The United States Men's National Team takes on Panama tonight on Matchday 5 of World Cup Qualifying.
Kickoff is at 6:00 ET in Panama City, Panama. The game will stream on Paramount+.
After a 2-0 win over Jamaica on Thursday night, the USMNT now sits tied with Mexico atop the CONCACAF standings with 8 points (The US leads on goal differential).
Leading the way for the USMNT, Ricardo Pepi had two goals against Jamaica, making it three goals and two assists for the 18-year-old in his first two caps.
Against Panama, US coach Gregg Berhalter will be without Zack Steffen and Antonee Robinson due to the UK's travel restrictions and Weston McKennie--who picked up a quad injury against Jamaica.
Here's my projected XI to face Panama:
Starter - Matt Turner
After another shutout for Matt Turner on Thursday, the New England Revolution man has further entrenched himself as the States' #1 keeper. Sean Johnson will back up Turner on Sunday, as Zack Steffen didn't make the trip to Panama.
Starters - George Bello, Chris Richards, Miles Robinson, Deandre Yedlin
George Bello was yanked at halftime against Honduras, but the 19-year-old should get another chance. With no Antonee Robinson, Sergino Dest is the only other option at LB, but with Dest reportedly nursing a hamstring strain, it makes sense to rest the Barca man on Sunday.
There's no doubt about it--USMNT fans want to see Chris Richards paired with Miles Robinson. This game against Panama seems like the right time for it to finally happen.
Just like against Jamaica, expect Berhalter to sprinkle some veterans into a lineup full of young, inexperienced players. Deandre Yedlin will provide some leadership to a young back line.
Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Sebastian Lletget
The midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Yunus Musah sure looks like the best USMNT midfield in the Berhalter era. That said, McKennie picked up a quad injury and didn't travel to Panama.
Luca De La Torre played well off the bench, and Gianluca Busio should get some minutes on the field during this window--but I think Berhalter opts for Kellan Acosta or Sebastian Lletget in the starting lineup on the road.
Matthew Hoppe, Ricardo Pepi, Brendan Aaronson
Two of the forward positions are near-givens: Brendan Aaronson and Ricardo Pepi have scored or assisted on six of the USMNT's seven goals during World Cup Qualifying. Both of them will start.
As for the third forward, Berhalter has options. Paul Arriola is the safe pick--although he played the full 90 only three days ago. Tim Weah looked great off the bench, but I think Berhalter wants to start him at home where the field conditions will be better.
That leaves Matthew Hoppe--who seems perfect for the moment. He's rested, probably miffed that he didn't see the field against Jamaica, and ready to show he belongs in the roster.
Weah for Aaronson
Roldan for Pepi (Hoppe shifts to CF)
De La Torre for Lletget
Acosta for Adams
Busio for Musah
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