2021 USMNT Thread | Page 54 | Syracusefan.com

2021 USMNT Thread

Orangezoo

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Some really good points and thought I'd add in. I think you can play Reyna and Pulisic as wingers in the 4-3-3 as long as you accept that at times both will cut in and play more of a 10 role. To me this is the lack of playing this group together that needs to happen to work out the runs and build some synergy. With having Dest and Robinson you can have Pulisic or Reyna cutting in and then have your fullbacks running wide. It could be a really dynamic attack as long as guys aren't getting too narrow.

Also this would require true discipline from Adams, the CBs and the fullbacks to recognize where the counter attack would come from. With a young team this is the worry for me. I think that is why you gotta have a Brooks on the squad.

I think it's a mixed bag in terms of squad selection to find the right group too. I'm hopeful Pulisic can get healthy and some real run at club and national playing with a legit 9.

Also meant to add that Aaronson and Weah are the perfect guys to come in behind Reyna and Pulisic or both and Aaronson starting some games depending on the look. I think in general though Pepi needs to be your 9 going forward and hopefully Dike can keep developing to provide two legit 9s. That alone should make the attack look even better with the two stars back
 
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Alsacs

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What’s the difference between Hoppe, Dike, Sargent and Zardes? Zardes actually scores goals. Just scored two over the weekend for club and has scored for USMNT. Right now the others are just unrealized potential. Dike had the hot streak last spring but not much since .
Zardes has a heavy touch when he plays for the USMNT.

Also I am not exactly impressed he scores MLS goals.
Sargent is better IMO: What he did in Germany. He is struggling in England but I like him more.
 

cusefan88

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Zardes has a heavy touch when he plays for the USMNT.

Also I am not exactly impressed he scores MLS goals.
Sargent is better IMO: What he did in Germany. He is struggling in England but I like him more.

Based on what I've seen I would probably have Pepi and Pefok for sure. Then it's kind of a jumble with Hoppe Sargent Zardes and Dike.
 

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Based on what I've seen I would probably have Pepi and Pefok for sure. Then it's kind of a jumble with Hoppe Sargent Zardes and Dike.
The real issue is that other than Pepe, the rest don't really do much in the way of scoring goals at the International level or the club level for that matter. Going into the cycle, I thought finding a 6 to control tempo and make the offense tick was the biggest weakness of the team. About 40% of the way through the octagon, I now believe the biggest weakness by far is finding dudes who can put shots on target and score goals. With the emergence of Musah, Aaronson and Busio and the fact that we haven't even played our most talented 6 (Reyna) at the 6, I'm optimistic about the 6.

Forward scares the crap out of me. I love Pepe, but he's not the most dynamic of athletes from what I can tell... he will score if he gets the ball in the right position, which is a LOT more than you can say for the other dudes. But he isn't going to create something out of nothing, he needs a team that can possess and feed him the ball which isn't going to happen against the Mexicos or Euro-teams of the world. Triple-g needs to watch a few epsiodes of reading rainbow and get his imagination flowing to figure out how to get some goals out of this bunch. Whether it's moving to a two striker system or playing a false 9 or seeing if we can get Haaland onto a 24 hour path to US citizenship.
 

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The real issue is that other than Pepe, the rest don't really do much in the way of scoring goals at the International level or the club level for that matter. Going into the cycle, I thought finding a 6 to control tempo and make the offense tick was the biggest weakness of the team. About 40% of the way through the octagon, I now believe the biggest weakness by far is finding dudes who can put shots on target and score goals. With the emergence of Musah, Aaronson and Busio and the fact that we haven't even played our most talented 6 (Reyna) at the 6, I'm optimistic about the 6.

Forward scares the crap out of me. I love Pepe, but he's not the most dynamic of athletes from what I can tell... he will score if he gets the ball in the right position, which is a LOT more than you can say for the other dudes. But he isn't going to create something out of nothing, he needs a team that can possess and feed him the ball which isn't going to happen against the Mexicos or Euro-teams of the world. Triple-g needs to watch a few epsiodes of reading rainbow and get his imagination flowing to figure out how to get some goals out of this bunch. Whether it's moving to a two striker system or playing a false 9 or seeing if we can get Haaland onto a 24 hour path to US citizenship.
One additional thought... Pefok does seem to score goals w/ his club, but my guess is because its boys against men in the Swiss league, I don't see his style working in one of the bigger leagues.
 

