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USA vs. Northern Ireland, 2021 friendly: What to watch for

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The USMNT attempt to get another win on the road.

FBL-WC-2022-FRIENDLY-USA-JAM Photo by JAKUB SUKUP/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Men’s National Team will get back at it tomorrow when they face Northern Ireland in Belfast. The USMNT has an 8-match unbeaten streak dating back to October 2019, and they’ll look to continue that against the Northern Irish.

Northern Ireland is carrying an 11-match winless streak, also dating back to October 2019. They will look to get it together in the middle of World Cup qualifying to try and qualify for their first World Cup since 1986. The USMNT will want to keep both streaks going with tough play and clinical finishing as they continue to evaluate which players will be the ones to rely upon in World Cup qualifying.

Latest Form

USA

W (4-1) - Jamaica - Friendly

W (7-0) - Trinidad and Tobago - Friendly

W (6-0) - El Salvador - Friendly

W (6-2) - Panama - Friendly

D (0-0) - Wales - Friendly

W (1-0) - Costa Rica - Friendly

Northern Ireland

L (0-2) - Italy - UEFA World Cup qualifying

D (1-1) - Romania - UEFA Nations League B

L (1-2) - Austria - UEFA Nations League B

L (1-2) - Slovakia - UEFA Euro 2020 Path B Playoff Final

L (0-1) - Norway - UEFA Nations League B

What To Watch For

Continue to improve the chemistry. We saw a lot of things work great for the USMNT against Jamaica, and they will look to build upon the successes. With many of these players not having played together since November, improving the chemistry will make for a better team come June and then the fall. How the fullbacks and the wings link up, the centerback pairing, and how the midfield finds the spaces to operate are interesting parts of the match to watch.

Dominate possession. The USMNT dominated possession against Jamaica, keeping the ball 69% of the time. Northern Ireland is going to try and hold the ball more to be methodical in setting up their attack, but the USMNT should want the ball to control the tempo. The midfield and defense need to make sure they take care of the ball as they play out of the back and limit the mistakes so the attack can be jumpstarted.

Hold the line. The defense will be tested, and they will need to work on their communication as they withstand any breaks Northern Ireland may have. As the fullbacks move forward, the centerbacks will have to hold true and make sure one of the midfielders is also back to help out on any counters. And, if they’re caught flat on numbers, get the ball out so that the defense can reset.

Lineup Prediction

John Brooks, Reggie Cannon, and Nicholas Gioacchini have returned to their clubs, so Gregg Berhalter will have to make some changes to his lineup. Based on what we saw against Jamaica, and given some of the personnel holes that exist, here’s a lineup that we could see:

Projected Starting XI vs. Northern Ireland

I think Zack Steffen gets another shot in goal against the Northern Irish. He’s the clear #1 and Berhalter will likely go with him instead of Ethan Horvath, but don’t be shocked to see Horvath get a half.

Sergiño Dest will line up at right back with the departure of Cannon, and Antonee Robinson will line up at left back to see if he can lay claim to that position. Aaron Long is the centerback veteran that will get a second start, with Chris Richards joining him on the right. He’ll have a nice test to see if he can hold down the right side when Dest moves forward in the attack.

In the middle, Owen Otasowie gets a chance to be the quarterback as the central defensive midfielder, while Yunus Musah and Brenden Aaronson are the other central midfielders. Musah will track back a bit like he did against Jamaica, while both he and Aaronson will also be involved in the attacking third.

Up front, expect Christian Pulisic to play closer to 65-70 minutes at left wing, while Reyna gets the start again at right wing. Daryl Dike will get the start up top, but prepare for him to make way for Josh Sargent around the 60 minute mark.

Prediction

The USMNT continue to dominate the pace of play and their creative players make a lot happen. Northern Ireland will not have its top lineup on the field to rest them for World Cup qualifying, and the difference in talent will show. The USMNT continues their hot streak with a 4-0 victory.