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Who should the USMNT start vs. Honduras?

The U.S. Men’s National Team’s first official competitive match since November of 2019 will also be the first chance to see the team’s ‘Golden Generation’ play in matches that matter, and make no mistake, Thursday’s Concacaf Nations League semifinal against Honduras matters.

It matters because there is no escaping the disaster it would be for this talent-laden USMNT squad to stumble against a Honduras side with a fraction of the star power. That reality alone is why we should expect a full-strength American squad on Thursday.

What exactly is the full-strength squad? It would be one with Tyler Adams in the heart of the midfield, though as of Tuesday we still don’t have a clear answer on whether he will be take part in this week’s matches. We should have a clue on Wednesday, when teams are obligated to make any injury changes they need to make to their rosters.

Adams’ availability, and who his replacement will be if he can’t play, is the most pressing question surrounding the USMNT starting lineup, but it isn’t the only one. The attacking midfield spot next to Weston McKennie appears to be in the hands of the red-hot Sebastian Lletget, who has been a goal-scoring machine in recent matches. Will that form keep him ahead of the supremely-talented, but potentially not-match fit Yunus Musah?

With those decisions in mind, here is the starting lineup we could see the USMNT deploying against Honduras:


GOALKEEPER

Photo by John Dorton

Zack Steffen

 


DEFENDERS

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos.

Reggie Cannon, John Brooks, Mark McKenzie, Sergiño Dest

The back four should resemble the group that started the Swizerland friendly, with the big question being whether McKenzie has moved ahead of Matt Miazga in the pecking order, or if Sunday was more an audition for the young Genk defender. McKenzie looks to be ready to get the nod, and it could come down to him being a quicker defender, which is something the back four needs in the absence of injured starter Aaron Long, especially when the Americans are likely to play against quick strikers in the Nations League.

At fullback, it is pretty settled that Reggie Cannon will start at right back while Sergiñ Dest starts at left back. Dest had a poor game against Switzerland, but to use that game alone to try and discredit him as a good option on the left ignores his past performances in the role.


MIDFIELDERS

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Weston McKennie, Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta

If Tyler Adams is healthy and available he starts at defensive midfielder. There is no disputing that. As things stand, we still don’t know if he’s going to be able to play. Given his lack of playing time in the past month, it feels a bit ambitious to expect him to recover from his recent back injury and battle the altitude without being match fit.

Which brings us to Kellyn Acosta. Is Jackson Yueill ahead of Acosta to the point that Acosta’s superior experience playing at altitude in the Denver area will not be enough to put him in the lineup? Or might Berhalter give each a starter enough to spread the workload in a position that will sure require some serious running, especially when you consider how much covering for Sergiño Dest’s forward excursions will be required.

We give the nod to Acosta for Thursday’s match, but it is a razor-thin competition.

As for attacking midfield roles, Weston McKennie’s name is obviously written in pen, but will Berhalter right the hot hand and stick with Lletget, or will he give go with Musah’s ability to maintain possession, which would also give the 18-year-old some more national team experience.

The biggest thing working against Musah, at least for this week’s Nations League matches, is his relatively light workload over the past month at Valencia. Does he have the requisite match fitness to cope with starter’s minute’s at altitude?


FORWARDS

Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Gio Reyna

Gregg Berhalter made it clear on Sunday that he expects Christian Pulisic to want to be in the lineup on Thursday, and there’s really no reason not to have him start and lead the attack. He and Gio Reyna will be a handful for Honduras to deal with on the wings, which should help open things up for the attack.

Which brings us to striker, where Josh Sargent remains Berhalter’s preferred option. His lack of goal productivity for the USMNT could open the door for Jordan Siebatcheu, but Sargent still does well enough with his movement, hold-up play and pressing to stay in the starting role for now.

Siebatcheu isn’t getting nearly the attention he should be getting from USMNT fans, who were quick to fall for Daryl Dike and his pile of English League championship goals, while relatively ignoring Siebatcheu winning a Swiss League title while scoring 15 goals in all competitions. Siebatcheu’s passing ability and intelligent runs could help him thrive in the USMNT system, and he just might take over the starting striker role of Sargent doesn’t start producing.


