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Who will the USMNT start versus Canada in Nations League?

If the U.S. Men’s National Team is going to exact revenge against Canada and retake control of its Concacaf Nations League group, it will have to do so with a lineup missing several regular starters.

Christian Pulisic, Zack Steffen and Michael Bradley are out with injuries, leaving Gregg Berhalter with some decisions to make as he tries to build a lineup without them.

Pulisic’s absence is the most difficult to make up for. His ability to break down defenses and create chances for his teammates is something no other player in the USMNT squad can provide, meaning Berhalter will need to try and fill that attacking void with a more offensive-minded lineup.

The good news for the USMNT is that the defense that faces Canada on Friday should be a much stronger one than the unit that took the field in October. Sergino Dest and John Brooks are in the squad this time around, as is Alfredo Morales, who should all help make things tougher for the Canadian attack.

What will the USMNT lineup look like against Canada on Friday? Here’s the lineup we could see:


Steffen’s injury opens the door for Brad Guzan to start after he moved past Sean Johnson in the USMNT goalkeeper pecking order. Johnson is a superior passer of the ball, but Guzan has the international experience edge.


The biggest position battle to watch is at right back, where DeAndre Yedlin and Reggie Cannon are good options. Yedlin should be the choice, given how well he is playing at Newcastle, but Berhalter could decide that Cannon provides more attacking quality, and with Canada potentially bunkering in defensively, Berhalter could give Cannon the nod.

The centerback spots should go to John Brooks and Aaron Long. A healthy Brooks is the best central defender in the pool, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He has arrived in the current camp ready to go, and he is a considerable upgrade over Tim Ream at left centerback. Long is arguably the best one-on-one defender in the USMNT pool, and should benefit from Brook’s presence after having been run ragged trying to cover for his teammate’s defensive breakdowns in October.

Dest is the easy choice at left back, providing a good attacking element at the position. He still has some learning to do defensively, but is still a better defender than Daniel Lovitz or Tim Ream at left back.


Bradley’s injury opens the door for Alfredo Morales to step into the starting role as the defensive midfield anchor in the USMNT midfield. Berhalter could be tempted to start Wil Trapp, who could offer some better distribution, but Morales is in form and playing regularly and playing well for Fortuna Dusseldorf, while Trapp hasn’t played in almost a month and is coming off a lackluster season.

Weston McKennie is a lock to start at one of the two attacking midfield spots, but the big question in the middle is will Berhalter go with the more creative Sebastian Lletget or the player he has consistently rated more highly, and who has played more recently, in Cristian Roldan?

Roldan is coming off a starting in Seattle’s MLS Cup final victory, while Lletget hasn’t played in three weeks, but Lletget has the creativity edge that is sorely needed against a Canada side that could choose to bunker in and play for the draw.


Josh Sargent should be the choice at striker for a variety of reasons. He’s a better finisher, his hold-up play and passing continue to improve, and he has played games more recently than Gyasi Zardes, who hasn’t seen game action since the MLS regular season ended almost a month ago.

Berhalter will need to figure out where to deploy Jordan Morris, who he has used predominantly on the right wing, but who has looked very comfortable operating on the left wing for the Seattle Sounders. Pulisic’s absence makes a shift of Morris to the left a possibility.

The opposite wing should be filled by Paul Arriola, who can operate on either side of the field, but is a more natural right winger.


What do you think of this projected lineup? Who would you like to see start against Canada?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I don’t mean to rain on the whiners parade….I think people’s focus is way off. The coach stinks, this player stinks, etc.
    The lack of a 10 on this Nat team really is the source of their woes. I would love to see stats.
    Person X wants the balls so badly that he took/made 30% of the passes. There isn’t one, There is a bunch of wingers in offense, including maybe our best option forward Zardes ( I view him and Sargent equal, I know you Sargent lovers don’t, let me know when either does something against better than Canada in the 9 role )

    Putting LLegget or Roldan in the 10 ain’t going to work, all it does is give fuel the MLS Whiners. See below if your screen isn’t covered in their tears and spittle.
    I haven’t seen a 10 yet, outside of Nagbe,who really is isn’t offensive minded enough and is soooo much better at holding mid.
    McKinnie? Otherwise I am taking a very young, going to be tough to succeed at 19 and no experience Pomykal. Not that I am thinking anything outside of McKinnie works right now…it is just that bleak and really causing our issues.

    • Sometimes your posts make sense, this one is all over the place. Your post suggests you haven’t seen Lleget play, or know his background. He’s always been an attacking player, with ability to make thru balls. Players who have South American roots are more creative than most (Balboa, Reyna, Ramos, etc). I can agree, USMNT needs a distributor in the middle, but a lack of 10 is the source of the problem is short sided. GB wants the team to play out of the back, and not thru the middle.(Spain -‘07-‘10). Defensively, Ream turn the ball over leading to Canada’s 1st goal. Long had to cover his back all night, jumping out of position. Yedlin didn’t cover the backpost, which allowed Canada to score. We are in a time, where fullbacks are expected to assist & score, as well as defend. Yedlin has 60 caps, 1 assist, & no goals. Zimmerman & Long have more goals. That’s a big problem, when Ream & Yedlin start for the respective teams. Nagbe has never played the 10- not for Akron, Timbers, or Five Stripes. JK, or Bruce Arena never put him in advance attacking position. I also, agree that Sargent hasn’t made an impact more than Zardes, but for 2 exceptions, no one playing in Europe has made a profound impact for USMNT. I think, Morris should play the 9. Hopefully, we win tonight, regardless of what we think or have analyzed. If GB wins tonight, he’ll be second fastest to 10 wins, behind Bob Bradley.

