ccv, mm, and dy and bh in goal.

    • I think you might have it right. Sarachan has liked to use a 4-1-4-1 and your line up would make sense. I think the goalkeeper might be the most interesting position, will one guy play both or will we see both Hamid and Steffen. Steffen has a huge scoreless streak going in MLS but a lot of the credit goes to his defense for that too.

  6. I am curious why Hamid reflexively goes head of the class. Yes, he has Gone to Europe, but he’s the clear backup for his Danish team with 1 appearance/start in half a season, which was tied 3-3. In his last season with DC he was averaging roughly 1.5 GAA. Of course, he and Sean Johnson were the pipeline U23 guys, but that would be finessing how 2012 actually went, 0-2 Canada (started), 3-3 El Salvador (played last 50 or so), missed the Olympics 3rd in our group, not even in the knockouts.

    Zach Steffen is starting right now, for a decent team, and has a GAA of 0.7. His Olympic qualifying team finished 3rd and it won its qualifying group. Its only losses were to the 4th place finisher at the Olympics (Honduras) and quarterfinalist Colombia. Elis and Quioto are now the starting forward combo for a MLS team.

    • Of course, Steffen only played the first two matches before Horvath arrived, so he only faced Cuba and last place Panama. He also then didn’t play in the home and away against Colombia, I don’t remember why he wasn’t included. Perhaps injury he wasn’t playing for Freiburg II during March of 2016. I like how you claimed you don’t want the status quo and then used stats from six years ago and three years ago as both were just beginning their careers as professionals to justify your decision.

      • Bull. Not what I did nor an accurate critique of my argument. They are 4 years apart in age, and I pushed for the younger one. Both went to the same tournament 4 years apart and achieved different results. One was better. And then I used their most recent stats as well.

        It is really not complicated to understand that Hamid has been around a while and had many chances to break in, and struggled to even push the 40 year old Rimando out. To me that’s like Acosta and some of these others failing to make an impact this last cycle. They had their chance, let new players in.

      • Hamid is NOT just getting his first chance. Hamid’s first cap was 6 years ago. That he only has a limited cap history reflects upon his quality and not that he should be treated like some noob.

      • I like Steffen better, but to use how they looked in the U23 tournament is irrelevant, and neither qualified. Also, age not much of a concern with Keepers their life expectancy is generally longer. Last season with both in the same league they had similar GAA 1.46 to 1.44 and Hamid had a much better Save% 74 to 65. Steffen has improved his numbers this season, but the season is only 1/3 over and Crew are on a great run of form.

  7. Hamid will be looking for some payback/redemption after his last outing in Ireland in 2014. Expect him to be in full “They Can’t Hold Us Back” beast mode on Saturday if he gets the start.

    • See this is where I question Sarachan’s sanity. It’s not bringing in the younger players. It’s calling in someone like Hamid to likely play ahead of them against the same team that this point last cycle he keeped against and lost 1-4. This is where I feel like some part of his (and Arena’s) lizard brain just can’t quite move past 2014-2018 and the old pecking order.

      We’ll see who starts, but part of my fear is we trot out the older players, out of reflex. Some of them, it’s like, if they were any good, they have been around trying to break in for 1-3 cycles, it should already have happened. You don’t just hand them the job because the older players ahead of them finally retired. I don’t get Backup Incumbency.

      • What players are you concerned about putting out there? The only one I think is useless is Corona. Villafana and Wood are still two of the better options at Very thin positions. I agree Steffen maybe can be above Hamid, but the keeper carousel is in full swing. There is an incredibly undefined position group where any of 5-6 guys could end up winning the job in 3 years when qualifying really heats up. Keeping Hamid in the mix for now is fine by me.

      • Look at my lineup above, I would leave Wood out there but put other players in instead of Villafana and Corona. I think Robinson is better than Villafana. I think some of the new kids are better and have more promise than Corona.

  8. ——————————-WOOD——————————-




    Wood dropping back ? with Green playing attacking mid ? might work. It’ll be nice to see Parks ♻️ Adams partnership in the middle. Weah and Robinson were not really tested ? ? ? in their positions, so this would be a good evaluation of their level of play (yes even though it is just a friendly). Hamid in goal and I feel like the USMNT ?? squeezes out a Win. Either way the team is set up I hope to see a good technical and tactical approach.

    • Hmmm…

      ‘Ireland will be a difficult task as the team also missed out on this summer’s World Cup and Saturday is serving as a send-off for defender John O’Shea…”

      “The rest of the Irish roster is pretty close to full strength..”

      “The Irish team is loaded with players scattered throughout England’s top leagues..”

      Nope, still not worried at all?

    • The 1 change I’d make would be Starting McKennie in place of Parks. McKennie is one of the cornerstones that we need to build around. Bring Parks in at halftime or 60 min mark.
      We got to see a McKennie pairing in the last friendly. Lets see McKennie & Adams for a half, than Parks & Adams for the 2nd half. We’ll then have an idea how all 3 interact with each other.

    • With travel, I’m not sure if Adams and Parks will have had a lot of time to work on a partnership, so I’m not sure we see that to start.

  9. This is about what I expect, and it’s basically like ignore what you saw last week, and this is why we are where we are as a soccer nation, is it has become Status Quo Pecking Order Central, and new players have to spend months earning unnecessary stripes before being elevated above players not even close to their equal.

    How about some recognition that this particular generation sucks and is being surpassed by kids? The key new players, Robinson, Steffen, McKennie, Weah, are all better than this rubbish.


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