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Who should the USMNT start vs. Trinidad and Tobago?


The U.S. Men’s National Team kicks off a busy 2021 on Sunday with a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago, and as much as the January camp has featured plenty of young faces due to the inclusion of an Under-23 component, we should see a veteran lineup in the year’s first match.

Gregg Berhalter whittled down his camp squad, choosing the Under-23 prospects he felt earned a look as part of the full senior team. How many of those youngsters really boosted their stock will be revealed on Sunday, when we see which of them finds their way onto the field, and even into the starting lineup.

There are some veterans who have made their way back to the team after being away for a good while, including Jozy Altidore, who is facing an improving crop of contenders for the throne of starting USMNT striker. He doesn’t appear ready to give up the throne just yet, and the Florida native will be back in his home state to make his case for continuing as Berhalter’s first-choice striker.

Who will start against Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday? Here is the lineup we could see take the field:

Projected USMNT XI vs. Trinidad & Tobago


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Matt Turner is the veteran in the group and should start against Trinidad and Tobago. Sean Johnson’s departure from camp opens the door for Turner to make his USMNT debut, a well-earned one after the impressive season he had with the New England Revolution.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

The centerback options are pretty clearcut, with veterans Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman the obvious choices, but you have to wonder whether Miles Robinson was able to show enough in camp to close the gap on those two. Robinson is clearly a top option in the U.S. Under-23 setup, and as much as he is coming off a somewhat disappointing 2020, he remains a top prospect at the position.

Julian Araujo was a late arriver in camp, so you wonder whether he will get the nod at right back, or whether Berhalter will instead go with Kyle Duncan or Aaron Herrera. Duncan and Herrera are coming off impressive MLS seasons and you have to think one of them gets the start.

At left back, Sam Vines should be the starter, and his good showing a year ago in January camp bodes well for him making the most of another opportunity. Atlanta United teenager George Bello is also in the mix, and is a candidate for his first cap.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Veterans Sebastian Lletget and Cristian Roldan are safe bets to get the nods in the dual playmaker roles, while Jackson Yueill should be deployed as the defensive midfielder in the central midfield triangle.

Kellyn Acosta has worked his way back into the national team picture, and should get some minuets, while recent USMNT addition Andres Perea is an intriguing defensive midfield prospect who should also receive some minutes playing in his home stadium in Orlando.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Jozy Altidore gets the nod at striker, though a split of the match to give Daryl Dike his 45 minutes in the role feels likely.

On the wing, Chris Mueller should start on the right, with Paul Arriola deployed on the left wing.

What do you think of the projected lineup? Who would you like to see get a chance to start against Trinidad and Tobago?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. not sure people are grasping that this is not an abstracted jozy debate, that such callups are building someplace, and that if he gets a roster spot, we see zardes + jozy + “one,” which means only one out of sargent hoppe nico soto akinola dike etc. CAN EVEN MAKE THE ROSTER. with piles of goals between them. so that we can carry the Veteran Scoring Machine with 2 goals this MLS season and 1 goal this cycle. we have kids who have 2 goals in 10 minutes of time. sorry, to me, this is like if bradley made the team ahead of adams and other 6 options. yes, jozy was once a pretty good striker — not anymore. let the pretty good strikers now have their time.

    • also not sure if people are acknowledging that when you call in jozy plus dike, what will happen under GB is jozy gets 70-80 minutes, dike gets a cameo sub, and dike could score 2 goals in his 10 minutes and it won’t matter. and as i said, when they get the “A” choice players together, you’ll see it’s zardes jozy and probably sargent. and even on sargent it won’t matter if some other euro-noob has 10 goals, sargent got there first. i even kind of like sargent but it’s just the game is being set up where it’s not really about the best performing players in the shirt, it’s the veterans he likes plus the first of the age group players to bust in.

  2. to change the discussion point i also think the mids and long are unnecessary. roldan is a waste, the rest should be rested for a busy year. the only “regular” who has something to prove is arriola, because of the knee. the rest you should already know “well” or know “better than that.” lletget is already kind of the supersub. what does one more winter cap add, and is it worth risking him breaking again before we need him in the summer.

  3. CF goals this cycle

    Zardes 6
    Sargent 5
    Wood 3
    Nico 2
    Soto 2
    Ramirez 1
    Green 1
    Akinola 1
    Jozy 1

    just curious what about that list makes people think that jozy is productive or necessary. “We’re getting nothing from 9, call Jozy back up.” memory serves it was the opposite. he couldn’t produce to keep the job despite having it handed him and zardes for a whole tournament. he got 5 caps in summer 2019 and gave us 1 goal. refer to the list.

