The USMNT will wrap up the March international break, and hopefully answer a few more questions, when they take on Northern Ireland in Belfast on Sunday (12:05 pm ET).
The Yanks impressed in a 4-1 victory over Jamaica on Thursday, but it’s a quick turnaround to the final friendly of the European club season. By the time USMNT players reconvene for camp in late May, club seasons will have wrapped up and the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup will be days and weeks away, respectively.
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The bright youngsters of the next generation continued their takeover of the USMNT on Thursday, with Sergiño Dest, Brenden Aaronson, Yunus Musah and Josh Sargent turning in strong performances in unison as the 20-, 20-, 18- and 21-year-olds quickly learn to play together.
How to watch USMNT – Northern Ireland, stream link, start time, lineup
Start time: 12:05 pm ET
TV: FOX, TUDN, Unimas
Reaction and analysis: Here on NBCSports.com
U.S. Soccer men’s national teams in action this week
Mexico U-23s 1-0 U.S. U-23s
Jamaica 1-4 USMNT
Northern Ireland v USMNT — 1pm ET
*Honduras U23s v U.S. U23s — 6 pm ET
*Winners qualifies for 2020 Summer Olympics
Knowing the opponent: USMNT – Northern Ireland
The Green and White Army suffered a 2-0 defeat to Italy in their 2022 World Cup qualifying opener on Thursday, extending their ongoing winless streak to 11 games (dating back to October of 2019).
Northern Ireland next hosts Bulgaria in a must-win home tilt on Wednesday, so coach Ian Barcalough is going with youth and inexperience.
Steven Davis and Jonny Evans are not in the 18, while Stuart Dallas (Leeds), Jamal Lewis (Newcastle), and Craig Cathcart (Watford) begin on the bench.
Former Norwich City man Kyle Lafferty will captain the Norn Iron, whose lineup is heavily Football League Championship and Scottish Premiership based. Lafferty is earning his 81st cap. Six other starters have combined for 27.
The vast majority of Northern Ireland’s quality lies in defense, thus the USMNT should expect to see plenty of possession once again. Ahead of a summer full of important fixtures against CONCACAF opposition, the chance to dominate possession and prove themselves capable of doing more than simply possessing the ball will be a hugely useful exercise for this group as it continues to come of age.
📣 The team is in! Here's our roster (😉) to face @USMNT 🙌 #GAWA pic.twitter.com/Pv4RX0fr53
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) March 28, 2021
Top storylines and players in focus
Can Brenden Aaronson build upon his fantastic 45-minute display against Jamaica? The 20-year-old has taken to life in Europe quite well since arriving at Red Bull Salzburg in January, and he showed on Thursday he’s more than ready to contribute to the senior team right away. Whether his long-term position ends up being in central midfield or on the left wing remains to be seen, and depends heavily upon the continue availability and effectiveness of Christian Pulisic on the left.
We need to see if Daryl Dike can replicate his recent form for Barnsley (five goals in his last eight appearances in the EFL Championship) in a USMNT shirt. Unfortunately, Dike was held out of Thursday’s game due a slight knock suffered in USMNT training earlier this week. It’s a big ask for a 20-year-old, but if Dike can consistently score goals (or just cause mayhem in and around the penalty area), he could threaten Josh Sargent, who coincidentally turned in one of his finest moments in a USMNT shirt against Jamaica, for starter’s minutes this summer. Of course, just having one center forward in form would be an unfamiliar comfort for USMNT fans, but two at the same time?
Beyond John Brooks, does the USMNT have any trustworthy center backs? Forced to answer that question right now, even the most ardent optimist could only go so far as, “Well, maybe.” Chris Richards is making great strides on loan to Hoffenheim (from Bayern Munich, but 20-year-old defenders rarely step into international first teams and adjust without early struggles; Matt Miazga is playing regularly for Anderlecht, but we know who he is as a player; Erik Palmer-Brown is an every-game 90-minute player for Austria Wien and should also figure into the conversation on Sunday.
USMNT line up
It looks like a 3-4-2-1, which Christian Pulisic will have seen a lot in recent weeks at Chelsea.
Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are at the back with Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson given cover to maraud up the field.
Kellyn Acosta and Yunus Musah will hold it town in the center of the park with Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna running atop them and Jordan Siebatcheu at center forward.
Zack Steffen is in goal.
TEAM NEWS IS IN! 🇺🇸
Gregg Berhalter makes four changes to the #USMNT Starting XI for today’s match vs. @NorthernIreland.
LINEUP NOTES: https://t.co/jRXYgA4hDk#NIRvUSA #TheFutureIsUS pic.twitter.com/hT6RI8AUB7
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) March 28, 2021