After taking just two points from the first two games of 2022 World Cup qualifying, the USMNT finds itself in a tricky situation: a virtual must-win showdown in Honduras on Wednesday, with injuries and positive COVID-19 test results piling up quickly.
[ MORE: USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule ]
Gio Reyna (hamstring), Sergiño Dest (ankle) and Zack Steffen (COVID-19) have all joined Timothy Weah (knock, did not report to camp) on the sidelines since World Cup qualifier no. 1 in El Salvador on Thursday. That’s the USMNT’s starting no. 10, starting right back or left back and starting goalkeeper, for anyone keeping score at home.
Oh, and you might’ve heard that Weston McKennie’s been sent back to Italy for what must’ve been more than a minor error.
Tyler Adams is the USMNT’s best player
Already, Gregg Berhalter is faced with a few uncomfortable questions which require his urgent attention. The least of which being: Do the poor results in games no. 1 and 2 alter his (presumed) plans to rotate the team with three games in seven days? More bluntly, is he going to start Tyler Adams and play him 90 minutes again?
It’s been refreshing, even through the disappointing draws, to watch Adams patrol the midfield once again for the USMNT. Work rate and infinite engine aside, Adams’ lightning-quick reading of the game and every situation far and away the USMNT’s most important and influential player. If they had won one and drawn one thus far, Adams would sit against Honduras, and that would be that.
But, they didn’t, so he probably won’t. Simply put, he cannot be replaced in a battle like Honduras away.
How will Berhalter pick the USMNT starting lineup?
If Steffen hadn’t contracted the virus, he and Matt Turner would have likely split the games two-one (or one-two). Turner has hardly been tested thus far in World Cup qualifying, so he’s done nothing memorable nor anything to lose the job. If Turner wants to prove he’s the no. 1, this is a dream opportunity.
With Dest injured and Reggie Cannon not in camp, DeAndre Yedlin draws another start at right back by default. John Brooks will keep his place after resting the first game, but he’ll get a new partner after Miles Robinson went the full-90 against El Salvador and Canada. Walker Zimmerman, given his experience compared to Mark McKenzie or James Sands, makes the most sense. Dest’s injury, plus the inexperience of George Bello, means Antonee Robinson will start at left back again.
Weston McKennie is headed back to Italy after his suspension for violation of COVID-19 protocols, thus Kellyn Acosta and Sebastian Lletget will try to strike the right balance of ball-winning and ball-progressing in midfield. Christian Pulisic and Konrad de la Fuente will be asked to do so much more than attack on the wings. The same goes for Josh Sargent, who was replaced by Jordan Pefok against Canada.
Yedlin — Zimmerman — Brooks — A. Robinson
Adams — Acosta
Konrad — Lletget — Pulisic