The clock is ticking. After Tuesday night, just two friendlies will stand between the U.S. men’s national team and their long-awaited plane ride to Qatar.
But before all that, there is one final Nations League game to deal with, and one more chance for fringe players to make their mark this summer.
The U.S. are set to play their final match of the four-game window in El Salvador, offering Gregg Berhalter a final opportunity to see his team in action before many of his players head off for summer break.
But what will the USMNT look like? Is it a time for tactical tweaks or a time to give starters one last go?
GOAL is here to break down who could start for the U.S. on Tuesday…
Most likely XI
We already can confirm one starter, as U.S. Soccer announced on Monday that Ethan Horvath would start the game in goal.
That makes this game a big one for Horvath, who is in a dogfight for that third and final goalkeeper spot in the squad.
Haji Wright is likely to start up top, having earned the chance to respond to Jesus Ferreira’s four-goal outburst against an overmatched Grenada. Wright is still on the fringes but, in this No.9 race, a few goals would do a hell of a lot to solidify his spot.
There are questions in the midfield, though, as Berhalter has tinkered with the shape, switching from a standard 4-3-3 with a holding player to something that looks more like a 4-2-3-1.
For this game, we’ll assume he goes back to the 4-3-3, giving Tyler Adams another runout as the No.6 after being rested last game.
De la Torre and Adams in a 4-2-3-1
Even if this isn’t the line up Berhalter starts with, it could be one worth looking at.
Luca de la Torre has arguably been the biggest riser this year, having played himself into the World Cup squad in just a few months. And, with Berhalter looking for something different in the deeper midfield spots, this combo could be one to watch.
With Adams as the ball winner and De la Torre as the ball mover, the U.S. can play against the press more effectively, instead of relying on just Adams to distribute.
That in turn frees up an advanced midfielder, say Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah or Brenden Aaronson, to run free and join the attack.
As things stand, it’s hard to imagine Berhalter breaking up the MMA midfield of Musah, McKennie and Adams at the World Cup but, if he does, De la Torre may just be the guy to offer the wrinkle needed.
Weah as a striker
Berhalter has been hesitant to play Tim Weah centrally, and we’re running out of time to see what it would look like with the USMNT.
Weah is best as part of a two-man strike partnership, but that almost certainly isn’t going to happen with the group of wingers available to Berhalter.
There is an argument, though, to have Weah play as the single striker in a 4-3-3 formation, without him being stuck in a central role throughout the 90 minutes.
Look at Liverpool, for example. They, at times, play three traditional wingers together that can all dribble, run and score. They play in different areas and create different mismatches, and can do that because they’re all good players.
Maybe that’s the answer to the USMNT’s striker problem: to play the best front three and let them figure it out. Berhalter hasn’t quite gotten to that point yet, but it may be an idea worth exploring while the U.S. still can.