Orangezoo

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The real issue is that other than Pepe, the rest don't really do much in the way of scoring goals at the International level or the club level for that matter. Going into the cycle, I thought finding a 6 to control tempo and make the offense tick was the biggest weakness of the team. About 40% of the way through the octagon, I now believe the biggest weakness by far is finding dudes who can put shots on target and score goals. With the emergence of Musah, Aaronson and Busio and the fact that we haven't even played our most talented 6 (Reyna) at the 6, I'm optimistic about the 6.

Forward scares the crap out of me. I love Pepe, but he's not the most dynamic of athletes from what I can tell... he will score if he gets the ball in the right position, which is a LOT more than you can say for the other dudes. But he isn't going to create something out of nothing, he needs a team that can possess and feed him the ball which isn't going to happen against the Mexicos or Euro-teams of the world. Triple-g needs to watch a few epsiodes of reading rainbow and get his imagination flowing to figure out how to get some goals out of this bunch. Whether it's moving to a two striker system or playing a false 9 or seeing if we can get Haaland onto a 24 hour path to US citizenship.

When we get to the WC (No jinx) I think it will fall more on the wings to create and finish chances along with teeing up whoever we have at the 9. As always a legit 9 will be a possible issue. Just going to have to work around it and luckily we do have much more attacking talent to offset. We just need to be able to head into Qatar with our two biggest stars having spent more than a few matches on the pitch together.

Also I think we will need someone like Arriola along with Aaronson to fit in given the likely challenges from a fitness standpoint playing in the crazy heat. Need guys who can be constantly pressuring to be on the front foot as opposing defenders tire. I could see the next WC having a record for the amount of late game goals just because of this. Playing at night may help some but still things will be really uncomfortable.
 

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When we get to the WC (No jinx) I think it will fall more on the wings to create and finish chances along with teeing up whoever we have at the 9. As always a legit 9 will be a possible issue. Just going to have to work around it and luckily we do have much more attacking talent to offset. We just need to be able to head into Qatar with our two biggest stars having spent more than a few matches on the pitch together.

Also I think we will need someone like Arriola along with Aaronson to fit in given the likely challenges from a fitness standpoint playing in the crazy heat. Need guys who can be constantly pressuring to be on the front foot as opposing defenders tire. I could see the next WC having a record for the amount of late game goals just because of this. Playing at night may help some but still things will be really uncomfortable.
This is going to be like Japorea where between Reyna, Mathis and JOB injuries and the emergence of DMB and Landon, our best lineup had very very few starts together going into the tournament. That team legit should have been at least a semi-finalist if it weren't for that non-call on the hand ball and Oliver Kahn standing on his dang head. This team has a lot of the same characteristics... BUT we don't have a Mathis or Mcbride to put the ball in the back of the net and we don't have a Reyna at the peak of his game.. instead we have a more talented Reyna who is just starting his career.
 

cusefan88

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Gio Reyna is not a defensive number 6. IMO he is a CAM 10. Adams is the 6.
 

OrangeFoo

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Gio Reyna is not a defensive number 6. IMO he is a CAM 10. Adams is the 6.
Good point... in this day of 4-3-3 it feels like the 10 is one of the 3 forwards much like Pulisic with Chelsea and where he is 10 and Jorghino is the closest to a CAM they have and he is a 5. Interestingly enough Silva is their #6.
 

OrangeFoo

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Some really good points and thought I'd add in. I think you can play Reyna and Pulisic as wingers in the 4-3-3 as long as you accept that at times both will cut in and play more of a 10 role. To me this is the lack of playing this group together that needs to happen to work out the runs and build some synergy. With having Dest and Robinson you can have Pulisic or Reyna cutting in and then have your fullbacks running wide. It could be a really dynamic attack as long as guys aren't getting too narrow.

Also this would require true discipline from Adams, the CBs and the fullbacks to recognize where the counter attack would come from. With a young team this is the worry for me. I think that is why you gotta have a Brooks on the squad.

I think it's a mixed bag in terms of squad selection to find the right group too. I'm hopeful Pulisic can get healthy and some real run at club and national playing with a legit 9.

