It was a friendly from a January camp. It was a game against a weak opponent and wasn’t their best players, nor the best USMNT squad that could be fielded. It was a game in which most of the players going at it have not played a competitive match in months. It has been nearly 16 months since Trinidad & Tobago. Most of that time by US fans has been spent frustrated, angry and directionless. Many USMNT media lost their jobs, Fox dropped spending on the World Cup coverage and disappointment loomed.
The USSF did themselves no favors in their excruciatingly long and painful process of selecting a President, a disciple of former President Gulati. Creating an unexplained new role in General Manager for Earnie Stewart and then a long over-analyzed slow process of selecting a controversial coach in Greg Berhalter. Then yesterday finally came, and US fans can now begin to move past all of this and try to turn the corner to finding something to be excited about.
It was a start, it was the kick off of a new era under Greg Berhalter.
It is extremely difficult to assess a first game from a January camp, but there were a few takeaways that this young US team can build from.
Young Attacking Players
Djordje Mihailovic led the excitement, and it wasn’t just the finish. He made several runs that showed smarts for a young mind coming out of MLS that has rarely been seen from the US based pool for a while. Jozy Altidore and Chris Wondolowski got a bad rap for a long time, but none of the young attacking players outside of Jordan Morris really even challenged them.
Corey Baird looked strong and made some nice runs along with his assist on the opener. It was great to see dangerous runs from Mihailovic & Cristian Roldan and fun to see the combination of Jonathan Lewis, recently on loan with Louisville City FC in the USL, make a nice run and pass to former NASL forward Christian Ramirez.
Jeremy Ebiobisse didn’t do enough, but had some nice movement creating a few corner kicks and threats along the left side. Nick Lima played right back and had a great tackle and assist, and he showed signs of a threat on the right hand side in a crowded pool at the position.
The US leagues developing young players and creating more opportunities to market them will only build on the success that a move like Christian Pulisic to Chelsea and several successful MLS moves including Tyler Adam’s start over the weekend.
Organization and Vision
This was a very limited squad especially at key roles. The entire USMNT back line could very well come from Europe, the US midfield should certainly include at least Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Adams. Our forward pool has gotten a shot in the arm overseas with the emergence of Josh Sargent and Haji Wright, along with mainstay Bobby Wood and Tim Weah’s recent success in the Scottish Premier League to challenge Jozy Altidore and other MLS hopefuls.
However, the style and plan that Christian Pulisic was hungry for in waiting on naming Berhalter’s coach was very visible in the game. The young players looked timid early on, but developed into the movement and though it was a game they should dominate they looked as a group as if they were running a system. Berhalter kept his starters in at halftime allowing the young group to build chemistry and confidence in his system.
“We want to see ball circulation, breaking lines, creating goal scoring opportunities. That should be the DNA of this team” — Greg Berhalter
The starting lineup may not have been on the field, but players who are in the pool can begin to see the style Berhalter is desiring to implement and begin to capture his vision as he talks about the games with them. Some depth might come from a few of the younger players and they now have experience under their belt in a camp and playing for the national team. Berhalter is also developing this experience as a coach and leader both of the players and his staff.
The big take away from the game is the kick off of the Berhalter era. Now we’ll see what we can do as he builds off of this game and into the summer’s Gold Cup. Very little else should really be taken from the result.
Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman both played well and looked good at both ends of the field in the middle of the US back line. The centreback pairing is considered wide open for this team and both are still relatively young players, they may still fight their way into the depth chart.
Michael Bradley played fantastic, always a great sign from a polarizing veteran who’s face, along with club teammate Jozy Altidore’s, is often associated with US loss to Trinidad and Tobago. Bradley’s play should be expected in a game like this with young inexperienced players out of season, but he was extremely sharp in passing which likely helped our young players gain confidence and learn their roles. His inclusion no doubt contributed to the US success. This is a contract year for he and Altidore at Toronto FC so Bradley should continue this run of play.
Winning heals wombs. Regardless of the lack of quality, the timing and insignificance of the game and who was on the field it was a good feeling to get a solid well deserved win to open Berhalter’s record.
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