The United States men's national team has a huge opportunity on Thursday when they host Jamaica in World Cup qualifying. The Americans are looking for their first home win during this final stage of qualification and to string together back-to-back victories that could give them some serious separation ahead of their next game on Sunday in Panama. With kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET from Austin, Texas, here are three things to watch, predicting the starting lineup and more:
1. Has Pepi earned it?
This USMNT still has plenty of holes, but its most glaring has been at the striker position. It's far from solved, but Ricardo Pepi did deliver big time in Honduras with his one goal, two-assist performance. One would think that he has earned the right to start this game thanks to that impact he made, and which he continues to make for FC Dallas. Combined with Josh Sargent's poor form and not being in the team, it seems clear as day that Pepi should be the one getting those minutes. Please don't yell at me if it ends up being Gyasi Zardes ...
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2. What to do at right back
There are real concerns within the team as to what should happen at right back moving forward. It's evident by Berhalter going with Tyler Adams there last time out. Sergino Dest is a borderline defensive liability at times, Reggie Cannon isn't with the team as he sorts out his club future and DeAndre Yedlin hasn't been all that consistent in defense. Though, with Jamaica not having some key pieces (more below), it would seem that the best option would be to start Dest at right back. Berhalter's choice will be telling.
3. Less challenging of a game than expected?
On paper, this is a game that shouldn't give the U.S. too much trouble. Of course, we thought the same with El Salvador and Canada, as well as some recent meeting with the Reggae Boyz. But with their two most important attackers out due to injury in Leon Bailey and Michail Antonio, Berhalter almost has a bit of a longer leash in this match to tinker with some things. The concern at right back is probably minimized as a result, and those two players out greatly impacts the concern about getting hit on the counter. While the U.S. will be without injured stars Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, the losses to Jamaica are much greatly simply due to the lack of depth in the squad. It won't be easy, but it shouldn't be nearly as challenging as previously expected. Instead of worrying about Michail Antonio, one of the Premier League's most consistent players, they now have to keep an eye on the links of players who play in the USL, the English second division, Costa Rica and more.
Predicting the starting lineup
Goalkeeper: Matt Turner
- Why: He's earned it. He was the star at the Gold Cup and has delivered both in qualifying and in MLS. What a rise.
Defense: Antonee Robinson, Chris Richards, Miles Robinson, Sergino Dest
- Why: Dest by default, I think. I am not thrilled at what he brings defensively, but I think both Robinsons and Chris Richards are deserving of the starts. With John Brooks not joining up due to injury, Richards makes a ton of sense due to his consistency at Hoffeheim. He has the making of a top centerback, and the more minutes he can get the better.
Midfield: Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Kellyn Acosta
- Why: Tyler Adams really needs to slide back into the midfield, and if he is back at right back then expect the USMNT Twitter fan base to just lose it. He's the engine in the middle and is needed against a Jamaica team that has pace to get forward quickly. Eyes will be on McKennie, and he's starting in this one, according to Berhalter. Lastly, Kellyn Acosta has been solid with this team, and I don't think we see Yunus Musah from the start, especially considering he was training on the side on Wednesday, awaiting results of a COVID test after having an inconclusive one, according to The Athletic's Paul Tenorio.
Attackers: Brenden Aarsonson, Ricardo Pepi, Tim Weah,
- Why: Aaronson is this team's most important player going forward and one who can set up and finish on his own, Pepi earned it after his display at Honduras and Weah has been quality with Lille, taking advantage of the absences to potentially earn some serious minutes.
How to watch
Date: Thursday, Oct. 7 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Q2 Stadium -- Austin, Texas
TV: ESPN2, TUDN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Odds: USMNT -333; Draw +333; Jamaica +850 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
USMNT's qualifying schedule
(All times U.S./Eastern)
Paramount+ is carrying up to 79 Concacaf qualifying games, including away games for the USMNT as they go to Panama on Sunday.
Thursday, Sept. 2 (Matchday 1)
El Salvador 0, United States 0
Sunday, Sept. 5 (Matchday 2)
United States 1, Canada 1
Wednesday, Sept. 8 (Matchday 3)
Honduras 1, United States 4
Thursday, Oct. 7 (Matchday 4)
United States vs. Jamaica, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 10 (Matchday 5)
Panama vs. United States, 6 p.m. (Paramount+)
Wednesday, Oct. 13 (Matchday 6)
United States vs. Costa Rica, 7 p.m.
Nov. 12 (Matchday 7)
United States vs. Mexico, 9:10 p.m.
Nov. 16 (Matchday 8)
Jamaica vs. United States, 5 p.m. (Paramount+)
Thursday, Jan. 27 (Matchday 9)
United States vs. El Salvador
Sunday, Jan. 30 (Matchday 10)
Canada vs. United States (Paramount+)
Wednesday, Feb. 2 (Matchday 11)
United States vs. Honduras
Thursday, March 24 (Matchday 12)
Mexico vs. United States
Sunday, March 27 (Matchday 13)
United States vs. Panama
Wednesday, March 30 (Matchday 14)
Costa Rica vs. United States (Paramount+)
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