Also meant to add that Aaronson and Weah are the perfect guys to come in behind Reyna and Pulisic or both and Aaronson starting some games depending on the look. I think in general though Pepi needs to be your 9 going forward and hopefully Dike can keep developing to provide two legit 9s. That alone should make the attack look even better with the two stars back
The problem is that if both Reyna and Pulisic are going to cut in, they will drag the defenders in with them and congest the middle of the pitch. This makes it a lot easier on the D because it's less space with more defenders and if a turnover happens it's pretty easy to get into a 3 v 2 situation on the other end. When the US played well this last set of three matches, they uses true wingers on the touchlines to create some width which has given Musah, Aaronson, Pepe room to operate in the middle and Dest the room to cut inside. All of that goes away with Pulisic and Reyna on the wings.

It may be a moot point as both Pulisic and Reyna seem to have longer term injuries than originally imagined. Read today that Pulisic is still in pain from his injury over a month ago and I haven't heard a thing about Reyna but he's still not back either.
 

Orangezoo

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The problem is that if both Reyna and Pulisic are going to cut in, they will drag the defenders in with them and congest the middle of the pitch. This makes it a lot easier on the D because it's less space with more defenders and if a turnover happens it's pretty easy to get into a 3 v 2 situation on the other end. When the US played well this last set of three matches, they uses true wingers on the touchlines to create some width which has given Musah, Aaronson, Pepe room to operate in the middle and Dest the room to cut inside. All of that goes away with Pulisic and Reyna on the wings.

It may be a moot point as both Pulisic and Reyna seem to have longer term injuries than originally imagined. Read today that Pulisic is still in pain from his injury over a month ago and I haven't heard a thing about Reyna but he's still not back either.

I hear you but there is a way it works if executed properly. You just can't have them both cutting in every attack. One has to stay wide the other can cut in. Honestly it would depend on the CBs they are playing against.

Dragging the defense in given both can take their man 1v1 works with the Fullbacks we have. To me the challenge will always be that with the injuries they won't get the time on the pitch together to work out the bugs. Also I'm not sure whether Pulisic is going to be able to stay fit long enough to take the next step up to your point about injuries.

We are somewhat challenged in general by having a lot of talent but it's not evenly spread enough to match that talent with the system.
 

upperdeck

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I hear you but there is a way it works if executed properly. You just can't have them both cutting in every attack. One has to stay wide the other can cut in. Honestly it would depend on the CBs they are playing against.

Dragging the defense in given both can take their man 1v1 works with the Fullbacks we have. To me the challenge will always be that with the injuries they won't get the time on the pitch together to work out the bugs. Also I'm not sure whether Pulisic is going to be able to stay fit long enough to take the next step up to your point about injuries.

We are somewhat challenged in general by having a lot of talent but it's not evenly spread enough to match that talent with the system.
the better the team plays the less other teams crash on Pulisic and bang him around too. when he was the only creative on and had to pass and dribble to dangerous areas he is gonna get hit.. when others do some of the that and draw attention he will get a bit more space.
 

Orangezoo

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the better the team plays the less other teams crash on Pulisic and bang him around too. when he was the only creative on and had to pass and dribble to dangerous areas he is gonna get hit.. when others do some of the that and draw attention he will get a bit more space.

Right. The challenge for him is that even with improved play of his teammates, Pulisic in general is most impactful when he can take on 1 or 2 defenders and staying north south when doing so. He is as has been mentioned a bit slow in finding teammates sooner vs waiting until he is crowded but overall his game being so much about pace and attacking defenders lends him to injury more. Been that way at Club and Country unfortunately. He is a big time talent still for sure just trending the wrong way.
 

upperdeck

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maybe soccer needs to do more about how guys get hit inside the attacking areas
 

IthacaMatt

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Right. The challenge for him is that even with improved play of his teammates, Pulisic in general is most impactful when he can take on 1 or 2 defenders and staying north south when doing so. He is as has been mentioned a bit slow in finding teammates sooner vs waiting until he is crowded but overall his game being so much about pace and attacking defenders lends him to injury more. Been that way at Club and Country unfortunately. He is a big time talent still for sure just trending the wrong way.

Tom Brady tweeted at him after he got hurt last spring, 'Yoga".

He's right. Pulisic needs to become more limber and more flexible.

