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Who will, and who should the USMNT start vs. Canada? (UPDATED)

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Gregg Berhalter won’t admit it, but as important as Thursday’s World Cup qualifying opener against El Salvador was, the U.S. men’s national team coach knew the tougher challenge was looming three days later in Nashville in the form of a dangerous Canada side.

Led by the dynamic duo of Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, the Canadian attack can and will test the American defense in ways El Salvador simply couldn’t, and that knowledge has surely shaped Berhalter’s planning for September’s qualifiers.

John Brooks was rested against El Salvador, and will step into the starting lineup to offer his poise, leadership and quality in central defense, while Zack Steffen’s back spasms will rule him out for a second straight match, making Matt Turner the likely choice to stay in the lineup in goal.

The potential return of Christian Pulisic should help a USMNT attack that struggled to generate chances against El Salvador, and he shouldn’t be the only new starter plugged into the front five to try and capitalize on Canada’s vulnerable backline.

With all that in mind, here is the starting lineup we could see the USMNT deploying against Canada in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier in Nashville, as well as the lineup we would deploy if we were making the final lineup decisions:


Projected USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Canada

SBI’s Preferred USMNT Starting Lineup vs. Canada


GOALKEEPER


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Matt Turner

Who should start: Matt Turner

Zack Steffen is out for Sunday’s match, leaving Turner as the leading candidate to start in his place once again. Gregg Berhalter had high praise for Turner’s performance against El Salvador, sounding like a coach who will stick with the same starter even though Ethan Horvath is a viable option.


DEFENDERS


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Sergiño Dest, Miles Robinson, John Brooks, Antonee Robinson

Who should start: Sergiño Dest, Miles Robinson, John Brooks, Antonee Robinson

Tim Ream filled in admirably against El Salvador, but it’s time for Brooks to step in and be his imposing self against Canada’s dangerous forwards, which will have their hands full against a Brooks-Miles Robinson centerback pairing.

Canada’s speed on the wings is a problem, and a potential Alphonso Davies-Tajon Buchanan wing tandem will be a handful against any fullback pairing Berhalter chooses.

That said, Sergiño Dest steps his game up when facing tough challenges, and he got the better of Davies the last time they faced each other on international duty (in Nations League in 2019). Antonee Robinson has been in outstanding form for Fulham and should match up well against Buchanan.

If Robinson struggles, Berhalter could call on George Bello, who is no stranger to facing Buchanan from their battles in MLS.


MIDFIELDERS


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Weston McKennie, Sebastian Lletget, Tyler Adams

Who should start: Weston McKennie, Sebastian Lletget, Tyler Adams

Brenden Aaronson struggled against El Salvador, which shouldn’t be a total shock given it was his World Cup qualifying debut, but the performance should strengthen the case for Lletget, who has experience in qualifying, and who also played well against Canada when the USMNT routed the Canadians in Nations League in 2019.

Kellyn Acosta is another candidate to play in a central role, particularly if the USMNT is without Pulisic and/or Gio Reyna, who wasn’t at training on Saturday. Lletget could theoretically be deployed in a wide role, while Acosta can play as a box-to-box midfielder as he did early in the Gold Cup.


FORWARDS


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start: Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Gio Reyna

Who should start: Christian Pulisic, Jordan Pefok, Gio Reyna

Pulisic’s return should help open up space for Reyna to find gaps in the Canadian defense, while also potentially providing service for whoever Berhalter deploys at striker.

That striker should be Pefok, who showed some good glimpses in his second-half cameo against El Salvador, and because Josh Sargent simply didn’t play well enough on Thursday to justify another start.

Could we see Konrad De La Fuente given another start, which could allow Gio Reyna a chance to play in a central role? Plenty of fans may want that, but Konrad didn’t do enough against El Salvador to justify another start, and Reyna should play an important role on the right wing, not only keeping Canadian left back Richie Laryea honest, but also potentially providing service from the wing to Pefok, who is a threat in the air.

Reyna’s absence from training on Saturday has raised questions about his availability, and if he is unable to play for some reason then that would give Berhalter a big decision to make. With Lletget and Kellyn Acosta


What do you think of our projected lineups? Who would you play at striker? What changes would you make to the defense?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. I’m hearing Pulisic still not 100% ready, and now Reyna picking up a knock, and Mckennie playing below his standard game for quite some time. I would imagine Canada is licking their chops to get another crack at us.

