Brian McBride talks USMNT, MLS growth and challenging young players

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The U.S. Men’s National Team completed the first half of its task on Friday night after pulling off a convincing win over Panama in World Cup qualifying, but their job is far from done.

Bruce Arena and Co. will have the next part of their challenge on Tuesday night when the Americans travel to Trinidad & Tobago.

[ MORE: Previewing the USMNT’s final WCQ against Trinidad & Tobago ]

Pro Soccer Talk caught up with former USMNT forward Brian McBride ahead of the crucial CONCACAF qualifier, while he works closely with Dove Men+Care and the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) to present the Dove Men+Care “Caring Coach” Award to a youth coach in December.

The 45-year-old, now an analyst for ESPN FC, also discussed his time in MLS, the league’s progression over the past two decades-plus and much more.


PST: Tell me about how you got involved with this Dove and PCA Alliance campaign and about what you’re trying to accomplish by introducing the “Caring Coach” award.

McBride: It all starts with these coaches for young players, and I think it’s really important to recognize them because youth soccer wouldn’t be possible without them. The youth level has had such a huge impact on my life. I really enjoy the relationship that I have with the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA).

PST: Just from talking to other players in the past, it always seems like there’s a coach or mentor along the way that leaves a lasting impression on them and really finds a way to get the best out of them. Did you ever experience that?

McBride: I certainly had that. I think the coaching that I’ve had on the soccer side has been pretty awesome, but for me, the one that really stands out is my high school coach. It wasn’t necessarily the soccer coaching that made an impact. He made an impact on my life and talking through what’s important. He got me to think about things other than just sports and it’s something that will always stick with me.

PST: You’re someone that had the ability to play in 3 World Cups. What would be the ramifications of the USMNT missing out on a World Cup?

McBride: It would be a tragedy. I don’t want to think about the men’s national team not qualifying for a World Cup. I’m staying positive and thinking that they’re going to get a result tonight and make it.

PST: There have been comparisons to Landon Donovan and other former American players. First off, what have you seen from Christian Pulisic that excites you? And second, is it time to start acknowledging him not only as a top USMNT player but also on a global scale?

McBride: I think there hasn’t been a player like Christian Pulisic at the age he’s at that U.S. Soccer has produced. I say that knowing that to compare when Clint [Dempsey] was coming up versus when Landon [Donovan] was coming up to now Christian that these were different times. Soccer has grow to such an extent, not just in the United States, but across the globe where the comparison should always be to where he is at personally.

PST: We’ve seen trends throughout the years where we’ve had MLS-heavy and then European-heavy rosters with the USMNT. With many of the top players migrating back to the U.S. recently, what do you think that does for the long-term complexion of the squad?

McBride: It’s a good question because I believe there are things you learn from playing in Europe that are extremely important. It goes beyond playing to actually experiencing the culture and doing different things day in and day out during practice and then in your personal life. You’re under a magnifying glass and it makes you ultra-focused. The nice thing about guys like Clint [Dempsey], Michael [Bradley] and Jozy [Altidore] coming back was that they had been there long enough to experience it. They’re the types of players that have the ability to come back and create a European-type culture here in MLS.

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PST: How important is it for young players like Tyler Adams and recently Matt Miazga to break out of their MLS academies and into the European soccer scene

McBride: It’s tough because for me the question I’d look at is: ‘Are you ready?’ And when I say ready I don’t just mean physically, but the mental side of things, too. Many of these guys are going to countries where they speak a different language and you already have the cultural differences to overcome. If you have a support support system, you’re mentally prepared and you’re capable of pushing through the hard times to get past the initial trepidations then I think the player should go.

When I first went to Wolfsburg I wasn’t mentally prepared for what was going to happen. I had no idea what I was getting into. It affects you. It affects the way you play. You just have to be prepared for everything that comes with the challenge of moving like that.