He also has to learn not to hurt himself. This might seem kind of obvious, but when you are running, you feel how your muscles are doing. After you've popped a hamstring a couple times, you should know what it feels like when your body is reaching its limit. You need to better read your body's biofeedback.
 

Orangezoo

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Tom Brady tweeted at him after he got hurt last spring, 'Yoga".

He's right. Pulisic needs to become more limber and more flexible.

He also has to learn not to hurt himself. This might seem kind of obvious, but when you are running, you feel how your muscles are doing. After you've popped a hamstring a couple times, you should know what it feels like when your body is reaching its limit. You need to better read your body's biofeedback.

Yeah. Unfortunately I learned this lesson myself too late. Struggled with injuries my Senior year screwing me over for playing at the next level. Those who haven't played it don't realize how hard it is on the body at full stretch. Especially for any position on the wings.
 

LPOrange

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17 y.o. Kevin Paredes assist for DC United vs New England. Looks like an eventual option for right back.
I hope he moves to Europe (Salzburg or Dortmund)
 

cusefan88

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17 y.o. Kevin Paredes assist for DC United vs New England. Looks like an eventual option for right back.
I hope he moves to Europe (Salzburg or Dortmund)

He plays (even better) left-back as his primary position! I could see him staying one more season with DCU and signing to join a team in January 2023.
 

IthacaMatt

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He plays (even better) left-back as his primary position! I could see him staying one more season with DCU and signing to join a team in January 2023.


I'm glad we have guys like you on here who watch MLS and can keep us up to date. It's like MLS has become a combination of AAA Baseball and "The" pro league for a lot of players from Central and South America and the Caribbean. MLS and CONCACAF are a lot like the English Championship. Physical play, some skillful players, but it's an "in your face league".

MLS is the USMNT minor league feeder system, but at the same time it is raising the level of our competition in CONCACAF, which is OK by me, because it improves the competition for US national team wannabes; they get experience playing Latin American and Caribbean players.

To those foreign players, MLS is attractive because they know the paycheck is going to clear. MLS might not have taken off the training wheels when it comes to high-end player salaries, but for people used to playing in Honduras, Haiti or Uruguay, it's a more dependable paycheck than you might get at home.
 

cusefan88

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I'm glad we have guys like you on here who watch MLS and can keep us up to date. It's like MLS has become a combination of AAA Baseball and "The" pro league for a lot of players from Central and South America and the Caribbean. MLS and CONCACAF are a lot like the English Championship. Physical play, some skillful players, but it's an "in your face league".

MLS is the USMNT minor league feeder system, but at the same time it is raising the level of our competition in CONCACAF, which is OK by me, because it improves the competition for US national team wannabes; they get experience playing Latin American and Caribbean players.

To those foreign players, MLS is attractive because they know the paycheck is going to clear. MLS might not have taken off the training wheels when it comes to high-end player salaries, but for people used to playing in Honduras, Haiti or Uruguay, it's a more dependable paycheck than you might get at home.

Paredes IMO would be a great wing-back in a 3-4-3 type midfield. He's pretty young so I think he will be best at LB but it's possible as his attacking chops improve he could be a LW. But for me he plays LB. 22 appearances so far all along the left side.
 

Forza Azzurri

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The best thing is to hope for separation between the top 3 and the rest. That requires lower table teams winning once in a while. Panama won't stay Top 4, like they are right now. (Edit: Well, maybe they will - see below.)

We got 6 points from 3 games, we rotated a lot of guys and gave them chances, and some new guys became part of the family in this last game - thinking Weah, Dest, Musah in this game tonight.

Every time one of these young guys has his own "special moment", that's like earning your stripes among the crew. They know you can deliver the goods. The more guys we have who are a threat to ripple the nets, the better!

In November we're back to "only" a 2 game window. Mexico home, and away to Jamaica. Jamaica's in last place in the Octagon, but have good athletes on the counterattack.

Panama has an easy October, playing 2 of the bottom teams (at Honduras, home to El Salvador), and will be expected to get 6 points from 6. That would give them 14 and make them pretty solid for Top 3 after the Third Round of Five (only January and March remain after the next 2 game window).

Canada, 1 point behind Panama in 4th, has 2 home games next time - Mexico and Costa Rica. This will be the huge window for them of qualifying. If they come up empty, or with say only 1 point from 2 home games while Panama runs 6, Canada will be in big trouble.

