3 Questions Ahead of USMNT’s Concacaf Nations League Doubleheader vs Trinidad & Tobago

The USMNT are readying themselves for two crucial games to end their 2023 stretch of matches. It’s been a year of craziness for the US Men’s National Team. They spent the majority of the year with no head coach, won a Concacaf Nations League, fell short in the semifinals of a Gold Cup, and then rehired Gregg Berhalter as their gaffer. Now, they take on Trinidad & Tobago in a doubleheader of the Concacaf Nations League quarterfinals, which will also determine whether the USA will qualify for the 2024 Copa America.

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Team USA celebrates the victory during the FIFA World Cup match USA v Iran on November 29, 2022 in Al Thumama, Qatar. (Photo by JB Autissier/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS—NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

USMNT vs Trinidad & Tobago – Home: Nov. 16th; Away: Nov. 20th

These two matches are possibly the most important matches of this calendar year for the USMNT! A two-match series against Trinidad & Tobago will showcase how this team starts their ramp-up toward the 2026 World Cup. Since the USA is one of the hosts, they automatically qualify for the World’s biggest tournament. These are the first competitive matches leading into a crucial period. No World Cup qualifying means fewer matches of consequence; the upcoming games against Trinidad & Tobago offer competitive matches that need to be taken as seriously as World Cup qualifying.

  • Home Leg: Thursday, November 16th @ 9 pm EST
  • Away Leg: Monday, November 20th @ 7 pm EST

The home-and-away series against T&T, a team the USMNT beat 6-0 this past summer in the Gold Cup, will be under a magnifying glass. Competitive matches ahead of a World Cup that is two-and-a-half years away will be hard to come by should this team fail to win this series. With that being said, there are questions surrounding this USMNT team ahead of this crucial series. How the team answers them on the pitch will define what kind of preparation this team has for 2026 moving forward.

Who will step up in Pulisic’s absence?

Some of the biggest names on this USMNT roster are injured for this important series. One of those players is Mr. Captain America, Christian Pulisic. His impact on the field for the USA cannot be understated, missing him in these huge matches could be a major problem. 2022 World Cup captain Tyler Adams is also out, as is star attacking winger Tim Weah. With these major contributors out, who will step up for the USMNT?

Two obvious names people are looking to take charge are Folarin Balogun and Gio Reyna. The attack will likely have to flow through them; as they go, so too will the USMNT. Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie will be asked to hold down the midfield, while Sergino Dest, Jedi Robinson, Tim Ream, and Matt Turner will look to lock things down defensively.

Could other players use this opportunity for minutes to their advantage? I think the answer to that question is yes. Brenden Aaronson will likely be called upon to be in some sort of attacking role for this USMNT team, If he can be a real threat in the attack, then this USA team will advance to the Nations League Semifinals and qualify for the 2024 Copa America.

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Folarin Balogun of the United States celebrates after scoring against Canada during the first half of a CONCACAF Nations League final match Sunday, June 18, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Will GGG get the tactics right in the first competitive matches after his return?

While many don’t like it, Gregg Berhalter is back as the head coach of the USMNT. He returned as the gaffer for matches in the September international window and has led this USMNT side to three wins out of four games since then. While he has a good record, he failed to get the tactics right in a friendly match against Germany. That game saw the USA go up early, and then conceded three goals to lose 3-1.

Even though this series is against Trinidad and Tobago, the magnifying glass will be fixed on Berhlater’s tactics and strategies. If the USMNT comes out flat and doesn’t look good in the first match at home against T&T then there will be fans with torches and pitchforks ready to run Berhalter out of the job.

Gregg Berhalter has always looked at the game in ways that are different from the norm, sometimes it pays dividends other times it leaves many scratching their heads. For this upcoming slate of matches, GGG just has to not overthink it. Get these guys ready for a fight, and let them play the beautiful play that the team has been building over the last year or so. If he does that, then the USMNT should win both matches, and Berhalther should get some praise.

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Mandatory Credit: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

Can the USMNT win an important series comfortably?

The USMNT is about to play some very important matches; will they be able to play up to the moment, and best a team they should beat? We all know what happened in 2017 down in Couva. The USA needs to rise to the occasion and beat this T&T side handily over two matches should they want to make the most of their opportunity of hosting and going far in the 2026 World Cup.

The skill level and the talent between these two nations tip heavily toward the USA. The Soca Warriors don’t have many players who play in big leagues around the world, the USMNT does. However, we have seen in the past that these matches are as much about heart and belief as they are about skill and talent. The USA will have the better players on the pitch during the matches, but will those players have the heart and the belief needed to dominate?

Berhalter and the players will need to answer yes to that question. If they do, then we could see a repeat of the last meeting between these nations, a 6-0 USA victory. If the USA falls short of that heart and spirit needed to win, then they could see a repeat of what happened back in 2017.

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United States players celebrate after defeating Canada in a CONCACAF Nations League final match Sunday, June 18, 2023, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

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Mandatory Credit: JB Autissier/Panoramic/Icon Sportswire, Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire, & AP Photo/John Locher