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How will USMNT line up against Wales at 2022 World Cup? Pulisic and Aaronson in attack as McKennie declares himself fit

7:00 PM GMT+4 20/11/2022
McKennie Pulisic Aaronson USMNT GFX
GOAL takes a look at the team Gregg Berhalter should select for the U.S.'s first World Cup game in eight years

It's finally here. The World Cup. Eight years in the making and now is the time for the U.S. men's national team. They'll face Wales on Monday in Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in their first game on this stage since Tim Howard provided miracle after miracle against Belgium.

We know what lies ahead for the USMNT. What we don't know is exactly what that team will look like against Wales.

Gregg Berhalter will need to balance a number of tough calls for this opening game, which could very well determine the USMNT's fate in Qatar. A win would set the USMNT up for success, while a draw would potentially be a catastrophe.

So, for this game, Berhalter will have to perform a juggling act that weighs up form, fitness, experience, nerves and a whole bunch of other factors. Against a tough Wales team that features plenty of Premier League talent, the U.S. simply has to get it right.

Here's a look at what the USMNT could look like against Wales:

  • Matt Turner USMNT 2021

    GK: Matt Turner

    Now the unquestioned number one, Turner is the guy in goal for the USMNT.

    With Zack Steffen left at home, all doubt has been removed when it comes to the goalkeeping position, which was a hot topic right until the USMNT squad was confirmed.

    Sean Johnson and Ethan Horvath are both capable backups that could very well play in a pinch, but this is Turner's spot for the tournament, presuming he remains healthy.

  • Antonee Robinson USMNT El Salvador 2022 WC qualifier

    LB: Antonee Robinson

    Another one that's set in stone.

    The USMNT doesn't even really have a backup natural left-back, and were never really able to find one throughout qualifying. That makes Robinson oh so important and, arguably, the USMNT's most irreplaceable player.

    Against Wales, Robinson is likely to come up against Dan James, andJames' pace is expected to keep the USMNT on their toes, with Robinson likely to go head-to-head with the talented winger.

  • Walker-ZIMMERMAN

    CB: Walker Zimmerman

    Against Wales, the centerbacks will have to have one thing in mind: don't get dunked on by Gareth Bale.

    The U.S. will be very familiar with Bale, and what he did to the hulking Jack Elliott to help LAFC win the MLS Cup. Bale's powers have waned in recent years, but, with Wales in a World Cup, you're pretty likely to see something a bit more vintage when it comes to the ex-Real Madrid star.

    Zimmerman is a defender that doesn't get dunked on often, and he also briefly faced off with Bale earlier this year when Nashville SC faced LAFC. As the USMNT's No. 1 centerback, he'll know what to expect.

  • Tim Ream Fulham 2022

    CB: Tim Ream

    One of the key calls Berhalter will have to make will be who starts next to Zimmerman.

    There really are two candidates. Sorry, Cameron Carter-Vickers, but this will come down to Aaron Long vs. Tim Ream.

    Long has been the USMNT's go-to guy in that role ever since Miles Robinson went down. You know what you get from the New York Red Bulls' defender, who is a solid presence and a good defender.

    But what he doesn't have is Ream's experience. The Fulham defender has battled with many of Wales' stars up and down English soccer's top two divisions, giving him plenty of familiarity with those on the other side. Between his experience and his passing range, Ream seems the best fit for this game.

  • Serginio Dest USMNT

    RB: Sergino Dest

    There are plenty of right-backs on this roster, but Dest is the starter.

    Dest's attacking talents could be very, very helpful in unbalancing Wales, who will always have to account for the AC Milan defender's ability to get forward.

    The on-loan Barcelona defender has been dealing with injury issues brought on by muscle fatigue, but he insists he's good to go.

    "I'm feeling good," he said. "Of course, after the last game, I had a little bit of fatigue. Right now, it's going well. I'm ready to play."

  • Adams USMNT 2022

    CDM: Tyler Adams

    The USMNT's midfield defensive supernova.

    Adams' ability to cover ground is spectacular and could be key to breaking up Wales' counterattacks. He has taken a noticeable step forward with Leeds this season, even if his passing play still holds him back at some points.

    But there's a reason why Adams is the USMNT captain: he's fierce, tenacious and, most importantly, a leader. He's not the only leader, but Adams is very much a tone-setter for a team that will likely need a bit of nastiness against Wales.

  • Yunus Musah USMNT 2022

    CM: Yunus Musah

    The second pillar of the famous MMA midfield, Musah is certainly the smoothest of the three.

    His ability on the ball is unmatched in this team, which is always helpful when it comes to breaking presses. Musah's ability to glide on the ball sets him apart, even if his final ball is still a work in progress.

    Against Wales, he'll battle two very capable center midfielders: Aaron Ramsey and Harry Wilson. But, having played centrally more for Valencia in La Liga, Musah shouldn't be surprised by the level.

  • McKennie USA

    CM: Weston McKennie

    Another slight injury concern, but McKennie should be ready to go.

    He was in good spirits at a press conference on Saturday, confirming that he will be ready to play against Wales despite a quad injury.

    "Juventus and the national team, they were both working together to make sure that I'm 100 percent fit here," he said. "So I came in, did a couple days of just maintaining to keep it under control. We played the friendly the other day, and I felt good. I felt ready to go, and that's where I'm at."

    That's good news for the U.S., who will have their midfield star ready to go. McKennie is a weapon on set pieces and brings loads of energy to the midfield, which will be vital against Wales.

  • Christian Pulisic USMNT friendly 2022

    LW: Christian Pulisic

    He's finally going to get his chance to shine.

    It's almost impossible to forget the tears of a teenage Pulisic on that fateful day in Couva, but it's safe to say much has changed since that horrible day in 2013. Pulisic is now a man and a leader, and he's ready to lead the USMNT into his first World Cup.

    It came later than he would have imagined, but he's here now with a point to prove on the biggest stage as the face of American soccer.

  • Ferreira USMNT 2022

    ST: Jesus Ferreira

    A big decision, but it still seems Ferreira is the guy.

    Haji Wright seems to be the change-of-pace Plan B, leaving the battle between Ferreira and Josh Sargent. Sargent, like Ream, has the edge of experience, having played for Norwich in the Premier League and Championship.

    But Ferreira's edge is the fact is that he fits best with the national team. His ability to find and create space will be key against a Wales team that likes to play a back three. They'll be tough to open up, and Ferreira drifting around the box is one way for the USMNT to do so.

  • Aaronson USMNT 2021

    RW: Brenden Aaronson

    There are three options for this position: Tim Weah's verticality, Gio Reyna's creativity or Aaronson's energy.

    You could easily argue for any of the three and be proven totally correct. But, if we're going on form, you have to go with Aaronson, who has grown massively as a player with Leeds.

    That leaves Weah as a change-of-pace supersub, while that role is also probably best for Reyna too given his fitness issues. Let Aaronson run Wales' wingbacks ragged before letting one of those guys come in to open things up if the situation calls for it.

  • USMNT XI vs Wales GFX

    How the USMNT should lineup

    Here it is in full, and here's how it would work.

    With Aaronson tucking inside, Dest will be free to run up and down the right sideline. Pulisic, meanwhile, will also cut in to allow similar freedom to Robinson.

    Adams, as usual, will hold, although it remains to be seen if Musah stays back with him or moves more into the attack. The Valencia star's defensive awareness isn't great, but Adams does tend to play best with a partner.

    Ferreira, meanwhile, will drop back and drift, theoretically, opening up a bit of space for Pulisic and Aaronson to run into and create.