But it could be good for us. That's the separation the top 3 aspirants are looking for.
As we approach the next two game qualifying set, I just wanted to give some thoughts on where we are and what we've seen thus far.

National team coaches are notoriously conservative. They tend to go with "their guys" or guys they have had success with in the past, often long past their "use by" dates. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that they don't get to spend a lot of time with players, unlike club coaches.

Berhalter has been anything but. He has brought in 36 players through the first two qualifying rounds, 33 of them field players. Of the 33 field players he has brought in, 31 have seen the field. Compare that to Mexico's 32 and 26 and Panama's 32 and 23. If you assume 10 field players on each team, this means that Berhalter is dipping into his 4th team to get players and is getting those players on the field.

His playing rotations have been more reminiscent of a series of friendlies than what you see in qualifying or in a tournament. On average, he has started only 4.25 of the players who started the previous match. Compare that figure with Mexico's 6.5 (7.33 through the first five matches when - the last game of this cycle they did have the luxury of swapping out almost their entire line-up due to their point total at the top of the Octagonal) and to Panama's 10.

He also has not hesitated to play unproven guys in big spots:

Starting Richards in a must-win against Costa Rica and having him go the full 90.
Starting Pepi away at Honduras.
Bringing in Busio when trying to protect a lead in the Costa Rica game.

I would not be surprised, however, if recovery analytics were playing a big role in determining who is fit to play 90 and who isn't. And, of course, the critical injuries to both Pulisic, Reyna and McKennie's suspension have forced his hand.

So, let's give him credit for not doing the same ole, same ole. And the team has largely delivered as we do currently sit second in the point totals. I will give him an A for roster management.

So now, let's talk strategy, tactics and players.

We've talked about the substitutions during the Canada game. Those issues seem to have been rectified as he is both subbing more often and, arguably, more effectively.

We've talked about the formation for the Honduras game and playing Adams out right and Sands in the middle.

We've talked about the lack of spacing among the 9, the wings and the midfield against El Salvador..

Despite the loss to Panama, I think he did a better job during the second series of qualifiers. I think it is really hard to try to win all three games. I think the mindset has to be either win games 1 & 3 and try to get a point in game two, given our superior depth relative to everyone but Mexico, or win your home games and try to get points in the away qualifiers.

The second set of qualifiers played out like I thought they should (the first ones did not). Eight of the starters from the Jamaica started the Costa Rica game compared to only two starting the Panama game. We only got 6 of the desired 7 but I'll take it. I thought we played the Panama game to get a draw from the get go and, even though it did not work out, I do not have a problem with the strategy.

Berhlater also stuck with a 4-3-3 rather than trying to tinker too much with the formation.

I do think he will have to tighten up the roster as we continue to progress through qualifying. Had anyone but Ruiz intercepted that pass, the Costa Rica game could have turned out very differently. And turning over the entire backline and the goalkeeper is really taking a risk.

I give him a B for formation, tactics and players during the second series and a C overall as that first series had some real issues.

I think we are also seeing what the foundation of the team needs to be:

Dest and Robinson at outside back
Robinson at CB. The other one is still TBD
Musah, McKennie and Adams (the 6) as the midfield
Pepi as the 9
Pulisic (when healthy) as one winger. TBD on the other (Reyna not really a true winger and doesn't stay wide enough so I prefer Weah or Aaronson although Berhalter does have to figure a way to get him on the field as he is too talented not to be. That may necessitate a formation change if playing Reyna on the wing continues to create too much congestion in the middle as it did in the El Salvador game.

Hopefully, Orangefoo, you now understand why Dest needs to be on the field despite his defensive shortcomings. Soccer games, especially those at the intl level, are frequently won by moments of magic. Dest created two of those with his assist on Pepi's first goal vs and his screamer against Costa Rica. There are very few players on this roster who can conjure up those moments. Dest is one of them.

Adams needs to be the 6, period. (FYI, Orangefoo, Reyna is not a 6 and, even if he were, he is not the type of 6 the US team needs). Our biggest weakness, right now, IMHO is what we do if Adams goes down. Acosta can play the 6 but his distribution is awful.