    • Can we be honest about Wood? In March of 2019 Wood had a knee injury that caused him to miss the last three months of the season. He was not available for Gregg to call up that March or for the GC. Since then he’s appeared just 19 times in 1 1/2 seasons scoring 0g and having 1a. He’s only played over 60 minutes once in 22 months, the idea that physically he’s the same player as he was in 2017 and 2018 is false.

      • ok, so you turned a list of several forwards ahead of Jozy on the scoresheet into an ad for wood? my point here is if we are turning to jozy as the veteran goalscorer that’s a myth. he has one goal this cycle and we have several others with more or as many as him. wood has come back to MLS where he will get played, and we will find out if he’s broken down or merely out of use. one hopes horvath and perhaps green make the same choice.

  4. Re: Jozy. I think the conversation is a little over the top. And I am NOT a Jozy fan.

    Sports isn’t all Xs and Os. Players are people. Don’t know where Jozy’s head is right now but for sake of argument I’ll assume he’s a contributor to the culture the USMNT wants to create.

    Young players need to see that the team honors years of service. They need to hear from guys who have lived the life, enjoyed the good moments and held up through the injuries and failures. We don’t currently have a lot of role models for the young guys. If Jozy helps with that, great.

    And let’s remember. We’re not playing Germany here. Starting Jozy doesn’t stop us from winning. We have a full slate of games coming up. Young guys will have plenty of opportunity for meaningful minutes.

    Cut Greg some slack.

    • “Over the top?” Really. He had 2g 1a this past season. Off my Dynamo Maynor Figueroa had that many goals from center back. Nico Hansen had the same numbers. Ariel Lassiter had 3 goals. And we suck. What’s the idea, that he does it for the Nats instead? Nope. He has 5 caps and 1 solitary goal this cycle. And the whole offense funnels to the 9! There being no real productivity justification for his participation, we have to pretend he’s a leader. He has been captain as often as Tim Ream. He is not particularly reknowned as a work ethic guy who might teach expectations by example.
      I could understand the nostalgia reflex if we had tried CF options and found them lacking. Reality is the opposite. If we stick the kids out there everyone produces. If we feel duty bound to run out a veteran — Jozy, Zardes, Lletget — we struggle.
      I also think the people thinking the Old Guard has a basis to lecture the kids seem to forget how Russia qualifying went. The notion that the older players have something to pass on usually derives from past success. What exactly do “2018” people have to teach? And Jozy was routinely hurt on the biggest stage. This is not Landon.

      • short of bringing back bradley or ben sweat it’s about the dumbest decision we could be making. we handed him hundreds of gold cup minutes and he had one goal and we finished second. the gold cup was a huge hint that incremental change will be insufficient, as if not qualifying in 2018 behind many of these vets shouldn’t be big enough a hint by itself. if you want any chance to compete with mexico you have to keep churning the roster. if you want to finish second to mexico in qualifying then have at it, pretend like he’s our secret veteran weapon in spite of his recent productivity drought for the US and Toronto.

  5. Historical refresher — 2018 the dominant strikers for Sarachan were Wood then Sargent. In 2019 GB comes in, drops Wood and Sargent. Cuts Sargent from Gold Cup. Joey and Zardes struggle in Gold Cup, Sargent becomes first team, Sargent is brought back. Sargent produces in Nations League. A series of kids then show up and perform in 2020. Exception being Lletget as 9. Who is back on the NT? Jozy and Lletget. Hopefully Lletget is a mid this time. But my point is that after all we have been through I fully expect GB to be still looking to play Zardes and Jozy like Gold Cup didn’t happen. Like 2018 and 2020 didn’t happen. Why do we play the games if the coach forces the result anyway?

    • I can answer your question. This is not an international date so Berhalter is greatly limited on who is available. All the good young players are busy in Europe.

      • Your caveat here is “good.” Like 2g 1a Jozy was any good. They let Akinola go play for Canada — that’s one right there. They could make a run at Shinyashiki. Same fixtures last two years we had Ramirez and Ferreira central and both were dangerous. But that would be acting like how they play the games matters. When we know Jozy has the better reputation…..

      • what are you shaking your head at? ramirez had the capper in the very same 2019 january friendly. ferreira and llanez dominated the 2020 january camp game. but they’re not good enough for 2021? shinyashiki outscored jozy this year and was rookie of the year in 2019. i gather they do not compete with jozy’s historic reputation but jozy is no longer jozy on the field.

