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Who should the USMNT start vs Bosnia & Herzegovina?

Do you prioritize keeping players fresh, or seeing new faces?

SOCCER: SEP 29 MLS - Minnesota United FC at DC United Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The USMNT roster is out for December Camp ahead of a friendly next Saturday against Bosnia & Herzegovina. 26 players are available for selection, but only 11 can start. Gregg’s stated camp goals are to keep players fresh so they’ll be ready for World Cup qualifiers in late January, and to evaluate new players.

The roster has many players who are positionally flexible. On the left is the roster mapped out in Gregg’s typical 4-3-3 with a single 6, dual 8s and no number 10, based on which positions players were listed in the roster announcement (FW/Mid/Def). On the right is all players available at each position, including which players could play as a single 6, a 10, and an 8 (whether single 8, dual 8s, or double-pivot behind a 10). The permutations are nearly endless.

Starting points

Let’s start with a couple easy picks:

  • Ricardo Pepi will likely start up top
  • Matt Turner likely in net
  • Aaron Long & Walker Zimmerman seem the obvious CB pairing, although Long’s fitness level is unknown
  • Kellyn Acosta seems likely to start either as a 6 or an 8
  • Jordan Morris seems likely to start out wide

That leaves left back, one wing spot, and the midfield up for discussion.

There’s a good chance Jonathan Gómez will be in Spain before the game on the 18th. JoGo told he expects to arrive in Spain between Dec 7th and 14th. If JoGo is available, it would certainly be exciting to see him start, and Kevin Paredes could be pushed up higher to play on the wing. If JoGo is gone, Paredes could see the start at left back. George Bello is on the roster, and has 5 caps this year, but has not been convincing in World Cup qualifying so far, and was left off the November roster. Bello still has a bright future, but this game might be better served by gathering some information on JoGo or Paredes.

Options abound in the midfield and out wide. The lack of midfielders on the roster suggests that Berhalter could start Johnny or Yueill at the 6, with Acosta as an 8. Clark, Ferreira, Paredes, and Roldan seem the most likely to start out wide opposite Morris. Cowell could as well, but he was a bit disappointing at Revelations Cup with the U-20s.

Double pivot?

This roster has a lot of players who are capable of playing as dual 8’s in a double pivot, and several whose best position is probably a number 10 (Ferreira, Clark, Booth). Could this be an opportunity to try out a new shape? One of the biggest problems in the U.S. player pool is not having a like-for-like Tyler Adams replacement. One possible solution to that problem is to switch to something closer to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with two holding midfielders and one creative attacking mid. This friendly provides the perfect chance to test that shape, if Berhalter is interested in doing so.

New faces, new spots

This camp includes many players who haven’t played much under Berhalter, many of whom are positionally flexible. Here are some different tests Gregg could run during this game:

  • Jonathan Gómez at left back (if he sticks around for the game)
  • Kevin Paredes as left back or winger
  • Bryan Reynolds at right back
  • Johnny as a solo 6 or in a double pivot
  • Bassett as a dual 8 or winger
  • Caden Clark as a 10, dual 8, or winger
  • Taylor Booth in a double pivot, as a 10, a dual 8, or out wide
  • Ferreira as a 10, dual 8, or winger

Obviously Berhalter won’t be able to run all these tests in one game. I also think he should try to avoid having players in more than one position if the game, to the extent possible, so their instructions can be clear. There’s also the question of how many variables should be in play, and how many controls. Pepi, Turner, Zimmerman, and Acosta are likely to be controls, at the very least.

Here’s one lineup that would keep several players fresh, while also testing out some new faces and trying a different shape:

  • What’s your priority for this game - keeping players fresh, or evaluating newcomers?
  • How do you balance those two?
  • What experiments are you most excited to run?

Let us know in the comments.