The USMNT face Cuba and Canada over the next week to kick off their CONCACAF Nations League campaign, as Gregg Berhalter’s boys aim to dominate their local rivals after some disappointing results, and performances, in recent friendlies.
[ MORE: Pulisic previews Cuba, Canada ]
Christian Pulisic will be eager for minutes after a testing few months at Chelsea, while DeAndre Yedlin and Matt Miazga are back from injury and Michael Bradley is back in the squad after being left out last month.
Injuries have once again limited Berhalter’s options (Tyler Adams, John Brooks, Alfredo Morales and now Jozy Altidore are all missing) and that provides plenty of chances for youngsters and a few more for experienced veterans. This could be the last chance for a few of the former.
Below we select the best possible XI for the U.S. in their games in Washington D.C. and Toronto, and provide some analysis on the current squad situation.
USMNT’s best possible XI v. Cuba, Canada
—– Steffen —–
— Yedlin — Miazga — Ream — Lima —
—- McKennie —- Bradley —-
—- Boyd —- Lletget —- Pulisic —-
—- Sargent —-
Zack Steffen has been playing well in the Bundesliga and should get the nod over veteran Brad Guzan, while Yedlin will likely slot back in at right back with Sergino Dest not in this squad and his future with the USMNT uncertain. Matt Miazga and Tim Ream have travelled together from England to the U.S. and could provide a good partnership at center back, although Aaron Long will be knocking on the door and Walker Zimmerman would have but his nasty injury rules him out of these games. Brooks will also come straight back into the lineup when he returns from injury. Left back remains a problem area for Berhalter and San Jose’s Nick Lima will once again be the most likely starter in that position after being solid enough in recent games.
In midfield Berhalter will likely go with two more defensive-minded players and with Adams out injured, Weston McKennie and Michael Bradley are the most likely to play in the deeper roles. Of course, Adams could come back in at right back, but we’d all rather see him in the engine room… Wil Trapp and Christian Roldan will be pushing for those spots too, and it would be nice to see Sebastian Lletget play in a more advanced role in lieu of any true No.10’s in this USMNT squad.
Going forward Christian Pulisic should remain on the left wing, his best position, instead of trying to shoehorn him into a central position. Yes, he could get on the ball more there, but he’s better taking players on in one-on-one situations and cutting inside to cause havoc. Josh Morris, Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola will line up on the other flank and it’s really a toss of a coin between those three right now. Up front the USMNT don’t have many options but Josh Sargent could get the nod after racking up plenty of minutes for Werder Bremen in recent weeks. Gyasi Zardes has become a scapegoat among U.S. fans during recent struggles and if Altidore didn’t have to pull out of this squad due to injury, he probably would have started up top centrally. Morris can also start centrally too and he’s looked decent in recent USMNT cameos.