PST: You had the chance to see MLS up close from the league’s inception. To you, how drastic has the growth been from when you started playing to here in 2017

McBride: It’s been immense. The MLS has grown a lot bigger than I thought for sure in terms of the teams we have and are going to have in the future. The biggest thing is the infrastructure that has been set up. When we started, we were training on a extracurricular field at Ohio State University. The grass wasn’t cut above our boots and then there were places where we didn’t even have grass. Now, you have immaculate facilities like Atlanta. It’s going to be a huge help in terms of growing the game and the growth of our players. The question of having too many clubs won’t really exist because you have the ability to pull up young players.

PST: Previous expansion sides have enjoyed success out of the gate, but does Atlanta United have the formula for future expansion sides to follow?

McBride: There has been so many teams, but certainly Atlanta because they didn’t have the ability to pull players up from a team that already has a following, like Portland and Seattle did. I think those two organizations were sort of the leading light in terms of expansion and then Atlanta took it one step further by building the team themselves. Adding guys like Carlos [Bocanegra] does wonders for the growth of the club. They’re doing all the right things and their owner is very involved, which reflects well in the view of the public. I think they’re a great example for future teams.

PST: I know you’re from the area and had the chance to play with the Chicago Fire during your career. How impressed are you with their turnaround this season and the additions the club has made to compete in the East?

McBride: It’s huge for the city. In my opinion, and maybe I’m a bit biased because I’m from here, Chicago is the best sports city in the United States. New York and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh won’t like me too much, but I grew up here so this is what I know.

I think that there’s a willingness in the city to support the club when it’s a winner and Andrew [Hauptmann] — club owner — deserves a lot of credit for their success now. He’s had his share of missteps in the past, but he’s righted his wrongs and now he has Nelson [Rodriguez] who understands the league and a coach that really understands the structure of the club. You can’t deny that Dax McCarty has been the most impactful player that has come to this team.

PST: How has the Premier League evolved since your time playing in England? Especially when you see teams like Leicester and Burnley making significant noise over the last few years, instead of the top six always dominating headlines.

McBride: I think that’s more of an anomaly. They have coaches that have a vision and a group of players that execute. You look at what Leicester did and they had every single player closing down the ball. You have to understand how to play together. Burnley has done that so far this season. I don’t see them sticking up there, but we said that about Leicester and look what happened.

The other thing I’ll say is that the money inside the Premier League right now is immense. That does carry a lot of weight. Look at Stoke pulling Jese this season. That’s huge for a club like them. Back in the day that wasn’t going to happen.

PST: What are your thoughts on how the PL title race is shaping up? 

McBride: I picked Manchester City before the start of the season and they’re playing well enough right now to do it. I’m going to ride with them the rest of the way. Sometimes you change throughout the year, but I’m going to stick with them.

Saudi Arabia vs USMNT, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream

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Fair or not, Tuesday’s edition of Saudi Arabia vs USMNT is going to be scrutinized as much as any friendly in recent United States men’s national team history.

[ MORE: Projected starting XI vs Saudi Arabia ]

Gregg Berhalter’s men looked like sloppy at best and rudderless at worst in Friday’s 2-0 loss to Japan in Dusseldorf and that’s incredibly alarming with the Yanks on the precipice of their World Cup return, a time when teams are usually questioning the fine-tuning rather than, well, a whooooooooole lot.

[ MORE: What we learned from Japan vs USA | Player ratings ]

That’s why a big performance against a solid and stubborn Saudi Arabia, a team in theory selected for its similarities to World Cup group stage foe Iran, can really provide a ubiquitous lift to spirits in the world of U.S. Soccer. And while Berhalter might claim that lift is only needed amongst the fans, he’d be kidding himself.

Remember: While the entirety of U.S. Soccer wants the side to go deep in Qatar, this is supposed to be setting the stage for a real challenge for the trophy on home soil in 4.5 years. At the moment, that sounds silly. A year-and-a-half ago, late in the night against Mexico, it did not. Fixing that would be a good first step, and Tuesday’s the next chance.


How to watch Saudi Arabia vs USMNT live, updates and start time

Date: Tuesday, September 27
Kick off time: 2pm ET
Where: Estadio Nuevo Condomina, Murcia, Spain
How to watch: FS1, UnimasTUDN


Saudi Arabia vs USMNT live analysis! – By Joe Prince-Wright

Pulisic, wearing the captain’s armband, is looking real sharp. Some surging runs in from the left and he’s popping up everywhere.

