Best landing spots for Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook
Westbrook was named league MVP in 2016. (Wikimedia Commons)

If you were living under a rock and didn’t here, the Thunder traded Paul George to the Clippers for a ridiculous number of draft picks, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Galinari. George is joining forces with newly signed, reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. As a result, Russell Westbrook is suddenly all alone in Oklahoma City on a team leaning into a rebuild. I pegged him as one the biggest losers of free agency. There is no question Westbrook’s time in OKC is over. It is just a matter of time before he is suiting up for a new team. The fire sale is already on in Oklahoma City. Jerami Grant was shipped to Denver. More will likely follow.

But where will Westbrook call home next? That is the question right facing the Thunder and Westbrook himself. He is certainly controversial, but there is no question he will have a long list of suitors. When you have the chance to add a former MVP just entering his 30s, you take it. Here are the best fits for Westbrook.

9163126439_ba341593de_bNew York Knicks
2018-19 record: 17-65
Likelihood of deal: 6/10
Of course the Knicks are in this conversation. They are desperate for a superstar to build around. With plenty of young prospects to potentially send to Oklahoma City in exchange for Westbrook, New York seems like a very likely trade partner. Between Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Mitchell Robinson, there should be a package to entice the Thunder. There could be some hesitation from Westbrook to head to the Big Apple without another proven star. RJ Barrett could develop into one, but that might take a few years.

For the Knicks, it makes them a much more desirable free agent spot to court future stars. Essentially, New York would doing something similar to what Miami just did in acquiring Jimmy Butler to build around. However, because of NBA trade restrictions, this deal would not be able to go down until December or January when recently signed players like Reggie Bullocks and Bobby Portis would be trade eligible. New York does not have any high-priced veterans to match Westbrook’s contract before then. If Russ is willing to wait it out or the Thunder fail to find a trade partner before that deadline, expect the Knicks to be in the hunt for him.

orlando_magic_wordmark_logo_2008-currentOrlando Magic
2018-19 record: 42-40
Likelihood of deal: 4/10
The Magic probably don’t jump to mind when you think of a contender, but this team did make the playoffs last year and challenged the Raptors in the first round. Orlando desperately needs a point guard and Westbrook could fit well alongside Nikola Vucevic and Mo Bamba. Orlando has a ton of depth on the wing and in the front court, but needs a floor general to make them a challenger in the East.

On the Oklahoma City side of things, there are a few intriguing pieces the Magic could have to offer. If the Thunder want more draft picks, the Magic owns all of its first round picks for the foreseeable future. The other piece that could be significant is Aaron Gordon. The high-flying forward has the contract necessary to be involved in this deal. He also won’t turn 24 until September. Rumors have been there for a few years now that Orlando would be interested in moving Gordon. With youth and athleticism on his side, he could be a solid player for the Thunder to pair with Steven Adams and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as they lean into this rebuild.

chicago_bulls_wordmarkChicago Bulls
2018-19 record: 22-60
Likelihood of deal: 3/10
Here is the current list of players listed at point guard on the Bulls roster: Kris Dunn, Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono. That is a group that could use a massive upgrade. This is an extremely young team that just signed a couple of veterans in Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young. It might seem like a bit of an awkward marriage to bring in Westbrook, but his playmaking ability would certainly be fun to watch with Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.

However, one of those two players could be part of any deal the Thunder would pursue with the Bulls. I will be honest, I don’t see Chicago making this deal. Despite needing a proven point guard, this team is nowhere near contending and would probably be better off just letting its young core grow together. Sending Russ to an Eastern Conference team would be preferable for OKC, but Chicago is unlikely to send back the type of compensation the Thunder would be looking for in this deal.

minnesota_timberwolves_wordmarkMinnesota Timberwolves
2018-19 record: 36-46
Likelihood of deal: 2/10
Talk about a team looking for a playmaking point guard. Minnesota actually has a lot of the components needed to make a deal happen with Oklahoma City. Andrew Wiggins’ high-priced contract help make the finances work, and considering he is only 24, the Thunder might be interested in seeing how he would develop. They also have some young prospects in Keita Bates-Diop and Josh Okogie to help build a young core. The Timberwolves also own all of their own picks going forward.

Westbrook might even be interested in heading to Minnesota for a chance to team up with Karl-Anthony Towns. However, this deal starts to fall apart when you consider these teams are in the same division and taking on Wiggins’ massive contract isn’t really a move that makes sense for a rebuilding team. It runs through 2022, by which point, you would have to imagine the Thunder would picture themselves contending again. Both sides could find some benefits from it, but there are too many question marks to see it going through.

