The United States starts their streak at the 2022 World Cup against Wales on Monday at 2pm ET and is among the +145 favorites. This United States team hasn’t proven itself, but it has the chance to show they’re here to take part in the World Championship in a win-winning opening match. As interesting as the United States is, the composition also raises a lot of questions. From defense to attack, the US starting lineup is far from ready.
The Welsh side is sort of the opposite, as it’s basically the same team that has been seen for over a decade. Sure, there are some new productions and some young talent, but that doesn’t change the fact that Wales was basically Gareth Bale and his friends.
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Christian Pulisic ($27) is one of the most expensive options on the list, but he still has the potential to be a significant part of Superstar (aka Captain) picks. The winger has cut playing time with Chelsea but he will be a great starter for the United States and has scored the vast majority of set pieces during World Cup qualifiers. Giovanni Reina ($20) has also been active on set pieces and actually has a better chance of scoring a goal than Pulisic: +300 compared to Pulisic’s +320.
Wales offer fewer players with guaranteed gender, but Gareth Bale ($30) is impossible to ignore, with a better goalscoring rate of +188 and a guaranteed penalty role. Bale found his footing and form in the last half of the MLS season with the LAFC on his way to winning the MLS Cup and is always a threat. Another forward that stands out to me is Jesús Ferreira ($19), making him the sixth most expensive player in the US despite his odds of scoring +188 goals. Ferreira plans to start his career in the beloved United States, which makes him worthy of attention.
I didn’t want to single out Weston McKenney ($30), but he comes into this matchup as the most expensive player on the list despite his +450 chances of scoring. The midfielder missed his last four matches before heading to the World Cup and has just one goal and an assist in Serie A. Without a set piece, it’s almost impossible to justify paying McKenny in cash games.
Matt Turner ($19) might attract some interest at +165 to a clean sheet, and the same can be said for Wayne Hennessy of Wales ($18) with his +195 to a clean sheet. With limited floor options across the board, there could be a path to success with any goaltender as a superstar. Brenden Aaronson ($16) could be another mid-range player with his +350 goals-to-goal ratio and occasional set-pieces. However, Aaronson has only gone the full 90 once with USMNT in 2022 and is a prime candidate for a layoff early in the second half. Neko Williams ($16) would be a suitable cornerback to start, but he likes to come forward and has pulled away from inland goals a few times, as well as some great passes into the box.
There are also some attractive options in the lower price range. My favorite of the cheaper players is Daniel James ($14) as he is likely to take most of the set pieces for Wales, and since Harry Wilson ($13) won’t start he could have an impressive field. James also boasts the same goal-scoring odds as Christian Pulisic, who is almost twice as expensive.
All in all, there are interesting options throughout the roster, especially in the first leg when both teams carry some uncertainty both in terms of starting moments and set-piece roles. With that in mind, avoiding some high-end bull-priced players like McKenny can get some pay cuts to help pick more mid-range options in what could be a mixed match.
The uncertainty surrounding both teams, especially with regards to the favorites of the Americans, opens up many interesting opportunities in tournaments. Pulisic and Bale will certainly be popular superstar options, and Ferreira is also likely to see some play there. Someone like Kieffer Moore ($22), with his +210 chances to score a goal and four Premier League goals in just eight starts, could be the deciding factor in the superstar spot.
On the other hand, Matt Turner, as the Welsh attack is nothing special and he could see the play in formations aimed at a 1-0 US victory. This type of formation can be relatively popular, opening the door to some potentially less significant players, perhaps for someone like Aaron Ramsey ($25), whose +350 goals-to-goal ratio and higher price could see him avoid him in most lineups. Ramsey has demonstrated a goal-scoring prowess throughout his career and has been a club and country player in the past and would have had penalty kick duties if Bale were to retire.
Someone who can go unnoticed in tournaments is Reina. With Pulisic in the squad, Reina won’t play much of a role in set pieces or penalties. However, Reina has been terrific for Borussia Dortmund when in good shape, scoring four goals in just six starts. While his protocols may be vague, Reyna has one of the highest ceilings of the match.
The US team is surrounded by question marks on the pitch and for fantasy managers, but American strikers and even Turner can be put as favorites, along with a low-cost option like James, one of the few Welsh players with a safe floor.