Not too much going on at the moment as the USMNT struggle to get in the final third on a regular basis.

Lovely ball over the top and McKennie controls well but his shot is straight at the goalkeeper. Still, much better from the USMNT.

A few decent runs forward from the USMNT. As Pepi and McKennie both flagged for offside. Quick passing and moving from the U.S. as that is more like it.

KICK OFF: We are underway! Straight away Saudi Arabia have a shot from the edge of the box and Turner pushes it away. Sharp start from Saudi Arabia, who are missing several key players due to injury.

Anthems ring around the stadium in Murcia in front of a very small crowd which looks like being less than 1,000. Can the USMNT respond to that heavy defeat against Japan? We are about to find out.

Tick-tock! Kick off is almost here and this is the final chance for players to impress Gregg Berhalter ahead of the World Cup. Will it be another nervy, error-strewn display form the Stars and Stripes? Or will the likes of Pulisic, Adams and McKennie stand tall and really lead this young team to a much-needed win and, perhaps more importantly, a positive display?

As we approach kick off, the general reaction to team news focuses on Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman once again starting together at center back. This probably shows that Erik Palmer-Brown and Mark McKenzie are way down the pecking order in that position and the injured duo of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Chris Richards are well ahead of them. Also, watching Pulisic and Reyna on the wings could be fun, especially if they’re allowed to drift inside at will.

The team news is in from sunny southern Spain, as the beautiful Estadio Nuevo Condomina is the setting for the USMNT’s final game before the World Cup kicks off.

For the USMNT, Matt Turner starts in goal once again with Zimmerman and Long at center back. DeAndre Yedlin comes in at right back, with Sergino Dest switching over to left back. Ricardo Pepi comes in for Jesus Ferreira up top, Christian Pulisic replaces Brenden Aaronson out wide and Kellyn Acosta is in for Luca de la Torre in midfield.

Gregg Berhalter has gone a lot stronger with this starting lineup than we thought he might. Is that showing the pressure is on him to get a positive result? Perhaps.

Below is the Saudi Arabian starting lineup, as their entire roster is from their domestic league and for any USMNT fans underestimating them, Saudi Arabia finished above Japan in World Cup qualifying.


Saudi Arabia vs USMNT head-to-head record

This will be the seventh meeting between the Yanks and Green Falcons, but the first since 1999 against a national team representing political issues for the United States. Saudi Arabia won two of the first four but the Yanks claimed home soil wins in a 1995 friendly and the 1999 Confederations Cup. All of the on-field mentions above mean absolutely nothing for Tuesday but they are fun to note on a pre-match preview (Upside-down smile face emoji).


The lowdown on Saudi Arabia

This is a very Saudi Arabia experienced side, one that went 13W-4D-1L in World Cup qualifying and have experience in a lot of 1-0 contests including recent Spain-based friendly losses to Colombia and Venezuela. The team will also feel at home in Murcia, where it played those matches and where it had a scoreless tangle with Ecuador four days prior to this tilt. Ecuador outshot the Saudis 11-5 and had 60 percent of the ball but all that will get you an argument that you deserved better than a solitary point that comes from a real match. If you want to see your Yanks break down a sound team, Tuesday’s a good chance.


Key storylines

Let’s be very fair to Berhalter, who has a young team and has overseen some memorable and downright awesome triumphs in CONCACAF: There are injuries right now — Christian Pulisic was rested with a knock on Friday — and the coach does not have access to Timothy Weah, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Chris Richards.

But his judgment is being questioned with Fulham captain Tim Ream, Union Berlin center forward Jordan Pefok, and Benfica back John Brooks healthy and ready to contribute but sitting at home. Berhalter has questioned their fits in the system and also said something nebulous about the team not expressing its “personality” versus Japan and that sounds pretty bad when the system looks awful.


