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Who Should the USMNT Start vs. Panama?

The U.S. Men’s National Team may have clinched a berth in the knockout stage of the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, but that doesn’t mean the Americans will take the foot off the gas.

Gregg Berhalter’s side is coming off a 6-0 thumping of Trinidad & Tobago on Saturday night and now turn its sights towards Panama. A win or tie against Panama will clinch the top spot of Group D for the USMNT, and set them up with a date against the runners-up in Group C in the quarterfinals.

Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola, and Gyasi Zardes all shined on Saturday night and will be eager to get after a Panamanian side who have been tough to break down.

Panama have claimed wins in their opening two matches as well, recently defeating Guyana 4-2. Abdiel Arroyo, Erick Davis, and Gabriel Torres all scored in the triumph in Cleveland and will also be excited to go after the top spot in Group D

Here’s a closer look at one USMNT lineup Berhalter could go with Wednesday night:

Rotation would be expected if the USMNT already had the group locked up, but expect Berhalter to keep going with these 11 guys for this match.

Zack Steffen was rarely troubled against Trinidad, but could find a tougher time against Panama on Wednesday. Physical play from Panama’s attackers will give the USMNT backline its toughest test of the tournament so far.

The backline will stay the same for the USMNT as Nick Lima and Tim Ream continue out wide. Edgar Barcenas and Alberto Quintero are the likely options to start on the wings for Panama after starting the first two group stage matches.

Ream and Lima will be asked to do a lot of running against this offensive attack, but could be given help from the centerbacks and wingers tracking back.

Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long have improved as the tournament has gone on and will need to continue that trend for starting minutes. Panama has rotated its strikers in both matches so it will be intriguing to see who starts. Gabriel Torres and Abdiel Arroyo are the likely duo as both have goals from the last match.

Michael Bradley will continue in the No. 6 position and try to shut down the likes of Armando Cooper (one assist). Bradley did better in Matchday 2 and could see Weston McKennie drop back and help if Panama gets more possession through the match.

Christian Pulisic is coming off his best game in the Gregg Berhalter-era and will try to replicate his performance against Panama. His dribbling and playmaking opportunities will become more important throughout the tournament. McKennie will work next to Pulisic and also try to battle against the gritty and physical midfield of Panama.

Paul Arriola and Tyler Boyd will start on the wings once again and try to create chances in the final third. Boyd did not register a point in the lopsided win, but still has the ability to take defenders on inside of the box. Arriola continued his strong tournament and could’ve had even more against Trinidad that did not go in.

Gyasi Zardes scored a brace and will get to retain his spot up top. His quality in the final third was good and Berhalter should continue with the hot hand, even though Jozy Altidore did get some minutes against Trinidad.

Altidore, Jordan Morris, and Cristian Roldan are three players that Berhalter can call on off the bench if the USMNT needs a goal. Reggie Cannon came off the bench and Trinidad and could see more time to close out matches, as could Wil Trapp.

Wednesday’s contest will be a tough one for the USMNT, but should they win then Berhalter’s record will stay perfect in the Gold Cup heading into the quarterfinals where either Jamaica, Curacao, or El Salvador will be waiting.

What do you think of the idea of Berhalter sticking with the same lineup? What changes would you make?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I like guessing, who’s going to be in the lineup. It’s ok to be wrong, we won’t know who’s in the starting XI, until the players come from out of the tunnel. I put a premium on formation & personnel! Formation- 4-1-4-1, that’s not changing. Seems to me, January-June, pre-GC, GB was experimenting! (3-2-4-1, RB, pinches inside next to the 6). Who I would like to see- GK- Steffen
    LB- Lovitz, CBs-Miazga, Zimmerman, RB- Cannon
    LW-Boyd, 8-Roldan, 10-Altidore, RW-Morris

    Wishful thinking, I know. I agreed with a lot of different opinions, views in the discussions below.

  2. I like guessing, who going to be in the lineup. It’s ok to be wrong, about who’s in, and who’s out. We won’t see the starting XI until the players come out of the tunnel. I put a premium on formation & personnel! Formation- 4-1-4-1, that’s not changing. Seems January to June b4 the GC, was experimental for GB. (3-2-4-1, RB/hybrid, pinching inside). What I would like to see- Personnel wise-
    GK- Steffen
    LB- Lovitz, CBs- Miazga, Zimmerman, RB- Cannon

    LW-Boyd, 8-Roldan 10-Altidore RW- Morris


    This lineup is wishful thinking, because I agree with many discussions and opinions below

  3. I know they haven’t given up any goals but this back line hasn’t been that impressive to me against terrible teams. Miazga should get a start. Arriola probably gets a rest and maybe Mckennie might but probably close to the same line up.

