Your Weekly USMNT Update — June 11, 2019

It’s been a busy week between two USMNT teams in action, as the U20 team saw its impressive World Cup campaign come to an end in the quarterfinals vs. Ecuador, while the senior squad took on Jamaica and Venezuela in a final round of preparations ahead of the Gold Cup. But before we get into the U20 and Senior games, we want to provide a few quick comments on the final Gold Cup roster that was announced earlier this week and was met with some hefty criticism in the USMNT community.

Our quick take is fairly simple: we’ve always known that a USMNT transition will take time, but some of the exclusions - mainly Josh Sargent, Jonathan Amon and Cameron Carter-Vickers - are tough to accept. We understand that Berhalter values consistency and wants to build a lasting culture within the team, but what leaves us most excited is our talent among some of the younger players that will hit their prime for the 2022/2026 World Cups. As we’ve said before, our emerging USMNT player pool is perhaps as good as it’s ever been, but at some point Berhalter and his team need to more aggressively integrate those guys into the senior team. With that said, some thoughts on this week’s USMNT action. The positives (U20s) first

U20 vs. France (3-2 Win): In a stunning 3-2 win over France that included coming back from a goal down in the 55th minute, the U20s showed real perseverance against one of the best youth teams in the world. While France admittedly controlled much of the ball, the US was decisive in defense and was able to shock the French in transition with well executed counter attacks via the wingers Ledezma or Sergino Dest, who often joined the attack on the right flank.

As such, it wasn’t surprising to see the US pull ahead from a counter when Ledezma laid a beautiful through ball to Sebastian Soto, who curled the ball past Lafont into the far post for his third goal of the tournament. A bit shocked by the concession, France responded with a counter attack of their own before scoring again after putting intense pressure on the US defense at the start of the second half. In perhaps the most difficult period of the game for the United States, it was Timothy Weah who provided a moment of brilliance to find Sebastian Soto with a skillful pass, who did not miss from point blank range. The victory was emphatically secured after super sub Rennicks smashed a spilled rebound into the roof of the net. 

Overall, the U20s were inferior to France’s possession game, but the resilience they showed to come back from being down a goal, a few moments of brilliance, and clinical finishing in front of goal surely signals that our U20s can compete with the best players of the world. 

Among the top performers of the match were Richy Ledezma, Sebastian Soto, Sergino Dest, and Rennicks (for his game-winning goal).

U20 vs. Ecuador (1-2 Loss): Both teams had tough journeys, defeating favorites of the competition to get through to the second stage of the knockout rounds. From the start of the match, the U20s seemed to be on their heels a bit, maybe a bit overwhelmed by the occasion. There were many mistakes made trying to pass forward out of the back, which Ecuador failed to capitalize on. Ecuador punished the USA’s shakiness with a bullet shot from Cifuentes after he was given acres of space outside the box. Timothy Weah continuously pushed the US forward by feeding Soto and aggressively taking on defenders. His persistence was rewarded after he latched on a loose ball in the box after a corner, but Ecuador regained the lead soon after on a close offside tap in. Besides a missed Soto chance to level the score, the US seemed to lack fitness and creativity to build a comeback. 

All in all, we can be proud of what this U20 team achieved in Poland. As exciting as a victory would have been, at the junior level, results are hardly ever the end all be all.

Instead, we can take away the excitement of seeing young USMNT players show grit and determination, possess the ball out of the back, and beat some of the best of the world’s best talents. Without a doubt, US Youth soccer is on the rise. 

Now to the Senior team, which left us feeling the exact opposite of our U20s.

USMNT vs. Jamaica (0-1 Loss): The senior team started its week of friendlies with a sobering 0-1 loss to Jamaica, in what can be considered an “experimental” game ahead of the Gold Cup that saw several debuts, including Duane Holmes and Jackson Yueill. Let’s be honest, there was not much to write home about during this game, as Berhalter’s usual possession-oriented style was far from effective against a well organized Jamaican side that proved tough to break down. On the other hand, the USMNT seemed sluggish in transition and did not press the Jamaican players hard enough. This ultimately led to the only goal of the game when Shamar Nicholson fired a cracking long range effort into the USMNT net after having been afforded too much space at the top of the box. The one bright spot on the night was Duane Holmes, who provided some spark on offense for the 20+ minutes he was minutes on the field. We get it - we were hesitant to put too much stock into the result of this game, as the match was frequently interrupted with subsitions and it was far from an “A” team…but then came the loss vs. Venezuela.

