Top Stories

Who should the USMNT start vs. Panama?


A short turnaround time between Thursday’s draw with Wales and Monday’s friendly against Panama in Austria should mean a good number of changes when Gregg Berhalter settles on a lineup for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s second friendly of the month.

Berhalter finds himself in the unenviable position of choosing between looking at as many different players as possible and trying to build some chemistry between players who are part of his first-choice nucleus.

The fact that the USMNT has kept its full squad together between friendlies suggests we may not see a complete lineup overhaul, but there should be several changes.

How many of the newcomers who debuted against Wales will get a second chance to start on Monday? Yunus Musah and Gio Reyna would good to see once again, while finding more minutes for Johnny Cardoso should be something Berhalter looks to do.

Who will get the call against Panama? Here is the lineup we could see?

Here is a look at the starting lineup we could see against Wales:

Projected USMNT XI vs. Panama


When you have a clear-cut number one, and he isn’t getting many club starts, you give him every start you can, so look for Berhalter to go with Zack Steffen for a second straight match.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Look for changes along the back-line, with Sergino Dest potentially the only defender to start two straight matches. Why? Dest started at right back against Wales, but Berhalter will likely turn to Reggie Cannon for a start against Panama, and as much as Berhalter could give Antonee Robinson a chance to redeem himself after struggling against Wales, giving Dest a start at left back, and taking a look at a Dest-Cannon fullback pairing — his likely first-choice tandem — makes sense as a Berhalter move.

At centerback, John Brooks was outstanding against Wales, but it’s tough to see him starting both November friendlies. That means Tim Ream getting the nod as the left centerback.

Panama is the perfect opponent to face if you want to give a central defender their first USMNT start, and Chris Richards is very deserving of a look. Ream’s experience and leadership should help Richards in his first senior international appearance. Of course, seeing a Brooks-Richards partnership would be ideal, especially since there’s plenty of reason to believe that could eventually be a first-choice pairing, but the odds are we will have to wait to see them play together.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Considering how good the midfield triangle of Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams looked you couldn’t really blame Berhalter for wanting to see it again. That is wishful thinking though, and the reality is there are some other players to look at.

Richie Ledezma is one such player, and if Berhalter chooses to let Musah sit rather than having him make two starts before returning to Valencia, then the PSV midfielder makes the most sense as an option in the middle.

McKennie hasn’t played consistent minutes at Juventus, so a second straight start wouldn’t be overkill.

One of the big questions surrounding this lineup will be whether Berhalter goes with Tyler Adams for a second straight start. That might be ambitious given the fact he just recently recovered from a knee injury. Johnny Cardoso impressed in his cameo against Wales, and a start, or splitting of the minutes with Adams makes sense against Panama.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

The decision to play Sebastian Lletget as a false nine rather than starting Nicholas Gioacchini or Sebastian Soto was one of the biggest surprises of the Wales lineup. It’s tough to see Berhalter going with a false nine again, so look for Gioacchini to get the nod given the fact he has been playing more consistent minutes heading into this November camp.

On the wings, Tim Weah should get the nod in place of Konrad De La Fuente, while Gio Reyna sees a second straight start. Now, if Berhalter decides to limit Reyna to one start in order to keep him fresh heading back to Borussia Dortmund then Ulysses Llanez could get a nod on the left wing.

What do you think of the proposed lineup? Who would you start against Panama?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. All I know is GB always must do something that makes no sense. Playing people out of position because he knows more than their club coaches.

    If we lose or dont score ….. again…. I really hope that’s the end of this failed experiment and that we get a real coach that is not locked into former players he’s had

    • These types of comments always amaze me, especially since weve seen players club coaches play them in their non traditional roles too,(i.e Reyna, Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Josh Sargent, etc)but I guess the cute and easy thing to do is too consistently make it about Greg because people dont rate him…..copy!

