The first U.S. Men’s National Team match in almost 10 months is set for Thursday and Gregg Berhalter has a very young roster to choose from as he gets his first chance to look at several of the top prospects in the USMNT pipeline.
With a total of 10 uncapped players in camp, Berhalter is going to give some players their long-awaited debuts, such as Gio Reyna, who is arguably the most exciting prospect to ever make their USMNT debut.
Reyna is a safe bet to start on Thursday, but what other newcomers might Berhalter turn to in order to fill out his lineup?
Here is a look at the starting lineup we could see against Wales:
Zack Steffen is your top choice in goal, and the only real question in these November friendlies is whether Berhalter will get Ethan Horvath some minutes. The Panama friendly is a better bet for a Horvath sighting.
The biggest position battle is at fullback, where Berhalter has three top choices for two spots. Reggie Cannon and Sergino Dest are your frontrunners to start at fullback, but Antonee Robinson is going to make a strong case for breaking into that tandem. It’s a safe bet we will see Robinson start in one of the two November friendlies, but for Wales we are more likely to see Cannon at right back and Dest at left back.
In central defense, John Brooks is a lock to start as the left-footed centerback if he is healthy. If he isn’t, then Tim Ream would get the nod. The battle at right centerback is between Matt Miazga and USMNT newcomer Chris Richards. Miazga has the experience edge and is the better bet to start, but Richards is the future of the centerback position for the USMNT so Berhalter is sure to give him some minutes in these November friendlies, and likely a start.
Will Christian Pulisic be fit enough to start? It is probably a bit ambitious to expect him to jump into the starting lineup considering he has been sidelined in recent weeks with a hamstring injury, but if he is fit then he is the first name on Berhalter’s team sheet, even if he just makes a 45-minute appearance.
(UPDATED- Christian Pulisic has withdrawn from the squad due to injury)
Who will Berhalter call on now that Pulisic won’t play? Sebastian Lletget is the most experienced option and fits in well as a more attack-minded partner next to Weston McKennie, who is a lock. Lletget is in form and match fit, having just completed his MLS season. Yunus Musah is another good candidate for the role. Though he isn’t playing in central midfield for Valencia, Musah has been starting regularly and should be sharp enough to start, though the Panama friendly might be the better bet for him to start in.
Tyler Adams is back with the USMNT for the first time in 20 months and he should be penciled in as the starting defensive midfielder in Berhalter’s central triangle.
Richie Ledezma and Johnny Cardoso are also good options to consider coming off the bench, with Cardoso the next best option in defensive midfield behind Adams. Since it is unlikely we see Adams go a full 90 minutes, Cardoso is a good bet to make a second-half appearance, with Ledezma coming in for Lletget and Musah replacing McKennie.
Josh Sargent’s absence creates an opportunity for one of the forwards in camp, and the battle is between Sebastian Soto and Nicholas Goiacchini. We will give Soto the edge given his familiarity with the squad, having been teammates with several players in camp on the 2019 U.S. Under-20 World Cup squad, but Berhalter is high on Goiacchini so he can’t be ruled out as a good option.
On the wings, Gio Reyna should be locked into the left wing role, where he should have the freedom to dictate the attack. He will have license to roam, and interchange with the attacking midfielders, so don’t expect Reyna to just stay locked into one side of the field.
The right wing is really up for grabs, with Tim Weah and Konrad De La Fuente both good options. Weah probably has the edge due to the fact he has been earning regular minutes for Lille, even if only in limited spots off the bench. Berhalter could be tempted to start Musah on the right wing, especially after seeing him perform well in the roll this past weekend against Real Madrid.
What do you think of the proposed lineup? Who would you start against Wales?
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