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World Cup 2022: Alexi Lalas picks best starting XI for USMNT
United States

World Cup 2022: Alexi Lalas picks best starting XI for USMNT

Updated Aug. 14, 2022 7:11 p.m. ET

The U.S. men's national team won't kick off in Qatar for another 101 days, but with just one more international window before rosters have to be finalized Nov. 13, surely head coach Gregg Berhalter has an idea of what his starting XI will look like at the World Cup.

On this week's episode of "State of the Union," host and former USMNT defender Alexi Lalas made his picks for the starting XI with the help of FOX Sports soccer analyst and former USMNT midfielder Stu Holden.

While both of them agreed Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner should get the nod over Zack Steffen, who struggled in his first start for English Championship side Middlesbrough on Saturday, Holden disagreed with Lalas on his inclusion of New York Red Bulls center back Aaron Long in the starting back line.

"I think Chris Richards needs to be in there, and I think it's Walker Zimmerman, for now," Holden said. "I would be comfortable with that. I think you have the experience and the leadership of Walker Zimmerman. They're both great in the air. I think that Chris Richards is a good athlete, he has speed, he can defend in a high line.


"I just think Long and Zimmerman are too similar, and Richards, when he was on loan at Hoffenheim last year, played as a left center back and can pass with his right foot and left foot."

Alexi Lalas reveals his USMNT starting XI

Alexi Lalas, David Mosse, and Stu Holden debate who should be in USMNT's starting 11 for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Long has been one of Berhalter's go-to center backs since Miles Robinson suffered an Achilles injury in May. In the June international window, Long started every game. However, during that window, Richards was sidelined with an injury of his own. Now healthy and playing with Crystal Palace in the English Premier League, Richards should get a long look during the September window, whether that's alongside or in place of the veteran Long.

Outside of Long and Richards, there wasn't much debate with the rest of the starting XI.

Antonee Robinson, Sergino Dest, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic have been considered locks for a long time now, and though there's potential for 19-year-old Yunus Musah to have his spot in the midfield taken by Gio Reyna or Brenden Aaronson, Holden believes Musah is primed for a huge tournament in Doha.

"Yunus Musah will be the breakout start of this World Cup for the U.S. men's national team," Holden said. "I'm a huge Musah fan. He has the potential to be the best player on the team. He's not the most skillful. He's just a guy I think is unworldly different: his ability to get out of tight spaces, his balance, his power, his strength, his passing.

"If he can add just that goal and arriving in the box like McKennie, he's going to be the breakout star."

Not only that, but Berhalter has historically gone with his trusted "MMA" trio in the midfield and there's no reason to believe he'd change it after the success they've had together.

That leaves two spots in the attack. Lalas, like many USMNT fan, is partial to having some combination of Aaronson, Pulisic and Weah up top. But with Berhalter unlikely to experiment with a False 9 right before the World Cup, Lalas went with Jesús Ferreira at striker and Aaronson on the right wing.

"As much as I love Weah, I still have to find a way to get Brenden Aaronson on the field."

A lot can change in the next 101 days, but it wouldn't be a surprise if Berhalter's XI looks something like this against Wales if everyone's healthy.

You can watch the "State of the Union" podcast on YouTube or subscribe on podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts.


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