The march toward 2022 begins Friday as the U.S. Men’s National Team takes on Brazil at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
After missing out on the 2018 World Cup, a young roster filled with the next generation of USMNT stars will take the field against the No. 3 ranked team in the world in the first of six games as part of US Soccer’s “Kickoff Series Challenge.”
In their last action, the USMNT surprised many as they drew 1-1with France in Lyon in what was the final World Cup tune-up for the would-be world champions. The young USA squad will look to build on that positive result against Brazil.
Here’s how Dave Sarachan’s team should line up:
While a victory against Brazil would be ideal, the success of this game will not be solely dependent on the final score. With a full-time coach yet to be announced, this game will instead be about young players gaining valuable experience against one of the world’s top sides. With limited options up top and plenty of talent in the midfield, a 4-1-4-1 formation makes sense.
Brazil is bringing a roster filled with some of their best players. The likes of Neymar, Roberto Firmino, Douglas Costa, and Philippe Coutinho will bring an attacking quality that the USMNT rarely faces in friendly competition.
The game will be a true test for a young USA squad, but a relatively experienced centerback pairing of Brooks and Miazga, even though they’re just 25 and 23 years old respectively, will help anchor a back line that will need to be on top of their game.
Steffen looks to be the heir-apparent for the USA’s No. 1 keeper job. The 23-year-old Pennsylvania native continues to impress in his time with the Columbus Crew, drawing interest from European sides. He has only three caps to his name, but a clean sheet against Paraguay earlier this year showed what could lie ahead as Steffen locks down the starting role.
Yedlin is an obvious choice at right back considering he’s one of the “old” veterans of the group now. His 52 caps, including three appearances in the 2014 World Cup, are by far the most of anyone on the roster. The 25-year-old played well for Newcastle last year in the EFL Championship and so far this year in the English Premier League.
Antonee Robinson may only have two caps, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance in those two appearances, earning an assist in his first appearance for the USMNT. Robinson and Yedlin provide pace and an attacking threat from the fullback position that the US will need if they have any hope of earning a result.
The midfield is where things get really interesting. Tyler Adams looks to be the defensive midfielder of the future for the USA, so the 19-year-old is the obvious choice to sit in front of Brooks and Miazga.
If Christian Pulisic were healthy, he’d obviously be one of the attacking midfielders on the field. But, his absence leaves some intriguing options for Sarachan.
Timothy Weah and Weston McKennie have looked fantastic in their combined seven caps, so they slot in well. It’s the left side of the midfield that will be something to watch. Julian Green is looking to work his way back into the national team picture on a consistent basis, while Cristian Roldan will be out to prove that his success with the Seattle Sounders translates to the international level.
Up top is where Sarachan is limited in his options for this match. Josh Sargent decided to stay with Werder Bremen to try and work his way into the first-team lineup. The 18-year-old will almost certainly be among the first-choice strikers come 2022, but for now the USMNT will have to see who else can step into that role.
We know what to expect from Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes. The two forwards have plenty of experience with a combined 76 caps between them. While both are serviceable players, neither will be the No. 9 to lead the US to World Cup success. So why not take a chance on Andrija Novakovich?
The 21-year-old striker does not have the name recognition of Wood or Zardes, but the Wisconsin native has potential to be a true star for the USMNT.
He’s spent his entire career in Europe and tore up the Dutch second division with Telstar, scoring 19 goals last year. No, the Dutch second division isn’t exactly the pinnacle of European football, but Novakovich has continued his strong form in the Eredivisie with Fortuna Sittard, scoring two goals through four appearances so far.
Without a full-time coach, it’s hard to hope for much out of the USMNT than a competitive game and gaining experience. We don’t yet know what system the USMNT will play in the future. We don’t know who will be in the starting XI on a consistent basis. But we do know that the team has a young core that needs to learn to play together against some of the world’s best competition if the USMNT wants to rebound from an embarrassing 2018 World Cup cycle.
Will this lineup be able to compete with Neymar, Coutinho, and Brazil? Probably not at this point. But four years from now? It’s possible. Friday’s game against Brazil is the reset button for the USMNT. It’s time to see what the youngsters have.
Who do you think the USMNT should start vs. Brazil? Let us know in the comments!