Reaction to USMNT October Friendlies

It was a loss and a draw to South American competition in what could be Sarachan’s last camp as USMNT coach. Here are my notes from both games. Disclaimer: Since Sarachan isn’t going to be in charge for much longer, I don’t examine his tactics here.

Notes After Colombia Game:

Starting XI (4-2-3-1):

Steffen

Yedlin – Miazga – Brooks – Robinson

Bradley – Acosta

Weah – Green – Saief

Wood

Subs: Picault for Saief (58′), Delgado for Weah (68′), Sweat for Robinson (76′), Sargent for Wood (83′), Novakovich for Green (84′)

Notes:


  • Game in a nutshell:
     We were outclassed for most of the game but were at 2-2 through 70 minutes. Then we changed our formation (Delgado came on we shifted to more of a 3-5-2 with Bradley as a center back and Delgado centrally next to Acosta) and Bradley’s age started to show. Colombia won the final 20 minutes 2-0. There is no question Colombia is a better team, so there’s no shame in losing to them. The last 20 minutes of any friendly are wonky because there are like a dozen subs coming on.
  • Weah’s stock has risen the most. He was burning Colombia at times and was tracking back to defend as well. Not to mention his absolutely gorgeous assist on Bobby Wood’s goal. For me he has joined Pulisic, Adams, and McKennie in that “Written in pen on the starting lineup” category. Credit to @mattluppy for having him there before these games. I still haven’t seen him play as a striker and I still want to see that, but for now I have no problem playing him on the wing. Also exciting that he mentioned going on loan starting in January to find regular minutes.
  • bobby_wood_1860_2011_2
    Bobby Wood came up with a goal against Colombia. (Wikimedia Commons)

    Wood’s stock has risen. His goal confirmed my previous opinion that Wood is a good player when he has service. If we have Pulisic on one wing and Weah on the other, then I think he’ll get a good amount of such service. If we had a must-win game tomorrow, he’s probably my starter

  • Sargent’s stock has risen. He only got 5 minutes but he totally roasted one of Colombia’s center backs in that time. Long term, as soon as he is getting regular minutes for Werder Bremen, or somewhere else on loan, he should probably start over Bobby Wood
  • Acosta’s stock has risen… as a No. 8. I thought he might be in competition with Green for the attacking midfield spot but he played pretty well as a box-to-box midfielder in this game. Right now I see him as McKennie’s No 1. backup beating out the likes of Roldan, and Delgado. Speaking of which …
  • Marky Delgado wasn’t flashy but he was clean. Shout out to @zlebmada for creating a Twitter thread of all of Delgado’s touches. He only had one bad touch and the rest were productive progressions which often lead to chances. I’d like to see him start a whole game against good competition. At the same time, box-to-box midfielder is out deepest position so I don’t know that he’ll get that chance
  • Michael Bradley was admittedly good for 70 minutes. He was culpable on both of Colombia’s late goals, more so on the last one. In a must-win game he is a good replacement for Adams if injured or a nice sub to bring on late to close out games. However, someone like Russell Canouse of DC United might be able to do the same thing and he’s 8 years younger than Bradley. Plus we don’t have any must-win games soon, so why not get Canouse the experience now? I’ll stop my rant there before it carries on into an additional article.
  • Green and Saief were disappointing. Both had nice moments here and there but also had poor moments here and there. Saief didn’t really defend. Shout out to @away_goals for creating a gif-thread on Twitter of Saief’s defensive woes. Green was slow to recognize some opportunities. I don’t think either should be starters, but in Green’s case there might not be a better option.
  • Robinson is the best option at LB for now, but we should give others players a chance at that position. Not sure who those other players are at this point. Maybe Villafana, maybe Vincent? Bello is 16 and has started getting minutes in Atlanta. Perhaps in January we can call him in.
  • Yedlin is the best option at RB for now, but similar to Robinson at left back, we should give other players chances. Yedlin is better than Robinson, but there are better options behind Yedlin (Cannon, Moore).
  • Brooks and Miazga were not great on the night, I wonder if that’s because of a new pair in front of them or if they had an off night. Either way it shows that there is always room for improvement.
  • Steffen was fine, even though there were a lot of goals, I do not think he was particularly culpable on any of them.
  • Picault, Sweat, and Novakovich did not impress in their substitution appearances. I wouldn’t mind if Picault and Sweat never get called-in again, but Novakovich wasn’t given a ton of time and he’s younger, so I hope he keeps coming back.
  • Disappointed we didn’t get to see Amon, glad he got to play on Tuesday.

On to the Peru game!

