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Who Should the USMNT Start vs. England?


The penultimate game of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s six-game fall series takes place Thursday at Wembley Stadium against England.

Interim manager Dave Sarachan, who is still in search amid the continuing search for a permanent manager, has leaned on younger players throughout the last year, and we should see a similar trend on Thursday.

Because of the difficulty England presents as an opponent, Sarachan has to rely on a few veterans to attempt to get a result, not just play a positive style of soccer.

A result would be a welcome surprise for a team that’s taken its lump through the development process, with one win in the last six games.

Below is a look at how the USMNT should line up for the clash with the Three Lions.

USMNT XI (4-2-3-1)


Yedlin  — Brooks  —  Carter-Vickers  —  Villafana

Adams  —  McKennie

Weah  —  Pulisic  —  Saief


With Zack Steffen out of the squad with a hamstring injury, the No. 1 goalkeeper spot is up for grabs, and Brad Guzan should take hold of the job as the most experienced player of the players in camp.

Guzan still has a place in the squad as Steffen’s top competitor, and he’ll get a chance to use Thursday to separate himself from Ethan Horvath.

Horvath recorded a clean sheet in the UEFA Champions League with Club Brugge last week and should be in contention for a starting spot. He could play against Italy on Tuesday in Belgium, but Guzan is the man for the job to get a result against England.

Defensively, DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are the two locks to start in front of Guzan.

Yedlin could be the X-factor for the USMNT on Thursday, as he has experience going up against some of the English attackers at the club level with Newcastle United.

Brooks is the No. 1 center back on the depth chart, and he’ll be partnered by the England-based Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Carter-Vickers starts over Matt Miazga, who is struggling on loan in France, and Aaron Long, who is coming off 90 minutes for the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman could have an outside chance to start next to Brooks if he impresses in training.

Jorge Villafana starts at left back because of his experience and the knock picked up by Antonee Robinson in training on Tuesday.

Robinson’s been the first-choice left back recently under Sarachan, but you need a full strength defender to go up against England’s wingers.

The midfield is where the eyes of every American will be directed toward on Thursday, as Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic finally earn a chance to play together.

Adams and McKennie will start in a defensive midfield duo, but expect McKennie to shuttle between the defensive line and the attacking third to add numbers to the attacking buildup.

Just seeing Pulisic back in red, white and blue is a welcome sight, as he’s played just one game for the USMNT in 2018.

On the wings, Timothy Weah and Kenny Saief get the starts, but both will have to double as defensive help for the full backs if England’s advances forward become too overwhelming.

Weah is expected to provide more dynamic play moving forward, but Saief is an intriguing option who could combine well with Pulisic and Bobby Wood in an attempt to break down England’s defensive setup.

With Josh Sargent banged up, Wood is the default starter at forward, although he likely would’ve gotten the nod in one of the November games anyway.

As the only true forward at 100 percent on the roster, Wood will start on Thursday and hope to bag his fourth goal of 2018 for the USMNT.


  1. I dont care how much experience Guzan has… he’s not that good.

    I don’t want to see Nagbe again or Benny. I want to see Lee Nguyen if theyre going to call in that kind of player. He never got a fair shot under JK and he’s doing a very good job at LAFC. Better than Benny.

    These games are a waste of time with Sarachan in charge of the players. We’re going to be killed.

    I have no idea what Ernie is waiting for ….. unless its Tab?

  2. Just like all his games in charge its going to be the strongest line-up possible for the first game and then play the players on the bubble the second game

  3. I think the starting 11 in the article is about right, but I think it will look more like a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 as Weah and Saief will be playing much deeper to help defensively. Also, if a decision is made to be more conservative, Green would be in the middle as a withdrawn striker and Pulisic pushed out wide to replace Saief.
    I don’t see Trapp getting a start since he is basically a step down from Bradley in terms of soccer brain and skill, and only a tiny bit quicker. I never saw anything that made his inclusion on the roster really defensible.

  4. The more I think about it, we took a double whack. (1) Not qualifying. (2) Players ageing off the team, which in some sense made it even worse than the unit that didn’t qualify.

    People, to me, do not realize this team basically got leveled after TnT. What is going on is not marginal tryouts for players to supplement the old core. This is the new core right now. You are looking at the team.

