Play all the kids. That’s the simple request many U.S. national team fans have for caretaker coach Dave Sarachan, even if that scenario isn’t exactly practical.
Sarachan took plenty of flack for not finding more minutes for prospects like Tim Weah and Andrija Novakovich in the March friendly against Paraguay, choosing instead to limit his substitutions to help the U.S. earn a 1-0 win.
Don’t bet on Sarachan being as stingy this time around when the U.S. faces Bolivia on Monday. The U.S. has three friendlies in a two-week span, and the Bolivia match shapes up to be the best opportunity to give some players their first starts, and his youngest players good-sized cameos.
Based on personnel, the U.S. is likely to deploy a variation of the 4-3-3, with Novakovich up top and Julian Green and Lynden Gooch on the flanks. Teenagers Josh Sargent and Tim Weah are good bets to come off the bench. Rubio Rubin can play any of the front three spots, and should challenge Green for the left forward spot.
Christian Pulisic should handle playmaker duties, assuming he shakes off the wear of playing 55 minutes in Borussia Dortmund’s friendly against Los Angeles FC on Tuesday, and then flying cross-country to Philadelphia. We should get to see the first pairing of Pulisic and McKennie in the middle as USMNT teammates, with Joe Corona joining McKennie in deeper-lying central midfield roles.
Keaton Parks is one of the more intriguing prospects in camp. A skilled 6-foot-4 central midfielder who can play deeper in midfield or in an attacking role, Parks is in his first U.S. camp so minutes aren’t guaranteed but he’s a prospect who should remain with the team for all three friendlies.
Defensively, veterans Jorge Villafana and Eric Lichaj are good bets to start. Sarachan could be tempted to give Antonee Robinson a start in his national team debut after failing to find him minutes in the March friendly. This wouldn't be a bad move if Sarachan plans to start Villafana in both European friendlies. Lichaj should start at right back, though Matthew Olosunde is as close to a Philadelphia native as anyone on the squad and could make his U.S. debut as well. DeAndre Yedlin seems a good bet to join the team in Europe, and start both friendlies overseas, so Lichaj should get the nod against Bolivia to help provide some experience.
It’s difficult to see the tandem of Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers not starting in central defense. The only way it doesn’t happen is if Walker Zimmerman breaks up the partnership, which isn’t crazy to consider since it would explain why LAFC would release him for the match.
The same thought leads to projecting an Alex Bono start in goal. The Toronto FC goalkeeper is enjoying an excellent season, and it’s easy to see Bill Hamid earning a start in the European friendlies (with Zack Steffen a likely call-up to replace Bono). Sarachan could have them split the match, but a full match for Bono makes sense.