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Who Should the USMNT Start vs. France?


The U.S. Men’s National Team may not be going to the World Cup, but one of this summer’s top contenders awaits in the final friendly of the summer.

After battering Bolivia and narrowly falling to Ireland, the U.S. faces a different class of team on Saturday when they take on France in Lyon. Widely seen as a tournament favorite, France boasts stars like Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and N’Golo Kante, and Les Bleus will be eager for one last win before departing for Russia.

Standing in their way is a young USMNT group that hasn’t been tested quite like this. Yes, the U.S. was able to nab a draw with Portugal in November, but, without Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal is a much different team. This France team will be completely full strength and motivated. That means the U.S. will need to play at a whole new level to even compete.

Dave Saracahan has a number of options at his disposal and there are plenty of ways to approach Saturday’s match. Do you go with a veteran-filled lineup to ease the damage? Do you let the young guys take their lumps? Do you go somewhere in the middle?

Here’s one look at how the USMNT may line up:

Some thoughts:

There’s no joking around when it comes to Saturday’s match. France isn’t a team to experiment against. They aren’t a team to mess around with and Saturday isn’t a game to simply give experience to young stars. If this current USMNT group goes into Saturday’s match with anything less than 100 percent, there is potential for a blowout.

Knowing that, expect Sarachan to unveil as close to a full-strength lineup as possible. With a week between the Ireland and France matches, everyone should be about as fit as can be at this time of year, making every player eligible for selection.

So let’s start with the veterans. DeAndre Yedlin should absolutely be in the team, even after an atypical showing against Ireland. Wil Trapp, who we’ll call a veteran simply because of his age, should also be in. Bobby Wood will almost certainly lead the attack, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see him score a goal because he always seems to find a way in matches of this caliber.

If there was any thought of letting Bill Hamid take both matches of the doubleheader, that certainly isn’t the case after his performance against Ireland. Zack Steffen is in extremely good form at the moment, so let him go out and prove why he’s your No. 1 going forward. A familiar pairing of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga add a bit of comfort in front of him as that trio faces its biggest test yet.

Another group facing its biggest test yet is the midfield, which could include Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie. Sarachan could be tempted to include another veteran in Joe Corona but, given his habit of playing in more of a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, there isn’t a spot for Corona if Trapp, McKennie and Adams are all involved.

Up front, there’s a real dearth of veteran options to join Wood, but Rubio Rubin’s workrate makes him a solid piece. Against France, the U.S. will be defending a lot more than attacking, but you can’t just be content to bunker in and limit damage. Rubin can do a bit of tracking back and get forward when the time comes, even if he hasn’t shown that danger in front of goal yet in a USMNT jersey.

Now, the interesting one: Timothy Weah. This match would no doubt be a dream start for Weah, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain and is hoping for more minutes. The winger continues to show both positive moments and inexperience, and any of the latter could be damning for the U.S. on Saturday. That said, you need a bit of a wild card if you want to make something happen, and Weah is dynamic enough to be just that.

The lineup above offers plenty. It offers stability and a bit of veteran leadership alongside a young core. It offers a chance for the youngest stars to do something against a legitimate World Cup contender and it offers the flexibility to defend and counter when you need to.

Is it a lineup that can beat France? Probably not. France will be eager to put together a big effort in their final match before Russia. But, for the USMNT, Saturday isn’t about the scoreline or the result. Rather, it’s about stepping up to a challenge and learning which players will sink or swim.


  1. This is the best I can come up with:


    de la Torre———–Green——————-Weah




    What we needed to stick to ? ? ? …..the 4-2-3-1 formation ✔️✔️✔️✔️, as France is going to come out with a blistering 4-3-3, in a high-energy, fast-paced tempo that thrives off three tactically aware and mobile central midfielders……POGBA ? / KANTE’ ? / TALISSO ? (???)
    Also, their full-backs …..LUCAS ? / PAVARD ? …..will definitely get forward and provide width ???
    The 4-2-3-1 system for the USMNT ?? remains king, and that’s because of its advantages. Decent possession football for less skilled players, and using dual No. 6s (which in our case would be 2 DMs ? ?) in front of the defense ?️ to screen, retain the ball (highly unlikely ???) and protect the defense’s underbelly.
    The full-backs are expected to move forward (Robinson and Yedlin ⁉️), attacking the flanks and creating passing angles (Hopefully); they have an attacking license due to the cover the holding midfielders provides (hhmm ?). The No. 10, whoever we select, needs to be mobile and able to drift to the flanks and help his winger create overloads (or numeric mismatches).


  2. My question is does Dave think he has a real shot as a permanent manager if so he plays it safe, if not then he might go out with a bang and play the younger inexperienced players like AR,JS and KP. I know Ernie Stewart doesn’t officially start till Aug but I hope there is a plan in place to hire someone if the right person if available sooner

  3. The other thing is that for once in the history of the usmnt we have a chance to develop an actual depth chart at multiple positions. If someone gets injured before a game that matters i want the reaction to be a shoulder shrug because we all know we have someone capable and experienced waiting in the wings. Id love for there to be an actual discussion about who should be starting at every position rather than a definitive starting 11 thats devastated if someone gets hurt and cant go.

