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Who will, and who should the USMNT start vs. Qatar?

Defense has been the name of the game for the U.S. men’s national team at the Gold Cup, and three shutouts in four matches, with just one penalty kick allowed, shows just how solid Gregg Berhalter’s defensive setup has been.

A much tougher challenge awaits in the Gold Cup semifinals though, in the form of a dynamic Qatar attack that has scored goals in bunches throughout the competition and will present a much more difficult test than the Americans have faced so far in the tournament.

Gregg Berhalter will have that in mind when he considers his starting options for Thursday’s semifinal, and while we shouldn’t expect him to make too many drastic decisions driven mainly by Qatar’s qualities, there could be at least one or two lineup choices swayed in part by the desire to fortify the defensive structure.

Some squad rotation should also be in order with an eye towards the final, which takes place just three days later in Las Vegas, and while nobody should expect Berhalter to rest key players, any tight lineup decisions are likely to go in favor of the more well-rested option.

With all that in mind, here is the starting lineup we could see the USMNT deploying against Qatar on Thursday, as well as the lineup we would deploy if we were making the final lineup decisions:


Projected USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Qatar

SBI’s Preferred USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Qatar


GOALKEEPER


Who will start: Matt Turner

Who should start: Matt Turner

Another strong showing vs. Jamaica keeps the New England Revolution goalkeeper in the top spot.


DEFENDERS


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Who will start: Shaq Moore, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines

Who should start: Reggie Cannon, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines

You’re probably thinking ‘Why mess with the recipe?’ when the defense looked so solid against Jamaica. That’s a fair question, and Berhalter would be well within his right to stick with the same back four from the quarterfinal. If he does, nobody will bat an eye, but inserting Cannon would serve multiple functions.

For one, Cannon is a better defender than Moore in the 4-3-3 setup, and while he may not provide as much of an attacking threat as the Tenerife fullback, Cannon has played in a Gold Cup semifinal before and done well.

Secondly, Cannon would provide fresh legs in place of Moore, who has started four consecutive Gold Cup matches after jumping right into camp without a preseason. By starting Cannon, Berhalter would help Cannon get sharper for a potential final, while also resting Moore for the final as well.

Before you even think about whether Berhalter should deploy George Bello at left back, keep in mind that Qatar has a dangerous attacking right back in Pedro Miguel, who is a big part of what the Qataris do going forward. Vines was excellent against Jamaica and should stay in the role.

Centerback is locked and loaded with Miles Robinson and James Sands, though it should be noted that when Robinson took a knock to the head late in the quarterfinal it was Henry Kessler who was warming up to potentially replace Robinson rather than Donovan Pines. That’s something to remember if Berhalter has to go to his bench for defensive reinforcement against Qatar.


MIDFIELDERS


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Roldan

Who should start: Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta, Eryk Williamson

Lletget and Acosta are locks to start, and Acosta’s standout performance against Jamaica can’t be praised enough, but Gianluca Busio deserves some credit for the improvements he showed in the quarterfinal, particularly in the second half.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see Berhalter going with the more experienced Roldan in midfield. His impact off the bench was clear to see, though it should be noted it came playing in a wide role, which is why we think deploying Roldan further upfield makes sense against Qatar.

Which brings us to Eryk Williamson, who offers a bit more defensive bite than Busio. This pick is another case of seeing a chance to bring in a comparable player who hasn’t seen as many minutes, while giving Busio a needed rest after consecutive physically-challenging starts. Busio would be a good option to bring off the bench against Qatar to provide fresh legs and sharp passing if the Americans need a goal, or even if they are protecting a lead.


FORWARDS


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola

Who should start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Cristian Roldan

Why would Berhalter start Arriola again after a poor showing against Jamaica? The D.C. United winger’s experience for one, and Berhalter could see the Jamaica game as one where Arriola needed to shake the rust off. It’s tough to see Berhalter benching Arriola after giving him the captain’s armband in the quarterfinal.

Should he? Roldan’s performance off the bench in the right forward role against Jamaica is why Berhalter should consider it, and why he should opt to use Arriola off the bench. Roldan gives you the defensive work you’ll need against Qatar, and can also provide good service, which has been lacking from the right flank for most of the Gold Cup.

At striker, Gyasi Zardes should be the pick after Daryl Dike struggled in his second consecutive start. Zardes’ ability to press from the front will be crucial to helping unsettle Qatar and lighten some of defensive responsibility for a USMNT midfield that will be needed to provide added support to the back-line.

Then you have Matthew Hoppe, who is coming off a standout showing against Jamaica, and who could absolutely thrive against a Qatar side that loves to attack, but also tends to leave plenty of space in behind, particularly in the right channel, where Hoppe will be operating. Pedro Miguel gives Qatar a real threat as an attacking right back, and it will be up to Hoppe to make Miguel put in an honest shift on the defensive end, or make Qatar pay if he doesn’t.


What do you think of our projected lineups? Which would you start? Who are you most excited to see play?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. Starting lineup is out. Same as vs Jamaica. Thought Zardes may get the nod, but maybe Dike is a better matchup.

    Qatar bought WC 2022, but FIFA and CONCAFAF especially is complicit. It was Bermuda that tipped off law enforcement on the crime, where former AG Loretta Lynch indicted FIFA on racketeering and money laundering charges.Totally shameless.

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    • This is a great opportunity! Why??? It should be obvious. We get a chance to beat the host nation of the 2022 World Cup. Every US soccer fan should be salivating at this opportunity. Qatar is the country that came into our confederation and bought off all the tiny island nations for votes. In the end it was not to big of a loss, as we are the host nation in 2026. So Qatar bought themselves a World Cup, employed thousands in their wacky system and now we have a chance to pummel them. Unfortunately, we have fans^ that don’t grasp this. I’m sorry for that!

