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2021 Gold Cup Final Preview: Three Key USMNT Lineup Decisions vs Mexico

The United States is looking to reclaim the Gold Cup, but Gregg Berhalter’s side can’t afford a slow start tonight.

SOCCER: JUL 29 Concacaf Gold Cup Semifinal - United States v Qatar Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The United States has gotten to the 2021 Gold Cup final via a rather interesting path. This is not the high octane offensive minded first team but instead a much younger second/third choice lineup using a possession focus system.

A system that quite frankly in my opinion has been ineffective for a variety of reasons including injuries, roster selection and gameday tactics. The USMNT at its core should be a counter attacking team, that’s what the first choice team would be doing against World Cup level competition and while it’s nice to be able to maintain and lean on possession based build up some times, it’s not something the US can or should do ALL the time.

So if the USMNT is going to win tonight, the counter must be on from the beginning and Gregg Berhaler’s lineup needs to reflect this tactic. Too often in the early stages of games in this tournament the USA have played themselves into trouble by playing it out of the back and have New England Revolution keeper Matt Turner to thank for cleaning up a lot of those messes. A mistake in their own third tonight however will likely get rightfully and quickly punished by Mexico, so changes have to be made, but first, some television info.


United States vs Mexico, Allegiant Stadium - Paradise, Nevada

9pm EST - FS1, Univision, TUDN


1 ) Eryk Williamson over Gianluca Busio

Busio has had a fine Gold Cup campaign but I would opt for the pure #6 man in Williamson to start against Mexico. The US will need someone in the midfield that can win the physical battles in the middle of the field and help start the counter. Busio will certainly play tonight, but Williamson, who I think should have far more minutes this tournament than he does, needs to start.

2 ) Christian Roldan over Sebastian Lletget/Paul Arriola

The question here is where to play Roldan, in the middle of the field with Acosta or out wide. I would lean towards starting him in the middle and then bringing on Lletget late, with the bonus of Lletget being able to sub on in the same middle/wide positions in the lineup. Roldan’s creativity and combination play have been outstanding late in games but the USMNT can’t afford to wait 60-75 minutes to start creating good chances. They need to have the pressure on Mexico from the start and Roldan gives them that chance.

3 ) Gyasi Zardes over Daryl Dike

Dike has had an up and down tournament but the downs have been via an injury and lack of support from the lineup around him. Starved for service, the big target man isn’t able to do what he does best and it’s showed. The US hasn’t been feeding crosses into him for headers nor have they been able to get him the ball in high leverage situations.

So what do you do at striker when your team isn’t crossing the ball in the air or creating a lot of big chances in the box? Get Zardes in up top who doesn’t need a big chance, just a small one, cause he’ll be in the right spot to guide home just about anything that’s in the box. His winner against Qatar was a textbook case of his skill set, with a solid run and guided finish that highlight his specific striker skill set which the US should have from the start of this game.