1024px-Dallas_Mavericks_Primary_LogoDallas Mavericks
2018-19 record: 33-49
Likelihood of deal: 6/10
While the Mavericks technically finished second to last in the West last year, Dallas has a couple of players that could team up nicely with Westbrook. Luka Doncic is one of the most polished rookies in NBA history and with Kristaps Porzingis coming back from injury, that could make for a fun “Big 3” in Texas. Mark Cuban is always looking to add more star power to his team and Dallas seems like it is building a team to start competing this year. Adding Westbrook would help accelerate the process.

The Mavs are lacking a ton of picks to send back to the Thunder in exchange for Westbrook, but with the expiring contract of Courtney Lee, they could package together a few things to give Oklahoma City cap flexibility going forward. Where it starts to get tricky is the recent addition of Delon Wright in a sign and trade. Considering how the roster is shaping up for Dallas, this deal might not be able to be consummated until trade restrictions are lifted for newly signed players. It is far from a guarantee, but I think the Mavericks would feel good about selling Russ on their future.

miami_heat_wordmarkMiami Heat
2018-19 record: 39-43
Likelihood of deal: 9/10
If there is a front-runner in these trade talks, it would have to be the Miami Heat. Fresh off the sign-and-trade deal to land Jimmy Butler, the Heat are hard capped, looking to the trade market for ways to improve this team. With Butler already on the roster, it would be easy to see Westbrook eager to team up with another star. Both seem to have a similar approach to the game, playing with relentless passion. It could be a match that thrusts Miami back into contention to at least reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

Pat Riley has shown zero reservation in shipping out draft picks in the past and seems to be against rebuilding, always opting to reload instead. Plus, selling Russ on South Beach will probably be easy. The Thunder already own a few Heat draft picks courtesy of the Paul George trade, but probably wouldn’t mind adding a few more. A package of picks, Goran Dragic’s and James Johnson’s expiring contracts, and 23-year old Justise Winslow could be enough to land Westbrook. A player like Patrick Patterson might be involved just to make the money work. It offers the Thunder a ton of cap flexibility heading into the 2020 offseason and a few more more high-upside prospects.

milwaukee_bucks_wordmark_2015-currentMilwaukee Bucks
2018-19 record: 60-22
Likelihood of deal: 5/10
Here it the real wildcard to the conversation. Milwaukee is coming off a stellar season where it posted the best record in the NBA and reached the Eastern Conference Finals. There are already rumblings though about what it will take to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee. Adding Russell Westbrook would probably be more than enough to convince him to re-sign. The Bucks like Eric Bledsoe a lot, but the chance to add a former MVP to pair with the reigning MVP is too good to pass up. Even with all the potential shooting restrictions this team could have, it would make Milwaukee the title favorite.

Where it begins to get tricky is regarding what the Bucks send back. Bledsoe cannot be traded until September because he signed a contract extension in the past year. He would be a good stabilizing presence on what will likely be a young team. Milwaukee also does not have a ton of draft picks to offer, but could send the Pacers pick they just acquired in the Malcolm Brogdon deal. DJ Wilson and Donte DiVincenzo are the only two prospects Milwaukee could ship out. Maybe the Thunder would like to take on Pat Connaughton’s expiring contract. The Bucks might not quite have enough, or even be interested in making that major of a shake up to its current group, but this would put them over the edge in the title conversation.

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NBA Free Agency Winners and Losers

kawhi_leonard_vs_charlotte_2019
Leonard turned the NBA on its head by signing with the Clippers. (Wikimedia Commons)

Chaos. Absolute chaos. That is the best way to sum up NBA free agency in 2019. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are teaming up with the Clippers. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving joined forces in Brooklyn. Anthony Davis finally landed in Los Angeles alongside LeBron James and DeMarcus Cousins. That doesn’t even include Al Horford, Jimmy Butler or Kemba Walker signing with new teams.

It was one of the craziest weeks in the history of the league. At the end of the day, the league’s power dynamic has completely shifted. The NBA officially runs through Los Angeles. It is time to assess the winner and losers from this wild free agency period.

los_angeles_clippers_logo_1984-2010Winners: Los Angeles Clippers
Wow. No one saw this coming. The Clippers were long linked to Kawhi, but no one expected him to go there alongside George. The former Thunder superstar forced his way out of OKC and now creates a superstar pairing with a ton of depth around them. Los Angeles has to be the title favorite heading into the season.