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 think Honduras will play a 4-5-1 and put 9 guys in front of the net and try to catch the US on a breakaway. I also think GB will be totally baffled and WILL NOT adjust to this until its too late. Aa a result..Maybe only 1 goal or a 0-0 tie at the end of regulation. I seriously think GB will try to force his square peg into the round hole….. again

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  2. The argument that you play Acosta over Yeuill cuz of altitude is really weird. Yueill is better and has a higher ceiling. Acosta is just not technical enough passing and going forward. But, if you think he’s not good enough, then adjust formation (3 CBs) to allow for Musah/Mckennie midfield.

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  3. This won’t happen, but I think it would be interesting to see a 4-4-2 with Aronnson and Pulisic as the front 2 and Gio as the tip if the diamond midfield. That might suffer against a team that packs the defense, but with those 3 able to dribble defenders and make good passes along with McKennie and Lleget(or Musah) as the wide mids able to join the attack the opponents would too often find themselves defending players with quick feet and good ball control in the penalty area. If the opponents played higher defensively any of those players can get in behind and threaten the goal. Of course, it might not be the best set if we are trying to attack up the wings and make crosses into the box.

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  4. Id put Musah ahead of Lletget, Yedlin ahead of Cannon. Like Lletget and Aaronson off the bench. I get questioning Musah’s form but i want to see him get experience vs CCAF now ahead of qualifying.

    Acosta in the hole, not ideal but hes athletic enough and has engine for this game.

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  5. I would like to see Aaronson on RW. He would bring more continuity. Haven’t seen Gio combined with McKennie & Cannon consistently, as of yet… maybe that changes. Starting XI is solid even without Tyler Adams. Why?! BECAUSE ITS HONDURAS! I have no problem saying I’m biased. Lol! Dike was drafted by OCSC! I think Sargent & Siebatcheu will score against Honduras. Sargent gets 2, Jordan gets 1 in 15 minutes of garbage time. Stars & stripes 5 -1 Honduras

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  6. Adams is the only player in the current pool with the profile of a Kante as a 6. Not saying he’s Kante. Run for days, bite on D, with an ability to push the ball forward. Yuell can’t provide the defensive cover needed when Dest ventures as far forward as he is prone to. It seems like a matter of time before someone converts Dest to a midfielder if his defensive discipline doesn’t improve but he’s so talented with the ball that it’s hard to consider leaving him out. If Adams is out, I might suggest a back 4, 3 CBS (Brooks, Miazga, and Mckennzie) with Dest on the right and let him venture forward. You play with 2 8/6’s (Mckennie/musah) and Pulisic, Reyna and Aaronson/Weah and Sargent/Siebatcheu. Defensively a 4-2-3-1 and offensively it’s a 3-3-3-1 or a 3-4-3. It solves the issue of sacrificing a midfielder when you play with 5 in the back with wing backs and 3 center backs provides a little more cover than Yuell or Acosta offer with 2 cb’s. Again, this is only with Adams out. Terrible idea?

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    • Ngolo Kante is an app comparison, IMO. The only 6 I can compare him to. Speed, short area quickness, isn’t going to make 20-40 yard diagonal passes, but will neutralize opposing teams best midfielder or 2nd striker with marking. Ball winner, who stops opposing teams counters, gives it back to the attacking mids, while protecting the CBs. Adams had all that since playing up a cycle in the U20s years ago. His passing and positioning to receive the ball has improved since then… I hope he’s healthy!

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      • They did not replace him, not sure he’ll play much Thursday but we’ll see. The US made no replacements so Robinson must be available as well.

  7. need to Convert chances when committing numbers. last game we did not. Just one goal produced playing the way GB does with the wingbacks so high…our conversion % has to be better and produce more than one goal. if not, it’ll be bad or GB will have to change what we’re doing. Conversion %…it can’t be the midfielders scoring the goals while also having to scramble to cover yet another not dangerous turnover in the attacking third that leads to a counter from a lost dribble or poor ball or missed finish…and then no recovery runs defensively from some (Serg, Gio). The forwards must be as dangerous as they were not in the last game in all phases

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  8. The starting lineup Ives projects is probably right. The only thing is the fullbacks MUST defend, not spend their time playing winger. If GB didn’t have talks with Dest and Cannon about making better decisions about going forward and getting back, NOT staying there, we can expect Honduras to attack up the wings and over the top to the corner flags with great success.

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    • I suppose Adams or McKennie have the wheels to get back and cover for absent fullbacks, but I don’t expect Adams to be ready for a full 90 and McKennie will play further up.