USMNT team news, injuries, lineup

This is easily the most interesting lineup in some time for the USMNT after Berhalter gave starting looks to some of his lynchpins and got a mixed bag of results, none of which were exceptional aside from goalkeeper Matt Turner (and even he was not at his best in possession on an admittedly poor pitch in Dusseldorf) and Brenden Aaronson if we’re being judicious in the name of optimism. But really, all of the front three were ghosts. Much of is down to the eight men behind them, though, and forgiving glances can be cast at Aaronson and Giovanni Reyna. Jesus Ferreira is not included after missing a chance that would and could be called a sitter if he didn’t have to jump to head it (We kid, but it’s dark humor).

Aaron Long was very poor and Walker Zimmerman uncharacteristically poor next to him, while youngster Sam Vines had a rough first half before Berhalter adjusted his usage from left back to left wing back with emphasis on the wing part. Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams are often the heartbeat of this team but both looked a mix of cavalier and junior varsity. That won’t happen often, and very rarely will occur at the same time.

Here’s what to watch from Berhalter’s lineup choices, presuming he doesn’t change his formation.

  • If Matt Turner starts — and then stays healthy and relatively blunder-free at Arsenal — forget about anyone else starting the World Cup opener in Qatar. If it’s Ethan Horvath or presumed No. 3 Sean Johnson, well, anything’s possible.
  • We’ll see Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, but will it be Luca de la Torre completing the midfield trio? Will Kellyn Acosta or Johnny Cardoso arrive to move McKennie into a different role? Will Malik Tillman get his chance to start? Or will Giovanni Reyna be played in position (please?)?
  • Ricardo Pepi: The way Josh Sargent was plugged into the front three in the second half, it seems like FC Dallas star Ferreira and alum Pepi were meant to trade starts.
  • Christian Pulisic will start on the wing. How does he look, both in form and body language?
  • Sergino Dest and Sam Vines were the fullbacks versus Japan, with Reggie Cannon coming off the bench. Will it be Joe Scally and DeAndre Yedlin to start? Will Dest swap to left back? Antonee Robinson and Dest are the favorites to start in Qatar, but is the latter’s spot on the right now in question?
  • Much of U.S. Soccer, us included, considered this break to be a bunch of center backs bidding to play next to Walker Zimmerman in Qatar. Will it be Zimmerman plus one on Tuesday or something else?

World Cup 2022 schedule – groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates

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The World Cup 2022 schedule is locked in and there is so much to look forward to ahead of the tournament in Qatar in November to December.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

From the USMNT facing England the day after Thanksgiving to Mexico and Argentina squaring off in the group stages, Spain facing Germany, and Belgium vs Canada, there are plenty of intriguing games in the opening round.

[ MORE: USMNT react to draw

Then we have the Round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and final to look forward to.

Below is the schedule in full, details on how to watch the games and everything else you need..

[ MORE: World Cup odds ]


World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
Group stage game kick off times: 5am, 8am, 11am, 2pm (all ET)
Location: Qatar
TV channel in English: Fox
TV channel in Spanish: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock


Group A schedule (all kick off times ET)

November, 20: Qatar vs Ecuador – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 12pm
November, 21: Senegal vs Netherlands – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
November, 25: Qatar vs Senegal – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 8am
November, 25: Netherlands vs Ecuador – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 11am
November, 29: Netherlands vs Qatar – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 10am
November, 29: Ecuador vs Senegal –  Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Group B schedule

November, 21: England vs Iran – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 21: USA vs Wales- Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
November, 25: England vs USA – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm
November, 25: Wales vs Iran – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 5am
November, 29: Wales vs England – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
November, 29: Iran vs USA – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

Group C schedule

November, 22: Argentina vs Saudi Arabia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 5am
November, 22: Mexico vs Poland – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
November, 26: Argentina vs Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
November, 26: Poland vs Saudi Arabia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 30: Poland vs Argentina – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm
November, 30: Saudi Arabia vs Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm

Group D schedule

November, 22: France vs Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 2pm
November, 22: Denmark vs Tunisia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 26: France vs Denmark – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
November, 26: Tunisia vs Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 5am
November, 30: Tunisia vs France –  Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am
November, 30: Australia vs Denmark – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am

