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:
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.
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?
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.