The United States Men’s National Team are set to hit the field for their first match of 2021 when they play host to Trinidad and Tobago tomorrow night in Orlando. For the USMNT, it’s the first match in what should be an incredibly busy year, and head coach Gregg Berhalter is looking to evaluate the talent he has to see who he can call on to help the team navigate the waters of Nations League, the Gold Cup, and World Cup qualifying. There is also spots on the U-23s for Olympic qualifying at stake for many of the younger players on the roster.
Will the USMNT make easy work of a familiar foe in Trinidad and Tobago? Or, will the Soca Warriors, who haven’t played in over a year, spoil the party and trip up the Americans one more time?
W (6-0) - El Salvador - Friendly
W (6-2) - Panama - Friendly
D (0-0) - Wales - Friendly
W (1-0) - Costa Rica - Friendly
W (4-0) - Cuba - Concacaf Nations League (2019)
Trinidad and Tobago
L (0-4) - Honduras - Concacaf Nations League (2019)
L (0-3) - Ecuador - Friendly (2019)
W (15-0) - Anguilla - Friendly (2019)
L (0-2) - Venezuela - Friendly (2019)
L (0-2) - Honduras - Concacaf Nations League (2019)
What To Watch For
Play loose. The players who take the field for the USMNT on Sunday have a lot to play for. Of course, they want to be a part of future camps and matches on the international level, and they want to prove they belong. They also want to be in the mix for all of these matches coming up for the team this year and next. They can’t play timid. Playing loose and reminding themselves how they got there is what they will need to remain calm and execute the game plan.
Maintain control of the midfield. Trinidad and Tobago have a mostly inexperienced squad, and so the USMNT need to assert its dominance. That will come through controlling the midfield, as it will hopefully keep the Soca Warriors back on their heels.
End it early. The USMNT cannot let the Soca Warriors feel like they’re in it. It’s easy to say that they should capitalize on their scoring chances, but really they should capitalize early and often. The longer they let Trinidad stay in it, the more doubt that builds. Put this game away early, because developing that killer instinct will be important for this year.
Gregg Berhalter has a lot of options at several positions, but what he traditionally likes to do is go with mostly guys he feels he can count on while mixing in some youth and inexperience as well. With there being one match, expect some rotations, but here’s a prediction of what he will lead with as a starting XI:
Matt Turner wins the battle between himself, Matt Freese, and JT Marcinkowski to determine which goalkeeper will get his first cap and the start. On the back line, there are some experienced options at centerback, with Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman being the defensive generals. Sam Vines and Julian Araujo are players that have received time at fullback under Berhalter, and they likely get the start tomorrow.
The middle will consist of Andrés Perea, who Berhalter clearly seems pleased with and will be making his debut after completing his one-time switch from Colombia. Sebastian Lletget has played the last 3 matches for the USMNT, and he appears to be a lock to be on the field. Kellyn Acosta rounds out the midfield group.
Up front, it’s more experience with promising youth. Paul Arriola starts at left wing, while Chris Mueller starts at right wing. Those two were magnificent for the USMNT last month against El Salvador. Up top, Jozy Altidore gets the start and will look to score early, but expect Darryl Dike to get some time at the 9 as well.
The United States Men’s National Team take a minute to get their feet under them, but eventually the scoring starts and doesn’t let up. Trinidad and Tobago’s inexperience is outmatched, and the MNT go on to win 4-0.