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Netherlands vs United States

Pulisic out, Reyna in? Who the USMNT should start against the Netherlands

15:00 WAT 02/12/2022
Pulisic Berhalter Reyna split USMNT World Cup
The USMNT has some injury concerns that could greatly impact the starting XI in their last-16 showdown with the Dutch...

For the first time at the World Cup, the U.S. men's national team is facing legitimate injury concerns.

There have been fitness issues, of course. Gio Reyna's has been a talking point throughout, and will remain so unless he plays significant minutes at some point. Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest, meanwhile, entered the tournament with some reasons for concern.

But the U.S. has not faced something of this level just yet as they look ahead to the knockout rounds.

Christian Pulisic is dealing with a pelvic contusion, having suffered the injury scoring his heroic goal against Iran. The U.S. is hopeful he'll play, but it isn't a certainty.

The same can be said about striker Josh Sargent, who started twice in the group stage. He's dealing with an ankle injury that could keep him out of the game against the Dutch.

So, what's Gregg Berhalter to do? How does he balance injuries, tactics, fitness and form heading into a one-off game against an international powerhouse like the Netherlands?

GOAL takes a look at how the U.S. may line up against the Netherlands on Saturday...

  • Matt Turner USMNT Wales World Cup 2022

    GK: Matt Turner

    Won't waste too much time on this one.

    Turner starts as always, having had a fantastic tournament so far. He nearly let one slip in late against Iran but the fact remains that he hasn't been beaten from open play so far this World Cup.

    The only goal conceded was a Gareth Bale penalty that he did get his hands to. Not bad for a guy that only started playing the sport 12 years ago.

  • Antonee Robinson USMNT England World Cup 2022

    LB: Antonee Robinson

    Another unquestioned starter.

    Robinson has been vital to how the USMNT play down the left, working with Tim Weah to create overloads on that side of the pitch. It's worked well for the U.S. team so far and could certainly help to unbalance the Netherlands defense.

  • Tim Ream USMNT World Cup 2022

    CB: Tim Ream

    He remains undroppable.

    From out of the squad to an integral piece of it all, what a tournament this has been for Ream. If he was 10 years younger, some team would pay millions for him based on what they've seen so far.

    Good for him, too, to finally be getting his flowers. He's certainly earned them this tournament.

  • Walker Zimmerman USMNT Wales react 2022

    CB: Walker Zimmerman

    The first of several big calls.

    For the Iran game, Berhalter went with Cameron Carter-Vickers due to his familiarity with playing against a team in a low block. That's not something Zimmerman and Nashville SC do as often in MLS and, by the end, the decision to go with Carter-Vickers was justified as he handled Iran's counters well.

    But, coming on as substitute, Zimmerman was incredible as he swatted away wave after wave of Iran attacks.

    Against the Netherlands, the U.S. will likely have less of the ball than they did against Iran and you have reason to believe that Zimmerman will get the nod.

  • SERGINO DEST USA WORLD CUP 29112022

    RB: Sergino Dest

    What a tournament that has been for Dest.

    AC Milan and Barcelona fans will be watching on wondering why they haven't seen him reach this level because, boy, has he reached a level.

    The familiar defensive mistakes haven't happened and he's been good in the attack as usual.

    And everyone knows he'll be up for it as he takes on the country he was raised in. What a story that is.

  • Tyler Adams USMNT 2022

    CM: Tyler Adams

    The USMNT MVP.

    Adams has been sensational, both on the field and in his press conferences. He's probably been the team's best player so far at this tournament, putting out basically every fire that's been put in front of him since the U.S. arrived in Qatar.

    Against the Netherlands, he'll likely be tasked with hounding Frenkie de Jong, another big test for a young midfielder that is seemingly breaking his way into the elite.

  • CM: Weston McKennie

    It seems he's fully fit.

    There were some doubts heading into the tournament, but there aren't now. McKennie is clearly healthy and confident.

    He was a bit limited against Iran, taken off for Kellyn Acosta to bring in fresh legs and prevent him from getting a yellow card that would have earned a suspension. As a result, McKennie should be good to go in a match where the midfield battle will be vital.

  • Yunus Musah USMNT 2022

    CM: Yunus Musah

    Why break up the MMA midfield?

    Musah's ability to drive with the ball makes teams really, really uncomfortable. He's such a good outlet to break out and break free.

    The USMNT midfielder has worked so well together so far. No reason to stop now.

  • Pulisic-USMNT-World-Cup

    LW: Christian Pulisic

    This one comes with an asterisk.

    If Pulisic is healthy, he'll start. He's been playing well, he has his goal and, as he said in the pregame press conference, he's now even more desperate to create a real, signature moment that he can actually celebrate.

    If Pulisic isn't healthy, though, Berhalter will have to adjust in a big way. Does he go with Brenden Aaronson's energy or perhaps Gio Reyna's creativity and guile?

    Pregame, Berhalter says he's hopeful that Pulisic will be ready and whether he is or not will go a long way towards determining how the U.S. plays and if they'll be sticking around in Qatar.

  • Haji Wright USMNT 2022

    ST: Haji Wright

    Josh Sargent has been pretty solid, despite the lack of goals. But his ankle injury isn't looking great.

    Berhalter said he's less hopeful when it comes to Sargent's health when compares to Pulisic's, which isn't a great sign for the Norwich striker. None of the U.S. strikers are talented enough to be worth starting at 85 percent in the way it would be for, say, Pulisic.

    So that leaves Wright or Jesus Ferreira, given what Berhalter has said about not playing a winger in the position. We'll go with Wright given the fact that he's apparently earned Berhalter's trust enough to make three appearances so far at this tournament.

  • Timothy Weah United States USMNT Wales World Cup 2022

    RW: Timothy Weah

    We've all gotten a pretty good look at what Weah brings to this team.

    He's a constant threat to the backline, which is vital for a team that doesn't really have another player that pushes teams vertically in the same way. Pulisic tends to cut in, as do the rest of the wingers, while Weah's ability to make intelligent runs in behind has been vital.

    He scored on one of those runs against Wales and should have had one against Iran if not for a tight offside call.

    Breaking down the Dutch defense will be difficult, but Weah's runs will certainly help.

  • USMNT lineup Netherlands

    How the USMNT should line up

    Once again, it all comes down to health.

    That rings especially true in the attack, where Berhalter could be forced into massive changes. Pulisic and Sargent are, at best, questionable which would take away two-thirds of the starters against Iran.

    For a team that has already struggled for goals, that isn't ideal. And it's even less ideal given the opponent.

    The U.S. is optimistic, though, that both could be ready to go, but it may go right down to the wire for all involved.