  2. Similar to what I had…I think we’ll be extremely direct…couple tweaks…we need Dest’s attacking savvy further up field for this one…conservative flank fullbacks with speed to deal with the counter.


  3. I don’t know who will or won’t start, but this is a big game for the USMNT. For me, it’s a must win for the team’s psyche…or we drop even further in the CONCACAF pecking order than we already have over the last 5+ years

  4. Ives said,”Berhalter could be tempted to start Wil Trapp, who could offer some better distribution, but Morales is in form and playing regularly and playing well for Fortuna Dusseldorf, while Trapp hasn’t played in almost a month and is coming off a lackluster season.” Really, Trapp offers better distribution? Are you kidding me? I still believe the US needs to fire both Berhalter and Eanie Stewart in order to have a better chance of qualifying for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

  5. The pessimist in me sees this being trotted out by GB.






    I prefer Ives lineup and whatever variation those of you have had. I think Ives may be right and I hope so. He’s around camp and can see how it’s playing out. Still, from what we’ve seen before, this lineup would not surprise me.

      • As mentioned, this is my fear of what GB will pick based on what we saw last month. It’s a worst case scenario. I don’t think it will happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple surprises like this.

        I’m expecting to see Dest, Sargent, and Morales start, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see one of them sitting. GB hasn’t been a good evaluator of talent.

  6. I agree with SBI’s line-up except for maybe Guzan….but than again I’m not sold on either of the other keepers either.
    I’m hoping for a result, but I have very little confidence in Berhaulter’s ability to get the most out of our players.
    IF Canada comes out an pressures high like they did the last game…I worry that we’ll fail to adapt and will be overrun like the last game. IF Canada sits back and tries to counter we’ll have a better chance of winning the game….but it think it’ll be a low scoring match.

  7. I think SBI’s lineup is dead on. I am worried that GB will go with Roldan instead of Lletget, and I think it would be a mistake. Lletget is really the only creative type we have, and he has produced for the US before. Roldan is a nice player, versatile enough to back up any of the centermid positions, but simply has not produced for the US despite a lot of starts and minutes.

  8. —————————-SARGENT————————-





    – OR






    Things that have or will increase our probability of WINNING
    ….If all goes well because of all the factors above, this is one game I am not even worried about. At the end of the day there is going to be good cohesion between the defense and offense, which is going to results in chances, Canada pinned and goals.

    Can’t wait lol

      • says the one who saw MLS is a statement that , not only doesn’t have the abbreviation MLS in it but also has Morris and Arriola on the various teams Hahaha, self-contradiction to illustrate a rhetorical point….. that gets you nowhere. Priceless. Don’t get confused Yevegeniy. There is one thing to love your league and there is one thing to be blind to the facts that make up the very essence of mediocrity.


      • Damn, I forgot Long, Lletget and Turner too, and they play where??……my bad I guess I’m just allergic to rhetoric and mediocrity of a few. lol, thanks Yevgeniy

  9. I know that most of the fans at this point don’t care about actual games, standings, tactics, etc. as much as they care about just repeating “Berhalter must go”, “Trapp sucks”, ‘MLS sucks”, “no more Jozy”, etc., but I do have a question.

    What is the tie-breaker – a) goal difference, in which case any win may be enough provided we expect to beat Cuba by multiple goals, or b) head-to-head, in which case we need to win 2:0, 3:1, 4:1, etc.?

    • First off we have to win to match them on points. A tie doesn’t do it because they are on 9 points with one game left and we are on 3 points with 2 games left. Second, the tie breakers are, in order, head to head competition — negated because to match them on points each team would have a win — goal difference, then goals for. A quirk of goal difference is that if we beat Canada we reduce the gap by double the margin because every goal we win by is also a goal they lose by. We are behind them by 4 goals on GD and I think 2 goals on GF.

    • the other choices are similarly awful. turner’s stats are meh and he’s uncapped. johnson’s stats are meh and he infamously fumbled the 3rd goal to ES in Oly qualifying 2012. for reasons inexplicable to me we left off horvath and most of the top statistical keepers domestically. i don’t get why we’d pick guzan or johnson other than rote repetition.

      • I still do not understand why Robles was not called up. He is better at handling counter attacks, he handles crosses well, he makes few blunders, has good hands and I think he led MLS in stopping PKs. I have rated him better than Guzan for a long time now.

  10. my outside of the box concept
    Cannon Long McKennie Lima
    Morris Morales Zardes
    Boyd Sargent Arriola
    you can either color within his stupid lines and get destroyed or you can move some versatile people into mid slots and maximize talent on the field.


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