It would also be nice to find someone else to play the 9 other than Zardes. I know he provides veteran leadership to a young team but he is alot like Arriola. He plays really hard but is not a difference-maker. Hopefully, Sargent or Pefok or Dike will improve enough to become the second choice striker.

I continue to not be sold on Berhalter. I believe he is improving but there is not much margin for error and he has not yet convinced me that he is the right guy to both get to the World Cup and get results there.

Happy to discuss further as we head towards this critical showdown with Mexico.
 
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IthacaMatt

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As we approach the next two game qualifying set, I just wanted to give some thoughts on where we are and what we've seen thus far.

National team coaches are notoriously conservative. They tend to go with "their guys" or guys they have had success with in the past, often long past their "use by" dates. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that they don't get to spend a lot of time with players, unlike club coaches.

Berhalter has been anything but. He has brought in 36 players through the first two qualifying rounds, 33 of them field players. Of the 33 field players he has brought in, 31 have seen the field. Compare that to Mexico's 32 and 26 and Panama's 32 and 23. If you assume 10 field players on each team, this means that Berhalter is dipping into his 4th team to get players and is getting those players on the field.

His playing rotations have been more reminiscent of a series of friendlies than what you see in qualifying or in a tournament. On average, he has started only 4.25 of the players who started the previous match. Compare that figure with Mexico's 6.5 (7.33 through the first five matches when - the last game of this cycle they did have the luxury of swapping out almost their entire line-up due to their point total at the top of the Octagonal) and to Panama's 10.

He also has not hesitated to play unproven guys in big spots:

Starting Richards in a must-win against Costa Rica and having him go the full 90.
Starting Pepi away at Honduras.
Bringing in Busio when trying to protect a lead in the Costa Rica game.

I would not be surprised, however, if recovery analytics were playing a big role in determining who is fit to play 90 and who isn't. And, of course, the critical injuries to both Pulisic, Reyna and McKennie's suspension have forced his hand.

So, let's give him credit for not doing the same ole, same ole. And the team has largely delivered as we do currently sit second in the point totals. I will give him an A for roster management.

So now, let's talk strategy, tactics and players.

We've talked about the substitutions during the Canada game. Those issues seem to have been rectified as he is both subbing more often and, arguably, more effectively.

We've talked about the formation for the Honduras game and playing Adams out right and Sands in the middle.

We've talked about the lack of spacing among the 9, the wings and the midfield against Canada.

Despite the loss to Panama, I think he did a better job during the second series of qualifiers. I think it is really hard to try to win all three games. I think the mindset has to be either win games 1 & 3 and try to get a point in game two, given our superior depth relative to everyone but Mexico, or win your home games and try to get points in the away qualifiers.

The second set of qualifiers played out like I thought they should (the first ones did not). Eight of the starters from the Jamaica started the Costa Rica game compared to only two starting the Panama game. We only got 6 of the desired 7 but I'll take it. I thought we played the Panama game to get a draw from the get go and, even though it did not work out, I do not have a problem with the strategy.

Berhlater also stuck with a 4-3-3 rather than trying to tinker too much with the formation.

I do think he will have to tighten up the roster as we continue to progress through qualifying. Had anyone but Ruiz intercepted that pass, the Costa Rica game could have turned out very differently. And turning over the entire backline and the goalkeeper is really taking a risk.

I give him a B for formation, tactics and players during the second series and a C overall as that first series had some real issues.

I think we are also seeing what the foundation of the team needs to be:

Dest and Robinson at outside back
Robinson at CB. The other one is still TBD
Musah, McKennie and Adams (the 6) as the midfield
Pepi as the 9
Pulisic (when healthy) as one winger. TBD on the other (Reyna not really a true winger and doesn't stay wide enough so I prefer Weah or Aaronson although Berhalter does have to figure a way to get him on the field as he is too talented not to be. That may necessitate a formation change if playing Reyna on the wing continues to create too much congestion in the middle as it did in the El Salvador game.

Hopefully, Orangefoo, you now understand why Dest needs to be on the field despite his defensive shortcomings. Soccer games, especially those at the intl level, are frequently won by moments of magic. Dest created two of those with his assist on Pepi's first goal vs and his screamer against Costa Rica. There are very few players on this roster who can conjure up those moments. Dest is one of them.

