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Who should the USMNT start vs. Switzerland?

The U.S. Men’s National Team will play four matches in the next two weeks, in a whirlwind schedule meant to simulate the congested World Cup qualifying schedule that awaits in the fall.

Does that mean Gregg Berhalter is about to trot out a full-strength lineup over and over again? Obviously not, and the understanding that a congested schedule means leaning on squad depth will turn the upcoming schedule into a perfect opportunity to take a closer look at a broader pool of players to see where players stand head of qualifying in September.

It might seem wasteful not to play the strongest possible lineup against a team as solid as Switzerland on Sunday, but with a trophy to play for next week in Denver, and two games in four days, with a potential final against Mexico, it’s a safe bet Berhalter will want his best XI locked and loaded for the matches in Denver. Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen are busy with the UEFA Champions League final anyway, so it isn’t as if the USMNT could deploy its strongest possible lineup anyway.

The good news for USMNT fans is that this squad has arguably more depth than ever before, and a projected second-choice lineup would still be formidable, with several in-form players, and a squad loaded with players coming off good seasons.

There are also some Nations League lineup decisions that could be finalized after the Switzerland match, leading with the defensive midfield role, which could be up for grabs if Tyler Adams can’t recover from his recent back injury.

Sunday’s friendly is also another piece to the puzzle as Berhalter works on his overall depth chart, which is sure to be tested in the months to come, with the Gold Cup in July and World Cup qualifying in the fall.

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. Switzerland


GOALKEEPER

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Ethan Horvath

With Zack Steffen at the UEFA Champions League final, Ethan Horvath gets a chance to play a full 90 minutes.


DEFENDERS

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

DeAndre Yedlin, Mark McKenzie, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson

Having already lost one projected starter to injury recently (Aaron Long), you shouldn’t be seeing John Brooks anywhere near this game. Sergiño Dest and Reggie Cannon are the first-choice fullbacks for the moment, so they too should be left out.

That creates an opportunity for Yedlin to show what he can do in Berhalter’s system, and a chance for Robinson to show he has the technical chops to be better on the ball than he has shown in previous national team call-ups.

In central defense, Mark McKenzie will look to impress Berhalter enough to consider moving him ahead of Matt Miazga on the depth chart, while Ream handles the left-footed centerback role.


MIDFIELDERS

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos.

Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta, Jackson Yueill

If there are any players who will start against Switzerland that will also start against Honduras in the Nations League semifinals, there’s a good chance they will come from this group.

Lletget is the leading candidate to step into the lineup against Honduras if Christian Pulisic isn’t able to start, while Acosta and Yueill are vying for the starting role in defensive midfield if Tyler Adams is unable to recover from the back injury that sidelined him at the end of the Bundesliga season.

Something else to consider is whether Yunus Musah is match fit enough to be counted on to start in the Nations League. Musah played just 19 total minutes in the past month for Valencia, so the Switzerland friendly could be a good opportunity to get him a start and see if he will be good to go in Denver. If his sharpness isn’t there, then Lletget could be in line to start in central midfield with Weston McKennie against Honduras, and potentially Mexico.

Berhalter isn’t one to play two defensive midfielders, so you can expect Acosta to play in a more advanced role if he and Yueill are both in the lineup. It still feels like we could see Acosta and Yueill be the exception that winds up splitting Nations League matches if Adams can’t go, but if Adams is actually healthy and ready to rock, then it would make even more sense to give Yueill and Acosta both a start against the Swiss to see which of them will get the call when a defensive midfielder is needed.

Will we get to see Julian Green? That’s a safe bet, and you could certainly make an argument for him starting and allowing Acosta to be rested for the Nations League. As much as he should be a candidate to start, this is also his first camp under Berhalter so it might be early to through him into a lineup.


FORWARDS

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Jordan Siebatcheu, Brenden Aaronson, Tim Weah

Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent and Gio Reyna are expected to be the front three in Nations League, leaving the Switzerland match for this trio to make their cases to see minutes off the bench in the tournament, and potentially start if someone isn’t available.

Siebatcheu has beaten out Daryl Dike for the number two striker spot on the Nations League roster, and having a chance to start in the country where he plays professionally is a nice touch.

