Scars And Stripes Episode 28: World Cup Prep & Squad Selection

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This came around very, very quickly. It seemed like only yesterday that I finished my campaign with Atlanta United, suffering heartbreak in my final match as my dominance came to a close with defeat in the MLS Cup final.

Time has probably gone quickly due to the fact I took a three-month holiday in game until the March international break, where we lost 4-0 to England, and then another six week holiday until the end of the season.

So, here we are in May 2022. My preliminary squad for the World Cup has been decided and, due to reasons I have absolutely no clue about, I can’t actually play a warm-up game before my final 23-man squad is announced. So, seven players have joined up for a week of training before I name my finalised squad- which you can see below.

Goalkeepers: Robert Tsosie (Atlanta), Ethan Horvarth (Arsenal), Alex Bono (Portland Timbers).

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers (Sunderland), John Brooks (Arsenal), Chris Young (LAFC), Scott Hansen (Pumas), Filippo De Col (Atlanta), DeAndre Yedlin (Crystal Palace), Erik Palmer-Brown, Mariann Sarr (both Atlanta).

Midfielders: Marco Calazans (SEP), Emerson Hyndman (LAFC), Jonathan Gonzalez (Hamburg), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Matko Milijevic, Juan Pablo Torres (both Atlanta), Haji Wright (LAFC), Christian Pulisic (PSG), Joshua Perez (Atlanta).

Strikers: Andrew Carleton (Atlanta), Jordan Siebatcheu (Genclerbirigi), Filip Matysiak (LAFC).

Acosta has only recently fallen out of the pecking order and there’s new faces in my side, with both Siebatcheu and Matysiak only recently earning their international debuts after some impressive performances this season. De Col, meanwhile, has just earned American citizenship and, despite what the media believe, is likely to be my starting right-back.

I’m sticking with the 4-2-3-1 formation that brought me plenty of success during my time with Atlanta and my line-up for the World Cup is likely to be as follows- Tsosie; De Col, Carter-Vickers, Brooks, Hansen; Gonalez, McKennie; Pulisic, Carleton, Perez; Matysiak. Although that’s subject to change.

My main concern now is injuries, as I wanted three friendlies before the World Cup and was only given a week to fit them in. So, we’ve got to manage the squad very carefully ahead of the group stages where, just to remind you, we face Gabon, Serbia and Belgium.

The plan is for each player in my squad to play at least 90 minutes over the course of the three matches and, for the match against Mali, two different sides play either side of the break – with Carleton scoring in the first half and Matysiak getting his first United States goal in the second period.

De Col made his debut in that game and Perez scored a screamer, strengthening my belief that he’ll be a starter. Hyndman, Gonzalez and McKennie all performed well in the holding duo, so I face a selection dilemma in that area.

In our second game, Bosnia give us a sterner test but we emerge 3-1 victors after a superb second-half display. Siebatchu opened his account for America, before Perez hit a brace to take his international tally to four goals in six caps.

Finally, it’s time for what I hope will be a morale boosting drubbing of Gibraltar. It’s a chance for the fringe players in the squad to show their worth and for others, perhaps under-performing, to raise their confidence ahead of the World Cup.

We ease our way to a 5-0 win, where the highlight was a Haji Wright hat-trick. That certainly gives me something to think about with our opening game against Gabon now just days away.