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How the USMNT should line up against Iran as World Cup dream rests in the balance

5:00 PM GMT+4 28/11/2022
Musah Berhalter Pulisic USMNT GFX
Gregg Berhalter has some big decisions to make that will likely go a long way to determining the team's fate at Qatar 2022

Here we are. Two games down, one to go. Win and the U.S. men's national team are in. Anything else and they'll leave Qatar early wondering what could have been.

The USMNT's World Cup fate comes down to a clash with Iran, who are currently in pole position to qualify for the knockout round after a 2-0 win over Wales. An Iran win or draw will be enough to send Team Melli through.

Gregg Berhalter and co. know that. They know they'll need at least a goal to keep their World Cup dream alive. But, after scoring just once in their first two games, there are questions about where that goal will come from.

Against England, Berhalter unleashed a tactical wrinkle few could have expected, sending the U.S. out in a 4-4-2 rather than a 4-3-3. It worked, with the U.S. going toe-to-toe with the Three Lions and, in many ways, having the better of the game.

That's what makes this game so difficult to project. For years, Berhalter's system has been somewhat reliable. Now, he's proven that he's willing to shake things up with a surprise.

But how could the U.S. line up against Iran knowing that they'll need to win? GOAL takes a look:

  • Matt Turner USMNT World Cup 2022

    GK: Matt Turner

    No need to waste time here.

    Turner is the starter, that's that. He's been good so far this tournament, allowing just the one penalty goal, while making a few solid saves.

    Last game, we saw a bit of sweeper keeper from the Arsenal goalkeeper which left his USMNT team-mates laughing postgame once their nerves calmed down a bit.

  • Antonee Robinson USMNT England World Cup 2022

    LB: Antonee Robinson

    Another one that's easy to call.

    Robinson is the left-back because he's the only natural left-back on the roster. It's unlikely Berhalter will make any sort of change, like switching Sergino Dest over, because it makes little sense and because Robinson has played pretty well.

    Barring an injury, he's starting.

  • Walker Zimmerman USMNT Wales react 2022

    CB: Walker Zimmerman

    He made his mistake against Wales, but recovered in a big way against England.

    The Nashville SC defender was fantastic against Harry Kane and co., and it should not go understated how big of an accomplishment it is to hold England scoreless.

    Some will hold his foul on Gareth Bale against him but don't. It happens to centerbacks and it happened to Zimmerman, but he put it behind him instantly.

  • Tim Ream USMNT Wales World Cup 2022

    CB: Tim Ream

    On one hand, can you trust a 35-year-old veteran to play three World Cup games in about a week? On the other, haven't we seen Ream do this sort of thing since he moved to England all those years ago?

    Ream understands the rhythm of all of this, having endured the meatgrinder that is the English Championship for a good chunk of his career. He's professional as can be and has experience with this sort of thing, so he should be fine.

    Also, he's been the USMNT's best defender. It's hard to bench someone who has earned that title.

  • Sergino Dest USMNT England World Cup

    RB: Sergino Dest

    We saw a lot of good form Sergino Dest against England.

    He was at his attacking best, working with Weston McKennie and Tim Weah to create overload after overload on the right side. And defensively, he was more responsible than usual, helping to essentially silence Raheem Sterling on that side of the field.

    Dest's ability to get into the attack should help unsettle Iran, a team that will likely bunker in and look more like Wales than England.

  • Tyler Adams USMNT England World Cup 2022

    CM: Tyler Adams

    The Leeds United midfielder has been nothing short of world-class in Qatar. That's not hyperbole; it's fact.

    Adams covered the entire pitch against England, routinely frustrating a team of superstars from the country where he plays for his club. It will have been an eye-opening performance for anyone that saw him as just a Leeds midfielder that isn't ready for the big time.

    Adams is more than ready for it and, with the U.S. likely to push numbers forward, his ability to thwart Iranian counters will likely be key.

  • McKennie USMNT England

    CM: Weston McKennie

    Against England, we saw the best version of McKennie.

    He looked fit and confident as he routinely took it to the Three Lions in an unusual position. Stationed on the right of a 4-4-2, McKennie was comfortable as can be as he worked with Dest and Weah to harass England's left side.

    If that McKennie shows up against Iran, the U.S. should dominate the midfield, and dominating the midfield is usually a good place to start when it comes to winning games.

  • Musah

    CM: Yunus Musah

    One place where Berhalter will likely have a big decision to make.

    He could easily turn to Brenden Aaronson or Gio Reyna in this spot to add a bit more of an attacking spark. Both of those players are more creative than Musah, even if the Valencia star has been very, very good so far in this tournament.

    It's just hard to justify breaking up the MMA midfield right now. If it ain't broke, as they say.

  • Christian Pulisic USMNT England World Cup 2022

    LW: Christian Pulisic

    The Chelsea star was much, much better against England than he was against Wales. He'll need to likely be even better against Iran.

    The U.S. will need their star to step up and help break down an Iranian defense that is better than what they showed against England. They'll likely defend deep and force the U.S. to beat them with something spectacular, and we all know Pulisic can do something spectacular.

    Is this the game and the moment he's been waiting for? We'll find out.

  • Ferreira USMNT 2022

    ST: Jesus Ferreira

    Probably the biggest call Berhalter will have to make.

    Does he go with Josh Sargent, who led the line against Wales? Haji Wright, who started against England? A curveball like Weah or Reyna?

    We think he'll go with Ferreira, a player that we haven't seen yet at this tournament. That fact would have come as a surprise just a few weeks ago, when Ferreira was seen by many as the starter.

    To Berhalter's credit, he's gotten it right in both games when it comes to his striker, and this game seems to call for Ferreira. He's a bit more creative than the other two, both of whom were unable to find the back of the net when they played.

    It's a tough call for Berhalter and there may actually be no right answers for a question the U.S. has struggled with for some time.

  • Tim Weah USMNT Wales World Cup 2022

    RW: Tim Weah

    The only player to score for the USMNT at the World Cup should probably keep his spot.

    Weah wasn't quite as good against England as he was against Wales, but he does offer something that the other wingers do not: the pure ability to push a backline. Weah can play direct, making defenders uncomfortable with his ability to get in behind.

    Will the U.S. need that too often against Iran? We'll see, but speed never hurts and neither does Weah's goalscoring touch.

  • USMNT IRan Projected XI

    How the USMNT should line up

    This lineup is anything but straightforward as Berhalter will have some big decisions to make.

    Can he trust some of these players to play a third straight game? Does he swap formations again after it worked so well against England? And, perhaps most importantly, who will score the goals?

    That last question will determine whether or not the U.S. continue on in Qatar. They'll need at least one goal. Where will it come from?