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

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


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


A road World Cup qualifier in central America isn’t where you want to be taking a tired team for a must-win game, but that is the situation Gregg Berhalter and the U.S. men’s national team is facing as they prepare for Wednesday’s showdown with Honduras in San Pedro Sula.

Injuries, and one high-profile suspension, have left the Americans missing several key pieces heading into Wednesday, and after managing just two draws from their first two Octagonal qualifiers, they will vie for their first win riding what will likely be a tiring bunch.

Tyler Adams and Miles Robinson have played all 180 minutes of September’s qualifiers, and it is difficult to see the USMNT being without either against Honduras, while Brenden Aaronson has logged 159 minutes in two starts and is coming off the kind of strong showing against Canada that makes him an enticing option to start for a third straight time.

The risk with going with too many players in tired legs is being overrun by a Honduras team that has taken squad rotation to an unmatched level in the Octagonal. Catrachos head coach Fabian Coito made a whopping nine lineup changes from their opening draw against Canada to Sunday’s draw in El Salvador, and has spread the minutes around so much that every field player has seen action and only goalkeeper Luis Lopez has come close to playing 180 minutes.

To take it a step further, Honduras rested its entire first-choice defense against El Salvador, as well as its projected defensive midfield tandem (save for a five-minute cameo for Kervin Arriaga).

That means a USMNT attack that has struggled to generate chances through two qualifiers must now find a way to generate them against a rested back-line made up of three-fourths of the same Honduras defense that frustrated the Americans in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals (which the USMNT won 1-0 via a late Jordan Pefok goal).

Berhalter is light on fresh attacking options, in part because of the head-scratching decision not to call in any attacking replacements after having Tim Weah and Gio Reyna go down injured, and Weston McKennie suspended. Jackson Yueill’s inclusion is somewhat understandable given his experience playing against Honduras, but not also bringing in at least one attacking reinforcement made no sense at all.

What the USMNT does have is rested defensive options, which makes you wonder whether Berhalter will opt for a five-man defense in order to tap into the fresh legs that James Sands, Mark McKenzie and Walker Zimmerman can provide.

The safer bet for Berhalter would be to go with a five-man defense to withstand the likely early onslaught from a rested Honduran side, and he could learn a lesson from what Canada did to the Americans by saving some attacking weapons as good second-half options when things will presumably open up as legs tire. What Berhalter should have taken away from the Canada game is that he can’t wait too long to deploy his substitutions. That will be even more of a concern against Honduras given the likelihood that some players will begin fading as they play in their third qualifier in a week.

With all that in mind, here is a look at the lineup we could see the USMNT deploy against Honduras, the formation variation Berhalter could turn to, and the lineup we would deploy on Wednesday:

Projected USMNT 4-3-3 Lineup vs. Honduras

SBI’s prefered USMNT 4-3-3 lineup vs. Honduras

Projected USMNT 5-2-3 lineup vs. Honduras

SBI Preferred USMNT 5-2-3 lineup vs. Honduras


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Matt Turner is the pick, and has done nothing in his first two qualifying starts to suggest he can’t handle things in Honduras.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start (4-3-3): DeAndre Yedlin, Miles Robinson, John Brooks, Antonee Robinson

Who will start (5-2-3): Kellyn Acosta, Miles Robinson, James Sands, John Brooks, Antonee Robinson

Who should start (4-3-3): Kellyn Acosta, Miles Robinson, John Brooks

Who will start (5-2-3): Kellyn Acosta, Miles Robinson, James Sands, John Brooks, Antonee Robinson

Antonee Robinson and John Brooks are locks to start, and the only reason we won’t call Miles Robinson a lock is because of the 180 minutes he has played in September qualifying, but he really is most likely a lock given his form.

That leaves the right back/right wingback role. DeAndre Yedlin played 46 minutes against Canada after starting against El Salvador, and you wonder if he’s ready to give another 90 minutes or close against someone like Romell Quioto.

That leaves us with Kellyn Acosta, who has looked very good in the right back role, and who could handle playing as a right wing back if Berhalter goes with a five-man backline.

If the USMNT goes with three centerbacks then look for James Sands to get the call. Honduras has no real aerial threats to deal with so this isn’t a game for Walker Zimmerman, and Mark McKenzie is the option if Miles Robinson is deemed too tired to start (though McKenzie’s recent lack of club minutes make him equally risky as a starter).

Sands has the ability to defend, distribute and slide into midfield when needed, and a formation with him in central defense and Acosta at right wingback would give the USMNT formation some serious adaptability to shift into different looks to try and break down a veteran Honduran defense.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start (4-3-3): Tyler Adams, Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta

Who will start (5-2-3): Tyler Adams, Sebastian Lletget

Who should start (4-3-3): Tyler Adams, Sebastian Lletget, Cristian Roldan

Who should start (5-2-3): Tyler Adams, Sebastian Lletget

Adams has played 180 minutes over two matches, but is simply too valuable to bench, and he’ll be up for the challenge of San Pedro Sula. Lletget gets the nod ahead of Cristian Roldan, and his experience puts him in the lineup over a Konrad De La Fuente.

An option Berhalter might consider is Acosta at right back and Roldan in central midfield. Roldan won’t be fazed by playing in Honduras and has big-game experience to handle himself in what will be a real fight against the physical Honduran central midfielders.

If Berhalter gives with five in the back, then Adams and Lletget should partner together in the middle, with Sands sliding into midfield on occasions.


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

Who will start (4-3-3): Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Brenden Aaronson

Who will start (5-2-3): Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Brenden Aaronson

Who should start (4-3-3): Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Brenden Aaronson

Who should start (5-2-3): Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Konrad De La Fuente

Pulisic is a lock at the left forward position, and given the physicality of Honduras’ two defensive midfielder central midfield setup, this isn’t the game to try Pulisic in a central role. Sargent gets the nod at striker over Pefok though Berhalter could go either way.

Aaronson is the real question mark. If he has enough gas in the tank after two starts, then he should get the nod in any setup because of his ability to press from the forward position, but if there is any question of fatigue, then Konrad De La Fuente’s fresh legs and quickness would make him a threat to test Honduran left back Diego Rodriguez from the opening minute.

The more likely scenario is Aaronson starts, and De La Fuente comes on for the final 30 minutes to push a potentially tiring Honduran defense.

What do you think of the projected starting lineup options? Which lineup would you go with? Which system would you prefer the USMNT deploy in Honduras, a 4-3-3, or five in the back?

Share your thoughts below.

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