Your Weekly USMNT Update — May 28, 2019

The U-20 World Cup is well underway and the U.S. contingent started off with a disappointing 1-2 loss to Ukraine in their first game of the competition, but recovered with a 2-0 win over Nigeria. The team now sits in third place in their group ahead of the final game vs. Qatar.  

All in all, some very encouraging soccer to build upon as the United States looked like the dominant team in possession in both games and often impressed with quick combination plays, especially vs. Nigeria. A few specific points by game:

Nigeria (2-0 Win):

  • The United States dominated possession as they were able to exploit the spaces that Nigeria offered with intelligent passes through the center of midfield and full backs.

  • Sebastian Soto was a much needed true number 9 in the U.S. lineup.

  • Paxton Pomykal was very impressive in his new midfield role, often linking up with the wingers or Soto up top. All around engine in the midfield for the U.S.

  • Alex Mendez has one of the most talented left foots we’ve ever seen but he needs to tighten up his short pass game to make it at a higher level.

  • Chris Richards subbed off early due to a knock after a stellar performance at CB.

Ukraine (1-2 Loss):

  • For large portions of the game, the U.S. dominated in possession and moved the ball quickly with one or two touches - a clear sign that U.S. soccer is moving in the right direction.

  • The right flank with Sergino Dest and Konrad De La Fuente was a consistent threat.

  • While Timothy Weah didn’t see too much of the ball, he provided the assist to the only goal. Similar to much of his season, it underscored that he can be clinical in front of goal.

  • The midfield often struggled to break down a physical and well organized defense.

  • Defensively, the back line (without captain Mark McKenzie) looked shaky and prone to errors in times of concentration lapses, which led to both Ukrainian goals.

  • Some of the second balls in the midfield, especially toward the end of the game were lost too easily.

While the U-20 World Cup is ongoing and Berhalter’s training camp ahead of the Gold Cup officially started on Sunday, Tyler Adams and Duane Holmes still had some crucial games to finish with their clubs in Europe. Unfortunately, both of them ended up on the losing side, as Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig fell to Bayern Munich in the German DFB Cup Final (0-3) after a valiant effort, while Derby Country (without an injured Duane Holmes) lost to Aston Villa (1-2) and will have to play another season in England’s second division.

As always, please feel free to email us at hello@onegoal.us to let us know what you think about our newsletter!

Star of the Week

Tyler Adams (20, Wappingers Falls, NY) - RB Leipzig, Bundesliga

Having returned from injury just one week ago, Tyler Adams found himself in Leipzig’s starting XI in one of the biggest games in the 10-year-old club’s history.

Key figure in Leipzig’s high press: In a very high Leipzig press that saw much of the team try and win back the ball before Bayern came close to the center of midfield, Tyler Adams took on a pivotal role as one of the earliest players to try and win the ball. In fact, for much of the first half, Adams left his holding position and was attacking the ball well in Bayern’s half, specifically targeting Thiago as the main playmaker. A very demanding task for the young American, it required him to press high on the field, but if the press was unsuccessful, he needed to recover quickly enough to stuff Leipzig’s center of midfield and prevent clear passing lanes for Bayern. The fact that Leipzig’s head coach Ralf Rangnick trusted Adams with such a task underscores how talented he is when it comes to ball winning.  

One-touch passing remarkable: The other quality that stood out in Tyler Adams’ game was his composure and awareness on the ball. He did not let the occasion get to him, but remained extremely aware of his surroundings and (as usual) kept the ball moving quickly. He also set up one of Leipzig’s most dangerous chances with a skillful pass to Poulsen, who saw his shot blocked in the very last second.

Rising star in Europe: While Adams’ fitness likely didn’t allow him to play the full 90 minutes, the young American never gave up on a play, recovered to the right areas of the pitch, and intercepted one or two extremely dangerous Bayern passes at the last moment due to his efforts. All in all, this performance against some of the world’s best players earned him high praise in the German press and we continue to believe that the Tyler Adams hype isn’t big enough here at home. To put things in perspective, he has only been in Leipzig since January - imagine what he can do in the Champions League next year with a full pre-season under his belt. Alongside Pulisic, Tyler Adams is quickly becoming a rising USMNT star in Europe.