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    • To add to your point, I remember during the last qualifying cycle where I think it was CR who won by playing a packed-in defense and then springing counter attacks down the wings. They killed us with speedy wingers who got behind our fullbacks who were sent forward.

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      • I don’t know that it was Costa Rica they pretty much just sent everything to their CFs who split our CBs maybe their first goal in CR but the rest in both qualifiers were just attacking Brooks or Ream in the middle.

  9. Sargent
    Pulisic Reyna Weah
    Letget
    Mckennie
    Robinsion brooks Mckenzie Dest

    We will not be lining up like this but we need to get Weah, Reyna, Sargent and Pulisic on the field at the same time. McKennie is athletic enough to close people down on the counter attack when Dest/Robinson get caught up field. If Lletget had this production and played in Europe, nobody would question if he should start instead of Musah. Musah will replace him, but not yet.
    In reality I look for Berhalter to play a back 3 this game as I predict a game plans similar to what we had against Jamaica.

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  10. I agree with most of Ives proposed lineup as “first choice”, but I think there may be some surprises for Honduras. If he is truly trying to figure out how to rotate guys then we might see players like McKennie and Reyna, who played heavy minutes against the Swiss, come off the bench. From what I saw, Aaronson for Reyna might be improvement. Musah for McKennie is more of a stretch, particularly if Ives is right about Musah’s fitness, but would give McKennie some rest and have him ready for (presumably) Mexico.

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  11. replying to Jayam, but dont want to hijack his thread

    Golden generation is a few individuals that were finally recognized by bigger clubs.

    Sargent is hardly in my top 10 forwards in US history.
    Dest defending is a tragedy, a crime against middle school soccer.
    Noone can play the 10 and there are a million centerbacks and noone seems to want to step up.

    I realize they are all doing their best and I root for them, but as a team, this one has MANY holes to fill

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  12. You’re probably right about who WILL start but who should start, assuming Adams isn’t ready to go 90: Steffan; Robinson, Brooks, Miazga, Dest; Yuell, McKennie, Lletgat; Pulisic, Sargents, Reyna.

    If Robinson is also not fit, then next up should be Yedlin.

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  13. This is how I would lineup if Adams & Robinson are not fit to play against Honduras:

    Pulisic, Sargent, Aaronson
    McKennie, Reyna, Musah
    Dest, Brooks, McKenzie, Yedlin
    Steffen

    I wasn’t a fan of Cannon in his last few performances for the USMNT, would much rather have Dest at RB and Robinson at LB when healthy. I would much prefer Reyna playing as the 10 and have Aaronson at RW, but it’s clear that GB wants Reyna at the RW position which I disagree but nothing we can do. Most likely Ives’ Lineup will be the one GB comes out with against Honduras.

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    • Outstanding points. I would sub Weah for Aaronson but I like the concept of your formation. Berhalter needs a plan B for when Adams is out that does not include the worst player on the roster in the most important position on the pitch.

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  14. The most talented generation, yes. Golden generation? They need to prove that on the field and not on a sports blog.

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  15. Sargent
    Pulisic Reyna
    McKennie-Adams (Musah)
    Dest Cannon
    Brooks-Miazga-McKenzie
    Steffen

    The porous left side of the defense was scary on Sunday. No way that can hold up in a game that matters, either Dest gets benched with two CBs or backed up by three CBs. I’d rather see Richards if possible vs McKenzie.

    I’m thinking coaches go conservative first, as opposed to going down 2-0 in the 1st half because the LB is playing way too far forward, and then if it’s 0-0 deadlock 60 minutes in, replacing a CB with Lleget or Siebatcheu.

    If two CBs are the way to go, I’d rather see Dest on the bench

    Pulisic-Sargent-Reyna

    Mckennie-Adams (Lleget)-Musah

    Robinson-Brooks-McKenzie- Cannon

    A much more conservative and solid defensive outfit with still enough difference makers (Pulisic, McKennie, Reyna) to get a goal or two. If not, bring on Dest for Robinson to break them down 60 minutes in

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    • Richards is not on the 23 man roster, likely do to the injury that kept him out of the last few weeks of Bundesliga. Technically he could replace Adams on the roster if Tyler can’t go but Chris has not been training with the team would likely not be fit.

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