    Their competition, if brought back, is people like Nagbe, Guzan, Villafana, Brooks. There is a small set of mostly attacking players like Pulisic and Wood who should be the core going forward. But this is in two different ways not your usual US team. They didn’t make the tournament which should already put incumbency in question. And then if we are honest few of the core remain and deserve off limits, and a lot of the core is gone.

    It’s like people are waiting on a cavalry not coming. With few exceptions there is not some herd of players waiting off camera who will replace the kids. We are as competitive as you can find a bunch of kids (and perhaps a few select veterans) to play. This is why I push talent eval talent eval talent eval. There is no point in stopping the process and reverting to playing to win yet, because there is no veteran core cavalry coming to supplement this. Right now it’s as good of a team as new players you can find. I don’t get the mentality right now where they want to stop at the first shiny thing we find. We need 23 shiny things and not to assume that even the ones who initially impress do it forever.

    • Howard x
      Gonzalez x
      Besler x
      Villafaña (Acosta, 72)
      Bradley x (capt.)
      Arriola (Dempsey x, 46)
      Nagbe x? (Feilhaber x, 84)

      And then I’m sure some of you would identify players not lost to age you still want the heck out of dodge. So that’s you basically lost half the team and then some of the other half are meh and part of the reason it didn’t qualify. Yedlin blew Peru, for example.

      And yet people talk about talent evaluation right now like there is some hidden core of the team off stage being shoved aside by noobs. There isn’t. This is the team right here. If you’re not completely satisfied some noob is (a) world class and (b) beyond a doubt our guy, why are you telling us to stop looking?

    • FYI after you and Gomer’s conversation the other day. Werder Bremen announced today Aron Johannsson under went another surgery and will be sidelined for at least an additional three months.

      • well, that’s that then. but i think we should be creative in trying to build up a rebuilding team, not just find a lineup and quit upgrading.

  5. If we are going to continue calling Weah and Sargent, who are not playing pro level at the moment, why don’t we continue to call up other promising young players – Soto, Richards, Tatigue, Wright, Akwale, etc. Either stick with the plan to give young guys a shot or just call in the old guard and admit you’re trying to get a result. Sarachan’s done a decent caretaker job but that’s all he is. He’s not responsible for the development of the US squad nor should he be held responsible. He’s simply the chaperone on the field trip. Playing England at Wembley is a huge opp. to grow for any national team. Unfortunately the opportunity is going to be wasted on a coach and players who may not be here in a years time. The fed. is not being held responsible enough for their part in this.

    Now back to our regularly scheduled programming….
    In general i agree with the feeling that Zimmerman should start alongside Brooks. Both playing recently and in-form. As much as i appreciate Pulisic’s play on the wings for the US and BVB his future for the starts and stripes will be as a #10, as he is the only one capable.

    Nagbe isn’t with the team but i feel that he is crucial to this team moving fwd. He maybe 32 at the next WC but the next WC isn’t tomorrow. No one can retain possession, play accurate passes, and drive the ball fwd. like Nagbe can. Can’t help but feel Nagbe and Pulisic would make a killer duo in the middle of the park.

    • You aren’t too far wrong however, there are a couple differences. Weah has played some top flight meaningful matches, even if they were either end of season last year or early this season. Sargent was far more successful is the US Youth set up. He is also playing at a higher level currently than those (maybe not Akale, not sure how Spanish 3rd matches with German 4th). Wright was in 2Bundesliga last year but struggled and is now in the German 5th division, Taitague has not yet dressed for Schalke II as he returns from injury. Soto has kind of come out of no where the last 12 months, he has only represented the US in one match off the bench. Richards also kind of came out of nowhere and did play a lot for Bayern this Summer, but he’s still only played at the U19s in actual matches. The ages are similar but the situations are not really the same. I did read Wright might have a chance with the first team because of a rash of injuries at Schalke and both Soto and Akale are training with their respective 1st teams this week.

  6. What it should be for talent eval:

    Horvath (because I want to quickly see if he is fixed or folds like a lawn chair)
    Cannon Long Zimmerman Moore
    Gall McKennie Lletget Saief
    Wood Green

    What I expect:
    Yedlin Miazga Brooks Villafana
    Weah Adams Trapp Lletget Saief

    I don’t understand why a forward hasn’t been called and Sargent sent home.

    I expect Sarachan to perseverate at back and keeper, and it won’t move the ball downfield one roll in terms of what the real future lineup ends up looking like.