    • GB is not the right coach for this team. I do not trust that he will ever bring many of the young guys and WILL carry Jozy, and Bradley. Jozy and Bradley are finished. Most see it but who knows if GB sees it? He thinks Arriola, Roldan and Lletget are international quality. They arent. GB even carried Wil Trapp for way too long until it was obvious he wasnt good enough either. Wil was traded to Miami and now has been moved from Miami to the Loons. Funny how an “International” level player in GBs eyes cant seem to stick anywhere. My worst fear is that GB will start an MLS based team come qualifying time and we end up sitting home again

  6. Ives is usually tapped into what the coach will actually do.

    I would do something like

    arriola dike mueller
    acosta perea araujo
    bello robinson zimmerman duncan

    is there a reason Miller isn’t there? both he and turner have earned a shot but miller is better on paper and has been dutifully waiting in camp as a third keeper before.

    the midfield is pretty tepid stuff and basically designed to get the veterans on the field, who we pretty much already know what to expect.

  7. i think arriola needs to be there because he was knee knacked and we need to see if he is up to snuff to play international ball this year. i don’t understand the various veterans because we learn nothing new and it’s going to be a busy fixture year. reality is jozy roldan yueill long etc. could play well or badly and we will probably see them again later on. so what does this do other than chase results. i would prefer to see more of the miller/ mueller type players, domestically productive, been in camp, perhaps had a decent cap, but not gotten a string of games to prove themselves. i think friendlies are more useful as testing grounds and learning places, and less useful chasing results. to me the worst possible outcome here is jozy and roldan do something in a blowout of a weak opponent and we get confused about what they offer. cause the thing is if you ran out kids it might still be 4-0 but you’re learning something new instead of overrating something old.

  8. jozy had like 2g 1a his whole last pro season in MLS. he had 1 goal in all of gold cup and none in t he knockouts. you have a whole set of kids producing in friendlies. it is time for the transition. if you wanted a dark horse veteran with some qualifying or world cup history, it would be someone more like AJ or wood, both of whom have scored on good teams in qualifiers, and AJ lit up sweden last season, and Wood had 3 goals for the Nats in 2018 when they bothered to call him. personally i say go with the kids, but if you’re seeking an Old Reliable Veteran, at this point, that would be more subtle and not jozy. jozy was auditioned for that role in 2019 and did little with it. or do people forget zardes and jozy and finishing second in that tournament whose first half of the final we dominated, but we couldn’t actually score.

    like i said, personally, you have a pile of sargents and hoppes and sotos and muellers and nicos and morrises and reynas and on and on, why do you need a 30+ vet whose value is more nostalgic than productive. use the kids and you have a long qualifying run to test out which ones are ready for prime time.

  9. Stating the obvious: The wheels are and have been falling off JA’s chasis for quite some time. No shame in that…. he had a lot of years of good service, has a heaps of miles… was somewhat tender even in his prime. Time to get the players who will need to be there in qualifying going now. Games like this are precisely made to allow them take their lumps with nothing at stake. The version of player who is our top striker exists only in memories.

    • the problem is the coach decides a lot of this on paper before a ball is kicked, and on paper the kids are risks despite being goal-productive in friendlies, and jozy on paper is your veteran reliable, despite the fact he has like 3 goals in the last 4 years for the NT, which isn’t better than bobby wood and is worse than about every other CF who gets to regularly start eg sargent. part of the problem here is we remain too much about theoretical pecking orders or resume-reading-contests as opposed to who actually does well when they play for the NT. if performance was the test you have kids sitting around who play 10 minutes and get a brace. you should be pointed that way and excited, not pointing backwards and scared.

      this is one of my fears on GB is he will burn this cycle using some older players and the 2026 bunch won’t get fully tapped until that cycle is actually here and the jozy/zardes/bradley/guzan bunch actually retires and removes the choice from him. at which point the kids are older and even if we call them kids, he has no other choice.

    • to me if you pointed towards the young talent and found a defense, this could be an interesting team and maybe even lead regional qualifying this time. if you lean backwards, i think we’re no better than 2nd place behind mexico, and we will have to work harder to qualify. i don’t think GB can blow it — there is too much talent — but i think he can drag out the transition, make us worse this time, and reduce the window for the 2026 generation to shine. i don’t get this attitude where they would rather try and squeeze a pre-squeezed orange for any juice left than try the kids. like you’re saying, the kids are all upside and they’re over-stating what jozy and co. are good for anymore. it makes a certain kind of coach or fan feel warm and fuzzy, but i prefer cold numbers of goals in the net. this team is run way too much on reputation, nostalgia, and sentiment. how about, do you do the job or not. like that it says something some of these guys got run out and we tied wales B 0-0.