  4. Im so sick of the talk of playing with the right mix of experience and youth in these FRIENDLIES. This is the time to get the youth experience so when the games matter you pick the most talented 11 because everyone has experience. If not now then we will have absolutely wasted the only good thing about missing the world cup, time to experiment and get guys experience before games matter again. No Corona. No trapp. No Villafana. No Yedlin (or only a little Yedlin). Play the kids who are atill trying to break through with their clubs. Success internationally can help unsettled club situations. Play Robinson and Parks. You have to start Weah in a game in france against france where he plays club ball. Play Green. Play Sargeant. I want to see a 4-2-3-1 like this
    Green Parks Weah
    Adams mckennie
    Robinson miazga epb yedlin/moore
    If we get blown out, so what…it shows the kids what it feels like to be embarrased by world class opposition and what their goals need to be. If its close, then they have a positive take away and experience against world class opposition.

    • The thing is there is a balance to be had that you’re missing. The just play all the kids talk is fun on paper but can be completely counterproductive.
      I’ve got no problem giving starts to the young guys who have stood out in camp, but if they’ve not looked great then throwing them into the deep end doesn’t help anyone.
      That said, guys like Corona and Villafana have been criminally average for a while. They’ve gotten many chances and failed to claim a spot. Hopefully neither of them is starting tomorrow

  5. If everyone is available I would line up this way


    If this was a group match at the World Cup I might gamble with


    • Surprisingly Johnnyrazor I like your line-up ? with the exception of Adams on the wing. He has been playing, and excelling, as a DM for NYRBs next to Sean Davis. We can’t make a rookie move to a new position against a team like France ??.
      Thinking about it, WHERE ARE THE YOUNG WINGER PROSPECTS OF THE USMNT???? Are there any?? I don’t even know who can take that position effectively as Saief is injured (he would have been on the left with Weah moving to the right) and Rubio Rubin is not fast enough to cause problems for the world Champs ?
      ….we are in serious trouble ???

      • More necessity than want with Adams. We just don’t have any midfielders that play wide roles on the roster. I believe Tyler played RM against Portugal and played there for NYRB so not completely new to him.

      • Pulisic, Green, Weah.

        Maybe too old to call them prospects, but Saieff and Johansson as well.

      • Johnny99: All three of the guys you named are more forward than midfielder as is AJ. We don’t have many like Saief who is more midfielder than forward. Don’t get me wrong we need both. I would expect a more 4-5-1 vs France that requires more defensive and possession minded wingers like Saief (Nagbe, Fabian) if we are playing a 4-3-3 then Weah, Rubin, Pulisic are better suited because of their offensive focus. All three can defend but against teams like France when the Fullbacks are going to be pinned in the wingers need to be able to drop back and defend well.

      • McKennie / Trapp / Adams midfield ??? Out of curiosity?…..who is responsible for Distribution duties?? Trapp? No Yedlin, No Weah , No Dynamic player on the field ?. Instead of letting these young players try to play attacking football and evaluate their limitations against a top team like France, we are wheeling out the “bunker formation” to limit the damage ?.

        ??? ?

  6. Would like to see McKennie and Adams drop back as defensive center midfielders, in front of the 2 center backs. Then put whoever is the best option as attacking center midfielder (Corona, Parks, Green) in front of them.

    At center back, I’d put Miazga back out there, I thought he played well against Ireland until he got burned on their second goal. Partner him with Parker. He’s a beast in MLS, let’s see how he does against a (much) higher level of competition.

  7. The defense is kind of like we’re ignoring how Ireland finished. CCV is constantly a step late, and Miazga got spun around and scored on. And personally I like Robinson and think at minimum you run him out there to test whether Bolivia is repeatable. This already feels to me like we are lapsing into last cycle’s “pecking order problem” where we reward incumbents regardless of results. The idea that new blood has to work its way in past the incumbent is only defensible when the W is on the scoreboard at the end of the day.

    • Robinson 100% should start this game if healthy. There are some areas We shouldn’t force your prospects into the lineup before they are ready but this is not one of them. Villafana is a mediocre left back which we have seen many times. Robinson just completed a full very competitive season with Bolton. He’s looks to have a much higher ceiling and this would be great experience for him. I don’t think we need to cram Sargent into the lineup over Wood for example, but Robinson has earned his chance.

  8. Not to sound too cynical, but does anyone else think Carter Vickers may have reached his ceiling already? It looks like he isn’t growing in height and I’m not sure he won a single aerial duel in the last match. More significantly, an aged Jonathan Walters (34) burned him a couple times and made him look slow. That was worrying, in my opinion. Hope he proves me wrong!