Other Notable Performances

Omir Fernandez (20, Bronx, NY) - New York Red Bulls, MLS

NYRB’s super-sub: A little known secret for Red Bulls fans, Omir Fernandez has been lighting it up in bit part appearances lately. Used primarily as a super-sub by head coach Chris Armas, Fernandez has been a crucial weapon with his acceleration, driving runs, and aggressiveness surging into the box. Omir clinched the victory for NYRB in their 2-0 away victory at Cincinnati, converting a beautiful diving header into the side netting.

Game winning goal:

Youth Experience: Named the 2018 ACC Offensive Player of the year at Wake Forest, Omir scored 12 goals and captured six assists during his tenure as Demon Deacon. He has USMNT experience at the U-17 and U-20 level as well. Fernandez is another example of the Red Bulls giving their academy products a chance, as he was signed as their 21st HomeGrown Player before the start of the season. With two goals and an assist this season, Fernandez’s performances will surely make Armas think about giving him his fourth start of the season.

Here are some of his highlights against Columbus:

Sebastian Soto (18, Los Angeles, CA) - Hannover 96, Bundesliga

Brace for the U-20s in the World Cup: Hannover striker Sebastian Soto notched a brace in the U20s 2-0 victory against Nigeria. With a few stray touches in his substitute appearance in the loss to Ukraine, Soto brushed off any criticism in his commanding start as the number 9 for the U.S. Throughout the match, Soto made intelligent runs, cutting through defensive lines and making a late run into some space off a corner to nod in his first of the night. After some poor marking in the box, Soto judged the flight of the ball superbly to track it into an open space, launching a bullet header into the net.

For his second, Soto timed his run to perfection to latch onto a laid off through ball from Hannover teammate, Chris Gloster. Soto let the ball run across his body, stutter-stepped to get the keeper to commit and dinked the ball over into the empty net. His dynamic movement, strength with his back to goal, and aerial finishing make him the complete number 9 for the U-20s. Coach Ramos should have no doubt in his mind that Soto should start the rest of the matches unless a rest is needed. With 17 goals and six assists, Sebastian had a stellar season for the U-19 squad of Hannover this past season, earning himself a first team spot. With senior depth at the striker level few and far between, keep an eye out on Soto as an option to fill that void sooner or later.

Chris Richards (19, Hoover, AL) - Bayern Munich U19, Youth Bundesliga

Leader of the back four: In the absence of newly appointed captain Mark McKenzie (recovering from an injury), Chris Richards led the United States backline in both U-20 games vs. Ukraine and Nigeria. What stood out most to us is that Richards looks ready for play at a higher level. A 6’2” center back, he emerged victorious from nearly every physical battle. Aerial duels were his domain, and even his positioning of the back-line was impressive to us. Moreover, Richards was not afraid to throw himself into tackles when needed or intercept vital balls in any way possible. To summarize his game, Richards provided much needed composure to a young US U-20 squad and never backed away from a tackle. Lastly, his sheer intelligence in terms of knowing when to step up vs. when to hold the line was nothing short of impressive for the 19-year-old Bayern defender.

Opening play from the back: Importantly, his composure and soccer IQ translated to his performance on the ball as well, as Richards was critical in starting the U.S.’s dominant possession play from the back with driven passes into the center of the midfield such as these:

While still very early in Richards’ career, we think he could grow into another promising center back option for the USMNT and add to our already emerging depth in that position.