Few players have their stock rising faster than Aaronson, who is coming off an outstanding first season with Red Bull Salzburg. An attacking midfielder more used to playing in a central role during his days with the Philadelphia Union, Aaronson has really blossomed in a wing role for Salzburg, and also in recent appearances for the USMNT.

Weah is coming off a bounce-back year, playing 37 matches in all competitions for the newly-crowned French champion Lille.  He has the talent to be a starter, and if he can show well enough in the current camp and Switzerland friendly, you have to wonder if Berhalter might consider shifting Reyna into a central role.


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. Definitely would like to see Green start at the left or right midfield spot. Timo on the left, and Aaronson on the right. If Lleget, Acosta, & Yueill start in mid then apparently GB wants to test an all MLS midfield in his system vs European competition. …but all in all not a bad starting XI.

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  2. Ives – We have heard a lot about using the Swiss game to simulate the weekend game for club teams, heading into a 3 game qualifying window. So I would expect to see all the main starters starting.

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  3. Rest: Dest, Sargent,Acosta (Acosta is useless), and Brooks.

    Start: Hoppe with Reyna and Aaronson in the attack, McKennie with Musah and Jackson midfield control.

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  4. I think Ives is probably right about what GB will do but… IMHO, Green should get a run out as a start over Acosta v the Swiss- bring Acosta in the 60th minute. If Green performs as I suspect he does- put him in for NL as well. He’s much more technical in tight space, dribbles out of trouble- Acosta has had some looks, confirmed at this level he is slow of thought, very soft on the ball- a turnover waiting to happen. For those reasons- I really hope he doesn’t see any time as a 6.

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    • He was not on the provisional roster or the final roster Green cannot play in the NL. Due to not being on the provisional he cannot replace Adams if he is injured either.

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      • Awww shoot- that’s right! My selective optimistic memory conveniently forgot that. I’m admittedly baffled at GBs infatuation w/ Acosta. And my name is on the list of people who had hope early in his career and still want him to succeed. I just haven’t seen much in his MLS play nor his performance w/ the nats to justify repeated call-ups. I hope Acosta makes me eat my words.

      • I’d like to put in a good word for traveling Texan Kellyn Acosta. Elsewhere someone pointed out that he is already acclimatized to playing in Denver. Okay, it may well totally screw them all up anyway to have to fly to Switzerland first and all the way back to Colorado, but if lung capacity at altitude helps at all, even a little extra energy might be very welcome.
        .
        Altitude is a problem that they have to train for somehow if they are ever going to be able to hold their own in Mexico City, right? 7000+ feet — can that be right? — plus hostile crowds, possibly still Covid-infested? If my Wiki check is right, St. Gallen may be “only” 2000+ feet, but Denver is 5000+ feet, which should be challenging enough. Where has Honduras been training, I wonder?
        .
        The word “infatuation” might be a little harsh for just being willing to keep trying to give chances to the better players in MLS, especially those who have some national team experience and are likely to be around their peak this cycle. 25 is still a promising age, and Acosta seems to still be doing pretty well since his move to Colorado, no?
        .
        Yueill I might have guessed was a little younger than 24, but IIRC there have been games where he has stood out as one of the more mature-looking players in a young team. (And others where he hasn’t, but playing alongside better players ought to help some?)
        .
        As for Ream, yes, he’s older, but who else are you going to put there? Miazga plays on the other side, doesn’t he? And at least Ream is used to playing on that side with Antonee Robinson, including scooting over when Robinson goes forward (and fails to dash back …).
        .
        The point that Berhalter is bound to know what he wants in a center back seems reasonable as well. Experience and a cool head, and just vocally helping organize the defense, could be worth something, even if others have to chase the fastest players. I wouldn’t feel bad to see Ream hold the fort to save others’ strength. He was so solid at Fulham for a good while. (“Ream! Ream!”) Even if this may now be his swan song, why begrudge it to him?
        .

  5. I’m mostly fine with this 11. The parts I don’t care for are…
    1) Ream. We have got to stop thinking he’s a solution/back-up and start giving time & experience to those who could actually be the back-up to Brooks.
    2) Acosta & Yueill. I’d be fine with one or the other starting, but not both. If they’re there to audition for the back-up to Adams than they should each get a half….and someone like Green should get time at the more advanced position.

