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USMNT Continues CONCACAF Nations League Play Against Grenada and El Salvador
The defending regional champions finish their A Flight group stage with a mostly European based squad.
Interim head coach Anthony Hudson will be at the helm of the second half of the United States Men’s National Team’s CONCACAF Nations League group stage matches against Grenada tonight and El Salvador on Monday March 27th.
Both matches will be featured on the TNT Network with the away leg in Grenada kicking off at 8pm EDT and the home leg in Orlando against El Salvador slated for a 7:30pm EDT timeslot.
El Salvador: 1W - 2D - 0L, 5 pts, +2 GD
United States: 1W - 1D - 0L, 4 pts, +5 GD
Grenada: 0W - 1D - 2L, 1 pt, -7 GD
So the USMNT finds themselves in a prime position to advance, which we expected them to be in regardless. However, Grenada getting a point in their home leg against El Salvador opens up the possibility of the USA needing only just two draws to win the group on goal difference. A win over Grenada would guarantee the US needing only a draw in the home match to advance back to the semifinals.
Elsewhere, Mexico needs only a result against Jamaica at home to secure a spot back in the semis while the Reggae Boyz need the upset to advance out of Group A.
Panama tops Group B currently but dropped points at Martinique in a scoreless draw last year, which sets up the Canaleros needing a draw in Costa Rica to top the group while Los Ticos need two wins this week to advance.
Canada currently sits three points behind Honduras in Group C, but the Canucks have a game in hand and a home leg against their qualifying nemesis Honduras still to play. With an away win over Curacao tomorrow, Canada could set up needing only a draw in Toronto at BMO Field to advance to the semis on goal difference.
Former Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner will likely feature in at least one match in net if not both as the Arsenal backup did not feature in their Europa League elimination that went to penalties.
Tim Ream is still around and rightfully so as the veteran looks to help pass the torch to an up-and-coming group of young center backs, with Miles Robinson the lone MLS call up on his return from a significant injury last year. Mainstays Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson will do the bulk of the work at fullback but in order to balance the workload this weekend I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Scally in particular or Bryan Reynolds get a long run out at some point.
Up top, Daryl Dike has been in fine form so far this year for West Brom in the Championship with seven goals this season as he also returns from injury. Ricardo Pepi has seen similar success this year on loan at Groningen and it will be interesting to see how the US divides the minutes up top. Jesus Ferreria notched four goals against Grenada at home last year, and a similar performance would not be unexpected from either in-form attacker.
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The midfield starts with an immediate problem at midfield in the absence of Tyler Adams. This might force the US to play either a double pivot or one of Yunus Musah or Weston McKennie further back than normal.
Tim Weah was a late scratch with Djordje Mihailovic replacing him on the roster, giving the US another solid holding mid along with Luca de la Torre. I think it would be advantageous for the USMNT to test a double pivot against Grenada at some point with a combination of Christian Pulisic, Brendan Aaronson, and Gio Reyna as the attacking midfield group.
I do not think it was wise to bring Gio along during this international break, I wrote about that debacle involving the elder Reyna’s last week, as I think the decision to include Gio on the national team should not be effectively coming from the interim head coach. However, if Gio is here, he’s obviously going to play and the USMNT will not have any shortage of minutes available with a glaring hole in midfield.
The USMNT advancing into the Nations League semi-finals later this summer should be all but academic after tonight, though we know that a win against El Salvador is not guaranteed. I think Anthony Hudson will do a good job balancing out his minutes against Grenada, perhaps leaving a few of his top guns in reserve if a late push is needed to have a fresh squad for Monday at home.
If the USA holds a multi-goal lead at halftime against Grenada, I think several planned substitutions could be used to keep say the starting fullback combo of Jedi and Dest fresh for the El Salvador game. I would expect Pepi and Dike to each start one game and I would lean toward Dike getting the home start with his hold-up/target man prowess perhaps being more advantageous against the better team.
at GRN: 4-3-3 - Steffen/Horvath; Scally, McKenzie, Trusty, Reynolds; Musah, de la Torre, McKennie; Pulisic, Pepi, Reyna
vs SLV: 4-2-3-1 - Turner; A Robinson, Ream, M Robinson, Dest; Musah, McKennie; Reyna, Pulisic, Aaronson; Dike
The US should be able to deploy a full second-choice backline against Grenada and still pull out a win, and I would opt for that with a quick turnaround on Monday. If needed, you have the option to sub on firepower at fullback though I would think the match should be well enough in hand to pull your workhorses in midfield and out wide to manage the workload and get good looks at some of the fringe/low-capped players.
This should be a six-point weekend for the USMNT and then we will await the semifinal draw for the Nations League which will conclude in mid-June right before the Gold Cup.