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Berhalter Might Throw On The B-Team At Estadio Azteca, And I’m Perfectly OK With That Choice

This seems to be a growing opinion.

I’m not going to lie. The USMNT’s final three World Cup qualifiers have me nervous. 

I can’t recall a time I’ve been this anxious over a sporting event. Gregg Berhalter must get his injury-riddled team through the gauntlet of Mexico, Panama (the only home game) and Costa Rica. 

Four points from these three games will most likely get the job done and qualify the U.S. automatically. Five points guarantees qualification. A victory against Panama in Orlando, Florida, means at minimum the U.S. will play an inter-continental playoff vs. the Oceania representative (most likely New Zealand).

That final home game vs. Panama on Sunday, March 27, is the big one. It’s the definition of a must-win game. The USMNT is infinitely more likely to get three points at home than in Mexico or Costa Rica, where the U.S. has never gotten a victory during World Cup qualifying.

The best starting XI possible needs to be available against Panama. If that means resting key players for the first game against Mexico, that is a pill worth swallowing.

USMNT Starting XI vs Mexico And Panama Predictions

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Fox Soccer analyst Stu Holden is also on board the sandbag-versus-Mexico train. With key starters like DeAndre Yedlin, Jordan Pefok and Tyler Adams all one yellow card away from missing the next game, it could be worth sitting them for the Mexico game. This is who Holden wants to see start in the Mexico and Panama games.

My starting XI is similar with only a couple tweaks. My boldest take is that I don’t want Christian Pulisic starting against Mexico. The U.S. star already had an injury scare against Middlesbrough, and I don’t need any more scares. I imagine the best chance the USMNT will have at scoring in Azteca is with a counterattack, which would suit the speedy Jordan Morris well.

Miles Robinson has had a poor run of form to start the new MLS season, but he and Walker Zimmerman have been a rock-solid duo for the USMNT, which is why I want him starting. I’m also not entirely sold on the possible replacements of Aaron Long, James Sands and Erik Palmer-Brown. Therefore, I have the same pair at center back for both games. I do wish John Brooks was called up.

One big name not on either of my starting rosters is Tim Weah. While he hasn’t been at his best with Lille, I would like to see him come on as a substitute. 

We’ll see what Berhalter ends up doing. I’m going to be nervous no matter who starts.

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