When Gregg Berhalter’s United States men’s national team plays a strong Switzerland on Sunday, it will be doing it from a position of depth that other iterations of the USMNT could only create via brainstorm.
[ MORE: Three key battles in Chelsea – Man City ]
The side will be without two Champions League finalists, one who will be hours removed from winning the European Cup and another from losing it as Berhalter’s starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen (Man City) and talismanic winger Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) fight for club soccer’s most-heralded item.
Last match before we tackle the @CNationsLeague Finals!
Here’s the 🇺🇸 squad that will start tonight vs. 🇨🇭.
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) May 30, 2021
And yet it will, should Berhalter choose, be able to call upon the top center back on a Bundesliga UCL qualifier (Wolfsburg), an influential midfielder from a Serie A UCL qualifier (Juventus), a versatile mid from another Bundesliga UCL qualifier (Tyler Adams), a depth winger from the Ligue 1 champions (Lille), and…
Well, let’s just say they could — without Pulisic and Steffen — put 11 starters out from teams in the 2020-21 Champions League or Europa League.
And all of these players are returning to Berhalter with more experience and sharpening of their skill sets
An exercise for you, if you think we’re overstating the depth. Prepare your best XI. Now do a second XI. Then brainstorm the worst non-career-ending-injury outcomes for a lot of these players. Brooks never gets any better. Adams is always a versatile club role player but bounces around Europe. Dest becomes a toy, not a Barca thinkpiece. Steffen and Horvath remain mired behind star goalkeepers but too valuable to sell. Miazga takes nine more loans but never leaves Chelsea. Musah’s ceiling is Etienne Capoue, not Joshua Kimmich.
All that said, do you expect that group of players or their alternatives to fail to qualify for a World Cup out of CONCACAF?
It’s going to be a fun one, kickstarting a busy summer.
How to watch USMNT – Switzerland, stream, start time
Kickoff time: 2pm ET Sunday, May 30
Know the opponent: Switzerland
The Rossocrociati have been led by Bosnian-Swiss boss Vladimir Petkovic since 2014 and there’s real identity to FIFA’s 13th-ranked side.
This is a full-fledged Swiss team who is preparing for EURO with players still trying to cement their place on the roster.
Several don’t have to worry about it. Gladback goalkeeper Yann Sommer has 60 caps and is very good, while options along the back line include Newcastle’s Fabian Schar, Dortmund’s Manuel Akanji, and Wolfsburg’s Kevin Mbabu to name a few.
Granit Xhaka, Remo Freuler, and Denis Zakaria are part of a hard-hitting midfield that gives Xherdan Shaqiri freedom he rarely sees at Liverpool, and they all cue up Breel Embolo, Haris Seferovic, and Admir Mehmedi.
In other words, a USMNT getting ready for its first meaningful games in a while is getting a quick lesson.
How will the USMNT line up?
This is one friendly where it will tip Gregg Berhalter’s hand in some areas, even If the boss only has four days until the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal with Honduras and may rest players in positions of shallow depth (cough, John Brooks).
Given an average performance against a down Catrachos, the semifinal should be a dress rehearsal for the manager’s first scrap for silverware versus Tata Martino and Mexico.
Here are some top questions:
- With Steffen out, does Ethan Horvath start in goal despite backing up Simon Mignolet at Brugge and only playing four times this season, or does Berhalter go for Real Salt Lake and Olympic qualifying No. 1 David Ochoa?
- Who pairs with John Brooks?
- Sergino Dest on the right or left?
- What’s the midfield and forward pecking order behind Weston McKennie and the absent Pulisic?
USMNT projected XI
Yedlin — McKenzie — Miazga — Robinson
Green — Yueill — Musah
Sargent — Weah
Best XI possible (pre-Pulisic + Steffen arrivals)
Dest — Miazga — Brooks — Robinson
McKennie — Adams
Musah — Reyna — Weah