This is not a tactical deep dive. This is not a think piece that'll strain your brain. I'm leaving the heavy lifting to Matt Doyle. He's got nothing better to do than spill thousands of words previewing a couple friendlies, and I respect that.
I'm standing over the US men's national team grill, beer in hand, throwing red meat on the flames. These USMNT XIs have been marinating in my mind for a couple days: one dedicated strictly to fan service, one I hope to see against Mexico and one my prediction for what we'll actually see on Friday against Mexico (8:30 PM ET | FS1, Univision, TUDN). Yes, I am still upset that rain ruined my Labor Day barbecue.
While you peruse the lineups – you're free to drop your own squads in the comment section for evaluation – hit play on this Extratime interview with Gregg Berhalter from last week. You'll learn something. Promise. I've got it all cued up for you, too.
What the fans want
Josh Sargent, your reward for staying patient after that Gold Cup snub is a start against Mexico! Score a goal or two, please. Lord knows US Soccer Twitter and MLS Reddit don't want to see Gyasi Zardes up top again.
What could go wrong, right? As Doyle said on Mass Confrontation on Tuesday, "throw the kids into the blender!" Everybody likes smoothies! Unless you're the fruit...
As for the rest of the team, we saw Reggie Cannon against El Tri in the Gold Cup final, so now it's time for Nick Lima to get a run out and show us all what San Jose Earthquakes coach Matias Almeyda has taught him.
We also haven't seen Alfredo Morales in US colors since 2016. Into the lineup you go, Bundesliga vet! Everybody seems to believe Christian Pulisic will be more effective on the wing. Your wish is my command (and he gets to combine with Dest!). Tyler Boyd starts for Besiktas, and therefore he starts for the US.
There's no doubt this is fun to imagine, even if it might not be so fun to see this XI in practice against a Mexico team that's got Chucky Lozano and Chicharito back in the ranks.
What I want to see
Light your torch, grab your pitchfork and join Doyle in pounding on my front door. Yes, Gyasi Zardes is in my team. Yes, Tim Ream and Wil Trapp also start. Yes, I believe/hope that the best version of the USMNT likely has other names at striker, left back and defensive mid a year down the line.
That's not to say Zardes, Ream or Trapp are bad players! They aren't! This is a chance to prove they belong in the lineup. Good luck to them.
We all know a friendly against Mexico isn't actually a "friendly," so some consistency and experience in the team is important. Sargent, Dest and Pomykal can come off the bench. Just because they don't start doesn't mean they won't play. I'm on record, by the way, saying Sargent ought to get the nod in his hometown next Tuesday against Uruguay.
Against El Tri, the US must do a better job pressing defensively and dealing with the press when in possession than they did in the Gold Cup final.
Sebastian Lletget ought to help with the latter. He's not afraid to take the ball in tight spaces, and he can turn and create opportunities to play the ball to Pulisic's feet in space or in behind to Jordan Morris or Zardes. Lima deserves a shot against Mexico, and he is more than capable on both sides of the ball. Morris gives Berhalter a direct route to goal and speed Tata Martino has to respect. Plus, he's a willing defender. Track those runs, Jordan!
What Berhalter will probably do
UPDATE, 3 pm ET on Thursday: Berhalter announced at his pregame press conference that Sergino Dest will start the match. Get excited, folks! Best I can do is 10 for 11!
I will be over the moon if I get seven of 11 right here. I feel most confident about, in order, Pulisic, Zack Steffen, Weston McKennie, John Brooks, Aaron Long, Trapp and Zardes.
Doyle believes Dest will start, both because Berhalter has raved about him publicly and also because the US needs to send a clear signal to the dual-national that he's a big part of the program's future. I think that could come against Uruguay. In the meantime, Ream provides a stay-at-home option to give the US defensive structure behind Pulisic.
Cannon vs. Lima (or maybe Dest) at right back? Yeah, I have no idea. Zero. I closed my eyes and threw a dart at the wall. I expect to be wrong. The odds aren't great. As for Morris and Lletget, I already explained those selections above, just from my own perspective. Berhalter will tell us what he thinks when the lineup comes out on Friday.