It’s finally here. The US’s eight-year-long wait to return to soccer’s greatest stage has come to an end.
Gregg Berhalter has named his roster, the bags have been packed and the USMNT has touched down in Qatar ahead of its opener against Wales Monday.
The USA returns to the World Cup for the first time since the 2014 tournament in Brazil and with a young and hungry squad it will be anxious to prove its worth as it kickstarts its campaign at the Al Rayyan Stadium.
There were a few surprises in Berhalter’s 26-man squad but there could be even greater shocks in the starting lineup – if the statistics are correct.
The American coach undoubtedly already knows – or at least has an idea of – who is he going to send out to face the Dragons but does it match the data?
Here, DailyMail.com takes you through the team which the numbers say should don the Stars and Stripes for their eagerly-awaited first game in Qatar.
Gregg Berhalter undoubtedly knows – or has an idea of – who he will start vs. Wales in Qatar
Here, DailyMail.com takes you through the team which the numbers say should don the Stars and Stripes for their eagerly-awaited first game at the 2022 World Cup on Monday
GOALKEEPER – Matt Turner
No real surprises at who should start between the posts for the US.
Ever since Berhalter announced his squad and Zach Steffen was omitted, there has been no real debate who the USMNT’s first-choice goalkeeper should be.
Arsenal man Matt Turner was handed the No. 1 jersey earlier this week and the stats backed up that move.
Matt Turner was handed the No. 1 jersey earlier this week and the stats backed up that move – graphic by Sofascore.com
Turner has only made four appearances for club this season, with the Gunners favoring Aaron Ramsdale, compared to Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson’s 20 and 22 respectively.
But he leads the way with 87.5 percent of shots saved and just 0.25 goals conceded per game, and has kept a clean sheet in 75 percent of his games.
The only difficulty for Berhalter in this position would come if tragedy should strike the US squad and Turner can no longer play, as Ethan Horvath and Sean Johnson are pretty much neck and neck for the No. 2 spot.
Turner has only made four appearances for club but there’s no debate if he should start for US
Horvath just edges out Johnson with an overall rating of 6.84, compared to the New York City FC shotstopper’s 6.83.
The Luton goalkeeper has a save percentage of 67.2 percent, compared to his teammate’s 65.9 percent but Johnson has him beat with 2.55 saves per game, pipping Horvath’s 2.05.
However, all three have only faced one penalty kick each this year and all have failed to save them, which doesn’t bode well if the USA squeezes through to the knockout stages.
CENTER BACKS – Walker Zimmerman and Cameron Carter-Vickers
The question surrounding defense has been who will start alongside Zimmerman, so it is no surprise to find the stats have the Nashville FC man firmly in the lineup.
But moving on from the glaringly obvious, the answer to the great debate over who partners Zimmerman in central defense is somewhat of a surprise.
Aaron Long, who has started the last six of the USA’s games, is dead last in the running to make the starting XI.
The question surrounding defense has been who will start alongside Walker Zimmerman
The New York Red Bulls defender is last in clearances per game and interceptions per game as well as overall rating. But his one redeeming feature is that he boasts 5.06 duels won per game, second out of the four Americans.
According to the data, it should be Cameron Carter-Vickers who starts in place of Long.
The Celtic star missed the USA’s last two friendlies before the World Cup in September through injury but had started alongside Long in its previous two Concacaf Nations League games against El Salvador and Grenada, which it drew 1-1 and won 5-0 respectively.
Celtic star Cameron Carter-Vickers should start at center back alongside Zimmerman
He is close behind Zimmerman’s rating of 7.13 with a 6.99 score of his own. He is also second in clearances per game with 3.53, compared to Tim Ream’s 3.20 and Long’s 2.29.
But, matched with Long, he has the lowest tackled per game rate at 0.53, whereas Zimmerman has 1.31 and Ream 1.07.
He also doesn’t have any goals or assists this season, whereas Zimmerman has found the net three times and Long twice.
FULL BACKS – Shaq Moore and Antonee Robinson
One of the true shocks of the United States men’s national team’s World Cup roster reveal was Shaq Moore making the cut.
His inclusion appeared to come the most out of left-field for Stars and Stripes loyalists but on closer inspection at the data, maybe Berhalter knew what he was doing all along.
The Nashville FC player ranks the highest out of the squad’s full backs, earning a spot at left-back in our stats-based starting XI.
One of the true shockers of the World Cup roster reveal was Shaq Moore (right) making the cut
Antonee Robinson, who plays for Premier League club Fulham, just pips Joe Scally to the right-back position by a mere 0.03 overall.
Moore and Robinson lead in accurate crosses and accurate long balls per game, generating the expectation that they could feed the American attack with creative balls.
The major shock in this position is Barcelona loanee Sergino Dest and Berhalter’s tried-and-tested choice DeAndre Yedlin coming in at the bottom of the pack.
