The 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup has been an undeniable success for the U.S. men’s national team no matter what happens in Sunday’s final. The key goals of identifying players who could help provide depth in World Cup qualifying and providing valuable experience to young players have both been realized on the USMNT’s five-win streak heading into the final.
The big question now is whether Gregg Berhalter will continue prioritizing his young players, or will he turn to veterans to close the show and help the Americans lift the Gold Cup for the first time since 2017?
The answer to that question will ultimately have a major impact on the lineup Berhalter deploys at a sold-out Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. There are as many as four different players who Berhalter could call on in place of more experienced options, which is something he has continued to do, even at the potential expense of those inexperienced players falling flat.
So far, Berhalter’s novices have risen to the challenge, and while there has been a good amount of help provided by the likes of Gyasi Zardes and Cristian Roldan off the bench, Sunday’s opponent — Mexico — is the kind of team that can put the match out of reach before any substitutes can come in and make a difference.
Some decisions should be easier than others, such as starting Gyasi Zardes over Daryl Dike at striker, but some others, particularly in the midfield and on the right wing, will be more difficult.
With all that in mind, here is the starting lineup we could see the USMNT deploying against Mexico in Sunday’s Gold Cup final, as well as the lineup we would deploy if we were making the final lineup decisions:
Projected USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Mexico
SBI’s Preferred USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Mexico
Who will start: Matt Turner
Who should start: Matt Turner
Nothing has changed here, especially after his monster performance against Qatar.
Who will start: Shaq Moore, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines
Who should start: Reggie Cannon, James Sands, Miles Robinson, Sam Vines
You get the sense Gregg Berhalter might want to reward Shaq Moore for his surprisingly steady run through the tournament, but the big question after his lackluster showing against Qatar is whether he is running out of gas.
That brings us to Reggie Cannon, who has played in a Gold Cup final, has come off the bench in multiple matches and looked steady, and has the defensive qualities to help deal with Mexico’s wide threats.
The rest of the defense is set in stone, with Miles Robinson, James Sands and Sam Vines having all solidified their places. Yes, Sands is coming off his first shaky performance for the USMNT, but there’s no chance he isn’t in the lineup if he’s healthy.
Who will start: Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Roldan
Who should start: Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta, Eryk Williamson
Sebastian Lletget and Kellyn Acosta are among the safest bets on the squad to start against Mexico, leaving the one midfield decision at the box-to-box midfield slot next to Lletget.
Berhalter has three directions he can go. He can stick with Gianluca Busio, who has made four straight starts, with varying degrees of success, though also with his share of struggles. He can turn to the veteran Cristian Roldan, who is no stranger to playing in finals in packed stadiums, and who has also played in a Gold Cup final before.
Then Berhalter has the wild card, Eryk Williamson, who has looked sharp in every appearance he has made. He feels like the longest of the long shots among the players we would start, with Roldan feeling like the safer bet to get the call from Berhalter.
Who will start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola
Who should start: Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola
Will Berhalter go with Gyasi Zardes or Daryl Dike? It should be an easy call given Dike’s form in his past two matches, and Zardes’ impact as a substitute in those same matches. There is also the possibility that Dike is carrying a knock. Either way, Zardes is the clear choice.
Matthew Hoppe is a lock to start on the left wing, leaving the right wing for Paul Arriola. The D.C. United winger did show improvement against Qatar after a rough outing against Canada, and he has experience playing against Mexico, having started in a World Cup qualifier at Azteca, so he won’t be awed by the scene on Sunday.
Now, if Berhalter looks for a bit more possession in his lineup, then starting Cristian Roldan wide and a Gianluca Busio or Eryk Williamson centrally would make sense. That being said, we see Berhalter going with the more experienced setup of Arriola on the right wing and Roldan in the middle.
What do you think of our projected lineups? Which would you start? Who are you most excited to see play?
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