Adams needs to be the 6, period. (FYI, Orangefoo, Reyna is not a 6 and, even if he were, he is not the type of 6 the US team needs). Our biggest weakness, right now, IMHO is what we do if Adams goes down. Acosta can play the 6 but his distribution is awful.

It would also be nice to find someone else to play the 9 other than Zardes. I know he provides veteran leadership to a young team but he is alot like Arriola. He plays really hard but is not a difference-maker. Hopefully, Sargent or Pefok or Dike will improve enough to become the second choice striker.

I continue to not be sold on Berhalter. I believe he is improving but there is not much margin for error and he has not yet convinced me that he is the right guy to both get to the World Cup and get results there.

Happy to discuss further as we head towards this critical showdown with Mexico.


Terrific post. Lots of thought went into that. Real even-handed analysis. That was a good read. Thanks.
 

OrangeFoo

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As we approach the next two game qualifying set, I just wanted to give some thoughts on where we are and what we've seen thus far.

National team coaches are notoriously conservative. They tend to go with "their guys" or guys they have had success with in the past, often long past their "use by" dates. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that they don't get to spend a lot of time with players, unlike club coaches.

Berhalter has been anything but. He has brought in 36 players through the first two qualifying rounds, 33 of them field players. Of the 33 field players he has brought in, 31 have seen the field. Compare that to Mexico's 32 and 26 and Panama's 32 and 23. If you assume 10 field players on each team, this means that Berhalter is dipping into his 4th team to get players and is getting those players on the field.

His playing rotations have been more reminiscent of a series of friendlies than what you see in qualifying or in a tournament. On average, he has started only 4.25 of the players who started the previous match. Compare that figure with Mexico's 6.5 (7.33 through the first five matches when - the last game of this cycle they did have the luxury of swapping out almost their entire line-up due to their point total at the top of the Octagonal) and to Panama's 10.

He also has not hesitated to play unproven guys in big spots:

Starting Richards in a must-win against Costa Rica and having him go the full 90.
Starting Pepi away at Honduras.
Bringing in Busio when trying to protect a lead in the Costa Rica game.

I would not be surprised, however, if recovery analytics were playing a big role in determining who is fit to play 90 and who isn't. And, of course, the critical injuries to both Pulisic, Reyna and McKennie's suspension have forced his hand.

So, let's give him credit for not doing the same ole, same ole. And the team has largely delivered as we do currently sit second in the point totals. I will give him an A for roster management.

So now, let's talk strategy, tactics and players.

We've talked about the substitutions during the Canada game. Those issues seem to have been rectified as he is both subbing more often and, arguably, more effectively.

We've talked about the formation for the Honduras game and playing Adams out right and Sands in the middle.

We've talked about the lack of spacing among the 9, the wings and the midfield against Canada.

Despite the loss to Panama, I think he did a better job during the second series of qualifiers. I think it is really hard to try to win all three games. I think the mindset has to be either win games 1 & 3 and try to get a point in game two, given our superior depth relative to everyone but Mexico, or win your home games and try to get points in the away qualifiers.

The second set of qualifiers played out like I thought they should (the first ones did not). Eight of the starters from the Jamaica started the Costa Rica game compared to only two starting the Panama game. We only got 6 of the desired 7 but I'll take it. I thought we played the Panama game to get a draw from the get go and, even though it did not work out, I do not have a problem with the strategy.

Berhlater also stuck with a 4-3-3 rather than trying to tinker too much with the formation.

I do think he will have to tighten up the roster as we continue to progress through qualifying. Had anyone but Ruiz intercepted that pass, the Costa Rica game could have turned out very differently. And turning over the entire backline and the goalkeeper is really taking a risk.

I give him a B for formation, tactics and players during the second series and a C overall as that first series had some real issues.

I think we are also seeing what the foundation of the team needs to be:

Dest and Robinson at outside back
Robinson at CB. The other one is still TBD
Musah, McKennie and Adams (the 6) as the midfield
Pepi as the 9
Pulisic (when healthy) as one winger. TBD on the other (Reyna not really a true winger and doesn't stay wide enough so I prefer Weah or Aaronson although Berhalter does have to figure a way to get him on the field as he is too talented not to be. That may necessitate a formation change if playing Reyna on the wing continues to create too much congestion in the middle as it did in the El Salvador game.