Russell WestbrookLoser: Russell Westbrook
This cannot be where Russ expected to be when free agency opened. The talks are already rumbling about a potential Westbrook trade so Oklahoma City can truly enter a rebuild. He finds himself without a co-star on a team that still couldn’t make it out of the first round of the playoffs. His days in OKC are numbered.

800px-adam_silver_281584700477129Winner: The NBA
Do you remember there ever being a more exciting free agency period in another sport? MLB is coming off a year where huge names moved, but it took so long that the fun was lost. The NBA is in a league of its own when it comes to exciting offseason drama. It is clearly dominating the headlines and will be the talk of the sports world well into the month of July, not a typical situation for basketball.

toronto_raptors-wordmarkLosers: Toronto Raptors
Leonard is gone. Danny Green is gone. That’s 40 percent of the Raptors’ championship-winning starting lineup set to play next year in Los Angeles. Toronto is far from a rebuild, still boasting Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam. The bench is deep, but this team no longer has a top-five star to lean on. The Raptors will be good, but they are no longer anywhere near the title conversation.

Nets logoWinners: Brooklyn Nets
It is easy to almost forget about the Nets given the moves the Clippers just made, but Brooklyn set itself up to be a contender from 2020 onward. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan join a team full of young talent and perimeter shooting. The Nets even made the playoffs last season without their new big three. Without Durant, they don’t have the makeup of a real contender, but when he returns, they will be firmly in the conversation.

9163126439_ba341593de_bLoser: New York Knicks
It’s hard to talk about one basketball team in New York without bringing up the other. The narrative all season was that the Knicks were poised to land a bunch of stars in the offseason. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis were all mentioned. Instead, New York’s big free agency move was to land Julius Randle. That is barely a consolation prize by comparison to what could have been. Given the fact the Knicks also missed out on the Zion sweepstakes, fans are going to be very unhappy with how this offseason went.

1280px-los_angeles_lakers_logo.svg_Winners: Los Angeles Lakers
No, they didn’t win the Kawhi sweepstakes, but it might be a good thing for the Lakers for this year. With limited cap space, the Lakers filled out the rest of their roster, bringing back Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Then they landed the floor-stretching Danny Green and continuing reclamation project DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins showed flashes of his All-Star potential in the postseason, before he suffered another injury. There is a decent amount of injury risk with this team, but if it can stay healthy, Los Angeles is much closer to an NBA title than it was a year ago.

charlotte_hornets-wordmarkLosers: Charlotte Hornets
This continues to be one of the worst run franchises in the NBA. Kemba Walker skipped town and the Hornets overpaid to bring in Terry Rozier. He might be 25 years old, but paying him over $19 million a year seems pretty steep. This team is capped out otherwise and seems to be nowhere near the playoff conversation. Charlotte will finally have more flexibility next season, but losing Walker makes it tough to qualify this as anything other than a loss.

philadelphia76ers2Winners: Philadelphia 76ers
Lost in the shuffle of all this is the fact the Sixers reloaded for another run. Signing Tobias Harris, sending Jimmy Butler to Miami for Josh Richardson and signing Al Horford makes Philly one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. It will be interesting to see how this team lines up, Ben Simmons could play point guard, but it seems like this is the best positioned team to challenge Milwaukee in the East next year.

cleveland_cavaliers_wordmarkLosers: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs are undoubtedly in a rebuild and seemed poised to move high-priced veterans like Kevin Love and JR Smith. With free agency mostly over and every roster seemingly set, it is going to be more difficult to move either or both players. Cleveland had a window to reshape the roster and it feels like it missed out.

miami_heat_wordmarkWinners: Miami Heat
For whatever reason, Pat Riley never wants to go through a rebuild. Miami reloaded again by adding Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade deal with Philly. Suddenly, the Heat are in the mix to continue to build. Don’t expect the Riley to sit around idly either. He will be aggressive in acquiring more pieces to surround Butler and Dion Waiters.

minnesota_timberwolves_wordmarkLosers: Minnesota Timberwolves
There were a lot of rumors this was a likely destination for DeAngelo Russell. Not only did Minnesota not land him, they failed to move Andrew Wiggins’ bloated contract as well. Signing Jordan Bell was a savvy, but Minnesota went through another offseason without finding a way to build around Karl-Anthony Towns. In a loaded Western Conference, this team feels further away from the playoffs than they did a year ago.

memphis_grizzlies_wordmarkWinners: Memphis Grizzlies
Make no mistake, Memphis is nowhere near competing with the top tier teams in the West, but they are leaning into the rebuild. The Grizzlies sent Mike Conley to Utah and acquired Andre Igoudala and a first round pick from the Warriors as part of a salary dump. They will continue to be active, already adding Delon Wright to the list of veterans shipped out.

