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Who should the USMNT start vs. Northern Ireland?


The U.S. Men’s National Team will look to carry over the momentum of last week’s 4-1 win against Jamaica with another strong showing against Northern Ireland, and we’ll see many of the same faces start on Sunday.

Gregg Berhalter will have some spots to fill after the departures of John Brooks and Reggie Cannon following the Jamaica match, but there will be several of the same standouts from Thursday featuring once again as the USMNT gets acclimated to the looming challenges of playing multiple matches in a short amount of time in World Cup qualifying.

Here is the lineup we could see take the field against Northern Ireland:

Projected USMNT starting lineup vs. Northern Ireland


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Zack Steffen gets the nod again as expected, but you wonder if Berhalter gives Ethan Horvath a 45-minute runout in the second half.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Moving Sergino Dest to right back and starting Antonee Robinson is the easy move. The real question is in central defense, where the Aaron Long-Matt Miazga tandem reunites. The tandem has the experience edge on Chris Richards for the moment, but Richards should see another 45-minute appearance like he saw against Jamaica, likely partnered with Miazga.

Tim Ream is more a bench option who could spell Robinson if needed, or slide in central defense as a late substitute. Erik Palmer-Brown is another candidate for minutes, though he may still be behind the aforementioned options.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Kellyn Acosta had a strong game against Jamaica and should get the nod in the defensive midfield role once again. We should get to see a good dose of Owen Otasowie off the bench. Palmer-Brown also has experience in the defensive midfield role, as does Christian Cappis.

Brenden Aaronson looked sharp playing on the wing against Jamaica, but look for him to start in a more central role against Northern Ireland. Could Berhalter give Lletget another start to build up his connections with this group? Absolutely, but Aaronson has earned a starting look, and if anything, he should absolutely see a 45-minute shift in the second half.

Yunus Musah should step in and start again, with Luca De La Torre in position to replace him as a second-half substitute.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Daryl Dike might have been a candidate to start before picking up a minor knock last week. That, coupled with Josh Sargent being able to stay for the Northern Ireland match, makes Sargent a good bet to play at least the first 45 minutes, with Jordan Siebatcheu an option for the second half if Dike is unavailable.

On the wings, Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna should get the nods once again, with Aaronson potentially shifting to the wing in the second half.

What do you think of the projected starting lineup? Who are you most excited to see play? Who didn’t make our projection that you hope makes it into the starting lineup?

Share your thoughts below.



  1. id be amazed if GB gets over his man crush on Lletget. We’ll see but I hope so. I think he just jammed up the middle of the field for Sargent and Pulisic. Stick to your position if in today

  2. It should be fun to see all of Pulisic, Reyna, Sargent, Aaronson and Musah all on the field at the same time. When Morris, Dike, Adams, and Mckennis are added to that mix, it will be even more fun. The back line for the US has never been this strong, or this deep. Despite seeing two starters from the last match leave, there are still enough quality defenders that a couple of those available may not get any time.

    At left back, I remember the times when Bocanegra or Ream were used as left back simply because there was no one else. (Both were better in central defense).

  3. This more time on the pitch this group gets to gel in real games against competitive opposition is what matters most. Mix in a few to give them a look but use this time to let the core gel.

    I really want to see how and who gels best with Dest on whichever side he’s playing. Ultimately that goal was a spectacular show of why to keep him invert him. So I think he’s set to play left back, that inverted shot from a LB/wingback is just too deadly to ignore and will open up a lot of space anytime he cuts inside while on the ball like that again.

    Another year of development from Gio and our wings are going be deadly. In the past teams just had to worry about Dempsey or Donovan but now forget about it we’ve got 4-5 guys who can absolutely punish any defensive mistakes.

    If Dike and Gionacchi continue to develop and maybe get a move up in club level imagine having a big target when we need one, won’t always need it but it’s a nice compliment to have available.

    We’re going to have players in this pool who get regular minutes at good European clubs in good leagues who won’t even make the plane for Qatar.

    Honestly can’t remember a time I’ve seen the passing, first touch, possession, triangles, overlaps, off ball runs, and spacing be this good. It’s night and day from the previous generation. It’s like this generation was taught very differently at youth levels. Since most of these kids at least had some time in DA we need to go back and examine what was working and ensure we keep at it. Credit Claudio Reyna I think he was the guy who wrote the DA development/coaching guidelines.

