For the first time since clinching their Concacaf Nations League group in November 2019, the US men’s national team faces a game of serious consequence on Thursday evening in Denver. (7:30 pm ET | CBSSN, Paramount+, TUDN)
It places a greater spotlight on head coach Gregg Berhalter’s lineup decisions for the CNL semifinal tilt with Honduras, leading to some debate among the Extratime crew about who gets the starting XI nod.
For one, co-host David Gass believes Brenden Aaronson has a strong argument for minutes from the jump. The former Philadelphia Union midfielder is coming off his first season with Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg and enjoyed bright moments in the USMNT’s tune-up friendly, a 2-1 loss against Switzerland as their European hosts near the Euro 2020 tournament.
“I was just in love with the way [Aaronson] played in this game,” Gass said. “He presses like a madman, he’s clean, he’s quick in possession, he knows how to be aggressive going forward.
“This role, I liked him even more than when he played for Philly. Out on the wing where there’s a little bit of freedom, pressing in to push the ball to the other side and just being a quick option and understanding [Sergino] Dest’s movement, being able to come inside and give Dest space. I thought he was awesome. If it was me, he would be starting on Thursday.”
Aaronson started on the left wing against Switzerland, a spot that may be earmarked for Christian Pulisic, who missed out on the friendly after helping Chelsea win the UEFA Champions League title against Manchester City and USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Based on his pre-game remarks, Berhalter seems to also be leaning toward Pulisic as the attacker emerges from his second season with the Blues.
“I think [Aaronson’s definitely got a big role to play on the team, but I assume on Thursday he’ll probably come off the bench, sort of a substitution in the second half,” co-host Calen Carr said. “I think Christian will slide into his spot and it’ll look pretty similar. I would say [Yunus] Musah would probably step into the midfield as well.”
That’s not to say Aaronson is permanently destined for the bench and a secondary role. Rather, it may be that with more top-end talent – Giovanni Reyna, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams (if healthy) also factor in – some tough decisions must be made.
“I agree with you, he fits this system fantastic,” Carr said of Aaronson. “His engine, even his ability in tight spaces, his ability to draw dangerous fouls around the box or around places, he just seems able to get out of things always.”
For more Extratime insights ahead of the Concacaf Nations League semifinals, check out their latest episode here.