How the USMNT should line up vs Panama in Gold Cup semifinal: Why not unleash both Jesus Ferreira & Brandon Vazquez in attack?!

Comments (0)
Brandon Vazquez USMNT 2023
Getty Images
GOAL takes a look at how the U.S. could line up in the Gold Cup semifinal, with interim coach B.J. Callaghan having some big calls to make.

And we're back. The U.S. men's national team may still be feeling the effects of their Gold Cup quarterfinal win over Canada, a penalty shootout after 120 minutes of action that led to a brawl for the ages. After a week between group stage and knockout games, the U.S. now has less than 72 hours between their quarterfinal and semifinal matches.

What a weird tournament, huh?

Because of that short turnaround, B.J. Callaghan has some decisions to make for Wednesday night's clash with Panama. Does he need to rotate after the energy-sapping Canada game? Does he have one eye on the final, hoping to give a few players a chance to recover? Can the U.S. even afford to think that way?

That's one part of Callaghan's lineup problem. The other is tactics. Indeed, a switch against Canada would've offered a look at what the best possible version of this USMNT could look like, one with both Jesus Ferreira and Brandon Vazquez on the field. It didn't happen. Both have scored plenty in this tournament and earned their spot, but can Callaghan find a way to get them both into the XI?

We've reached the big games of this tournament and, thus far, Callaghan has gotten just about everything right. Now, though, he must strike a difficult balance that could, ultimately, determine the USMNT's place in the final.

GOAL takes a look at how the U.S. could line up against Panama...

This page contains affiliate links. When you subscribe through the links provided, we may earn a commission.

Sign up here for MLS Season Pass through Apple TV and watch every MLS match, including the playoffs!

  1. GK: Matt Turner

    GK: Matt Turner

    No need to waste time here: the USMNT's shootout hero is starting. He's the No.1, for this team and the main team, and will play every minute going forward, if fit and healthy.

  2. RB: Bryan Reynolds

    RB: Bryan Reynolds

    One of the more difficult calls with the short turnaround, and Callaghan could definitely go with the veteran DeAndre Yedlin here.

    But what do we learn from that? We know all about Yedlin, but we're still in the learning phase with Reynolds. His legs should be fresh enough to go again, even if that means taking him out for Yedlin later on if necessary.

  3. CB: Miles Robinson

    CB: Miles Robinson

    He's not fit to do 120 minutes, but 90 is manageable. The question is, is he fit enough to play twice in just a few days.

    Callaghan has taken it easy with Robinson, and rightfully so considering his injury. If he's up for it, he's a starter but if he isn't quite ready, look for Matt Miazga to slot in here.

  4. CB: Jalen Neal
    Getty Images

    CB: Jalen Neal

    He survived the win over Canada without a yellow card, which means he's free to play going forward.

    There's still question marks over his involvement, however, with Neal having played a lot of minutes this tournament, perhaps more than anyone could have expected. The good news is he was taken out in the 73rd against Canada, meaning he won't have as many miles in his legs as some of his teammates. Because of that, he could, and probably should, start.

  5. LB: DeJuan Jones

    LB: DeJuan Jones

    Normally, this would feel like the right time to get John Tolkin in. Jones just played 120 minutes, and Tolkin has looked solid enough during his time on the field.

    The issue is that Jones has looked so damn good, so it'll be hard to take him out. It'll certainly be a bold call to keep playing him, but he should be able to handle it. Given what we've seen so far, he may just be vital to getting a win in this one.

  6. CM: James Sands

    CM: James Sands

    Sands is a player that is going to play until the wheels fall off.

    He's just too good in that No.6 role, and the drop off between him and the likes of Aidan Morris and Jackson Yueill is vast. Can one of those guys start next to him? Maybe. Either way, Sands starts.

  7. CM: Gianluca Busio
    Getty Images

    CM: Gianluca Busio

    By switching formations, there's room for only one more center midfielder here. Callaghan could play it safe and go for Morris or Yueill, or he could go all-out attack with Djordje Mihailovic, although that may be a bit too risky.

    Busio, though, seems like the right fit. He offers creativity and some defensive cover, having played in a deeper role plenty during his club career.

  8. CAM: Jesus Ferreira
    Getty Images

    CAM: Jesus Ferreira

    A bold call, but probably the one that gives the U.S. their best possible lineup.

    Ferreira looked fantastic dropping into a deeper role after Vazquez came on and, while it may not be the best thing long-term, the U.S. needs to find a way to get both of these guys on the field.

    Because of that, we'll switch formation here and get Ferreira in as an attacking midfielder/second striker that can drop deep and link with Vazquez up top.

  9. RW: Djordje Mihailovic

    RW: Djordje Mihailovic

    Another big shift.

    Mihajlovic is a center midfielder by trade, but we're shifting him out to the wing here for two reasons. The first is that he should be comfortable in that spot, even if it means drifting inside a bit, and he has played out wide before. The second is that Alejandro Zendejas hasn't impressed, so why not try something different?

    Mihailovic and Ferreira can interchange and move around the field, giving the U.S. two dangerous, and in-form, playmakers.

  10. ST: Brandon Vazquez
    Getty Images

    ST: Brandon Vazquez

    You just can't keep him off the field, right?

    Vazquez has three goals off the bench in this tournament but, with Ferreira lighting it up, he just hasn't been given a real chance up top. He's earned it, though, and the U.S. may just be better with him leading the line.

    After watching the U.S. try cross after cross to no avail against Canada, Vazquez came on and changed the game. His size and strength in the box should help plenty. He's a different player than Ferreira, and that's a good thing as they should be able to play together with ease.

  11. LW: Cade Cowell
    Getty Images

    LW: Cade Cowell

    There could be the temptation to go with Jordan Morris or Julian Gressel, or Callaghan could just make the obvious choice and go with the kid that's killing it right now.

    Cowell lacks end product, and the hope is that it'll get there eventually, but he makes things happen every time he's out there. His ability on the ball makes him such a dynamic player, one that makes defenses more than a little uncomfortable.

    The question is whether you start him or unleash him late on. We'll go with the former.