Gregg Berhalter’s called up his first United States men’s national team in months, and the average age is almost silly, coming in at 65 days under 22 years old.
What makes it sillier? Only six players on the Tuesday-released roster are older than 22, with ancient (we’re kidding) Tim Ream’s 33 years pulling the total up quite a bit.
[ MORE: Berhalter explains squad ]
It makes sense to go experience against Wales and then let a younger XI work against whoever Panama sends to Austria (For the purposes below, we’ll put Ethan Horvath as the goalkeeper on one team and Zack Steffen on the other).
But let’s take a look at some of Gregg Berhalter’s options as he looks to see as many players as possible but also begin to build toward the Gold Cup, CONCACAF Nations League, and — of course — World Cup qualifying.
Most experienced and/or in-form XI v Wales
The challenge here is that, ideally, the three best and most experienced center backs in this bunch prefer to be on the left side of the formation.
John Brooks, for whatever you want to say about his work with the national team, sprays the ball around like a champ and is in terrific form for Wolfsburg. He’s playing LCB.
Tim Ream has been used a bunch at LB for the USMNT but this is before the Yanks had a thriving Antonee Robinson with Fulham.
And while some aren’t terribly impressed with Robinson’s younger performances in a U.S. shirt, they came against France, Brazil, and Colombia amongst others. They drew France, by the way. Dave Sarachan was the coach then and it was an interesting time (He did well. Let’s just say it). Berhalter has played Sergino Dest at left back, not his best spot, but is Reggie Cannon that much better at right back than Robinson at left to justify playing Dest out of place? You know the answer to that.
I think Matt Miazga gets the call next to Brooks. He’s played RB in both of his appearances for Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht.
While there are a lot of fun new ideas at midfield, the relative inexperience of Johnny Cardoso, Owen Otasowie, Yunus Musah, and Richard Ledezma make it easy to peg Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie sitting on top of the back four.
Let’s plug Giovanni Reyna in at attacking center mid to keep Christian Pulisic on the left (assuming the Chelsea winger can go).
The option becomes who plays up top and who plays in the “Jordan Morris” spot at right wing with the Seattle Sounders man on a very good MLS Cup Playoffs team.
One route would be to put Timothy Weah up top and put Josh Sargent in the Morris spot, as Werder Bremen boss Florian Kohfeldt has largely started Sargent in the “runs your legs off” role. That’s also the “most caps” move and Weah has been through a lot so it makes sense to try it. The other would be to put a huge push on Yunus Musah — who is still eligible for England, Italy, and Ghana — and play the teenage Valencia at right wing to help cover Dest going forward.
But this is the “most experienced” XI, so we go here:
Dest — Miazga — Brooks — Robinson
Adams — McKennie
Sargent– Reyna– Pulisic
(Almost) all kids v Panama
Let’s start here: A lot of these young guys fall into a similar camp and it’s not easy to slot them into an entirely different XI.
But we do have some precedence for these kids, many who played together at the 2019 U-20 World Cup.
The Baby Yanks lost to Ukraine before beating Qatar and Nigeria to set up their marquee result: A 3-2 defeat of a very good France team.
Seven players who played that day are in this squad, including brace-bagging Sebastian Soto. He was a fixture in that tournament, as were Konrad de la Fuente, Timothy Weah, Richihe Ledezma, Chris Richards, and Sergino Dest (Uly Llanez came off the bench a lot, too).
So if we go off of this, with the knowledge that Berhalter will want some veteran experience with them, let’s pencil in Zack Steffen, Tim Ream, and at least one of Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie out there.
Musah is playing out wide for Valencia but has played a lot of CM for Valencia at youth levels. You figure he’s going to get a run. Let’s plug him inside of De la Fuente.
Cannon — Richards — Ream — Dest
De la Fuente — Musah — Ledezma — Llanez
These two lineups get starts to everyone besides Caen center forward Nicholas Gioacchini, Wolves defensive mid/center back Owen Otasowie, Internacional’s Johnny Cardoso, and Leicester City goalkeeper Chituru Odunze.
Face it: You’d be glued to both games.