  4. Didn’t anyone else notice Lima pushing up and McKennie dropping more into a six role giving us the 3-2-4-1 just with a more traditional RWB instead of the Adams hybrid? That change in the 2nd half cut down on the long balls and eventually broke TNT and led to the blowout. Could also give hope that we could actually see Adams as the 6 in the fall because there is no need for the special skill.

    • Sorry that should say “did anyone notice” not didn’t wasn’t trying to sound smarter than everyone because I certainly am not.

    • Read my mind, def noticed that! Defensively, i noticed McKennie and MB combining as double CDMs. Liked it.
      It def seems to be an adaptation to the Adams/RB thing. McKennie had the best game ive seen from him. I think he is at his best box to box as oppossed to a CAM type. Thrives on battling.

      • I liked it too. Especially because Defefense Mikey No Likey. Instead better to stand in space and hope to receive the ball when someone else wins it. That can work, particularly against weaker opponents, but ut someone has to recognize that and cover the liability.

  5. …..leave the “THE MINNOW SLAYERS ?” to start, and do not change a thing. We found a formula that works, so lets just use it as is. SAME PLAYER STARTING, SAME PLAYERS SUBBING IN. With some consistency there is a chance……that we might just, hhmmmm ……….might just…….be able to STICK IT TO MEXICO ?? (I guess Martinique ?? has given us all hope ??)

    LETS GGOOO!!!!

    • you do realize that there is zero chance that the same 11 players can play a game every 3 days for 6 games without significant loss of performance? Squad depth is important, and it most comes into play in games with no meaning

      • Dave you are 100% right, there is ALMOST zero chance that the same 11 players can play EVERY game but we need to keep them together as much as we can, for as long as we can to FINALLY build some consistency

      • Actually 4 days between games which changes things, the plan should be to get some rest for the field players through subs and some slight rotation, I would probably rest arriola tonight, and then give ream like 25-30 minutes off, for me you don’t really have to rotate the CBs.

  6. The US will go for the group win, which means we may play a little for the draw early and then turn it up late to push for the win. I think Trapp will start against Panama’s two CMs who struggled in MLS. I wouldn’t be surprised if Morris started for one of the wings I’d vote Arriola. The other change I could see is Miazga for one of the CBs. A suggestion I heard was Lima to LB and Cannon on the right. I feel 3G will stick with Ream, but we may still see Cannon. I’m actually ok if McKennie picks up a yellow and misses the quarters so he’s clear for the semis. It appears in the first two matches Gregg has had planned subs to rotate players, which would indicate Lovitz probably comes on along with Lewis. I think Altidore starts to help breakdown Panamas low block but Gregg May use him again for the final 30-45 minutes.

    • ” I think Altidore starts to help breakdown Panama…..”

      If its not negatively, Altidore and breakdown shouldn’t be in the same sentence. it will take a lot more than strength (Román Torres 195 lbs, Harold Cummings 185 lbs, Jozy Altidore 175 lbs) and hold up play to break down Panama

      • If you remember three days before the collapse in Couvo. Altidore and Pulisic tore apart Panama. Jozy showing for the ball and laying it off to Pulisic in the vacated space. Panama has replaced Beloy but Cummings is just as slow and prone to getting out of position. Zardes is more show and pass back to Bradley or McKennie and let them pass ahead. Altidore can take it and flick into Pulisic or turn and attack. Altidore with CP on one side and Boyd on the other might just be impossible for Panama to deal with.

