We've been waiting for about 3 years to see Pulisic, Adams and McKennie on the same field for the US Men's National Team. It looks as though it's finally going to happen and on the biggest stage, coming off a historic summer for two different versions of the USMNT.
World Cup Qualifying is here, with the first match this Thursday at 10pm ET as the US visit El Salvador. Going on the road in Concacaf has always proved to be a problem, as memories of Trinidad in 2017 still give us nightmares. You'd bet that this battle tested USA squad would be able to prevail. Still with 3 games in 7 days in this packed qualifying schedule, it will be tough and we'll probably see squad rotation with matches against Canada and Honduras coming.
Gregg Berhalter announced his roster last week, and while it is strong, it's not quite at 100%. Some injury issues and some guys dealing with transfer situations at their clubs have affected the roster selection. Still this is a solid team and we're going to try to predict the first starting 11. (Which means it will likely be completely wrong...) In the words of Fabrizio Romano....Here We Go.
Matt Turner - New England Revolution
The most in-form goalkeeper for the USMNT at the moment is Matt Turner. Zack Steffen is probably the most talented and the chosen one for the future, but he is in a backup role at Manchester City. Turner was absolutely incredible during the Gold Cup, allowing just 1 goal in the entire tournament. His form has continued in MLS with his team leading the eastern conference, and he was named MVP of the All Star Game after stopping 3 in the penalty shootout. He simply has to be the starter based on his current form alone.
Sergino Dest - Barcelona
Although he's a natural right back, the lack of depth at the left back position on this current roster have forced Berhalter here. Dest has proven to play both fullback positions, even if it sometimes affects the shape and fluidity of the game. Berhalter has options at right back, that have only played on that right side, so he needs to have the talented Dest on the left.
John Brooks - VFL Wolfsburg
The veteran defender is off to a great start to this season at Wolfsburg with 3 clean sheets in 4 games in all competitions, including an impressive 1-0 win against Leipzig last Sunday. He's the most consistently tested center back on the roster with 9 years of Bundesliga experience, and will lock down his place in the US back line once again.
Miles Robinson - Atlanta United
This may be a surprise to some, but Miles Robinson (along with Turner in goal) won this starting spot during the Gold Cup. He was the best player for the team during the entire tournament, putting out fires in the box left and right. The national team has been searching for quite some time for a partner to Brooks in defense. Robinson has seemed to have earned it, at least in the short term.
DeAndre Yedlin - Galatasaray
Part of me thinks that Berhalter wants to start youngster George Bello here, but I'm going to go with the experience of Yedlin on the road against El Salvador. Along with Brooks, Yedlin is the only other player on this roster to have played in a World Cup. (Brazil 2014) He played well in the Nations League as a wing back, especially in that crazy final against Mexico. He will be relied on to do the job on that right side on Thursday.
Tyler Adams - RB Leipzig
One of the centerpieces of this squad, Adams will get his spot in the center of the park. (and maybe get the captain's arm band?) I had to double check that Adams just started his fourth season at Leipzig. Feels like he was still with the New York Red Bulls a couple of season ago. He's established himself in a top tier Bundesliga and Champions League club, and will lead the his national team in this international window.
Weston McKennie - Juventus
McKennie has been dealing with transfer rumors since the departure of Andrea Pirlo as manager at Juventus. Still he's been training and playing for the Italian club throughout. He is another centerpiece of the team, and will play a huge role in midfield for the USMNT pushing the pace forward in the attack, and recovering 50/50 balls between the lines.
Sebastian Lletget - LA Galaxy
Another Berhalter MLS favorite makes his way into the midfield alongside Mckennie. Sebastian Lletget was an integral part of the trophy winning squad at the Gold Cup, and his creativity has been a solid link between the midfield and the attack when he's played. Still, should Berhalter switch to say a 4-2-3-1 formation, Lletget would likely drop to the bench.
Christian Pulisic - Chelsea
After a positive COVID test threatened his availability, the face of the USMNT is back and seems hungry to get after it for his country. The Champions League winner was the first one on the training field on Monday after he reported to Nashville camp from England. Pulisic scored in Chelsea's season opening match at Stamford Bridge, and continues to shine when called upon for club and country.
Gio Reyna - Borussia Dortmund
The 18 year old is off to a flying start in the Bundesliga, with 2 goals in his first 3 league games of the season for Dortmund. Reyna is a versatile player, and while a central attacking midfield role may be where he is at his best, he's been used as a winger quite a bit. This is where he fits best in this formation, and he played on the left wing in his most recent game for the German club, a 3-2 win over Hoffenheim, in which he scored.
Josh Sargent - Norwich City
I went back and forth on this. Ricardo Pepi is in incredible form for FC Dallas scoring goals galore, and he's been in the news as he recently committed to the USMNT, after having an opportunity to play for Mexico. I was tempted to slot him in here. But I went with Sargent due to his experience, albeit minimal. He recently arrived in England with newly promoted Norwich, and has played in all 4 games in all competitions. He score two goals in the Carabou Cup match against Bournemouth, which has been his only start. He's been used as a substitute in the 3 Premier League games since he arrived. He's looked solid, but it's been a whirlwind month of adapting for the 21 year old. If he doesn't produce and the team is in need of a goal, I can see Pepi making his debut early in the 2nd half of Thursday's match.
That's my predicted 11 for this Thursday's match and don't worry, I'll revisit this after the game and call out where I was wrong. This should be a fun week for USMNT fans everywhere. There's no doubt that the level of excitement to watch this national team play has risen incredibly over the last 6 months. Let's hope this World Cup Qualifying run is a lot less stressful than the last. Our hearts can't handle that again!