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    • I don’t think there is anyone that has shown they could be a backup to Brooks at LCB that isn’t there or isn’t hurt. Both McKenzie and Richards would be preferred to Ream by me but then who backs up on the other side. From what I see ATL would not have to release MRobinson until May 31, and given their history it wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t see it as worth the hassle. If you listen to pundits talk about EPB (guys who actually have access to his games they aren’t impressed). Austria Wien also is in playoffs for Conference League spot. That leaves Zimmerman or one of the U23s. Zimm is 28 and struggles playing the ball out under pressure.
      —————————————
      I said this to you last week Berhalter had 17 year pro career as a CB 16 of those in Europe. You don’t think he can evaluate CBs? He had 44 caps and was on two WC rosters he also understands the complexities of international rosters.

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      • What are the chances that Tim Ream will be a factor for the next World Cup? Hopefully the answer is ZERO. He is too old and slow now and he won’t get any better in a year and a half. So, why waste any more time playing him? Anyone who is younger is preferable. I don’t see why GB is so obsessed with Ream. We have plenty of guys with international experience now, so we don’t need his leadership. He should never have even been brought. Give some playing time to one of the younger guys, even if they aren’t left footed or have less experience.

      • Razor – I agree that Berhaulter has a lot of experience as a player, but he’s not a very experienced coach. The ability/perspective of a player Vs. a coach are often 2 very different things.
        If we don’t start using options other than Ream in friendlies or against CONCACAF opponents we’ll see in WCQ, than we won’t have any option other than Ream when the games actually matter. McKenzie is 2-footed than use him and bring someone else as the RCB. Example CCV is in the same position Ream was last season….working for promotion. If available he would have been an option. Che is in camp…try him @ RCB if needed.
        It may be difficult at times to move away from experienced players (Ream) but eventually it has to be done, or else we run the risk of a repeat of 2017 where the OLD Folks (Gonzalez, Bradley, Jozy, etc….) failed us at crucial moments.

    • We’ve had this debate for awhile modern managers want their LCB and LB to be left footed or at least capable with both feet. When teams sat off CBs with ball or CB would just boot it up route 1 it didn’t matter. Now CBs are asked to make targeted passes and to dribble through pressure. Ream is highly unlikely to play in Qatar but if today he’s better than EPB he should be on the roster. Palmer-Brown was in camp in March and he couldn’t beat out Ream or Miazga so no he shouldn’t be given a roster spot just because he’s younger. I hope EPB and CCV get chances at the GC this summer but if they aren’t better they need to improve not just get a gift.

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  6. I’m a little surprised Ives is going with a complete B squad here. I get prioritizing nations league but how often do we get to play a top european team in europe? I know the Swiss don’t play like Mexico but talentwise it is far more comparable than anything else in concacaf. Why not play some starters for the first half to get close to a first choice team, I figure thats what Swiss will do. To be fair this is still a pretty strong lineup except for the center. Can’t imagine Yuiell and Acosta both together.

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    • Nations League is the priority, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few starters sprinkled in to play a half, like a Dest or a Reyna. The reason I didn’t project that is because I really don’t see Berhalter taking the Honduras game for granted, and he also knows how much talent is on the B squad so it’s not a group that should necessarily be run off the park by Switzerland.

      I think this lineup is as solid a B team as we’ve ever had the USMNT be able to trot out. There’s zero reason to risk a Brooks, or McKennie, or Sargent for this one. Dest and Reyna perhaps because they’re young and could handle a 45 and still play both Nations League matches in theory.

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      • He has repeatedly said they want to simulate the four match process they’ll face in Sept. I get Brooks and maybe McKennie because of nagging injuries but I think we’ll see the first team guys at least get 30-45 minutes.

  7. I’d like to see Green in play and let Acosta and Minnesota native Yueill split time at the 6 – they are competing for that spot after all. I’m guessing we will see Reynolds (Yedlin) and Che (McKenzie) as subs along with Dike (Siebatcheu) and Hoppe (Aaronson or Weah).

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