    Reply
  2. I agree with people thinking we will see 3 at the back at home, vs Canada. 3-4-3 (Winger width), 3-4-2-1( 2 under the CF). If CP & Steffen are out,
    Reyna, Siebatcheu, BA
    Jedi, Adams, McKennie, Dest
    Sands, Brooks, M. Robinson
    Horvath
    Subs- 65’ or whenever Jordan gets tired. Pepi (Siebatcheu), 80’ KDF (BA), Yedlin (Dest), 85’ Bello (Jedi), Lleget (Reyna)
    I want BA and his speed on the right to compensate for Davies playing at LB or LW on the same side as Buchanan. I like M. Robinson flanking Brooks on the right, for the same reason. I prefer KDF at RW but not starting against Canada for those same reasons. Dest only other position, besides RB needs to be LW. Think (ie., Graham Zusi, or Cuadrado (Colombia). If he starts at RB, he’s going to have his hands full, especially if Davies & Buchanan are on the same side. I hope GB finds the balance, between attacking and defensive players, on the pitch, as well as squad rotation. I could live with Acosta, Roldan, Lleget starting against Honduras w/ a healthy CP. Reyna, Dest, Siebatcheu need to be complimented for what they don’t give you defensively. I don’t have Sargent playing because I think he’s best served as your road forward! Yes, I agree he needs to score but I like what he gives you in away matches. I think, Bello, Pepi, KDF get super sub roles at home to save some players on the road for Honduras! We got a respectable, full match out of Ream. I hope this is the match we see Sands do the same. Leaving McKenzie & Zimmerman for Honduras as starters or subs. IMO, Adams & M. Robinson should be the only 2, who start all 3 matches. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this is a must-win. IMO, all WCQ are must-wins. You’re playing to participate in the WC?! Are you kidding me?! ‘Playing not to lose, isn’t the same as playing to win!’ Let’s get a win! USA

    Reply
      • True, but this is WCQ! Tournament or NL play is different than WCQ. My scale of international competition is WC, WCQ, NL, Continental/Regional tournaments, (GC, Copa America, Euro’s etc), Olympics, OQ, U21s, U20s, U17s.

  3. Steffen still out according to Berhalter, Pulisic will be evaluated during training tonight, another report that Reyna was not on the field at the beginning of training.

    Reply
  4. Lletget is both who will start and preferred? Based on a game 2 years ago? C’mon…. I agree that Aaronson looked out of his element on the road, but KDF wasn’t as bad as Dest or Aaronson. KDF looked more dangerous than Lletget so far this decade.

    Since we’re talking crazy….How about Pefok and Sargent up top? Sargent fits better as a supporting striker anyway, hustling, passing, making runs… Reyna and Pulisic on the wings, with McKennie and Adams playing centrally…

    If you had to pick an MLS midfielder as a must-start, then I’d rather have the twin sixes with Acosta and Adams, allowing Pulisic, Reyna and McKennie to spend time up top with Pefok, and have the sixes cover the counter, especially if Dest and Robinson get caught in the attack…

    I’d rather bench Dest altogether- lots of activity, not much achievement on offense, clear liability on defense. Robinson and Yedlin as the backs would help the team be more successful, all other agendas aside.

    Based on Ream starting last game and playing well, how could 3G pass him up? Who will he start?

    Pefok
    Pulisic Reyna
    Adams McKennie
    Dest Ream Brooks Robinson Yedlin

    Reply
    • Lletget kills counterattacks with his lack of speed. We saw this time after time in the Gold Cup. I don’t rate him as a starter. IMO he’s taking away a roster spot from someone who can help. At best, he’s a tactical sub coming on around the 70th minute.

      Reply
  5. Not a big difference between preferred and expected line0ups. One reason I prefer Pefok is that I expect that he is more of a threat in the air. When teams clog the middle, then you have to rely on crosses into the box. Of the players we have available, McKennie has shown some ability there, but outside of him I don’t see much of a threat except for Pekok. Ebobissee has shown heading ability and if that continues to be a weakness in our attack, perhaps he should be considered as part of the striker options in the future. I hope tomorrow they start playing more like a team.

    Reply
    • I know you didn’t mean immediately but Ebobisse left tonight’s match in the 6th minute with a possible concussion. It would be his second in the last year. I believe he’s had others before that as well. Hopefully he recovers quickly.

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    • By no other threats you mean during the run of play. Clearly, Robinson and Brooks are set piece threats who’ve scored clutch goals in tournaments.

      Reply
      • “Dest was producing more turnovers than the Hostess factory!” Wholly Kreis!, that bar was priceless!! Super Nintendo!

  6. Excited to be taking my girls to their first WCQ. Does anyone know if you can view training or interact with the players?

    Also, who will be at AO party tonight?

    Reply

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