  10. Unfortunately Ives projected roster is also what I expect to see Gregg selecting for the starting XI. I say unfortunately, because I think it’s very short sighted to give valuable minutes to the following parts…
    1) Jozy – I agree when healthy, fit, and motivated he’s probably one of our top striker options. However, he hasn’t been healthy, fit and/or motivated in years. I have ZERO confidence that he’ll magically become all 3 and remain so through WCQ and the WC. Therefore it’s time to move on. Give the Minutes to Dike.
    2) Roldan – He may be a great locker-room guy, but time and again he’s shown he’s not international quality. Gregg released all the other options that were in camp that I would have preferred to see so I’d give the start to Perea (able to play the 8) then bring Roldan on to close out he game and move Perea back to the 6 roll…subbing Yueill out late.
    3) Long/Zimmerman – Neither have impressed me, and Gregg has tried very few CBs. I’d therefore start Miles Robinson and if he fails to perform bring on whichever one of Long/Zimmerman isn’t starting.

    Not sold on Vines but I’m fine with it as long as Bello gets a chance. Duncan & Araujo are a coin-toss IMO, Either is fine.

    • Yueill played the second half the season as an 8 for SJ so you could play him as an 8 and start Perea. Roldan doesn’t excite me either but he does out perform all the other CM in camp in the same league so it’s hard to argue against him with this group.

      • I forgot that Tesseman was still in camp…so maybe he plays the 8 or 6 with Lletget & Perea. Just don’t want to see Roldan get another start where Gregg can have an excuse for his inclusion in the future.

    • i would like to see them develop a 6 sub who can defend like adams. i don’t see yeuill as useful in games other than “punch down” affairs we should already win. what we need is a tackling 6 who could help us win the contested matches. so i’d rather see perea and co.
      i agree on defense and am particularly concerned that we have made little effort to demand performance and identify a starting 4 and 8 man squad who can defend well. i think the offense will be good when everyone is gathered. i think the defense, if tested, is potentially vulnerable. i would feel more comfortable if we were trialing fresh faces and looking hard for marking skills. too much emphasis is being placed on the offensive capacity of the defense. like we might not ever have to play two ways. but again the whole premise seems to be to send the team into hyperdrive “punching down” but not particularly thinking how we will change results like colombia, brazil, england, mexico — games where we will need defense as well.

      • you want a back up 6, and you dont like Roldan. IV pull your head out. You dont like Roldan because they play him out of position. As a 6, he is VERY good.
        As a right mid in a 4-2-3-1, I dont like him and I am a huge fan.

      • you want a back up 6, and you dont like Roldan. IV pull your head out. You dont like Roldan because they play him out of position. As a 6, he is VERY good.
        As a right mid in a 4-2-3-1, yeah I dont like him and I am a huge fan.

      • TM lists him as playing more RM and CM than DM in club. if he can play DM, fine. but the problem is if he is typecast as a RF/RM sub then he’s squeezing out an actual attacker and not solving 6, and we need someone in GB will play as a 6. i wouldn’t doubt that a lot of the NT problems are players played out of position eg Reyna Musah. GB gets cute but doesn’t get results. to me getting results is the prerequisite to being allowed to get cute. otherwise run people out where they play in club and get out of the talent’s way.

  11. The biggest problem is that this is a very weak team and GB will throw all his MLS players at them. Hard to look bad in this game. Will give GB the ammo he needs to carry a lot of the more marginal ones going forward

      • Panama was slightly more competitive IMO. The game took place on a FIFA date which allowed them the opportunity to select whatever players they wanted. Where as the T&T game will exclude any of their players who happen to play in Europe.
        The difference may be marginal, but even a couple of Euro players tips the scales.

    • Lost: I don’t know who TNT will bring but they don’t really have European players currently. Their final NL matchup they had one guy who played in Belgium a little but he doesn’t have a team listed for this year. Panama had a Euro based lineup but with the exception of Murillo they were all from lower division teams and generally were reserves without first team minutes. Hopefully we’ll get some better matchups in Europe in March. Serbia played to a 0-0 draw with the Dominican Republic over the weekend so I don’t think they would have provided much of a test either.

    • I can’t beef about “MLS” because it’s a January game, off the international schedule, in the middle of a pandemic. But I do feel like he puts his thumb on the scales. He starts the same people over and over, doesn’t respond much to sub performances, and his subs tend to be 10-20 minutes like a real game as opposed to some 45’ swaps like we have historically done in friendlies. 45-45 you are sincerely giving the players equal time to make a case, and watching who plays better. To me when you favor the 70-80’ guys the real decisions are being made on spreadsheets and in practice and not at the games. My POV was always the opposite — if you can’t do it in a game it didn’t happen.

