Gregg Berhalter will receive a much-needed injection of star power as attacker Christian Pulisic and starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen have joined USMNT camp ahead of the final-four clash in Denver, Colorado, after the former’s Chelsea knocked off the latter and Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday.
Win or lose on Thursday, the USMNT will play again — either in the final or the third-place game — on Sunday, as part of Berhalter’s scheme to play four games in 11 days and closely mimic the fixture congestion which awaits once 2022 World Cup qualifying kicks off in September. Mexico and Costa Rica are set to do battle in the second semifinal, also on Thursday.
How to watch USMNT – Honduras, stream, start time
How will the USMNT line up?
Berhalter opted for a 4-3-3 with an inverted wing back on the left (Sergiño Dest) in the defeat to Switzerland, presumably in an attempt to put one more body in the midfield with Tyler Adams still unavailable while he recovers from a minor back injury. It worked, and didn’t work, at different points throughout the game and will likely be a staple of Berhalter’s tactical setup against sides he deems equal to, or better than, the USMNT in possession.
That likely doesn’t include Honduras, thus a return to right back (or the bench) is likely for Dest. That also changes the way the midfield operates, as one of Weston McKennie or Sebastian Lletget, the presumed starters as holdover, will take on greater defensive responsibilities in the middle third. Antonee Robinson is the only natural left back in camp, so he figures to start by default.
If Adams is fully recovered and ready to go, he’ll start at the no. 6 spot, but he’s almost certainly destined for substitute appearances as he’s eased back into action this week, if he plays at all.
The attacking line is down to four players in contest for three spots: Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Yunus Musah and Josh Sargent. As the only natural center forward of the bunch, Sagent is a virtual lock to start, unless Berhalter wants to see Pulisic as a false-9 (where he played briefly for Chelsea this season). In the end, it’s a choice between Reyna and Musah on the right.
Here are some top questions:
- Will Pulisic go to another level for the USMNT after largely featuring as a sub for Chelsea this season, thus leaving him the freshest he’s ever been heading into USMNT camp?
- Is Tyler Adams ready to return? Because, he’s easily the most irreplaceable player in the player pool.
- Who’s going to partner John Brooks at center back? No, seriously, can anyone do it?
USMNT projected XI
Dest — Miazga — Brooks — Robinson
Lletget — Yueill — McKennie
Musah — Sargent — Pulisic
Best XI possible
Cannon — ??? — Brooks — Dest
McKennie — Adams
Musah — Reyna — Pulisic