 

Gold Cup 2019: USMNT vs. Panama

On Wednesday night, the USMNT won Group D at the Gold Cup by defeating Panama 1-0. The US started a 2nd string group after they guaranteed qualification into the quarterfinal with their win over Trinidad & Tobago. Panama also rotated their lineup, resting many starters for the quarterfinals. Despite making their World Cup debut last year, Panama still aren’t CONCACAF powerhouses, so all the same “we’re playing against lesser competition” caveats apply. Here are my thoughts on the night:

  • Miazga looked fantastic defensively, and okay with the ball at his feet. Zimmerman has him beat when it comes to passing out of the back, which is likely why Zimmerman was favored in the previous two games.
  • O. Gonzalez was shaky defensively at times, similar to Tim Ream. Outside of those 2-3 scares, he was fine. Better teams are going to capitalize on those opportunities much more easily.
  • Lovitz was solid defensively, but relatively ineffective going forward. He played the LB role differently than Ream, who usually stays at home. Lovitz ventured forward more often, but to little avail.
  • Cannon held his own but also didn’t push for the starting spot. He showed that he can hold his own against CONCACAF competition, and we will need players like that in the future. However, I do not expect Cannon to be the first choice RB anytime soon.
  • Johnson had little to do on the night, and did not make any mistakes. I doubt he will start again over Steffen, but he showed that he was not overwhelmed playing in a competitive match. Again, we will need guys who are comfortable against CONCACAF teams.
  • Roldan and Mihailovic both played okay, but did not have the “creativity”, for lack of a better word, in connecting passes together in the final third. Both are obviously downgrades from Pulisic and McKennie.
  • Trapp didn’t look awful or overwhelmed, like he did in the friendlies leading up to this competition. Panama is probably a worse team than Jamaica and definitely worse than Venezuela, but it was encouraging to see Trapp put in a few physical tackles
  • Lewis and Morris had as good of showings as they could with poor service. As mentioned above, Mihailovic and Roldan are not Pulisic and McKennie. So Lewis and Morris were not getting the same kind of passed played their way. Suddenly it feels like winger is a strength of this team when it felt like a weakness 2 weeks ago.
  • Altidore still looked rusty, but he got the job done scoring the only goal of the night. I was surprised he played 80 mins in this one after only getting 15 against T&T. I would expect him to play limited minuted against Curaçao but I am not sure whether it’d be smarter to start him and take him off or to bring him on off the bench.
  • Pulisic came in as a winger and, like Lewis who he replaced, struggled to get service. Previously, I thought he might play better as a winger since he usually plays their for his club, however, I see now that if we do not have enough passing ability in central midfield than we’re practically handicapping our own best player. Might change if we have McKennie, Holmes, Lletget, and/or Adams in the middle, but I won’t make that assumption just yet.
  • Boyd and Zardes both cameo-d for 10-15 mins but barely made an impression on the game.

Two larger notes:

  • Head Coach Berhalter’s system was still evident when the second string was playing. Altidore missed on two good opportunities which were setup by Berhalt-ian passing sequences with which we are becoming familiar. Not to mention, we still did not concede any goals (Last team in this tournament who can still say that).
  • While the collective performance wasn’t anything to write home about, I feel more confident in each of these players filling in for a starter than I did before the game. Right? Like if Boyd and/or Arriola gets injured, I think Lewis and/or Morris could do just fine in the same spot(s). If Lima gets injured, Cannon is a downgrade, but he won’t be a liability. The only two players that might feel like liabilities are Trapp and Gonzalez. Fingers crossed that’s not a problem in this tournament.

Next up is Curaçao on Sunday night. I would expect the starting XI out there which is mostly likely this:

Altidore

Arriola – Pulisic – McKennie – Boyd

Bradley

Ream – Long – Zimmerman – Lima

Steffen

We always knew Altidore was an upgrade over Zardes, he simply wasn’t healthy. I think Miazga deserves to be in the lineup over Ream but I am unsure how well he would play on the left side. Long usually plays on the left side for the New York Red Bulls, but I think Berhalter wants to keep him in the center so they can use his speed as the team’s sweeper. Other than that, I don’t believe anyone made a compelling case to push for the starting XI.

