Play the kids. That's been the refrain ever since the dust settled after the U.S. national team's failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. For the better part of the past year we have seen fresh faces cycled into the squad, with interim head coach Dave Sarachan tasked with the duty of integrating the new blood as quickly as possible.
As we close in on the hiring of the next USMNT coach, which is expected to take place before the next set of U.S. friendlies in Europe against England and Italy, Tuesday's friendly against Peru is shaping up to be the the last chance Sarachan has to play a very inexperienced squad. Whoever is running the USMNT in November, whether it's Sarachan or a new coach, will likely call on experience for a tough road trip to close out the year.
Sarachan announced Monday morning that there would be several changes to the squad that started in the 4-2 loss against Colombia on Thursday. He confirmed that Brad Guzan will start in goal after Zack Steffen's departure from camp with hamstring tightness. There is a distinct possibility Guzan will be the only true veteran in the lineup.
Michael Bradley started and went 90 minutes against Colombia, and it's tough to see him thrown out in the starting lineup again, especially with Wil Trapp fresh and available. Kellyn Acosta also played 90 minutes, but he's younger and is a better fit for some of the lineup variations Sarachan could turn to.
John Brooks could surely handle another start, but Sarachan has taken it easy on Brooks' workload before given his injury history, and there are enough central defender options in camp to be able to give the Wolfsburg man a break.
If there's a veteran likely to earn another start it's DeAndre Yedlin. He played 90 minutes against Colombia, but could get the call again if Sarachan decides youngster Reggie Cannon isn't quite ready to start.
Those are just some of the decisions Sarachan will have to make with his squad. Here is a look at the starting lineup we are most likely to see, along with some other variations Sarachan could consider:
Most likely starting lineup
Sarachan said there will be plenty of changes to the lineup that started against Colombia, and this projection features seven of them. Antonee Robinson staying in is the most surprising given how awful his night was on Thursday, but Sarachan will need to decide whether to give the left-back a chance to redeem himself, or have a look at Ben Sweat in the lineup.
At center-back, Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers renew their partnership, though this time they will be playing in front of Guzan instead of Steffen, who they have a lot of experience with.
Reggie Cannon is in the midst of an outstanding season with FC Dallas, but will Sarachan give him a start against a tough Peru side?
At forward, Josh Sargent gets the nod over Andrija Novakovich. The Werder Bremen forward hasn't broken through with the Bundesliga side's first team, but he's been lighting up the U-23 level. Sarachan could choose to give Novakovich his first start and reward him for his excellent form in the Netherlands with Fortuna Sittard. It would also send a good message to give the nod to the player currently logging first-team minutes over the talented teenager who has yet to make his professional debut.
Jonathan Amon is an exciting teenager with electric speed and moves, but Sarachan could choose to deploy Julian Green on the left wing while letting Amon make his debut off the bench.
A 4-1-4-1 system makes sense given the central midfield options. Trapp working behind two box-to-box midfielders like Acosta and Marky Delgado would serve as a good match-up against a Peru midfield that will cause problems in the middle.
Could Sarachan choose to deploy a two-forward system against Peru, with Sargent and Novakovich partnering up top? They played together for the final 10 minutes of the Colombia match, which could serve as a preview of what we see on Tuesday.
The big issue with that choice is that it leaves the central midfield potentially outmanned if Peru goes with its usual 4-2-3-1. Acosta and Trapp would have their hands full against the likes of Cristian Cueva and Edison Flores.
If Sarachan did go with this setup, he would probably be more inclined to include some more experienced options at fullback to help solidify things defensively.
Sarachan could also choose to partner Sargent with Bobby Wood, in a pairing that could be a better fit than a Sargent-Novakovich tandem.
4-3-3 with Saief as playmaker
Kenny Saief's start against Colombia was lackluster, with the Anderlecht midfielder deployed on the left and struggling to offer much defensively while looking far more interested in operating centrally. It is no secret that the USMNT is light on attacking midfielder options after Christian Pulisic, and Saief could be an option for that role. He only played 57 minutes against Colombia, so giving him a start in a No.10 role against Peru could work, especially with Amon and Timothy Weah stretching the Peru defense and Sargent making intelligent runs.
Acosta will need to take on a more defensive role in this setup, but he could still pick his spots to get forward, as he did against Colombia. Sarachan could give Marky Delgado a look in that same role, partnering with Trapp.
The thing about this system is that it could very well be the system of choice for the USMNT once it returns to full strength, with Pulisic, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie in the midfield triangle. Only the next USMNT coach knows for sure if that will be a formational option, but it should be, considering that central trio and given the emerging wing options like Weah and Amon in the talent pipeline.