    • Antonee Robinson really should start here. Villafana’s experience shouldn’t continuously give him the nod especially when Robinson’s 1 appearance was very positive.
      I am also a firm no on Corona starting.

    • Cameron does not look like an international prospect to me. His decision making is suspect and he kicks the ball out of bounds frequently. I see not much talent outside of his massive frame. Think we are giving him too much of a shot as is. Would like to see him develop more before he gets another shot at the senior team. You’ve got to be a savvy passer and tactician these days. He is none of that.

      • CCV kind of looks the part and has the team names on the resume but I don’t actually see the goods on the field and he’s been played a few times now. I would like to see EPB and others play not because I assume they must be better, but because you already get an idea on CCV as of now, and EPB hasn’t gotten the same extent of chances. I worry that a little bit of this is coaches with ideas in their heads regardless of performance or results. I know CCV has names on the resume where in theory he SHOULD be The Guy. I know he even has a stout BUILD. But if wishes were wings horses could fly. I don’t see the potential translating on the field. Keep looking.

        I know it’s not an international date and that whole jazz but Zimmermann looked better than either of these guys. Miazga got abused for the winner and I fully expect him right back in the lineup because this is “theory” and not “fact” in action.

    • This isn’t a youth team, we shouldn’t judge by theories on physical growth, it should be put up or shut up. If the idea is “if he fills out and grows two inches and gets some soccer IQ he could be great,” fine, go play for the U23s and come back when you’re ready for senior ball. Granted, we need some games like these to sort out senior ready from needs seasoning, but the more you talk in what ifs the less they are ready to play on the senior team. This is not the level for experience and getting it. Pulisic’s first outing he looked immediately ready and impactful. Robinson looked great his one game (though we’ll see if he can do it every night). But part of our problem with players like Brooks is players with supposed high ceilings or great tape getting excuses even when the balls are in the net.

    • defiantly (hopefully) not! but his stock has certainly dropped in the past few games.

      I would expect to see Parker starting in this one

    • I share your concern. It would help if we could see him play at the club level more, but from what I have seen of him at youth tournaments and the senior level, I have doubts, too. I have also noticed on two or three occasions where he has lost his cool and I think it was in the U-20 tournament that he got a red card in one of the few games he played. I think he’s definitely behind Brooks and Miazga, and probably Zimmerman and Palmer-Brown, even though Palmer Brown just started to get consistent minutes in Europe.

      • Gary, my beef with CCV is he loses his head and tries to play the tough guy role. Guess what most of the other players are just as big and strong as he is! His mental approach takes him out of the game and makes him suspect. Physically he is not that rangey and does make for lack of length with quickness in a small window.

  9. A 4-3-3 makes no sense to me. Our midfield will be overrun. 4-2-3-1 with Wood up top and 2 defensive mids in front of the back 4 is probably the only thing to keep us from suffering a blow out. A 4-5-1 is also possible to try and control the midfield. Consider that 2 of the most promising young players in the whole world are Dembele and Mbappe, both on this team, plus you add Pogba and the others, and they are almost certainly better than the US at just about every position. Pulisic is probably th3e only US player who might make the French squad and he isn’t even available for this game.

    • Agree with GP here. 4231/451 over 433 given the opposition. If its Rubin and Weah on the wings they are going to have to help our RB and LB out a lot defensively and then look to release forward on a counter attack, but for the counter to work we will need someone in CM who can play those balls into space effectively. Given the roster I’d put Trapp and McKennie in the deeper more CDM roles of a 4231 and would prefer to use Green/Corona higher up in midfield to shuttle the ball wide and up top for the wingers and striker on a counter. Hold your breath and hope we don’t get blown out but even if we do its just a friendly and good experience for the youngsters going into next cycle. No matter who we start of what formation we role out this is going to be a difficult match France is loaded with talent and if they can make it all work and gel as a team they might be the only team that could give Germany a challenge in this WC, maybe Brazil too. Vai Brasil!! Vai Corinthians!!

    • I expect some variant of a 451 because it’s what we’ve done, and we are not going to take more risk against France than Ireland who beat us. We also didn’t really call enough forwards for a 2-3 man formation.

      I am not a fan of our buzzsaw schedule his year because it has too many games like this one, which encourage negative, conservative football. Our team is in transition and needs to evaluate talent and implement a system, but versus a world class team. But I think a lot of the gradations between players are moderate — not so massive as is suggested — and you will get a good idea which few of the players can handle the level. I think that has some value in isolation. I will wait and see with Stewart not taking office til August, not knowing when a coach is coming in, plus our remaining schedule, what actually gets accomplished the balance of the year. I think we are wasting an amazing amount of time for a non-qualified team eliminated in fall 2017. You’re looking at a year without a HC, a schedule unsuited to our current needs and goals, and general stupidity abounding. We may still have the talent coming in to impact CONCACAF sufficiently to get where we want to go. We will definitely be helped if FIFA expands the field for Qatar. But this does not feel like a well steered ship.


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