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Midway through preseason, Crew SC starting lineup nearly set

Berhalter appears to have picked his first eleven.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday's game against the Costa Rican U-23 team gave the first impression of Berhalter's preferred lineup. Certainly there was little surprise, but it's the first concrete indication of how he sees his strongest team.

There was little turnover in the offseason and eight of the team's starting spots were set as training camp opened. Steve Clark, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, and Kei Kamara were locks to start. That left some competition at three spots in the lineup.

Right Back: Hernan Grana has impressed in his limited time. He's good with the ball at his feet and is able to pick out the right pass. We can't confirm that with Grana given a leave of absence for the birth of his child, but he's likely locked down the right back position. He's exactly what Berhalter looks for in his attacking outside backs.

Interestingly, Hector Jimenez appears to be the second choice for that spot. He was the starter and went 60 minutes until relieved by Chad Barson. Chris Klute has been kept on the left side of defense as he adapts to the system, but perhaps he'll push for sub minutes as the season unfolds. Berhalter has said Jimenez is his utility player. He can play anywhere in the attacking midfield and at right back. He may actually be the backup at three spots on the field, only yielding to Kristinn Steindorsson on the left wing.

Left Center Back: Emanuel Pogatetz was signed to a "gotta be a starter for that kind of money" contract last September, but he remained on the bench down the stretch run as Tyson Wahl finished out the year as Parkhurst's partner. Pogatetz played in two games for a total of 52 minutes behind a journeyman squad player. After the Costa Rica game, it appears he's set to start.

Pogatetz hasn't looked entirely comfortable in his few preseason appearances and wasn't tested often against Costa Rica, but he has the tools to be a dominant physical defender. The question remains if he can adapt to Berhalter's possession heavy system.

Left Wing: It was never clear how much of a competition this may have been, but Justin Meram appears to be Berhalter's guy on the left side. Steindorsson has come in and impressed during his time on the field, putting pressure on Meram to perform.

Meram will miss the first game of the season with the suspension he picked up in the playoffs, but Berhalter still gave him the start and 60 minutes of game time on Saturday. Steindorsson will have his chance to impress, but Berhalter has his incumbent.

Of course the opening day lineup doesn't mean Berhalter won't change up his starters. Bernardo Anor, Josh Williams, Jairo Arrieta, and Giancarlo Gonzalez opened the season in Washington D.C. last year and none of them are on the team for various reasons. Expect Steindorsson, Jimenez, Klute, Wahl, and Mohammed Saeid to have enough chances to impress the coaching staff.