The U.S. Men’s National Team will play its final match of 2020 on Wednesday night, and while the lineup that takes the field at Inter Miami CF Stadium is far from a first-choice squad, it should give Gregg Berhalter some opportunity to look at prospects talented enough to break through in 2021.
The MLS-heavy contingent consists of several new faces, and several players coming off career years, such as Mark McKenzie and Chris Mueller, who stepped up on successful teams to post some of the best seasons in the league.
Berhalter also has some dual national considerations to make when selecting starters, knowing how much experiences playing for the USMNT can factor into a player’s decision to choose to play for the United States.
Who will Berhalter start on Wednesday? Here is a lineup we could see against El Salvador:
Projected USMNT XI vs. El Salvador
Bill Hamid is the easy choice, with the younger options in the camp unlikely to get a nod this time around.
The toughest decision Berhalter has to make is in central defense, where he has three leading options for two spots. We will give the nod to Walker Zimmerman and Mark McKenzie for having had two of the best seasons in MLS in 2020, and also because both have had fewer opportunities in the past than Aaron Long. With McKenzie potentially making a transfer move this winter that would keep him from taking part in the January camp, having a look at him in a start on Wednesday makes sense.
At right back, Berhalter can go with Julian Araujo or Kyle Duncan. As much as you can argue Duncan had the better season at right back in MLS play, Araujo’s dual national status could make it enticing for Berhalter to want to give him the start to help his decision-making process.
Sam Vines gets the nod at left back over the inexperienced Marco Farfan.
Jackson Yueill is a late-arriving player but he should get the call in the defensive midfield role, while Brenden Aaronson and Sebastian Lletget are safe bets to lock into starting roles.
The only question there is whether Berhalter might deploy Aaronson or Lletget in a wide role and slot in Djorde Mihailovic in an attacking midfield role. Of course, Mihailovic could also work wide if Berhalter needs him to.
It’s tough to envision Berhalter calling in Soto from Europe to not have a look at him in a starting role, though his presence alongside intriguing striker prospects Ayo Akinola and Daryl Dike makes you wonder if we might see a two-forward setup at some point. (UPDATE- Dike will miss the match with an injury)
On the wings, Chris Mueller should get one of the starts, while Paul Arriola is a logical choice, assuming he is fully fit and capable of handling a starting role.
What do you think of this lineup? Who is missing from the projected lineup that you would start? Who are you happy to see listed?
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