    • One they believe that Sargent will be fine to play, and/or two they realize that Green, Pulisic, and Weah are all forwards so they can cover that way if need be.

      • I think it’s a waste of time because we have these friendlies once a month, or every couple months, not that many a year, and we should be trialing actual forwards and not slapping something together. I would play them in some tournament if we had to. But in a planned friendly call in some actual forwards to show what they have.

  7. Personally and based on in-form and confidence-wise, I’d rather place my trust on the MLS center backs, Aaron Long/Walker Zimmerman over Matt Miazga and Carter Vickers (both have lost their club spots, most like their confidence too) to partner John Brooks. Villavana’s offense is decent; however, his defense is always in doubt IMO. At Wembley in England, the Brits are going to come at our backs in force. When push comes to shove and call me crazy, I’d rather put Kellyn Acosta at left back, since Acosta has the speed to run with England’s speedy forwards and passing skills to contribute to the USMNT’s build up from the back and not to give up the ball cheaply. In midfield, I’ll put Pulisic on the wing and let Green/Saief play the #10 role. The US doesn’t have a natural 10, and whoever is there won’t be ideal anyway. I want to see Pulisic at his best (and also show Dortmund’s head coach, Lucien Farve that Pulisic is better than Jadon Sancho). Unless Pulisic carried an injury during the game against Bayern last weekend, he wasn’t even good for 1 minute on Saturday! I was frustrated watching the game.

    • I agree on back but come at it from a different direction, that we already know the + and – of the usual crew. They have had many glitches so we should be shopping. If you run them out you’re basically saying in spite of the glitches I trust you. They’d even brought back Robinson. At a certain level of glitches it’s misplaced trust and I should look for other options. I don’t even care if the others have limited cap history cause the whole point is the devil you don’t know as opposed to the one you do.

  8. ———————-T. WEAH———————-




    Wish Sargent was 100%. Not saying he is better than Wood but Wood doesn’t seem to play well with YOUNG PLAYERS around him. He’s not selfless like Sargent and tries to do everything himself. Pulisic is the best CAM we have but that will leave the right wind lacking (don’t think Gall can cause any problems for England’s LB) big time.

    Thursday should be good

  9. I wish Sargent and Robinson were healthy, but maybe they can come back against Italy.

    I see most of the starting 11 the same, although I feel we’ve already seen what Villafana and Guzan can do, and since a loss against England is almost inevitable, would rather see if Shaq and Horvath are up to a challenge.

    I don’t see what everyone else does in Saief. The one time I’ve seen him play for the national team, he seemed to want to dribble every defender on the pitch, and lost the ball every time.

    I’d rather start Green as CAM and let Pulisic and Weah take up their natural positions on the right and left wing, respectively.

    Wood I guess will have to do, though Christ, he really hasn’t done much lately on the score sheet.

    • I’m not entirely sold on Saief myself, was GC a flash in the pan, but give him a game and see what happens.

      I think this schedule is basically garbage because it generally tends to show players up instead of help us find the best we have playing well.

  10. Try a 4-4-2 with Pulisic/Weah on the wings and Sargent/Wood up top. The 4-2-3-1 lineup will end up beings too defensive and Wood will be isolated. Let Adams and McKennie make some runs forward. They have the legs to cover a lot of ground (thankfully the Jogger is not there).

      • I think we should play a vanilla formation with a bunch of prospects because the whole point on these games is really to find who can hack it. At a certain point of tuning a formation to pursue a cagey result you’re actually hiding the players from evaluation on their merits, which should be the priority. It’s more important right now to decide which of the central mids, or backs, or keepers, should be on the roster for GC and LoN, than to try and tie England.

  11. If those are the starting 11, I would switch Pulisic and Saief. Really I would rather a different formation, maybe something with 3 in the back, wingbacks, Adams/McKennie/Pulisic in the middle, Weah and Wood up top.

  12. I would rather start Horvath against England I forgive him for those easy between the leg nut meg goals. Play Guzan first half against Italy and Klinsmann Jr second half against italy

    • I am not a Horvath fan lately but based on recent experience I’d agree. Guzan has played plenty already. We kind of know what that’s about. Klinsmann was brought in as an emergency guy, but give him a half. But given this call sheet, I want to see if Horvath can handle the level or not. Toss him in the deep end. If he can’t then we need to move on to other 2 or 3 keeper options. If he stands on his head then we know it was a temporal slump that passed.


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