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Who should the USMNT start vs. Haiti?

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.

Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

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


GOALKEEPER


Photo by John Dorton

Matt Turner

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.


DEFENDERS


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

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.


MIDFIELDERS


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

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.


FORWARDS


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

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?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. I say start Dike. Let him batter the defense senseless and if need be…bring Zardes on in the 2nd half and let him run at what’s left.

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  2. Haiti is not an opponent we want to field players who are either going to be liabilities for speed, or will get sucked upfield unnecessarily. I expect Haiti to bunker in and play a quick transition counter attack.
    Therefore I don’t want to see Roldan, Lletget, and Vines all starting. Vines & Roldan will be exposed for their lack of speed while Roldan & Lletget will get sucked up field…leaving the center of the field exposed.
    If we can’t hold possession (Busio) and create chances this is going to turn into a track meet…which will favor Haiti.
    Unfortunately the XI above is exactly what I expect Gregg to roll out.

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  3. I see Acosta started tonight for Colorado. Does this mean Yueill will start vs Haiti? Is there anyone else not in camp?

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  4. I cant remember when Ive been less excited about a Gold Cup. I hate the players GB thinks are the best we have. We have no chance of winning the GC with this crew and yet GB will continue. Its discouraging… we can do better

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  5. Dike has definitely earned the start. I also don’t think Paul Arriola deserves the start here, although this is of course a projected lineup and probably correct. I think the players benefiting from having been in the team before like Roldan who are being outclassed by Busio in MLS should also be on the bench, but I expect this is what we will see.

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  6. I think Greg goes with Dike in stead of Zardes, especially after what he saw up close in training sessions before GC and more importantly after what he saw in the Costa Rica friendly! The other positions I’m good with!

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  7. No Vines, no Roldan or Zardes! Those guys are worthless and add no value to USNT. Bello, Busio, and Dike should replace those head-less chickens.

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    • When he plays it becomes a horror movie and I scream after every heavy first touch…or a drinking game. Same if Guzan plays and you drink every time he kicks the ball out of bounds.

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    • Man, Zardes starting makes no sense. Dike was with the A team recently while Zardes was not. Dike dominated Championship and Zardes can’t even dominate MLS. Dike has to be the starter. Zardes is no longer with the A team anymore

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    • I really hate to be mean in these comments and I want to be constructive, but it’s so frustrating when everyone can see that a 29 year old striker has an obvious ceiling on his career because of a lack of natural skill on the ball, and there are so many good younger players who could blossom in the 1 1/2 years before the WC and need to be integrated and tested under pressure.

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    • Yeah, there are so many American strikers in MLS who have scored more. I checked and in the last 3 seasons before this one Zardes has scored 44 goals, way ahead of any other American. In Columbus’ last game Zardes scored the first goal, forced a good kick save from the Rev’s Turner, and his actions led to the own goal.

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  8. Oh, it doesn’t really matter much. We only need to play our first string when we face Canada and then in our knock-out games. I’m glad to see Roldan supported here. I’ve seen a fair amount of Sounders games this season and last and you can see the improvement in Roldan. He isn’t good enough to replace our European players, but he is now one of our best MLS players IMO.

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    • I’m not convinced that with the players at hand that the Haiti and Martinique matches won’t be struggles. They have been in the past and this is their World Cup.
      ****
      Nine points wouldn’t surprise me, but honestly, neither would crashing and burning.

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      • Martinique hasn’t played a match since September 2019. Their roster contains 18 players based in Martinique. They’ve got a couple Euro based journeyman in their 30s. Haiti is made up of players based in Haiti with one decent player who plays in Belgium and Derrick Etienne who wouldn’t beat out Jonathan Lewis based on MLS form. Our squad isn’t flashy but they’re sound and have more talent than either of the Caribbean nations in their group. We can’t phone either in but we should win both with any of the 23 starting.

      • JR – I’m not sure what Haiti roster you’re looking at. The roster I checked has only 3 (out of 23) players that play in Haiti, and quite a few that play in Europe. 7 Haitian players play in France, and a couple more play in Belgium. Yes, they are not stars and maybe play in the lower divisions, but that’s about the level of our guys as well. We should not underestimate this Haitian team. Of course, it remains to be seen if the team will be affected by the assassination of the Haitian President and the turmoil in Haiti that is being reported now.

    • Thinking about it later, I should have added “if the US has the right attitude.” We’ve seen them blow it to far inferior sides before when we took the game for granted. Even with mostly MLS players, we shouldn’t lose a game unless and until we face Mexico in the finals. While Canada has some very good players, they seem to have underperformed in most events in the past and their depth is suspect.

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  9. Dike should start. I get if you want to more slowly integrate the MLS teenagers, but Dike has proven it at a high enough level, with a couple NT caps, to start from the off. No excuse not to let him hit the ground running. He has earned it

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