Start Gio Reyna! How the USMNT should line up against Grenada in Nations League opener

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Gio Reyna USMNT 2022
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After a difficult winter, the U.S. are back at full strength for the first time since the World Cup as they get their Nations League campaign underway

It's the topic that's on every American soccer fan's mind: who will start in the U.S. men's national team's Nations League return in Grenada?

Okay, maybe not THE topic, as there are plenty of others swirling throughout USMNT land. From #BalogunWatch to the head coaching search and all of the drama that has come with it, its safe to say that the 2026 World Cup cycle is off to a wilder start than many could have imagined.

The first game of that cycle, in reality, comes on Friday in Grenada, with the match providing fans with the first look at a majority of the USMNT's stars since their exit from Qatar 2022.

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Names like Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Matt Turner are back in the picture. So too is Gio Reyna, a player that has certainly been the talk of the town since the World Cup for all the wrong reasons.

Could we see Reyna make his USMNT return on Friday as he looks to finally put that controversy behind him? Which new faces could get looks over established USMNT stars? Will interim coach Anthony Hudson put a new spin on things or simply try and build off the foundation laid by Gregg Berhalter?

Here's a look at how the USMNT should line up in Grenada:

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  1. GK: Matt Turner

    GK: Matt Turner

    No need to mess with the established order and reignite any old goalkeeping controversies.

    Turner remains the No.1, so lets have him start. Giving Zack Steffen the nod would be somewhat understandable as a reward for earning his place back after the World Cup, but it may also be best to ease Steffen in rather than restart a race that doesn't need to be restarted just yet.

    Plus, Turner could use the games, as they've been few and far between at Arsenal, and with the Gunners out of Europe, he may not play competitively again at club level until the fall.

    Give him this one, even if he shouldn't be forced into too much work.

  2. LB: Antonee Robinson
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    LB: Antonee Robinson

    Finding a backup, or competition, for Robinson will be one of the big goals for this cycle but, for the time being, it's Return of the Jedi.

    Robinson has been in great form for Fulham and remains the unquestioned starting left-back. Against a Grenada team that should be very overmatched, he'll be able to get forward plenty and, in the moments he does have to track back, he has more than enough pace to do so.

  3. CB: Tim Ream

    CB: Tim Ream

    We'll see if he lasts all the way through the cycle but, for the time being, there probably isn't a more reliable American defender than Ream.

    The Fulham star is somehow playing the best soccer of his career at age 35, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

    Given the short turnaround, there will almost certainly be rotation at center-back, so we'll figure Ream should start in the road game to add a bit of veteran guile.

    Add in the fact that his partner likely won't have as much USMNT experience as he does, and this makes too much sense.

  4. CB: Mark McKenzie
    Sean M. Haffey

    CB: Mark McKenzie

    Hudson hinted strongly that Miles Robinson would only play one of these matches, and so given his injury history and the potential for less-than-ideal field conditions, we'll sit him out for this one.

    That leaves either Auston Trusty or McKenzie. Trusty has zero USMNT caps, McKenzie has 10. While Trusty's strong play in the Championship has earned him a chance, it may be best to save his USMNT debut for a more hospitable game in Orlando on Monday, rather than toss him out away from home in Grenada.

    So we'll go with McKenzie, a player who is on the fringes of being in that starting centerback race and could really use a few good USMNT performances under his belt.

  5. RB: Sergino Dest
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    RB: Sergino Dest

    At this point, Dest needs a run of games, and the confidence that comes with it.

    His loan to AC Milan hasn't been what anyone would have hoped for, as he's made just eight Serie A appearances this season. His future, as it stands, is uncertain, as he'll return to Barcelona this summer, but then who knows?

    Dest is fresh and in need of a little boost, so he's definitely start one of, if not both, of these games.

  6. CM: Weston McKennie

    CM: Weston McKennie

    He's at a different club than when we last saw him in a USMNT jersey, but McKennie is back and should be good to go.

    It'll be interesting to see how Hudson sets up the midfield, especially, with Tyler Adams out. Does he opt for rotation? Does he give youngsters a chance to step up?

    In an away game, though, it probably isn't best to mess around. Go with a guy that knows what to expect in McKennie.

  7. CM: Luca de la Torre

    CM: Luca de la Torre

    That said, there is room for some mixing and matching.

    Tossing in De la Torre isn't some seismic change since he was on the World Cup roster, but giving him a go instead of Yunus Musah is a change nonetheless.

    De la Torre has been killing it in Spain with Celta Vigo and looks more than capable of pushing Musah for that third spot in central midfield.

    Given his form, we'll give De la Torre the start in a game where his ability on the ball should be useful.

  8. CM: Brenden Aaronson

    CM: Brenden Aaronson

    Okay, one more little wrinkle in the midfield, because why not?

    Thus far, Aaronson has mostly played on the wing for the USMNT, but he's capable of playing centrally, either as part of a three-man midfield or as a No.10.

    Grenada shouldn't threaten too much, so the U.S. won't be too worried about the lack of a natural No.6, while Aaronson's energy and ability on the ball should offer some answers in the attack.

    Hudson could play it safe with someone like Johnny Cardoso as a more defensive-minded option, or late callup Djordje Mihailovic as a pure No.10, but we'll go Aaronson.

  9. LW: Christian Pulisic
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    LW: Christian Pulisic

    He's just returning from injury, so there's an argument to be made that his minutes should be limited. There's also an argument to be made that he could use the game time.

    Pulisic may very well serve as captain for this camp given Adams' absence, and its hard to imagine the USMNT starting this one without their superstar.

    Maybe he doesn't go the full 90 in either, but Pulisic should probably start both games.

  10. ST: Ricardo Pepi
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    ST: Ricardo Pepi

    With Grenada almost certainly set to bunker in, you could make arguments for both strikers in the squad.

    Daryl Dike brings physicality, while Pepi brings movement in the box. It isn't that simple, to be fair, as both can also play to each other's strengths, but you probably can't go wrong here.

    Putting on a coach's hat here, let's go with Pepi, as this game offers him a chance to get at least a goal or two. Grenada should be totally overmatched and its worth remembering that Jesus Ferreira put four on them last year.

    Given everything he's been through, Pepi can use those goals a bit more than Dike, so let's give him a chance to get them to start the 2026 cycle on a good note.

  11. RW: Gio Reyna

    RW: Gio Reyna

    The one you've all been waiting for. Yes, Reyna absolutely has to start this game.

    It's vital to get Reyna on the field and - hopefully - producing, as he looks to put the mess of the last few months behind him.

    The most important thing that this team can do right now is reintegrate Reyna, make him comfortable and make his team-mates feel comfortable with him. This week is the first step towards that, although it likely will be a process.

    Starting Alejandro Zendejas may be tempting, but this is Reyna's time to shine.