With precious preparation time between now and November, the USMNT is set for some early 2022 World Cup work when they host Morocco in a friendly at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Wednesday.
With plenty of roster and lineup questions still to be pondered and answered, Gregg Berhalter will have only the June (four games) and September (two games) international windows between now and this winter’s World Cup in Qatar.
How to watch USMNT vs Morocco live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 7:30 pm ET (Wednesday, June 1)
All-time series leader: Morocco – 3 wins, USA – 0 wins, Draws – 0
Current FIFA rankings: USA – 15th, Morocco – 24th
TV channel/streaming: ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN
Perhaps the biggest question, from the start of World Cup qualifying to today, remains unanswered: Who can be trusted to provide a steady stream of goals from the center forward position?
Ricardo Pepi has been given every opportunity — and then some — to make the starting spot his own, but the 19-year-old FC Dallas academy product remains some way short of the finished article that Berhalter desires. The size, strength and technical ability are there, but the instantaneous reading and processing of the game remains one or two ticks slow, and the end result is only frustration. Pepi wasn’t called into this USMNT camp as he takes his first break in nearly 18 months after completing his transfer to Augsburg earlier this year.
Jesus Ferreira, who is in USMNT camp this month, has been and appears to remain second in line for the job. The 21-year-old FC Dallas is red-hot in MLS this season, with 9 goals and 4 assists in 14 appearances despite the fact he’s more of a play-making no. 10 than a goal-scoring no. 9 and has been even slower to acclimate to the international game.
Has anyone considered that, perhaps, the solution to Berhalter’s most perplexing problem is: no one?
Christian Pulisic is a virtual lock to start when fit, just as all three of Gio Reyna, Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah would be if they didn’t add up to four players vying for three starting spots. Here’s the thing: Even with a natural center forward on the field, the players still most likely to score for the USMNT are typically the three players playing just behind the man up top.
It’s unlikely that Berhalter will abandon the traditional frontman at this stage, but when push comes to shove before or during the World Cup, that kind of fluidity and versatility could be an interesting wrinkle. Five months out from a World Cup isn’t the time to “try out someone new” or “give it one more go with so and so.” It’s time to accept reality (that the USMNT doesn’t have a center forward for the 2022 World Cup cycle — it’s OK, it happens) and make the very best of what’s in front of us.
USMNT team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Sergiño Dest (hamstring), Miles Robinson (achilles), Chris Richards (ankle), Gianluca Busio (rest), Ricardo Pepi (rest)
Our XI in Cincy. 🇺🇸
— USMNT (@USMNT) June 1, 2022