The U.S. men’s national team has learned its opponent for Sunday’s Concacaf Gold Cup opener, and while it wasn’t exactly a surprise that Haiti emerged as the winner of the qualifier to fill that spot, Tuesday’s result can now allow Gregg Berhalter to start deciding on the lineup he will deploy.
With three matches in nine days during the group stage, the USMNT will need to rotate its squad. With underdog Martinique serving as the second of three group-stage opponents, and a strong Canada side awaiting in the group finale, we can expect a first-choice lineup deployed on Sunday.
Haiti didn’t qualify for the final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying, but the Caribbean side is a handful nonetheless. Boasting fast attackers and skillful midfielders to go with a vulnerable defense, the Haitians can make things difficult, but the Americans should beat them if they play well.
Berhalter won’t have his first-choice lineup options, though Sebastian Lletget and Reggie Cannon have seen plenty of run with the first-choice group in recent years. What he will have is the ability to combine some seasoned veterans with some exciting youngsters in all three facets of his 4-3-3 formation.
Defensively, Cannon brings the experience, having played in the semifinals and final of the 2019 Gold Cup, while new faces Miles Robinson, George Bello and Sam Vines battle to climb into consideration for World Cup qualifying.
In the midfield, Lletget and Cristian Roldan have experience playing in the Gold Cup, while Jackson Yueill and Kellyn Acosta resume their battle to serve as Tyler Adams’ main backup in the defensive midfield role. Gianluca Busio’s presence is another storyline in midfield, as Berhalter figures out how best to deploy the Sporting KC sensation.
At forward, Berhalter has Gyasi Zardes as the veteran presence and Daryl Dike as the exciting young striker, while Matthew Hoppe and Nicholas Gioacchino prepare to play in wide roles as they try to make the most of this opportunity to potentially throw their names into consideration for qualifying as well.
With all that in mind, here is the starting lineup we could see the USMNT deploying against Haiti on Sunday:
Projected USMNT Starting Lineup for Gold Cup opener
The starting job is Matt Turner’s to lose, and Berhalter has made it clear the New England shot-stopper is his first-choice option for the Gold Cup. Brad Guzan’s return to the fold is an interesting side note, but he could find playing time scarce with Sean Johnson the better bet to challenge for the job.
Reggie Cannon, Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines
Three of the four starting spots are pretty set in stone, with Cannon, Zimmerman and Robinson the clear top choices, but it remains to be seen how close Bello is to Vines in the race to start at left back. Vines has more national team experience, but Bello has really come on for Atlanta United.
The Martinique match could be a good opportunity to see Shaq Moore, James Sands, Donovan Pines and Bello in action.
Sebastian Lletget, Cristian Roldan, Kellyn Acosta
The buzz is building around Busio and whether he will break into the starting lineup at the Gold Cup. It is a safe bet Busio will get at least one start in the group stage, but will that start come in the opener against Haiti?
The more likely scenario will be Berhalter going with veterans Lletget and Roldan to start things out, unless Busio wows him in camp. Busio should get his chance to win a job, but those writing off Roldan’s chances of keeping the job haven’t watched him in MLS this season.
The defensive midfield role will feature Acosta and Yueill continuing their battle from the Nations League. There is talk of Busio potentially seeing time in the role, though he seems more likely to play in a box-to-box role.
A Busio-Eryk Williamson partnership against Martinique is a possibility, with Yueill in the defensive midfield role.
Paul Arriola, Gyasi Zardes, Nicholas Gioacchini
The obvious question is whether Berhalter is ready to ride with Dike, or if he will go with the more experienced Zardes, who also happens to be in good form in MLS play. This is one of those cases where the veteran is a safer bet to start the opener, but Dike will have every opportunity to take over the role heading into the knockout rounds.
On the wings, Arriola is the most experienced natural winger and should start on the left, with Gioacchini deployed on the right wing. Hoppe is another candidate, though he seems a better bet to start on the left wing against Martinique, with Dike at striker.
What do you think of this projected lineup? Who are you most excited to see play? Who isn’t in our projected starting lineup that you would have made a starter?
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