Hopefully, Orangefoo, you now understand why Dest needs to be on the field despite his defensive shortcomings. Soccer games, especially those at the intl level, are frequently won by moments of magic. Dest created two of those with his assist on Pepi's first goal vs and his screamer against Costa Rica. There are very few players on this roster who can conjure up those moments. Dest is one of them.

Adams needs to be the 6, period. (FYI, Orangefoo, Reyna is not a 6 and, even if he were, he is not the type of 6 the US team needs). Our biggest weakness, right now, IMHO is what we do if Adams goes down. Acosta can play the 6 but his distribution is awful.

It would also be nice to find someone else to play the 9 other than Zardes. I know he provides veteran leadership to a young team but he is alot like Arriola. He plays really hard but is not a difference-maker. Hopefully, Sargent or Pefok or Dike will improve enough to become the second choice striker.

I continue to not be sold on Berhalter. I believe he is improving but there is not much margin for error and he has not yet convinced me that he is the right guy to both get to the World Cup and get results there.

Happy to discuss further as we head towards this critical showdown with Mexico.
Can’t disagree with much in this post… great analysis! I am completely sold on Dest after that last round of matches. I always knew he had the offense, but what impressed me was his consistency and effort in defending… great to see. He also stopped dribbling too much and losing the ball. My favorite part was watching him celebrate with the fans after he was subbed out… in the past I question whether Dest had the passion and desire needed to play for the USMNT or whether he was like one of Jurgen’s German mercenaries (looking at toy Timmy Chandler), but Dest doesn’t have to prove anything to me any more. His next step is to show he can play road qualifiers in hostile environments. I expect him to start against both Mexico and Canada.

Regarding numbers and positions I’m getting a little confused… I agree Adams is the defensive shield and distributor from deep. I do agree that Reyna isn’t that player and I also agree Weah or a true winger is better on the wing. So where so we play Reyna? I guess the 10? But if we do that where do Aaronson and Musah play? For better or worse I don’t think we see Pulisic or Reyna in November, so we can punt on that decision.

I agree with you on our weaknesses as well: coaching, no back up behind Adams and a pretty shallow striker pool. Pepe is great but he is not explosive enough to take over games so he is dependent on very inconsistent service and we have no one behind him that I would trust. If I were coach, I would start playing with false 9 formations.

Speaking of coaching… I also agree with you on Berhalter. I think there are better coaches out there, but the switching cost would be so high we need it ride it out and hope he improves. Reminds me very much of Dino Babers in fact. Both coaches came into jobs they were clearly not ready for, both coaches are too loyal to players and strategies, both seem weak at game day coaching… fortunately both have shown that players will play hard for them and both are seeming to start growing into their jobs.
 

IthacaMatt

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Regarding numbers and positions I’m getting a little confused… I agree Adams is the defensive shield and distributor from deep. I do agree that Reyna isn’t that player and I also agree Weah or a true winger is better on the wing. So where so we play Reyna? I guess the 10? But if we do that where do Aaronson and Musah play? For better or worse I don’t think we see Pulisic or Reyna in November, so we can punt on that decision.

I think that the problem for Reyna is the system. There's no real "traditional 10" in a 4-3-3 lineup.
Rayna would do better for us in a 4-2-3-1, as the middle guy in the 3.

I agree with you on our weaknesses as well: coaching, no back up behind Adams and a pretty shallow striker pool. Pepe is great but he is not explosive enough to take over games so he is dependent on very inconsistent service and we have no one behind him that I would trust. If I were coach, I would start playing with false 9 formations.

Kellyn Acosta is Tyler Adams' backup as the holding midfielder. You might argue that Acosta isn't dynamic enough, but what we really need him to do back there is shield the defense, and find the first pass forward. That's all. I don't want Acosta roaming all over the park. Our centerbacks are not that tight.

Speaking of coaching… I also agree with you on Berhalter. I think there are better coaches out there, but the switching cost would be so high we need it ride it out and hope he improves. Reminds me very much of Dino Babers in fact. Both coaches came into jobs they were clearly not ready for, both coaches are too loyal to players and strategies, both seem weak at game day coaching… fortunately both have shown that players will play hard for them and both are seeming to start growing into their jobs.

I think this is a very good observation. "Switching Cost" is too high right now. Berhalter is going to be the man for this World Cup cycle, unless they completely fall apart.
 

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