    • The best thing about all this emerging young talent is that we’ll have serious talent coming off the bench as well. It’s looking like we’ll have the ability to establish a real rotation, which should keep players fresh and out of card accumulation during tournament play.
      Yes, we still have some thin/weak spots, but in 30+ years we’ve never had the bench depth in attack we’re likely to have with this generation…especially in the midfield.
      Still need a viable back-up to Adams at the CDM spot & Steffen at GK.
      Still need to finalize who our CFs are…and the pecking order
      Still need to improve our Outside Backs beyond Dest.
      But the talent looks to be out there and gaining experience.

      • Totally agree, I know right.

        A guy like Aaronson he’s for sure moving to a top 5 league soon IMO. Gionachhi had some good moments too I thought. We really have turned the corner on pool talent.

        I just want our Federation to analyze this and learn what worked and repeat that. IMO Da had a major major impact on this generations soccer iq relative to previous generations.

        The gripe euro coaches used to make about Americans was the run hard have a high motor bunt they don’t understand the game which is them saying we didn’t understand things like spacing and positioning. That’s over, this generation has a soccer iq light years ahead of the previous generation.

        I want us to keep pumping out this type talent, something clicked in youth development finally. Now smash the gas pedal and ride it.

      • Here’s a crazy but not out of the question thought.

        Right now Puli might not be our best player, it’s Dest. The crazy part would be that based on our current youth development curve/trajectory there’s a real possibility that by the 2026 WC Puli not even our top 3-4 players. That’s a real possibility with as much talent is pushing thru based on the current curve and rate of change. I want to repeat that DA success and smash the gas pedal on it so we never mean revert.

    • Good stuff Joe Dirt. Nice to see you again. The point about Dest perhaps surpassing Pulisic as our best player is not as outlandish as you think. The argument I’ve seen is that there are really (at most) 5-7 teams in European soccer for whom Dest would not be an automatic starter right now at his position. Hard to say the same for Pulisic in his current circumstance. But that’s just one angle.

      • Gomer, Pulisic is clearly in a slump at the club level but he’s still a massively talented player. I fully expect Christian to turn the corner by using the USMNT to get his mojo back. Lets not forget he was Pulisic was one of the TOP performers in the EPL 2nd half of last season. The change in coaching & tactics has thrown him off a little, but I have every confidence he’ll snap back.
        Still not sure how Gregg is going to approach the congested calendar…is he going to use his “A-Team” for nations league or Gold Cup. If it’s the GC than Pulisic and the rest will have an extended camp to fully gel and run rough shod over COCACAF opponents until we face Mexico.

  4. It’s a friendly. The projection here has too many of the same guys . Play as many of the reserves as possible. I wish Dike could give it a go .

  5. I wouldn’t mind seeing us try 3 in the back with Dest & Robinson as wingbacks.
    Even if we don’t go with 3 in the back Richards should get the start at one of the CB positions. He showed enough in his 45 minutes against Jamaica that it’d bee a good show of faith in him to give him the start.

    • Berhalter apparently hinted we would use 3 in the back. I think we’ll see Dest on the right at least part of the time. I hope Dike is recovered. Other than Dike I don’t really care who is in.

      • The only thing Gregg could do to really hurt our chances of winning this game is if he decides to play Tim Ream. Therefore I expect Gregg will have him in the starting XI…and he’ll be given a full 90.

    • I want pleased when GB was named coach and I’m still not sold. But I have to give him credit for four things 1) he’s correctly gone all in on the youth 2) he’s done well recruiting dual nationals 3) the players seem happy and united 4) we actually have a style of play and it cascades down to the subs and to the U23s.

      • jbd – Have o disagree on your first point. Gregg started off going with the “OLD” Guard…and he’s still consistently calling/using some of them. Ream is a prime example. Ream doesn’t play for his club side, is 33 yrs old and yet he still gets call-ups & starts ahead of Richards, EPB, CCV.
        Yes, Gregg has apparently finally dropped Bradley & Jozy…but I wouldn’t put it past him to call them once qualifications start.

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