MIDFIELDERS – Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie
Tyler Adams, set to be named captain, is arguably one of the most indispensable members of the squad to the USMNT’s chances in Qatar as a tireless running, ball-winning defensive midfielder, so it comes as no surprise to find him in the mix.
After a $24m move to Leeds United in summer, Adams has racked up 13 appearances under fellow American Jesse Marsch. He has a passing accuracy of 82.3 percent, has a rate of 72.38 passes per game and 5.77 duels won per game.
But while he is in the top three, surprisingly he is only ranked third – the top spot instead belongs to Kellyn Acosta.
Fresh off an MLS Cup win with Los Angeles FC, Acosta not only earns a call-up to the squad but also a starting spot – and Adams’ defensive midfield spot.
Acosta has been a frequent feature of Berhalter’s US team, often playing on either side of Adams’s defensive anchor so it’s no surprise that he’s among the picks, according to the data.
Fresh off an MLS Cup win with Los Angeles FC, Kellyn Acosta earns a spot in the starting XI
He is not only among the picks but he is reportedly the best America has to offer in the middle of the park, boasting an overall score of 7.19 – the only one to score higher than seven in the pack.
If the stats are right, it means Acosta should be the first name on the sheet in midfield, bumping Adams to the bench to claim the central role, where he predominantly played for LAFC this season en route to MLS Cup glory.
In 18 appearances during the MLS season, he scored two goals and provided four assists.
He leads the way in key passes with two per game and ranks second in passing accuracy (84.9 percent).
The next in line is also somewhat of a surprise with another MLS product coming in second.
Seattle Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan should claim the right midfield spot with a second-best overall score of 6.98, beating Valencia’s Yunus Musah into the squad.
The US was sent into a frenzy a few weeks ago, left sweating over the health of Weston McKennie after he sustained a muscle injury at the end of October.
The US has been seating over the health of Weston McKennie (right with Christian Pulisic)
It is therefore somewhat unexpected that a player held in such regard by the team and fans, is only their fifth best midfielder, according to statistics.
Although, technically Musah scores better overall than McKennie, he primarily plays a central attacking midfield role or on the right for Spanish side Valencia – positions already filled by Acosta and Roldan.
Therefore, McKennie gets the nod ahead of both of him, despite only being the fifth-ranked midfielder.
WINGERS – Jordan Morris and Tim Weah
Christian Pulisic aka ‘Captain America’, the star and rock of the the US national team. Heard of him? Well, he’s not even making it into the starting XI if the data is anything to go by.
In the biggest shock of the entire team, Pulisic not only misses out on a starting place but he shouldn’t even be anywhere near the bench.
The Chelsea star is ranked dead last among Berhalter’s wingers. With a total rating of 6.62 across 18 games this season, Pulisic has scored just once and registered only two assists.
He has the second lowest shots per game rate of 0.83, lowest final third entries at 0.78 per game and has only created two ‘big chances’.
However, he isn’t entirely off the pace and the contest to fly the flag for the Stars and Stripes up front is incredibly tight.
Sounders’ Jordan Morris should start on the left wing, ranked the highest with an overall score of 6.88 – just 0.28 ahead of Pulisic.
Shockingly, Chelsea star and ‘Captain America’ Christian Pulisic (left) doesn’t make it in
The rest of America’s wingers are sandwiched in the middle but it is Lille’s Tim Weah who snatches the other spot on the right.
But Gio Reyna is hot on his heels, just 0.02 behind Weah on overall score and has more minutes under his belt this season, having played 10 games more than the Lille man.
Reyna has also provided two assists and found the back of the net twice, while Weah has failed to score.
Although the stats say Weah just edges out the Borussia Dortmund man, Reyna still has a strong claim to a spot.
Lille’s Tim Weah (above) snatches the right winger spot, while Jordan Morris is on the left
STRIKER – Jesus Ferreira
Leading up to the roster announcement, many believed it would be Jesus Ferreira and Ricardo Pepi battling it out for the spot up top.
But with Pepi excluded from the squad, Ferreira is left as the clear choice up front, according to the stats. However, arguments could be made for both Josh Sargent and Haji Wright.
Ferreira is miles ahead in terms of key passes per game with 1.72 compared to Sargent’s 0.90 and Wright’s 0.33, meaning he could bring creative flair to the US team but getting the job done is where he falls behind slightly.
Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira is left as the clear choice up front, according to the stats
Ferreira trails behind both of them in goal conversion with just 15.4 percent, scoring frequency with the Dallas man registering a goal only every 188 minutes and ‘big chances’ conversion with 42.9 percent.
Sargent leads the way in chance conversion with 62.5 percent, while Wright tops the trio in shots per goal (3.08) and goal conversion (54.5 percent).
On closer inspection, this is perhaps the toughest position for Berhalter to make a decision in.
All three players arguably present strong candidacies in different areas of their game but if we’re basing it on the overall data, it’s Ferreira who should get the nod.