Austin, TX

McKennie Will Start as US Faces Jamaica in World Cup Qualifying

JL Matthews

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Weston McKennie will start for the USMNTImage Credit: cristiano barni / ShutterStock

Austin, TX - The United States Men's National Team resumes World Cup Qualifying tonight versus Jamaica.

Kickoff is at 7:45 ET (6:45 CT) at Q2 Stadium in Austin. US Soccer urges fans to arrive early.

The US secured only five of a possible nine points during the September window. Injuries, COVID restrictions, and off-field issues limited coach Gregg Berhalter's options, and he'll once again have to work around absences that are beyond his control.

However, as Berhalter announced yesterday, Weston McKennie will start against Jamaica.

Who else will start for the US tonight? Here's my projected XI to face off against the Reggae Boyz.

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Berhalter's Projected XIImage by Author

Goalkeeper

Starter - Matt Turner

Berhalter put Turner in net for the Gold Cup back in July, and since then, the US has posted seven wins and two draws. Six of the seven wins were shutouts, and no team has scored more than one goal against Turner during his time as the American keeper. With numbers like that, the starting job remains Turner's--at least for now.

Defense

Starters - Antonee Robinson, Mark McKenzie, Miles Robinson, Sergino Dest

Antonee Robinson sparked the US comeback in Honduras, and he should get rewarded with a start against Jamaica. Robinson won't be eligible to travel to Panama (due to the UK travel restrictions), so expect him to empty the tank and bomb forward whenever possible.

Mark McKenzie played to the left of John Brooks in a five-man backline in the first half at Honduras--until Brooks was subbed off at halftime. After that, the US switched to a 4-3-3 with McKenzie pairing with Miles Robinson in central defense. McKenzie, whose father is Jamaican, should relish the start tonight.

Miles Robinson--like Turner--got his shot in the Gold Cup and hasn't looked back. Right now, he's one of the first names on the team sheet--and he's earned it with his play.

Whether he's playing for Barcelona or with the USMNT, Sergino Dest hasn't shown his best form in months. Nevertheless, he's the sort of player that can take over a game. This October window--with two games in the US against iffy competition--offers Dest a fantastic chance to show what he can do.

Midfield

Starters - Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Sebastian Lletget

Despite playing 270 minutes during the September window, expect Berhalter to lean on Tyler Adams for lots of minutes again in October. He'll likely captain the side with Christian Pulisic injured.

Berhalter has already announced that Weston McKennie will start for the US. The Texan's form hasn't been good since his crucial header in June's Nations League Final, but Jamaica offers a juicy target for McKennie to get back on everyone's good side with a solid performance in his home state.

After bringing six midfielders in September, Berhalter chose to bring eight for the October window. This gives the coach more options, but will he use them? My suspicion is no--at least not tonight. Whenever there's a lineup question, it seems Berhalter often has the same answer--let's put Sebastian Lletget there. Yunus Musah (who doesn't have COVID), Gianluca Busio, and Luca De La Torre remain options, but I think Lletget will get the start.

Forwards

Starters - Brendan Aaronson, Ricardo Pepi, Paul Arriola

Brendan Aaronson has been on fire for club and country for weeks now. Even if Pulisic wasn't injured, there'd be a real conversation around whether Aaronson should get a start over Pulisic or Reyna due to his form.

Ricardo Pepi made quite the splash in his debut in Honduras. But now he has to show it wasn't a fluke. Berhalter probably wants to start Gyasi Zardes, but with Zardes still recovering from an injury, expect Pepi to get the start only a few hours from where he plays his club soccer. A makeshift Jamaican central defense has to have him licking his lips.

With so much youth in the starting XI, Berhalter will likely give Paul Arriola the start over Tim Weah. While Berhalter has depth in midfield, there are only six forwards on the roster--so managing minutes will be essential. Expect Weah to come on in the second half.

Likely Subs:

  • Weah for Arriola
  • Zardes for Pepi
  • Musah for Lletget
  • Acosta for McKennie/Adams
  • Yedlin for Dest

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JL Matthews is a writer with interests spanning history, humor, tv/film, parenting, and more. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he is a 6x Top Writer on Medium. Follow him on News Break, Medium, and Twitter for updates and latest work.

Raleigh, NC
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