  2. This more who I think will start:
    Subs: Robinson-Dest, Cardoso-Adams, Soto-Nico, Uly-Richie, Weah-Reyna, Lletget-Musah

    • johnny, can I just ask …
      What did you mean when you said Klinsmann might have been right about American fans? (Musah thread)
      You seem to spend a lot of time gathering very in-depth information, which of course we all appreciate, or at least I do. Does everyone else here know and I don’t, whether you’re a broadcaster, reporter, coach, scout, parent, or what? If you don’t mind giving some general indication …
      When you write “Nico,” do you mean Gioacchini? How did you know what nickname he goes by, when most of us had never even heard of him and are still working on pronunciation and spelling? Not that that’s any different with Otasowie or Odunze …
      Thanks for standing up for Ream still occasionally on the roster, if not necessarily as a starter. There must be some reason why the fans and players became so attached to him at Fulham, even if he’s evidently now looking to wind down his career. And the headband & mane seems to show that he’s following Covid guidelines scrupulously …
      On more general topics …
      Why does everyone seem to assume that Brooks can’t play two games, or at least another 60 minutes? If he’s finally fit and has some club time under his belt, maybe carrying on isn’t so bad, and giving him some input into who else he might like to be paired with?
      Why was de la Fuente, if I saw correctly, the only one without a positive message on the back of his warmup jacket? Does he not think about anything but his own first name, which has probably not yet actually reached one-name superstar status, or is that an over-hasty judgment?

      • The Klinsmann reference was that US fans focus on emotion not the actual match tactics or strategy. There are tons of writers and podcasters that breakdown the matches and what went right or wrong but comments on here and other websites are all about Berhalter using too complex of tactics or knows no tactics because he doesn’t line the team up like their HS coach in 1989. Even people who claim to have a lot of experience complain about where someone’s name is positioned on the lineup sheet but ignores where the player actually played on the field. I find that people’s comments over the last four managers have not changed regardless of result. I got the coach I wanted so don’t dare say anything about him or I didn’t get what I want so everything they do is wrong. People didn’t notice Ferreira played as a false 9 in Jan because Llanez was so active and got a goal. They did notice when a Lleget did because Reyna and Konrad didn’t.
        Brooks might start both he just hasn’t in 4 years.
        Scuffed podcast, Total Soccer Show have been on Giaocchini for awhile. Eastdeflection has been posting on here for at least a year on him. Not really sure if he uses the nickname but it’s easier to spell

  3. Yeah it’s a bit of a tough call between trying all the new players or trying to establish some chemistry due to so few games to prepare for next summer. Personally, I would go with building chemistry at this point. Start your best lineup with Cannon in at RB and whoever is the best striker and give it a full half. Then at halftime, sub in the best three who have earned it for three that need rest or coming off injury, etc. Late subs for those who have earned the cameo. Strange times.

  4. I would personally like to see this lineup with Robinson in for Dest and Horvath in for Steffen. I know Robinson was the least of the two fullbacks; but, I don’t think he’s a bad fullback himself. He needs to build into this team the same way he’s built into the Fulham team – where he has established himself over Joe Bryan. I get Ives’s point about getting reps for players who may be used in future; but, doing that now in a weird game against Panama doesn’t seem to necessarily be the occasion.

    • I rate Dest (in a scale of 1-10) a 9 as a RB and 8-7.5 as a LB
      I rate Cannon as 8-7.5 as a RB
      I rate Robinson as 7 as a LB.

      With that in mind, having Dest as LB and Cannon as a RB will actually dilute the FB’s efficience.

  5. 4-3-3 – formation
    LW- Llanez, CF- Soto, RW- Nico
    10-Reyna, 8- Cardoso, 6- Adams
    LB- Dest, CB- Miazga, Richards, RB- Cannon
    GK- Horvath
    Subs- 60’- Otawasie (Adams), 65’- Ledezma (Reyna), 75’ – Weah (Nico), 85’- Musah (Cardoso), 90’-Robinson (Dest)

      • Good info, JR, but I enjoy doing the lineup exercise. No matter what lineup you choose, it looks interesting. Exception – Lleget @ false 9. Not going to criticize, just hoping GB plays players @ their preferred position.

  6. For the love of GOD stop putting Ream into line-ups. The focus at CB should be identifying who is going to partner Brooks once Qualifying starts. To that end start Brooks & Richards…at halftime bring Miazga on for Brooks.