Group E schedule

November, 23: Spain vs Costa Rica- Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 11am
November, 23: Germany vs Japan – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 27: Spain vs Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm
November, 27: Japan vs Costa Rica – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 5am
December, 1: Japan vs Spain – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
December, 1: Costa Rica vs Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

Group F schedule

November, 23: Belgium vs Canada – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
November, 23: Morocco vs Croatia – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
November, 27: Belgium vs Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 8am
November, 27: Croatia vs Canada – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 11am
December, 1: Croatia vs Belgium – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am
December, 1: Canada vs Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 10am

Group G schedule

November, 24: Brazil vs Serbia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
November, 24: Switzerland vs Cameroon – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 5am
November, 28: Brazil vs Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
November, 28: Cameroon vs Serbia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 5am
December, 2: Cameroon vs Brazil – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
December, 2: Serbia vs Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm

Group H schedule

November, 24: Portugal vs Ghana – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
November, 24: Uruguay vs South Korea – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
November, 28: Portugal vs Uruguay – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
November, 28: South Korea vs Ghana – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 8am
December, 2: South Korea vs Portugal – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am
December, 2: Ghana vs Uruguay – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am


Round of 16 schedule

Match 49 – December, 3: Winner Group A vs Runners up Group B – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 50 – December, 3:  Winners Group C vs Runners up Group D – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm

Match 52 -December, 4: Winners Group D vs Runners up Group C – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha – 10am

Match 51 – December, 4: Winners Group B vs Runners up Group A – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm

Match 53 -December, 5: Winners Group E vs Runners up Group F – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am

Match 54 – December, 5: Winners Group G vs Runners up Group H – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm

Match 55 – December, 6: Winners Group F vs Runners up Group E – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 56 – December, 6: Winners Group H vs Runners up Group G – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm


Quarterfinal schedule

Match 58 – December, 9: Winners Match 53 vs Winners Match 54 – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 57 – December, 9: Winners Match 49 vs Winners Match 50 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 10am

Match 60 – December, 10: Winners Match 55 vs Winners Match 56 – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha – 10am

Match 59 – December, 10: Winners Match 51 vs Winners Match 52 – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Semifinal schedule

Match 61 – December, 13: Winners Match 57 vs Winners Match 58 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm

Match 62 – December, 14: Winners Match 59 vs Winners Match 60 – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Third-place play-off

Match 63 – December, 17: Losers Match 61 vs Losers Match 62 – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm


Final

Match 64 – December, 18: Winners Match 61 vs Winners Match 62 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 10am

Report: Christian Pulisic ‘in talks’ over move to Juventus

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A report from Italian outlet Calcio Mercato claims that USMNT star Christian Pulisic is ‘in talks’ over a move to Juventus.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]

Pulisic, 24, was linked with a move away from Chelsea all summer long and has recently revealed how he felt disappointed when Thomas Tuchel (now the former Chelsea boss) left him out of the starting lineup for the UEFA Champions League semifinal second leg against Real Madrid in May 2021.

With Tuchel gone, Christian Pulisic could break back into the Chelsea starting lineup under new boss Graham Potter but it is widely expected that the American winger will leave the Premier League giants in the coming months with less than two years remaining on his current contract.


What is the latest?

Per the report, Juventus like Pulisic because he can play in several different positions in the attacking third of the pitch.

The report also claims that Juve have held initial talks with Pulisic’s agent about a contract and were told that Pulisic plans to leave Chelsea at the end of the 2022-23 season when he has just one year left on his contract as he wants a ‘new challenge’ in his career.

There is also a claim that Chelsea want $33.7 million for Pulisic and won’t budge on that transfer fee even if he has just one year left on his contract.

Pulisic looks like he needs a fresh start in his club career as Graham Potter will play a fluid 3-4-2-1 system and relies heavily on his wing backs to provide attacking impetus from out wide. That doesn’t suit Pulisic at all


Is Juventus a good fit?

Probably. His pace and dribbling skills would cause problem in any team and the way Juventus play under Max Allegri (if he’s still there when/if Pulisic arrives) relies heavily on getting the ball wide early and encouraging wingers to attack.