    • i do think the soft schedule of the past year and change, as well as the potential for GB to revert to the “zardes” of the world, as well as the soft defense, means it will be interesting how the games go for Nations League and qualifying. i think with our offense it would be hard to miss qatar. i think we may get a wake up call about the defense. the former is evident from recent results. the latter is being hidden by the soft schedule — but we should already have been warned by how mexico 3-0 or canada went.

  12. Why give valuable playing time to Altidore, an aging player past his prime, instead of younger players? I can’t imagine Altidore meaningfully contributing this cycle of games, which are just friendlies. And does anyone really think he can change a game at World Cup level? The last meaningful game I saw him in he just complained to the ref a lot. Crappy attitude and one I don’t want in my Yankee team. There has to be better options…

    • Not sure I disagree, but to be fair Altidore is the only player in camp that can say he has “changed a game at World Cup level”. His goal against Spain (number 1 team in world at the time) in the Confed semi is what comes immediately to mind. If he is fit, healthy, (and motivated…) he is still probably our 2nd best striker.

    • Right now, the USMNT has a clear-cut choice for striker, so this is likely an effort to find a stopgap measure until the player pool gets a bit. Dike is likely being groomed the replacement.

    • Sorry, I’ve seen Jozy score on Spain when we beat them 2-0 in the Confeds Cup back in ’09; I saw Jozy roasting England’s CB’s in the World Cup in 2010; I have seen Jozy get it done many times since then.

      Is he getting older? Yes. Is he a world-beater? No. But you’ll have some convincing to do before you convince me it’s time to wholly let go of Altidore. The guy is just 31 years old and his game was never built around speed anyway; we’ve seen other big strikers like Drogba and Zlatan – who admittedly are a planet ahead of Jozy – last until they were close to 40.

      I’d frankly be a little surprised if he wasn’t on the plane to Qatar. Do we have two big strikers who can beat him out?

      • look, i get the idea of bringing back a somewhat productive veteran to cynically run out as the devil you know instead of kids we’re in the process of trialing. however, the reality is jozy had ONE FREAKING GOAL in four gold cup caps, including 64′ in a final we lost to mexico 1-0, where even one goal gets us to OT or PKs. he had no goals in the knockout round. so you’re bringing in a player because you are risk averse but who doesn’t actually produce much anymore. unlike bradley he is not played far enough back to literally cost us games, but sorry, when we have kids coming out of the woodwork getting 2-3 goals in their first caps, and jozy can’t score in gold cup, you aren’t getting your cynical veteran boost, you are holding us back. time to transition.

  13. Don’t disagree that this is what will be the starting XI. But, not very excited about it. Would have preferred to see more of the U23s to see what they can do.
    I don’t care as much about winning / losing as I am to see what some of these U23 players can do
    3 players I would like to see starting:
    Miles Robinson – he would have either Long/Zimmerman as a partner
    Andres Perea – he would have 2 experienced midfield partners in Lletget and Roldan
    Dike – he would have 2 experienced wide forwards in Arriola and Mueller

  14. It is hard to see it going much different to this and Ives noted those options of Robinson, Araujo, Dike, and Bello. Berhalter mentioned having to back Jozy off last week so he may not be fit for even a full 45. It’s not a real exciting roster but when is January camp very exciting. I don’t see many of these guys being involved in the proposed March European friendlies.

    • I think you could run these veterans out there and win 4 or 6 to 0. But I think you could run the kids out there and get less predictable performances — learn something — and basically the same result. My concern is GB will run the veterans out there, predictably throttle a weaker TnT side we already whooped at Gold Cup, and then act like the veterans proved something. This is more like Panama or ES — if we DON’T bash TnT something is wrong. At least if the kids go out and blow TnT off the field we learn that the myth we need the veterans around “in case” goes away, because the kids can get the same result. To me the problem is we already had the Mexico Gold Cup final that should have proved the veterans aren’t impactful if they have a real contest. I’d rather spend time on players I don’t already have that negative read on this cycle.

    • i mean, to me, the Panama and ES results showed you could send the kids out there against second tier regional opposition and get results same as the veterans did at gold cup. and the difference is i know if i put roldan and jozy and co. out there in a mexico game i know we lose now. they already did twice. the ones i don’t know that on are the kids. i do not get pretending like the gold cup subs did ok then or are our best options now. that if jozy or roldan goes in good things happen. they got several 2019 games and it didn’t. by the end of NL we’d pivoted to a younger, different set. are we really going to revert back and pretend mexico and canada didn’t happen?


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