      Man, Concacaf invited south Korea to the gold cup in 2002. That game against Korea, was huge for Donovan and crew. USA won 1-0, and it gave us confidence going into that World Cup.

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    • Colombia and Brazil were involved in the mid-nineties and early 2000s as well. Brazil made the final twice and Colombia once, although neither ever won. In ‘98 Keller stood on his head and the US beat Brazil on a Preki goal. This is still the only time in 19 tries we have not lost to Brazil. Peru came in 2000 as well.

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      • JR: the asian games part is fair but the implication they can defend, not this tournament. they shipped 3 to panama and 2 to ES. the question is do we have the personnel and tactics to take any advantage.

    • the region used to regularly have guest countries, south africa, colombia, korea, etc. and qatar has a pretty good offense (if no defense). they will give us a game.

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      • They are the defending Asian Cup Champions. They gave up just one goal in 7 matches during that tournament out scoring opponents 19-1 going a perfect 7-0.

  2. Who I would like to see-4-3-3
    Hoppe, Zardes, Nico,
    Lleget, Acosta, Williamson,
    Vines, Sands, Robinson, Cannon
    Turner
    Subs- Busio (Hoppe), Roldan (Lleget), Arriola (Zardes, Nico moves to CF), Moore (Cannon). I was hoping GB would’ve rested Dike vs Jamaica. Since he didn’t, I would like to see him rest here for this match. REST DIKE!! This 21 year old is tired! If it wasn’t obvious vs Canada, (I’ve watched it 2x), he got hit in the face, Dike threw himself on the ground trying to draw a foul and injuring his shoulder in the process. He’s mentally burnt out! Vs Jamaica he showed he’s physically run down. If you make it to the finals, start him and hope he gives you 60 of the best minutes of his life! If not, he’s played in 4 matches scored 2g between Orlando City, Barnsley, and the GC he’s down enough to warrant a move abroad. I’d let Busio play 15-20 minutes on the left wing, low defensive responsibility, go after the backline young G with his through balls. Still haven’t seen offensively what he can do. Roldan is a sub that’s productive for 20-25 minutes, this match as an 8 for Lleget. I like Cannon starting, and Moore off the bench at RB. Arriola allows Zardes to rest. Nico who’s only started vs Haiti, goes from a winger to a CF. Qatar is no joke! We going to need another stellar defensive performance and a couple goals!!

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    • Let’s remember he’s only 21 and this is the end of an incredibly long season for him. His first start of Orlando was a year ago in the MLS is Back Tournament. Because of the loan, he’s been playing non stop in his first season.

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  3. As for the lineups, I’m honestly fine with either. Roldan in a forward role makes a lot of sense to me given our options. I also like Busio out there, but I understand why he might make a better impact sub. Dike, too. Cannon and Moore are both solid options at right back.

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  4. Vines is a better player than Bello right now. He deserves to keep his place. I like having Busio and Gioacchini as super subs. Williamson is a better player than Lleget but Berhalter doesn’t see it that way.

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  5. my first instinct is squad rotation but looking at qatar on tape good luck with that with this team. we would exit. they have an offense and no defense and if we ran out the haiti bunch we’d be lucky to score or keep them scoreless. so, starters it is. this sets up as another squeaker one way or the other. they have no defense but our offense is sputtering. they have an offense but the one thing working is the defense. so to me it’s can we hold them in check and get ours.

    i do think this game and any mexico final if we leave the game in question deep it will start to show that we haven’t rotated in weeks.

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    • IV is right in that rotation is needed to keep players rested enough to go hard in the final. Sadly, on the defensive front,the 4 backs will be Robinson, Sands, Vines and Moore/Cannon so only Cannon/Moore can rest. At DM, Acosta is the only good choice with the defensive chops needed, but I do worry about his propensity for turnovers in bad places, none of the other choices have shown themselves to be any better or even equal (well Williamson maybe, but we really have not seen much of him. Why?) At the outside mids, that may be the only place where there are enough to rest some players, Lleget certainly could use that rest, he was pretty invisible vs Jamaica, a sure sign of tiredness (or incompetence). With Busio, Roldan, and Williamson, there should be chances for rotation. Up front, well other than the energy Hoppe brings, there is not much to love. Dike, like Lleget was more notable for his being invisible than for anything else and we all know Zardes’ shortcomings, but … on the right wing, only Roldan showed himself consistently to fit, but he is likely needed in midfield. It would be a miracle if Arriola isn’t too tired to be effective against Qatar, he certainly looked it vs Jamaica, so it is a choice between Arriola, Gioacchini, or Roldan (with Busio or Williamson starting in midfield). After all that, I pretty much agree with the group Ives thinks should start, with some reservation on Lleget since I think he is needs rest.

      And none of the choices bar Cannon/Moore, Busio, Williamson and Dike/Zardes actually allow for resting players without a significant drop-off in play. So if we can win, it will likely be a tired group of young players going up against Mexico (or Canada) in the final.

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  6. Thanks, Ives!

    On a separate note, Matt Miazga came in at the start of the second half with a group of Chelsea fringe players. So far (at the 80th minute) Miazga has not made any major mistakes, but at the same time did not stand out among the 3 CBs in the formation. Miazga lined up as the right CB.

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      • ? Oh yes, the other American, CP10 started and played reasonably well for 45 minutes before yielding to the fringe players for Tuchel’s final cut evaluations in the second half.

      • Good deal! At this point, I just want to see him avoid a preseason injury catastrophe. The good news is that this year he *has* a preseason to ease into match fitness.

    • Miazga scored as well. Don’t think he has any chance whatsoever to make the squad but he certainly looked fine.

      Reply

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