MLS Spotlight

Jonathan Lewis (21, Plantation, FL) - Colorado Rapids, MLS

Immediate threat for the Rapids; first goal: Our MLS spotlight goes to Jonathan Lewis, who has been a big addition to the Colorado Rapids since moving from NYCFC in early May. In this week’s 3-2 victory over the Columbus Crew, Lewis was one of the main forces on the left flank as he often took on defenders with speed (three completed dribbles) and looked comfortable in link-up play with Rubio and Kamara up front. He crowned his performance by scoring the go-ahead goal for the Rapids just before half with a low driven shot after staying with the play all the way from the center of midfield. This week’s goal marked Lewis’ first for the club in three total appearances.

Consistency the next step: That Jonathan Lewis is a special talent seems undeniable and we know that Berhalter has already taken an interest in the 21 year old. He can take players on 1v1 with speed, he shines through with superior dribbling skills, and since his call-up to the USMNT January Camp earlier this year, he has also made strides with his composure in front of goal. What seems to have been missing from his game is consistency. At NYCFC, he was primarily used as a weapon off the bench (something that we could see Berhalter do in the Gold Cup with him given Lewis’ blistering speed), which severely limited his playing time. With that in mind, for Lewis to become a serious USMNT contender, we think he needs to not only garner consistent minutes but become a consistent threat in front of goal week in and week out in the MLS. And by all that we have seen so far, the Rapids seem to be giving him just that opportunity.

Youth Spotlight

Konrad De La Fuente (17, Miami, FL) - FC Barcelona U19,  Youth Primera Division

Currently at La Masia, the famed Barcelona youth academy, Konrad De La Fuente has turned some heads with his dizzying dribbling skills at the U20 World Cup. Employed on the right wing, De La Fuente has excellent 1v1 skills and strong close control. In the first U-20 WC match against Ukraine, Konrad linked up very well on the right side with Sergino Dest, with the majority of the USA’s passing through those two. His blistering pace makes him a perfect for the wing, though his final product is still lacking - he had a few weak shots and crosses after getting into promising positions. Still, Tab Ramos has started him over some of the other older and talented wingers in the lineup - likely indicative of the raw potential he sees in the young winger. As one of two 17-year-olds in the U-20 squad, we’re excited to see how he grows through the tournament and beyond.

Fun fact, Ruben Marti, a coach at the Marcet Academy in Barcelona, (where Konrad joined at the age of 11) used the Spanish word “desequilibrante” to describe de La Fuente’s ability to destabilize opponents.

See some of his highlights from this season:

OneGoal’s 2022 World Cup Roster as of Today

Note: We are currently in the middle of writing a bigger piece that explains our roster selection in greater detail. As part of the piece, we will likely make 1-2 changes to our current roster based on recent player performances/call-ups. So stay tuned!

Goalkeepers:

  • Zack Steffen (24, Coatesville, PA): Played 90 minutes in Columbus’ 2-3 loss to Colorado Rapids (MLS).

  • Ethan Horvath (23, Highlands Ranch, CO): No game this week - part of provisional Gold Cup roster.

  • Bill Hamid (28, Annandale, VA): Played 90 minutes in DC United’s 1-1 tie vs. New England (MLS).

Defenders:

  • John Anthony Brooks (26, Chicago, IL): No game this week - not part of provisional Gold Cup roster due to injury.  

  • DeAndre Yedlin (25, Seattle, WA): No game this week - not part of provisional Gold Cup roster due to injury.  

  • Antonee Robinson (21, White Plains, NY): No game this week - part of provisional Gold Cup roster.

  • Matt Miazga (23, Clifton, NJ): No game this week- part of provisional Gold Cup roster.

  • Cameron Carter-Vickers (21, Baton Rouge, LA): No game this week - part of provisional Gold Cup roster.

  • Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY): Played 90 minutes in the USA U20s 1-2 loss to Ukraine and played 90 minutes in a 2-0 win vs. Nigeria (U20 World Cup).

  • Aaron Long (26, Oak Hills, CA): Did not play due to injury.

  • Walker Zimmerman (26, Lawrenceville, GA): Played 90 minutes in LAFC’s 4-2 victory vs. Montreal Impact (MLS).

