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?
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