Come back for more Gold Cup action next week!

Gold Cup 2019: USMNT vs Trinidad & Tobago

Saturday night the USMNT overcame their demons, crushing T&T 6-0 in Cleveland. The US men are leading the tournament in goal differential with +10, barely beating Mexico’s +9. Similarly to Guyana, this win has to be taken with a grain of salt; T&T consists of mostly USL Championship and USL League 1 players (read: lower leagues in the USA). Despite both teams being eliminated, I would not be shocked if Guyana beat T&T in the last group stage game. But that’s neither here nor there, on to the USMNT performance:

  • In the second half, Pulisic finally played like he was the best player on the field. He got a nice assist in the first half off of a cross into the box that Aaron Long headed in. Then Pulisic ripped up T&T in the second half for another assist and a goal. As he should. This guy is head and shoulders above everyone on T&T. Guyana was his first game since the Bundesliga season ended. Perhaps he is rounding into form.
  • Gyassi Zardes heard the haters after the Guyana team, so he silenced them in this one. Two goals and he really should have had a third. He’s still second choice behind Jozy but he has earned his keep. Also worth noting that he’s tied for the lead for goals in this tournament (3) …
  • Aaron Long didn’t just score once, he scored TWICE! The defender had himself a game on both sides of the ball.  He’s the sweeper of the backline and he’s a threat on set pieces. What more could you ask for?
  • Steffen made a few saves look easy despite their level of difficulty. The USMNT has often been blessed with stellar goalkeeping. Steffen will likely continue that trend as he moves to the Bundesliga next season.
  • Bradley quietly had a very solid night. His passing was on point as usual, and I don’t believe he had a single defensive mistake. As the defensive midfielder in a 6-0 win, not may people are going to point out his performance, in spite of how noteworthy it was.
  • McKennie had a similar game to his Guyana game, some incredible passing sequences, made his presence known physically, but struggled with his positioning at times. I had him higher on this list against Guyana, but that is because so many other players played worse against Guyana. Loved when he got in T&T’s face after one of them fouled Gyassi. I’ve said it before: he brings the intensity this team needs.
  • Lima had himself another strong outing. He got an assist on Gyassi’s first goal, and sporadically caused problems for T&T on the right hand side.
  • Boyd and Arriola both got themselves into dangerous positions, but mostly failed to find the back of the net. I think it is easy to say that both of them are locks as the starting wingers. Berhalter’s system is designed to get them into dangerous positions, and they’re following his instructions well. Just slightly improved finishing and these two will be the biggest story line of the tournament.
  • Zimmerman had another good performance at the back defensively, and continued to make line-splitting passes out of the back. I won’t have much more on Zimmerman until he gets tested by stronger competition.
  • Jordan Morris came on and changed this game with two assists. After the game against Guyana, I was afraid that we didn’t have many game-changers off of the bench. Morris, alleviated that fear a little tonight.
  • Jozy really didn’t do much in his 15 minute appearance. He’s still coming back from injury, so I don’t have huge expectations. I bet we see him off the bench again vs. Panama. No need to rush things.
  • Reggie Cannon filled in for Lima for the last few minutes of the game. A cameo where he provided one dangerous move, and did not make any defensive mistakes.
  • Ream was shaky again. I think he’s having fewer and fewer shaky moments, but it still feels like there’s a looming threat that he could cause a defensive collapse at any moment.

Last but not least,

  • Gregg Berhalter is getting the best out of his players. This is perhaps the most important note from this game. Players who played less-than-their-best against Guyana (most notably Zardes, and Pulisic) proved their worth against T&T. With every passing game, this team looks more and more like it is Berhalter’s team. This tournament is allowing Berhalter to get a lot of exposure with these players and it is allowing these players to immerse themselves in what Berhalter wants out of them.

The game against Guyana felt more like growing pains, tonight’s game against T&T felt more like a coming of age. Let’s hope that the next game against Panama feels like a coming out party.

USMNT vs. Guyana Review

The USMNT won 4-0 late on Tuesday night against Gold Cup debutantes Guyana. While the US men won, the performance was short of dominant. Against a Guyana squad which consists of players who just barely meet the minimum requirement to be called “professionals”, the US could have played better. To define Guyana’s talent level more exactly, a majority of their players play in the 4th or 5th divisions in England, or the 2nd or lower divisions in the US. While the USMNT won, most would have hoped for a more convincing win.