      • Johnnyrazor
        I think Zardes is a better option and combines well will Pulisic, Arriola and even Boyd. He is faster than Altidore, closes down players, has a tendency to run and create space; and more importantly, CONTRIBUTES ON DEFENSE. You can’t have 2 liabilities on the field at the same time and Bradley has already claimed the spot…so it is better to have Zardes start and when Panama is tired, walking, not countering and basically has had enough put in Altidore….lol

    • Your hate as always clouds your judgement. Zardes has a great work rate and does a lot of little things that often go unnoticed, but if he combines well with CP, Boyd, or Arriola it’s by accident. As I said before game 2 I’m concerned about Jozy’s bulk this season, but I think we lay back a little to start anyway given we only need a draw. Panama is likely to sit back and look to counter so Zardes pressure is not as important. Jozy had 5 goals and 3 assists in his 5 first five matches this season and none in roughly 300 minutes since returning from injury, that stat treads the line of does he need minutes to get his rhythm back or does he not deserve minutes based on his form. Given we’ve already advanced I’d vote for minutes, and I know Bizzy will always be against. I wouldn’t be unhappy either way. Now if Morris starts at CF Gregg and I might have a problem.

      • “Your hate as always clouds your judgement.” – hmmmm, maybe lol

        “Zardes has a great work rate and does a lot of little things that often go unnoticed” – 100%, I agree with you !!!!

        “……but if he combines well with CP, Boyd, or Arriola it’s by accident.” – hahahaha, like Altidore’s scoring ability?? By accident or not it is working and he fits the system better than Altidore, plain and simple

        “Jozy had 5 goals and 3 assists in his 5 first five matches this season and none in roughly 300 minutes since returning from injury” – Gyazi Zardes has had 4 goals and 1 assist in his LAST 5 GAMES for the stars and stripes, hence on a national level, and 3 already this competition. I think we need to let him continue his streak.

        “I wouldn’t be unhappy either way” – again, 100%!!! as either way I know if Zardes is on the field he will score against Panama and if Jozy Altidore is on the field he will give me something negative to talk about (he never disappoints)….not to mention like you said we have already qualified, so either way I’m good lol

        Lets see what tomorrow brings….GO USA!!!!!

    • Although this is not really relevant to your discussion here, your comment about how the US beat Panama just reminded me how schizophrenic the US team was during the last cycle. They tied Panama there (vs. winning 4 years before), then destroyed them in the US. Not all that difference was due to the change in venue. Likewise, we beat Honduras, what, 6-0 at home and then played like we were asleep for 80 minutes before eking out the draw. We totally destroyed Costa Rica in the Copa Sudamerica, then lost to them twice during the Hex, including 2-0 at home. A lot of that seems like it was likely due to loss of focus. Hopefully this edition of the team can be more consistent.

      • The big difference with Costa Rica is Navas. He’s good for stopping at least one sure goal and they play so much more relaxed with him in net. As I recall when played them in the GC last time they just sat in and let us have possession. Arena expected that again but instead they put tons of pressure on the midfield and we couldn’t ever get it out of our end. Aka Arena had no strategy other than let’s play hard.

  7. If I was manager I would rotate fairly heavily, as many as 4 to 6 different starters. This game is essentially meaningless, and a reward for taking care of business in the first two. Starting with the quarters, you go with your best team every time, and we’re hoping that means 3 more games. I’m not in the locker room, but I would consider resting guys with minor injuries or coming off injuries, stars you probably can’t win the tourney without (Pulisic, McKennie), and players on a yellow, in that order. I wouldn’t even mind a Jill Ellis, changing 7 starters. I figure Panama will do the same…

  8. -I’d like to see altidore in for zardes, give him a chance to earn the starting spot for the knockouts
    -as well as morris in for one of the wingers (maybe arriola since boyd only played 60 on Saturday), I’d like to see who really grabs those 2 winger spots
    -wouldn’t hate letting trap get some time IF Bradley needs the rest
    -I would keep the backline in place but might give lovitz a look for 25-30 minutes
    -Need to see jonathan lewis off the bench and see if he can make an impact against a stronger side

  9. Berhalter seems to put no value on individual games. I expect rotation, because IMO finishing first in the group does not mean anything to him. This might be the smart move anyway, because we are through, and players will need rest.

    I think JA is a better fit for the thug ball that Panama prefers.

  10. “Altidore, Jordan Morris, and Cristian Roldan are three players that Berhalter can call on off the bench if the USMNT needs a goal”

    I ain’t no coaching genius but why not start these players from the beginning?
    I mean, goals is what’s all about, ain’t it?
    Maybe they are they some kind of super secret weapon only to be deployed in the direst of circumstances. That Bernie Boy is a genius!!!

  11. Zardes did actually score two not-accidental goals (and missed some too). However, Altidore is really the starter here. Shouldn’t Jozy start for 60+ to start building into the team and building fitness? Jozy can come on for 20+ late, if needed.


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