USMNT World Cup lineup prediction

USMNT's Gregg Berhalter begged his team to do something, anything, against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

USMNT’s Gregg Berhalter begged his team to do something, anything, against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
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The United States men’s national team had no more minutes to play before taking on Wales in the FIFA World Cup, the nation’s first major soccer showcase in eight years. Tuesday’s goalless draw against Saudi Arabia gave us one last look at the Yanks before heading to Qatar, but didn’t even come close to capturing a moment that moved like needles in a stadium. almost empty. Let the speculations run rampant about who USMNT 26-man head coach Gregg Berhalter will pick for the international rollout; Teams for the World Cup will be announced on November 9.

Since the start of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers 14 months ago, some of Berhalter’s staffing decisions have been confusing, as he prioritizes loyalty over skill and has no reason to believe he will correct his mistakes in 270 minutes guaranteed to determine his future as the American coach. I did my best to try to get into Greggy-poo’s giant skull, to find dozens of expert double bakers who would wear red, white, and blue in Qatar. And because I know Berhalter made me speed dial, I’ll tell you where his choice goes wrong. These are all pending injuries, of course, as Gio Reyna was substituted after 30 minutes against Saudi Arabia.

The easiest place to launch out of Berhalter’s brain and my mind is in the goalkeeper. It would have been a shock to not call three people – and only four men showed up to compete for those positions. New Arsenal signing Matt Turner is a backstop and has the best case to start with. Berhalter’s relationship with Zack Steffen is obvious and I think he’s the top three goalkeeper in the USMNT team. The coin flip choice between Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson would be where Gregg and I differ. Johnson has more experience and his working team – especially his performance against Uruguay – is stronger than Horvath. Made a penalty save against Andres Guardado last June. What did Horvath do to claim his claim? He’s a solid goalkeeper, but for that alone, he shouldn’t have gotten on the plane to Qatar. Berhalter chooses to reward the most memorable moment of his tenure.

Let’s hop around the formation a bit to where Berhalter and I agree – in the midfield. Regarding the best USMNT balance, I believe there should be 7 midfielders in Qatar. I see Gregg bringing only six by prioritizing more bodies in unproven positions. Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Kellyn Acosta, and Luca de la Torre are five courses. Musah, McKennie and Adams in the starting midfield position are suitable and safe options. Bringing Rangers teammates Malik Tillman and James Sands, a necessary backup for Adams in the defensive midfield role, will be on the plane to Qatar. I see Berhalter just brought Johnny Cardoso instead.

I divided the defense into two groups: full-backs and central defenders. Filling in the full-back points is extremely similar. The only difference is that I will bring 5 defenders outside to Qatar, accompanied by Shaq Moore, and I see Berhalter only bringing 4. We will both give up our plane seats to Sergino Dest, Antonee Robinson, DeAndre Yedlin and Reggie Cannon, with Jedi and Dest starting. The decision for Moore at the age of 26 was because of Cannon’s tendencies. Cannon is traditionally an outside full-back, but prefers to play inside as a sort of third centre-back. That’s the best way to maximize the squad.

The consistent exile of John Brooks has become more egregious with time. The USMNT isn’t blessed with center-back talent, especially with a long-term injury that forced Miles Robinson, the team’s best at the position, to be out of consideration for the World Cup. Brooks should start in Qatar, but I doubt Berhalter will even call him in. I also understand that Tim Ream’s last few appearances for the national team haven’t gone well, but where else are you going to find a captain from a top-five European league?

Ream has worn the armband for Fulham this season and even if you don’t play him in Qatar that much, his veteran presence is needed for the Yanks. Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long are the pair Berhalter and I agree on, and he’s likely to start that MLS duo against Wales on Nov. 21. I see Chris Richards, Joe Scally, and Sam Vines rounding out Gregg’s center-back selections.

The biggest failure of Berhalter’s tenure thus far is finding no true starting striker. Against Saudi Arabia, Gregg started Ricardo Pepi up top. He had 13 total touches in the game, the least for any American starter, including Turner. It appears Jesus Ferreria has the current path to start in Qatar with five goals for the Yanks in 2022, albeit four of those coming against lowly Grenada. The FC Dallas striker should be on the plane but not start. I’d give the true No. 9 role to Jordan Pefok. How do you deny the starting striker for the top team in the Bundesliga? The other striker to suit up for the USA at the World Cup should be Josh Sargent, who’s been in great form at Norwich City. I see Berhalter opting for Pepi and Jordan Morris in addition to Ferreria at striker.

Rounding out the squad in the non-striker forward slots are some of the easiest selections on the team. The quartet of Reyna, Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, and Brenden Aaronson all need to be in Qatar with Gregg bringing an eighth forward in Paul Arriola. I gave the outside forward starting spots to Pulisic and Aaronson, with a hopefully healthy Reyna being a consistent super-sub. Reyna and Pulisic start in Berhalter’s lineup. It’s 55 days until the start of the World Cup and 43 days until we find out how many (hopefully all of them) I got right.

Eric’s picks:

GK (3): Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, Sean Johnson

LB/RB (5): Sergino Dest, Antonee Robinson, DeAndre Yedlin, Reggie Cannon, Shaq Moore

CB (4) Walker Zimmerman, John Brooks, Tim Ream, Aaron Long

MID (7): Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Kellyn Acosta, Luca de la Torre, Malik Tillman, James Sands

FWD (7): Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Tim Weah, Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Pefok, Jesus Ferreria, Josh Sargent

Starting XI
FWD: Pulisic-Pefok-Aaronson
MID: Musah-Adams-McKennie
DEF: Robinson-Zimmerman-Brooks-Dest
GK: Turner

Who Gregg will pick:

GK (3): Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath

LB/RB (4): Sergino Dest, Antonee Robinson, DeAndre Yedlin, Reggie Cannon

CB (5): Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, Chris Richards, Joe Scally, Sam Vines

MID (6): Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Kellyn Acosta, Luca de la Torre, Johnny Cardoso

FWD (8): Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Tim Weah, Brenden Aaronson, Jesus Ferreria, Ricardo Pepi, Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola

Starting XI:
FWD: Pulisic-Ferreria-Reyna
MID: Musah-Adams-McKennie
DEF: Robinson–Long-Zimmerman-Dest
GK: Turner

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