The September friendlies are fast approaching for the U.S. Men’s National Team and Gregg Berhalter’s first match after the Gold Cup will come against the same team the USMNT lost to in the Gold Cup final.
Friday’s friendly against Mexico will be a much different affair than July’s final, which saw Mexico post a 1-0 victory. The USMNT squad that will meet El Tri at Met Life Stadium will be a much different group, a much younger one, while Mexico will boast a stronger squad than the one that lifted the Gold Cup in July.
Veterans Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore won’t play in the September friendlies, leaving opportunities for some new faces in the starting lineup, while John Brooks is a key veteran who will be returning to the fold after missing the Gold Cup due to injury.
What will the USMNT lineup look like against Mexico? Here is a look at the squad we could see on Friday:
Zack Steffen has settled into a starting role with Fortuna Dusseldorf and comes into camp in good form. If Gregg Berhalter decides he wants to split the two September friendlies among two goalkeepers, then we could see Sean Johnson or Brad Guzan against El Tri, but Steffen should be the choice to start both matches.
John Brooks and Aaron Long are the favorites to be the starting central defense pairing, and while they have only played one match together, they remain the top choices in the pool. Miles Robinson is in the midst of a breakout season with Atlanta United though, and could see some minutes, though a start against Mexico, and the likes of Raul Jimenez and Javier Hernandez, might be an ambitious assignment for his USMNT debut.
The battle at right back should be a good one, between the same defenders who fought for the starting role at the Gold Cup. Nick Lima has been in better recent form than Reggie Cannon and should get the nod. Berhalter confirmed on Thursday that Sergino Dest would start, and left back is the most likely assignment for the Ajax defender.
Michael Bradley’s absence leaves the defensive midfield slot available, and Will Trapp is a good bet to fill it. He has been in better form in recent months after a tough first half of the MLS season, but his experience in Berhalter’s system should give him the edge over Alfredo Morales, though Morales does come into camp in good form as a regular starter for Bundesliga side Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Weston McKennie will reprise his role in the attacking midfield spot, but the playmaker next to him should be different, with Christian Pulisic looking likely to play on the wing in the September friendlies. Cristian Roldan has been in very good form lately, including his two-goal effort in Seattle’s recent win against the LA Galaxy, and should get the nod over Sebastian Lletget for that starting role against Mexico.
Pulisic should start on the left wing against Mexico, but the right wing spot is a bit tougher to project. Jordan Morris has been playing well for Seattle, but Tyler Boyd has become a regular starter for Besiktas. Morris has had some success against El Tri before, and has faced Mexico multiple times, but Boyd is an intriguing option who brings more quality on the ball.
The striker position is a toss-up between Gyasi Zardes and Josh Sargent. Zardes has the experience edge, but he also hasn’t been in the best of form since the Gold Cup. Sargent is coming off his first Bundesliga start, which included him scoring a wonder goal. Berhalter could wait to give Sargent a start against Uruguay on Tuesday in front of his hometown fans in St. Louis, but a start against Mexico would provide invaluable experience for the talented youngster. He should get the call against El Tri.
What do you think of this projected lineup? Who would you like to see start against Mexico?
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