With that said, here were my thoughts from the night, player by player, from best to worst performances:

  • Tyler Boyd was the Man of the Match, scoring his first and second goal ever for the US. He was consistently threatening making runs in behind the defense, and whipping in dangerous crosses. Additionally, he had a few field shifting long balls to Arriola on the other side that changed the angle of attack. Those are the types of passes that Head Coach Gregg Berhalter loves.
  • McKennie showed the grit and fight that this team has been missing of late. He tracked back to defend, he muscled guys off the ball, and he wasn’t afraid to commit a foul or two. The US desperately needed that. McKennie was also a huge threat in the final third, which I haven’t seen from him in past national team performances. Again, with the caveat that this team is the worst team at this tournament.
  • Lima was a terror up and down the right side of the field for the US. There were very few attacks coming down his flank and he added substantially to the attack as an overlapping fullback. He’s making a good argument that he should be the full-time starting right back even when DeAndre Yedlin is healthy.
  • Arriola continued to work hard down the left wing, getting into dangerous spaces. He’s been vocal about wanting to score more, as he missed a few sitters in recent friendlies. He put one away tonight, but probably wished he could redo one or two other opportunities.
  • Steffen contributed more with his feet than his hands, as the US built out of the back. He didn’t have any shaky moments like he did in the last two friendlies. He only needed to make one save on the night and he did so handily.
  • Bradley was solid *enough* defensively, and pinged a few of those Pirlo-esque long balls which he has become known for. I emphasize “enough” because it looked like Bradley was just barely able to snuff out the attacks from this Guyana team. Won’t be as easy as this tournament progresses.
  • Pulisic looked dangerous but lacked the final product for most of the game. He had a few progressions in the final third that were quite impressive, as one would expect from the $70 million man. However, none of these moves ended in a goal or an assist. And it’s not just that he wasn’t in the boxscore, it felt like he wasn’t all that close. His best chance was a point-blank shot that went straight at the ‘keeper. Maybe I’m being tough on him, but as the most talented player on the field, the bar is higher for Pulisic.
  • Long and Zimmerman both had decent outings, taking care of business defensively, and keeping the ball moving in possession. Zimmerman had one or two errant passes, but he was also asked to make tougher passes as Guyana started cutting off the simple pass to Bradley. I don’t believe Long had a single misplaced pass on the night, but as the middle centerback in what was essentially a back 3, he was just shuttling the ball between Zimmerman and Ream for most of the night.
  • Ream was asked to play similarly to Zimmerman trying a few passes centerbacks usually don’t try. Similarly, a few of them didn’t come off, which led to dangerous counters the other way. Ream also had a few defensive lapses that were less than ideal.
  • Zardes had a very Zardes performance. He made good runs, his positioning was great, he had some good hold-up play here and there, but his first-touch failed him at times, and he struggled to find the back of the net except for twice: one goal called back for offside and another that was an unintentional rebound off of his face.
  • For both Ream and Zardes, they gave performances we are used to. Not horrible, but definitely not ideal. Like a solid 4/10. Zardes is the backup, so I’m more okay with that. Finger’s crossed Jozy is fit for the rest of the tournament. With Ream … maybe Daniel Lovitz is less error prone? Yikes …
  • The substitutions (Roldan, Mihailovic, and Trapp), all had a mixed 20-30 mins. I think each one had a moment they made me go “Hey, this looks better than what we saw in those friendlies last week”, but then also had a moment that made me go “Yeahhh, but these guys are coming off the bench for a reason”. Might be a real problem that the US doesn’t have many dangerous options off the bench. Also might be a problem that we used 2 subs to limit the minutes high injury risk players, and then the third because a guy got injured.

One last note on the style of play and Berhalter. This game looked more like a Berhalter team than the previous two friendly losses. It shows that the team had a full week of practice together. They probably only have a day or two of practice sessions before the next game Saturday. How well this team gels, and executes Berhalter’s game plan are perhaps the most important “process goals” of the coming month.

The boys are up against the dreaded Trinidad & Tobago next, on Saturday. T&T lost to Panama earlier on Tuesday 2-0. If Panama take care of business against Guyana earlier on Saturday, T&T will be playing to stay alive in the tournament. USA will be playing for some redemption after their last loss to T&T knocked them out of World Cup Qualifying.