  • Nick Lima (24, Castro Valley, CA): Played 90 minutes in San Jose’s 2-1 win vs. Toronto (MLS).

Midfielders:

  • Tyler Adams (20, Wappingers Falls, NY): Played 65 minutes in RB Leipzig’s 0-3 loss to Bayern Munich (DFB Cup Final).

  • Weston McKennie (20, Little Elm, TX): No game this week- part of provisional Gold Cup roster.

  • Wil Trapp (26, Columbus, OH): Played 90 minutes in Columbus’ 2-3 loss to Colorado (MLS).

  • Duane Holmes (24, Columbus, GA): Did not play in Derby County’s 1-2 loss to Aston Villa due to injury (EPL Play-Off).

  • Kellyn Acosta (23, Plano, TX): Played 90 minutes in Colorado’s 3-2 win vs. Columbus Crew (MLS).

  • Djordje Mihailovic (20, Lemont, IL): Played 90 minutes in Chicago Fire’s 1-1 tie vs. NYCFC (MLS).

Forwards:

  • Christian Pulisic (20, Hershey, PA): No game this week - part of provisional Gold Cup roster.

  • Paul Arriola (24, Chula Vista, CA): Did not play in DC United’s 1-1 tie vs. New England Revolution due to suspension (MLS).

  • Jonathan Amon (20, Summerville, SC): Played 70 minutes in FC Nordsjælland’s 3-1 win vs. FC Kopenhagen (Danish Superliga).

  • Timothy Weah (19, New York, NY): Played 90 minutes in the USA U20’s 1-2 loss to Ukraine and played 87 minutes in a 2-0 win vs. Nigeria (Intl. Friendly).

  • Josh Sargent (19, O’Fallon, MO): No game this week - part of provisional Gold Cup roster.

On the Rise / In the Hunt

  • Corey Baird (23, Escondido, CA), Forward, Real Salt Lake

  • George Bello (17, Douglasville, GA), Defense, Atlanta United

  • Alex Bono (25, Baldwinsville, NY), Goalkeeper, Toronto FC

  • Tyler Boyd (24, Santa Ynez, CA), Forward, MKE Ankaragücü

  • Sean Davis (26, Long Branch, NJ), Midfield, NY Red Bulls

  • Jeremy Ebobisse (22, Bethesda, MD), Forward, Portland Timbers

  • Romain Gall (24, Herndon, VA), Midfield/Forward, Malmo FF

  • Chris Gloster (18, Montclair, NJ), Defense, Hannover 96

  • Richy Ledezma (18, Phoenix, AZ) - Midfield, PSV Eindhoven

  • Jonathan Lewis (21, Plantation, FL), Midfield/Forward, Colorado Rapids

  • Alex Mendez (18, Los Angeles, CA), Midfield, SC Freiburg

  • Andrija Novakovich (22, Muskego, WI) - Fortuna Sittard

  • Erik Palmer-Brown (22, Napoleon, OH), Defense, NAC Breda

  • Paxton Pomykal (19, Lewisville, TX), Midfield, FC Dallas

  • Chris Richards (19, Hoover, AL), Defense, Bayern Munich

  • Sebastian Soto (18, Los Angeles, CA), Forward, Hannover 96

  • Haji Wright (21, Los Angeles, CA), Forward, Schalke 04

News / Transfers

Injury Update

  • John Anthony Brooks (Ligament strain, timeline TBD)

  • George Bello (Adductor injury, expected to miss another 2-3 months)

  • DeAndre Yedlin (Groin surgery; expected to miss the Gold Cup)

  • Aaron Long (Hamstring injury; missed 2 matches)

  • Duane Holmes (Thigh injury; missed EPL play-off final)

In Case You Missed It

DeAndre Yedlin was among the top five fastest players in the Premier League this season at 21.85 mph! Full Top Five List here.

Check out this pass from Alex Mendez:

MLS legend Chris Wondolowski scored his 6th goal in two games this week. He extended his lead at the top of the MLS All Time Leading Goal Scorer chart to 150 goals.