Along with that tactical approach, Pulisic would also get the chance to play alongside his close friend and USMNT teammate Weston McKennie. That could bring out the best in both of them.

It now seems a case of when, not if, Pulisic leaves Chelsea. And when he does, he will have plenty of offers to move to a team playing in the Champions League and considered a giant in their country. Given his ability on the ball, what he’s shown in flashes throughout his career and his presence as a superstar in the United States of America, teams across will line up to sign him.


USMNT projected starting lineup vs Saudi Arabia

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The USMNT face Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain in their final warm-up game before the 2022 World Cup kicks off in November and there are plenty of question marks around their best starting lineup.

Especially at center back and up front.

[ MORE: Player ratings | What we learned | Reaction ]

Following the shocking defeat to Japan (where a 2-0 scoreline in Japan’s favor heavily flattered the USMNT), Gregg Berhalter has plenty to think about as he juggles his roster around ahead of this final audition.

Yes, this final camp before the World Cup has seen the USMNT without six key players (Weah, Steffen, A. Robinson, Carter-Vickers, Richards and Musah) but the most concerning thing is that nobody took the opportunity given to them against Japan. Will anybody step up against Saudi Arabia and cement their spot in the roster, or even the starting lineup?

Below is our projected lineup, plus analysis on what Berhalter should do for the final 90 minutes he has with the team before they kick off their World Cup campaign against Wales on Nov. 21 in Qatar.


USMNT projected starting lineup vs Saudi Arabia (4-3-3)

—– Horvath —–

— Yedlin — Zimmerman — Palmer-Brown — Dest —

—- Adams —- Acosta —-

—- Reyna —-

— Aaronson — Pepi — Pulisic —


What should Berhalter do?

It’s clear that Gregg Berhalter will make plenty of changes as eight players (six outfield, two goalkeepers) didn’t have any minutes against Japan last time out. That said, he needs key players on this team to find some rhythm playing together less than two months before the World Cup kicks off. This starting lineup should be a mixture between giving players a final chance to impress and letting star players alongside each other as they look to build momentum ahead of the World Cup.

Goalkeepers

Matt Turner proved he’s the undisputed No. 1 as he excelled against Japan (perhaps the only player to leave that game with any credit) and although Zack Steffen is better with the ball at his feet, Turner appears to have the upper-hand. That leaves Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson to battle it out for the final goalkeeping spot on the roster. Expect them both to get a chance in this game.

Defenders

In defense, Erik Palmer-Brown and Mark McKenzie should both get plenty of minutes to make their final claim for a spot on the roster but it may be a surprise to see them line up together. Perhaps they will have 45 minutes each alongside Zimmerman (a guaranteed starter at CB) to see who fares better as a duo?

At full back Joe Scally should get a run out at right back, while Sergino Dest will likely show off his versatility and play left back. The likes of Dest, and others, need the game time given they’re on the fringes of their starting lineup for their club teams. We now what DeAndre Yedlin can do and he is a leader on this team who is going to Qatar no matter what.

Midfielders

In midfield, I’d start Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie together again but Kellyn Acosta will probably get a start.

The duo of Adams and McKennie looked awful against Japan, which was very surprising, and they have to get some kind of partnership going and 60 minutes together here could see things click back into place for them. We know what Luca de la Torre and Acosta offer, while Johnny Cardoso and Malik Tillman could both get another, longer, chance to push for a spot on the roster.

Forwards

Gio Reyna playing in a central role as a No. 10 should be something Berhalter prioritizes, while Christian Pulisic is fit and will start (according to Berhalter) so he should start on the left and Brenden Aaronson should start on the right. Getting Aaronson, Reyna and Pulisic used to playing together and interchanging is something that has to be done.

Up top, Berhalter has confirmed that Ricardo Pepi will get his chance to start and his physicality and speed should combine very well with the trio underneath him. Expect Josh Sargent to get a good chunk of minutes too, while Jesus Ferreira is the other option up top but maybe we could see Pulisic or Reyna playing up there as a false nine at some point of the game?