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Who should the USMNT start vs. Jamaica

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Gregg Berhalter has assembled what is arguably the most exciting collection of young talent the U.S. Men’s National Team program has ever brought together into one camp, but don’t assume that means we will see mostly kids for Thursday’s friendly against Jamaica.

Berhalter has long targeted the March friendlies as prep for the Nations League and a change to bring together his preferred lineup in at least one of the two matches. John Brooks and Reggie Cannon are only around for the Jamaica match, meaning that should be our chance for a more veteran group.

When Berhalter brought in MLS players Aaron Long, Kellyn Acosta and Sebastian Lletget it was seen as a bit of a surprise, but Long and Lletget are players he trusts, and in the running for Nations League starting roles, while Kellyn Acosta has come in as the most experienced defensive midfield option in the camp, and a player coming off an outstanding 2020 MLS season.

And what of the new blood, the exciting youngsters? We could have to watch for the Northern Ireland friendly to see some of those players.

So what will the USMNT lineup for Thursday’s friendly look like? Here’s the lineup we could see take the field, and why:

Projected USMNT XI vs. Jamaica


GOALKEEPER

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Zack Steffen. Enough said.


DEFENDERS

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Reggie Cannon, Aaron Long, John Brooks, Sergino Dest

All the footage out of USMNT camp showed Dest operating as a left back, which means he and Cannon should reprise their role as Berhalter’s first-choice fullback tandem. That leaves out Antonee Robinson for now, but Robinson should start against Northern Ireland.

The same can be said in central defense, where John Brooks and Aaron Long should get the nod together. Chris Richards is a top-notch prospect, and he’s now earning regular starters on loan with Hoffenheim, but with just one cap under his belt he’s probably not in Berhalter’s starting centerback plans for Nations League.


MIDFIELDERS

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Kellyn Acosta, Yunus Musah, Brenden Aaronson

Yunus Musah is a lock to start, and nobody will be surprised by that, but it’s the rest of the midfield that has several questions in the absence of Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams.

Kellyn Acosta is the only experienced defensive midfielder on the roster, and as much as Owen Otasowie is an enticing prospect, Berhalter isn’t giving him the keys to the midfield.

The other attacking midfield role goes to Brenden Aaronson, who is in good form with Red Bull Salzburg. Berhalter very well could go with a veteran in Sebastian Lletget, who could project as a Nations League starter, but Aaronson’s form makes him hard to ignore, and his ability to move and combine could work well next to Pulisic and Musah.


FORWARDS

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos


Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Gio Reyna

It has been 16 months since we saw Pulisic with the USMNT, which means this will be his first chance to play with Gio Reyna. They’ll work opposite wings, and it should be fun to see them interchange and float centrally looking for gaps in the Jamaican defense while also serving up chances for Josh Sargent.

Daryl Dike’s loan at Barnsley has gone amazingly well, but nobody should be expecting him to leapfrog Sargent for the top striker spot. Sargent enters the March friendlies in good form and he will be looking to cement his starter status for the Nations League and beyond.

Look for us to see Dike against Northern Ireland, along with a debut for Jordan Siebatcheu.


What do you think of this projected lineup? Who are you most excited to see play? Who isn’t in our projected that you would have made a starter?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. I have to be honest in that I find Berhalter’s lineup choices to be baffling. Here’s what he’s gone with: DEF Brooks, Long, Dest, Cannon MID Musah, Lletget, Acosta FWD Sargent, Reyna, Pulisic BENCH Robinson, Aaronson, De la Torre, Richards, etc. etc. I have no idea why you start two pre-season form MLS midfielders in Acosta, who hasn’t been a national team caliber player in years, and Lletget who you’ve already seen plenty of. I also have no idea why you start Long who, when at his best nearly three years ago was a solid player for us, has been out of form for his MLS club over the last couple of seasons and is now out of season form since MLS hasn’t been playing. Berhalter has said over and over that these players (Aaronson, Richards, etc.) are young and need more experience. If you don’t see the importance of putting them out against the Reggae Boyz in a no-stakes friendly while the other more experienced players are working to full fitness, what on earth should lead us to believe that you’re going to trust them against Mexico or Canada or better competition in a knock out round or a qualification match? Ridiculous. Berhalter has more talent at his disposal and playing impactful soccer abroad than any other manager in US Men’s Soccer history ever has, and he seems determined to throw bones to the average guys who haven’t done much in years while playing in MLS just to make it seem like they’re not being left behind (maybe there’s another reason for it, but given the lineup choice for such a low stakes match, I can’t see it).

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  2. Everyone go out in your street and ask the first ten people you see “what is the Nations League”. A few will guess the DC comics thing (that was the “Justice League”) and a few will think you’re talking about the “League of Nations” which was a predecessor to the UN after world war I. Nobody knows or cares about this soccer tournament, which is just a series of bad friendlies with licensing contracts. Why we optimize for it is beyond me. There is one tournament that matters and can change the trajectory of soccer in the US, and that is the World Cup, and we are in the rare, lucky situation that we have two of them in scope right now due to the age of our player pool. We need to get our best young team together and keep them playing as a unit for 10 years.

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  3. Actually, Aaronson sometimes played DM for the Union and did well there, but he still has some growing to do to become more physical. He would not be an impossible choice for DM. That would open another spot for an attacking mid. But, it is likely that Lieget would take up that spot. So, like Ives says, Acosta is the likely choice for starting DM.

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  4. You are probably right about what Berhalter will do, but the logic is faulty. How is the experience that Acosta has from years ago when he an above average mls midfielder when the league was decidedly weaker, so beneficial that we will leave An extremely talented young man like Otawasoie on the bench, FOR A FRIENDLY. Kris Richards is going to be an outstanding player. He already is playing a a higher level (skill and competition) than Aaron Long has ever played, and we want to play Long because he is “trustworthy”. i get we want to prep for Nations League, but this is the best experience a kid can get, because he will play with the guys who will be playing in the big games, against a decent opponent, and the results MEAN NOTHING. i hate the way we overemphasize sucky experience.

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    • I thought Otowosie was more of an attacking midfielder so, in this lineup, it’s Aaronson and/or Musah who are ahead of him, not Acosta.

      In fact, looking at the roster, we really don’t have any pure defensive midfielders other than Acosta (maybe Cappis? I don’t really know where he plays).

      I guess you could play a 3 man midfield of Musah, Aaronson and Otowosie. It’s only a friendly, and it might be fun to watch a purely offensive midfield playing behind Pulisic, Reyna and Sargent. But it might also get ugly, and it’s not a formation we’ll ever use in a game that counts.

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      • Well, I checked and the internet says Otasowie is a defensive midfielder, I stand corrected. I think the only time I saw him play for Wolves was when they threw him on at the end of the game in need of a goal, and he had a wide open header that he put over the bar. I thought he typically played more forward.

    • The last game I saw Richards play, about a week ago, he was responsible for a give-away that cost a goal and coughed up the ball at least two more times that were not punished. He looked nothing like an international fullback in that game, though he did serve up one great ball that resulted in a goal for his side, so there is some potential, but if it were my decision, I would not trust him defensively yet.

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  5. .
    Ives, is that really you posting from the hospital, or are you already better? Respekt — but please, don’t overdo it yet with that Covid.
    .
    I was happy to hear that the TV guys gave you a brief shoutout yesterday. I hope you know that many of us are still thinking of you. (-:
    .
    Since you ask … I think that if any of us could have imagined a lineup this strong a couple of years ago, people would have said we were dreaming.
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    That said, I hope they can actually play together and communicate, and avoid stupid mistakes.
    .

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