It’s gut-check time for the U.S. men’s national team as Gregg Berhalter’s squad prepares for their latest challenge in CONCACAF Nations League play.
Trinidad & Tobago opposes the Americans in the upcoming quarterfinal round, with Final Four and Copa America berths on the line. Despite their recent success against the Soca Warriors, the USMNT will need to be ready for everything, especially with key players missing in the squad.
Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah miss out due to respective injuries, creating two new opportunities for others to shine. However, Antonee Robinson is back available after missing the October window, while several other players return including Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Sergino Dest.
Berhalter will have plenty of lineup decisions to make, especially with only four days in between the two-legged affairs.
Here is the starting lineup we could see the USMNT deploy against Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday, as well as the lineup we would deploy if we were making the final lineup decisions:
Who will start: Matt Turner
Who should start: Matt Turner
Matt Turner might have lost his starting job at Nottingham Forest, but he remains crucial to the USMNT.
Turner is the No. 1 option for Berhalter and brings ample experience to the goalkeeping ranks, more so than Ethan Horvath and Gabriel Slonina. Turner’s ability to make important saves could be crucial over the next pair of matches.
Who will start: Sergino Dest, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson
Who should start: Sergino Dest, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson
Berhalter can go several different ways with his backline on Thursday, but I’d expect him to go this way against the Soca Warriors.
Tim Ream remains the most experienced centerback option in the player pool and hasn’t done anything to hurt his chances to start. Ream, 35, has continued to play regularly with Fulham this season and brings key experience to the backline.
Cameron Carter-Vickers, Chris Richards, and Miles Robinson will all fight to start alongside Ream, but Carter-Vickers should be the one who does.
Carter-Vickers is back and excelling with Scottish leaders Celtic after his early-season injury forced him to miss two months of action. The veteran defender is a rock in defense, as well as a smart passer out of the back.
Richards hasn’t featured much for Crystal Palace while Robinson is fresh off MLS Cup Playoff involvement with Atlanta United. Both of those reasons, paired with Carter-Vickers’ growing form should indicate why CCV gets the nod alongside Ream.
Antonee Robinson remains the No. 1 option for Berhalter at left back and I don’t see any reason why he would not start. Robinson’s strong defensive abilities paired with his pace on the attacking end are what makes him dangerous.
Sergino Dest is continuing to rack up the minutes on loan at PSV and seems a lock to start at right back. In-form Joe Scally could also fight for minutes as well, but Dest has the nod over Scally until further notice.
Kristoffer Lund is slowly starting to pad his status as the No. 2 left back option after a growing role in Serie B with Palermo.
Who will start: Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Gio Reyna
Who should start: Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Malik Tillman
Tyler Adams’ continued absence paired with Johnny Cardoso’s recent injury doesn’t help the USMNT, but there remains plenty of talent in the group.
Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah remain sure locks in the midfield and will be key on how much the USMNT dictates things on home soil. McKennie and Musah have continued to play important roles this season in Serie A, which should do wonders for their confidence against the Soca Warriors.
Lennard Maloney impressed with the USMNT in October and could be called on if Berhalter wants to go with a different look.
Gio Reyna at the No. 10 role is what we will likely see more of as the USMNT tries to pick up for the absence of Pulisic and Weah. Reyna has been in-and-out of the Borussia Dortmund squad over recent weeks and should be well rested to start from the opening whistle.
However, to give the USMNT their best group of attackers on the field, Berhalter should consider moving Reyna to the wing and adding Malik Tillman in midfield.
Tillman’s impact in the final third could also be on display, whether than be in a midfield or in a wing role. Tillman has continued to deliver off the bench for PSV in recent weeks and is knocking on the door of earning a start for Peter Bosz’s squad when he returns from international duty.
Luca De La Torre and Paxten Aaronson will be fighting for minutes as well.
Who will start: Alex Zendejas, Folarin Balogun, Brenden Aaronson
Who should start: Gio Reyna, Folarin Balogun, Brenden Aaronson
If Berhalter wants to have his best group of attackers on the field, moving Gio Reyna into a wing role would do just that.
Having Malik Tillman in midfield and Reyna on the wing could help fill the gap left by Pulisic and Weah’s absences. Although we have mainly seen Reyna in midfield in recent USMNT appearances, playing on the wing isn’t unfamiliar for him.
Alex Zendejas’ impactful run of form to end the Liga MX Clausura season though could impact Berhalter’s decision though. Zendejas helped Club America lift the title by scoring four goals and adding one assist since the start of September.
However, Zendejas’ lack of production with the USMNT in recent call-ups could lead others to the starting lineup instead of him.
Brenden Aaronson’s club season isn’t going the way that he would’ve hoped, but he is a likely candidate to start out wide. Aaronson’s pressing ability and creativity are what Berhalter wants from his wide players and a strong window here could help spark the 22-year-old for a positive run with Union Berlin.
Kevin Paredes is also an option out wide and the Wolfsburg attacker could be key off the bench, like he was in the September window.
Folarin Balogun and Ricardo Pepi will once again jostle for the starting No. 9 job this month.
Balogun has scored three goals for AS Monaco this season, while Pepi has contributed four in all competitions for PSV. While Pepi has mainly come off the bench for PSV, the 22-year-old Balogun has logged over 200+ more minutes than him to date.
Balogun is the No. 1 option at this time, but Pepi’s abilities off the bench are just as important.
What do you think of our projected lineups? Which would you start? Who are you most excited to see play? Are there any doubts you have?
Share your thoughts below.