Gregg Berhalter’s third game in charge of the U.S. Men’s National Team is his most important to date, as he leads a full first-team roster into Thursday’s clash against Ecuador in Orlando.
Berhalter doesn’t have every potential first-teamer in camp, as others are off in U-23 and U-20 camp, but the USMNT head coach has plenty of weapons at his disposal to take on the South American side.
We already have a few ideas of which players will play in certain positions, as Christian Pulisic is going to play the No. 10 and Tyler Adams will start at right back with DeAndre Yedlin in a more advanced role.
However, the eight other positions are up for grabs for in-form European players and MLS stars off to a hot start looking to impress the new manager for the first time,
Below is a look at who we think will start Thursday’s match at Orlando City Stadium.
USMNT XI vs. Ecuador
Daniel Lovitz—Aaron Long—John Brooks–Tyler Adams
Michael Bradley—Weston McKennie
Paul Arriola—Christian Pulisic—DeAndre Yedlin
With Zack Steffen sitting out the March friendlies with an injury, we’re tipping Ethan Horvath to earn a start in between the pipes.
Horvath has been called in for plenty of camps, but he still only has three appearances to his name.
In Steffen’s absence, Horvath gets an opportunity to shine in front of Berhalter and make the case to be one of the three goalkeepers called in for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
In defense, Tyler Adams and John Brooks have their names written in Sharpie on the team sheet.
Berhalter wouldn’t move Adams to right back without playing him there and Brooks is the No. 1 center back on the depth chart.
Omar Gonzalez and Tim Ream are experienced options to consider, but we’ll go with Aaron Long continuing his surge from USL to MLS to USMNT to play next to Brooks.
Look for Gonzalez, Ream and Matt Miazga to all be considered next to Brooks for Tuesday’s challenging test against Chile.
Left back still remains a bit of mystery, and because he’s the only true left back on the roster, Daniel Lovitz gets the start.
With Pulisic starting at the No. 10 slot, Berhalter should build his midfield around the Borussia Dortmund star.
Michael Bradley brings experience in front of the back four to absorb counters and whatever else Ecaudor throws at the USMNT defense.
Bradley also provides cover for some of the inexperienced players on the back line, and will act more like a fifth defender.
Weston McKennie can be utilized in a variety of roles, but he starts next to Bradley in central midfield.
At points, McKennie will get forward to join the attack, and in order to trust him to do so, Bradley needs to hang back as an anchor.
Yedlin will be called upon in a winger role on the right side to complement Adams at a part of the field everyone will be watching.
Paul Arriola is a Swiss Army Knife player that gives the USMNT some needed versatility in midfield.
Arriola starts on the left wing, but he’ll be able to interchange with McKennie, Pulisic and others to challenge Ecuador’s defense.
Up top, Berhalter has to go with the hot hand in Jordan Morris, who found plenty of success in the final third in three games with the Seattle Sounders.
Of the forwards in camp, Morris is the one most likely to slide behind Jozy Altidore on a fully-healthy USMNT depth chart.