    • Given Brooks injury history you need a back up. We’re pretty short on LCBs so Ream would be one. Long and McKenzie also play there but are not available this time. Richards played there for Bayern II but he’s a much better right side player. Brooks hasn’t played both matches in a window since the debacle of Nov 2016 when we lost to Mexico and Costa Rica.

      • I get that, but Ream is not a solution he’s a liability.
        CCV & EPB can both play LCB….their not being in camp was another failure of Gregg during his player selection.
        I want to see how Richards pairs with Brooks….do they complement each other or will they get in each others way. Giving John another 45 minutes shouldn’t be much risk, and it’ll give all of us a chance to see how the pairing works.

    • Technically any CB can play either side but in the past 8-10 years managers are looking for left footed or at least two footed CB because they’re now being asked to do so much more with the ball.
      EPB has played only as a RCB this season. He played more LCB than R last season. I really thought we’d see him this window. If you watch EPB highlights you’re like wow, but when you watch his all touches you’re sometimes left wondering why he tried that pass. We want to see these guys because we haven’t really seen Erik since SKC but Berhalter’s staff has access to every match.
      CCV almost never plays as a LCB, and given that a Berhalter CB is asked to break lines with passes having Cameron try to make those passes that is not his strength with his weak foot seems a recipe for disaster. He also has not broken into the squad at Bournemouth taking him out for a week for friendlies would not have been helpful.
      Ream is limited severely by his speed but he is good positionally. Where he has struggled with USMNT is when he is paired with other slow defenders and protected by Bradley. Adams in front of him and Richards along side protects his lack of speed. His passing opens up the offense. He’s a place holder for McKenzie who can pass and cover athletic forwards.
      The unknown is always did a club push back and ask for someone not to be called in.

      • Ream is also good for 1 major passing Gaff per game. Yes his positioning is usually fairly good and he can distribute/split lines….but at his age and with the declining skill set we need to stop using him.
        I get that Richards & EPB are primarily RCBs but either could be used in a pinch.
        If the issue is experience than Alvarado should have been brought in. He’s 2 footed, is younger & has more speed than Ream and is nearly as good distributing. Gregg’s reliance on someone like Ream (and it’s sure to be Bradley too) is going to drastically impact this teams ability to play.

    • I think calling in EPB to play LCB and direct the attack with his passing off his weak foot is settling a youngster up for failure. As far as Ream what CB do we have that isn’t good for one bad gaff a game. People use that as an excuse for every CB that has more than 5 caps. Richards has looked really shaky as a LCB in his couple cameos at Bayern and I think it was Half Spaces that did a whole article on why Richards is a weaker LCB after studying multiple Bayern II matches last year. If Brooks is rested, then I want Reams steadying influence with Richards especially in a game that doesn’t count.

    • This is one of the things about Berhalter that makes you question his ability. Ream is old and slow. No way should you take him to a World Cup, nor even any meaningful game unless you are playing a CONCACAF minnow. Ream seems to have lost his job at Fulham; I don’t think he’s played at all in their past 3 games or so.And the US is playing in Austria, so it makes absolutely no sense to not bring in Palmer-Brown. As far as the lineup projected by Ives, I think we should start Soto up top since he has become the bone of contention between us and Chile. Let’s see how he does against a CONCACAF rival.

      • Fulham brought in 2 new CBs doubtful Ream will see much time unless one doesn’t pan out. Plenty good enough against Panama though. Salzburg withheld its players from international duty but I couldn’t find any report of Austria Wien withholding players. Perhaps they worked out a deal to release him for Olympic qualifying, but it is puzzling.

  7. I don’t think Ives is far off. Ledezma and Cannon are scheduled for the pre match presser tomorrow so I think they’ll start. I think Adams goes again but maybe Cardoso gets a longer sub run. Not sure Weah can go 45 minutes he hasn’t gone more 15 to 20 so far this season so maybe Uly.

  8. I would not be against starting essentially the same starting line-up as the Wales game except Gioachinni for Lleget and Cannon in the back line with planned subs at half-time in order to see significant time from other players.

    • 3G said before Wales match he didn’t expect as much turnover from match to match as we’ve seen in previous windows so you might be right. I’d switch Uly for Konrad as well.


Leave a Comment