The United States Under-23 National Team take on Colombia tonight in the away leg of their home-and-home Olympic playoff. Andi Herzog will have plenty of decisions when putting together his starting lineup for the first leg. Will he play a conservative match and hope to limit the scoring? Will he be aggressive and push for a couple of away goals? Knowing the usual American tendency in big matches, you can probably bank on it being the former.
We don't know much about this Colombia side, but we do know that our U-23's haven't had the best run of luck in their performances. They've dropped result after result in friendlies. Yes, they strolled through a cupcake group in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament group. When they made it to the semifinals against a moderately tough Honduras side, they crumbled and fell flat. With all this in mind, you can be sure that Herzog will be conservative in the away leg in hopes to keep it close for the return leg on Tuesday.
With all that in mind here's who we see starting tonight:
Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter are likely the first two names on the teamsheet for Herzog. The chemistry they've developed over the past year has mustered the only bit of attacking prowess this team has managed.
There are many candidates to join them on the left flank. The natural choice would be Julian Green, but in this away leg, having someone like Green who isn't the best defender just isn't logical. A more two-way player like Paul Arriola, who is responsible defensively but can also attack when the time calls for it, makes more sense.
The midfield is where we stray from the conservative mindset a bit. These three players win starting spots on their talent alone. Luis Gil is the elder statesmen of the group and will likely be given the chance to start just because of his contributions to the cause for the entire cycle. Emerson Hyndman earns the nod for his technical play. He'll be needed in tight situations in hopes he can maintain possession for the side.
The choice for the holding midfielder spot is a little tricky. There are better defensive-minded players to choose from like Fatai Alashe or Matt Polster, but Wil Trapp is our choice just because of the talent he possesses. He's a technical player as well, but he can also pick out deadly passes from his deep-lying position, would could be very helpful with the pace of Morris and Kiesewetter up top.
The backline is pretty straight forward. If Cameron Carter-Vickers had not be hurt, it's likely we would've seen the same four defenders that started for the USA U-20's in last year's World Cup. Instead, Tim Parker gets the chance alongside Miazga. Then, of course, Europa League veteran Ethan Horvath is the obvious starter in net.