Starting XI (4-1-4-1):

Guzan

Cannon – Carters-Vickers – Long – Sweat

Trapp

Weah – Delgado – Acosta – Amon

Sargent

Subs: Green on for Amon (54′), Wood on for Sargent (68′), Bradley on for Acosta (77′), Yedlin on for Cannon (82′)

Notes:

  • The game in a nutshell: Peru’s starting XI had 300+ collective national team appearances. The US starting XI had >100 collective national team appearances. With that in mind, a 1-1 draw is a good result. Our front three of Amon, Sargent and Weah were fun to watch when our midfield was able to get them the ball. Again the US conceded late, when substitutions were being made left and right. I felt much better after this game than the Colombia game.
  • I like that Sarachan used the first friendly to throw out his ‘best XI’ and used his second friendly for experimentation. Hopefully the next coach does something similar. There are still a lot of players who could push their way into the conversation before 2022.
  • Formation became a 4-4-2 when Green came on for Amon. Green was up top with Sargent. Delgado was push out wide right.
  • Guzan getting the start was expected because Steffen left camp with an injury. I have no problems with it, but I wonder if Steffen would have played both games without the injury. It is worth mentioning that Guzan played well on the night and had no fault on the goal. I think its a coin flip between him and Steffen for the starting spot.
  • Aaron Long was fantastic. He did not make any incredible stops/saves because he did not need to. He did a lot of the small things right, e.g. pushing attackers wide so their shot was at a harder angle. Probably my third choice center back on our depth chart now. No blame on the goal.
  • Cameron Carters-Vickers was okay. He committed a bad foul just outside the box in the 60th minute, and the goal conceded by the US was due to a miscommunication between him and Yedlin, but still mostly Yedlin’s fault. I think I’d like to see other center backs audition for his spot.
  • Ben Sweat should never wear a USMNT jersey again. Despite having a better second half, he never looked great. A lot of his mistakes were glazed over with good defending by Aaron Long. There are other options at left back we should call-up instead including, but not limited to, Brandon Vincent.
  • The ball wasn’t on Cannon’s side of the field that much as Peru recognized that Sweat was a player they could exploit. With what we saw, Cannon seemed like he needed to adjust to the level of play defensively and seemed slightly out of sync with his teammates offensively. He didn’t usurp Yedlin’s starting spot (yet). However, since this was his first cap and he’s 20 yrs old, I want to see him get called-up in the future.
  • Yedlin’s only significant play was when he didn’t track the Peruvian runner that scored. That’s enough said.
  • Sargent showed some youth, but his stock definitely rose. He started the game with a bad turnover, but he had two filthy passes in the first half and a well-worked goal off of a restart in the second half. I repeat, I can’t wait for him to get professional minutes regularly.
  • Amon’s stock rose, and he absolutely blew past Saief on the depth chart. This was one of my questions going into this camp: which of these two would lay claim to that left wing spot. Amon’s combination with Sargent and Weah definitely won him the spot. I’m disappointed he left the game as early as he did.
  • Weah maintained a high level of play. I think he was limited by the formation to some degree, as he was not as electric as he was against Colombia. He still had a few moments with Sargent and Amon in the first half which were encouraging.
  • Acosta and Delgado delivered what we’ve come to expect. Acosta played well in both directions starting some attacks, and making some hard tackles. Delgado was clean on the ball as usual. Both of them are high on the depth chart behind Weston McKennie.
  • Trapp was soft. He allowed Peru to get past him with little resistance too often. Similar to Sweat, I think Aaron Long cleaned up a lot of those flaws. This team missed Tyler Adams.
  • Green and Wood were more of the same in their substitution appearances. Green had a few good flashes here and there, but was overall slow to recognize opportunities. It was his turnover in the U.S. half which led to the goal. Wood was workman like and relatively clean. Nothing spectacular.
  • Bradley came on late essentially as a “closer” to secure a result. Even though a goal was conceded it was not his fault. I would not mind him playing this role over the next year or so for the USMNT.

With these friendlies wrapped up, here is my ideal starting XI going forward (4-3-3):

Steffen

Yedlin – Brooks – Miazga – Robinson

Adams – Acosta – McKennie

Pulisic – Wood – Weah

Bench: Guzan, Long, Cannon/Moore, Bradley, Delgado, Amon, Sargent

This formation doesn’t have a true “Number 10”. The only player I’ve liked in that spot is Pulisic. He played there in last years World Cup Qualifiers. Part of me really wants to play a 4-2-3-1 with that ‘3’ line being “Weah – Pulisic – Amon” and either Wood or Sargent up top. I hesitate to do so since Pulisic plays wide for Dortmund and you should always try to play your best player in their best position. Perhaps Amon or Weah can play that central role? Youth options like Andrew Carlton (of Atlanta United) and Luca de la Torre (of Fulham), have yet to crack their club’s first team. Although neither has Sargent, but those two have to get call-ups before I put them in my ideal XI.

Steffen edges out Guzan because he’s younger. If Brooks or Miazga gets into a funk I feel more than comfortable starting Aaron Long. We need a fullback sub and neither Moore nor Cannon have put themselves above the other. I like Bradley as a “closer”, someone to bring on late to hold onto a result. I don’t want to see him start unless someone is injured. Delgado has been clean and mistake free in his USMNT appearances. Amon and Sargent are electric super-subs and could arguably be starting.

Oh, and by the way my XI up there consists of 4 Bundesliga starters (2 of which play Champions League), 1 Ligue 1 starter, 1 Premiere League starter, an 18 yr old kid on PSG, a 20 yr old Championship starter, one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS (at 19!), one of the best goalkeepers in MLS (at 23!), and one of the best box-to-box midfielders in MLS (at 23). The future is bright!

Now we wait to see what November holds! Hopefully it’s a new head coach and a healthy squad!

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