The Armchair Analyst already put Dave Sarachan’s 24-man US national team roster under the microscope. I’m here to go big picture ahead of Friday’s friendly against Brazil at MetLife Stadium (7:30 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, UDN).
While you’re reading or just scrolling down to the comment section, I recommend listening to ExtraTime Radio’s take on this roster, the lack of a head-coaching hire (or official interview) and the biggest themes around the USMNT as a new World Cup cycle begins. Let’s just say Matt Doyle was fired up, and that’s generally good radio.
OK, let’s get down to business. You didn’t come here for a long-winded preamble. Here’s the XI I want to see on Friday in New Jersey, from back to front.
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GK: Zack Steffen (Columbus Crew SC)
This is the easiest call on the roster sheet.
Like Toronto FC in general, the 2018 version of Alex Bono hasn’t been as good as the 2017 version. That Clint Irwin has started the past two games for the Reds isn’t some damning indictment of Bono, but he’s not getting a start against Brazil under those circumstances. Ethan Horvath lost his job at Club Brugge, so his case is even less convincing.
Honestly, it might not matter to me if both were lock-it-down starters right now. Zack Steffen has all the tools (shot stopping, command of the box, distribution), he’s got standout performances and consistency at club level and he was huge against France, excuse me, World Cup champions France in the US’s last match.
RB: DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
This is the second easiest call on the roster sheet.
I still can’t figure out why Eric Lichaj didn’t get more than 15 caps by age 29 despite making more than 200 appearances in England. Oh, right, yes I can. Jurgen wasn’t a Champo guy. Shaq Moore, meanwhile, is in camp to get more experience at and exposure to the international level while he waits for registration issues to be worked out at club level.
Yedlin is the clear and obvious choice here, especially since I am going 5-3-2 (more on that in a second) and I want him bombing up that right flank to give the team attacking width. Against Brazil, you can’t bomb with complete abandon, and thankfully Yedlin has the speed to recover defensively. The former Sounder has plenty you can’t teach, and that’ll come in handy.
CB: Matt Miazga (Nantes), John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Tim Parker (New York Red Bulls)
This was the hardest call in my XI. I would love to see the Sarachan give Miazga and Brooks another opportunity to establish a partnership in the four-man backline, but I’m not sure Brazil is the team to do it against. Not everything can be an experiment, results be damned.
In this case, I went pragmatic, and I figure Sarachan will too given the lineup he trotted out against France in a 1-1 draw before the Les Bleus won the World Cup.
For this match, shift Miazga to the right and plop Brooks right in the middle to direct traffic. My biggest concern are the inevitable 1v1 situations Brazil will create with Tim Parker and Miazga when the US outside backs get caught too far forward or via combination play off Robert Firmino, but that’s the game against top-tier competition.
LB: Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic)
Go forward, young man. Just don’t do it at the same time Yedlin does. Timing is everything.
DM: Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
I think Tyler Adams is the best defensive midfielder on this roster, but Wil Trapp is a better passer and I want the Red Bulls young buck to have the freedom to apply pressure higher up the field and perhaps join the attack with a late run into the 18.
Trapp can stay home, connect the backline and front four and hit the long balls he’s so good at into the channels for Weah and Wood to chase or to Robinson or Yedlin if the US manage to tilt the field.
CM: Weston McKennie (Schalke), Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls)
The pool’s most promising young central midfielders sit in front of Trapp looking to disrupt Brazil’s buildup and distribution to the front three while patiently waiting for the right moment to push forward and combine with Robinson or Yedlin or join the counterattack. You saw it against France, and I’m going back to the well.
FWD: Bobby Wood (Hannover 96), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain)
I know, I know. Weah was listed as a midfielder. Not in my team, though, where he plays underneath Wood, whose job is to occupy the Brazil central defenders, hold the ball up and drop it off when necessary and run the channels when the US needs an long outlet.
Defensively, Weah’s got to fall in with Adams and McKennie in order to disrupt the pattern of play since the US figures to have 40 percent of the ball (or less). When it’s time to attack, the PSG youngster will need to anticipate where the ball is headed and shade to support in possession while being ready to make hard runs off Wood’s movement and the service from the outside backs.
Would it work? Will Sarachan go with something similar? We’ll see Friday. In the meantime, your XI goes in the comment section below.
USMNT roster vs. Brazil and Mexico
|GK||Alex Bono||Toronto FC|
|GK||Ethan Horvath||Club Brugge|
|GK||Zack Steffen||Columbus Crew SC|
|D||Cameron Carter-Vickers||Swansea City|
|D||Eric Lichaj||Hull City|
|D||Aaron Long||NY Red Bulls|
|D||Shaq Moore||Reus Deportiu|
|D||Tim Parker||NY Red Bulls|
|D||Antonee Robinson||Wigan Athletic|
|D||DeAndre Yedlin||Newcastle United|
|M||Kellyn Acosta||Colorado Rapids|
|M||Tyler Adams||NY Red Bulls|
|M||Paul Arriola||D.C. United|
|M||Marky Delgado||Toronto FC|
|M||Julian Green||Greuther Fürth|
|M||Cristian Roldan||Seattle Sounders|
|M||Wil Trapp||Columbus Crew SC|
|M||Tim Weah||Paris Saint-Germain|
|F||Andrija Novakovich||Fotuna Sittard|
|F||Bobby Wood||Hannover 96|
|F||Gyasi Zardes||Columbus Crew SC|