USMNT vs. Venezuela (0-3 Loss): An embarrassing performance that no one saw coming, the senior team’s shocking loss to Venezuela was riddled with defensive errors and a collective lack of effort. Berhalter lined up with a 4-1-4-1 formation, starting Tyler Boyd and bringing in Aaron Long on a return from injury. Nick Lima stepped in at right back while Wil Trapp slotted into the 6 role and Zardes lead the line.

From the get go, the US seemed a bit slow and casual, with Venezuela moving the ball more quickly and aggressively. For a team that has never made a World Cup, the Venezuelans made some of the senior team members look like amateurs as they pounced on several mental lapses to pull a 3-0 lead just 36 minutes into the match. Zack Steffen’s errant pass straight to a Venezuelan player was his second misplaced pass out of the back in as many games and was quickly followed by Miazga running way out of position to challenge a throw in. Miazga’s run left a void in his normal marking space, and highlighted the lack of communication between USMNT players during the game, which became a theme. The third goal was a result of a long ball across a stretched backline, leaving Aaron Long 1v1 with Salomon Rondon. The Newcastle striker shrugged off Long first to get within feet of Steffen’s net and then took his time to shoot, blasting the ball between Long’s legs. The California native was at fault for simply too long to react and backing off when a striker was dangerously close to goal. 

For the most part, the second half was a drag that continued a pattern of slow, lateral ball movement, with the only sparks being a few more decent Boyd crosses and some drive from Duane Holmes. Two bad Arriola misses capped off a forgettable performance from the USMNT, who will be grateful that their first Gold Cup match is up against a Guyanese team that is ranked 175th in the world and is playing in their first ever Gold Cup. Big picture, while some of the inexcusable defensive errors were obvious, the most frustrating part of the performance was the lack of urgency in possession. As a whole, we simply took too long to keep the ball moving and thus made it easy for Venezuela to defend. While likely in part due to player selection (and we get it, we did miss several of our best players) and in part due to Berhalter’s complex tactical system, the poor showings against Jamaica and Venezuela (by no means soccer powerhouses) solidify what we have been saying for quite some time: we need to integrate our Youth more aggressively. The talent is clearly there, it’s time we see them get a shot at the biggest stage.

Lastly, a quick plug for our recent deep dive into the broader USMNT player pool. We’ve broken down the current and future pipeline on our way to 2022 in great detail. See our full piece here, and any feedback would be greatly appreciated.  And 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

Duane Holmes (24, Columbus, GA) - Derby County, Championship

In all honesty, we struggled to come up with a “star” of the week, given the disappointing performances at the senior level, but if there was one bright spot to point out, it has to be Duane Holmes.

Man of the match vs. Jamaica in just 20 minutes: After covering Holmes’s performances for the majority of the Derby County season, we all finally got to see him in the red, white, and blue. Holmes brought the same tenacity needed to compete in the English Championship to the pitch against Jamaica, pressing high on defenders and making driven first time passes - something that was clearly lacking prior to his inclusion. While Holmes is clearly a fighter in the middle of the park, he also adds much needed creativity in the final third. In the game against Jamaica, he showed this ability numerous times as he often found the wingers out wide with driven passes. Not surprisingly, one of the best USMNT chances on the night was also created by Duane Holmes - after winning the ball at the back post following a corner kick., he found Josh Sargent at the penalty spot with a great cut-back pass under pressure.

He simply has to start against Guyana, hopefully in place of Cristian Roldan who barely contributed anything. Not sure how many other USMNT players can hit through balls like this:

Holmes had been struggling with a thigh injury at the end of the season for Derby, which might be a reason why he didn’t start either of the international friendlies. His explosive style of play is certainly physically tasking, but a refreshing addition to this USMNT side. Regardless, he needs to be supplying Pulisic and Altidore in the Gold Cup if the US is going to have any chance of winning games in the latter stages of the tournament.

Some highlights from his debut against Jamaica:

Other Notable Performances

Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY) - Ajax Amsterdam, Eredivisie

Much more sound defensively: In both U20s game this week, Sergino Dest was among the best performers, putting in shifts at right back, both going forward and in the back in two tough games. Usually standing out for his blistering pace and ability to link with wingers, Dest especially showed his defensive capabilities this week, making several key interceptions and last ditch challenges to break down counter attacks. One of the recurring weaknesses in the US team has been lack of fitness and physicality down the stretch, but Dest was a refreshing counterpart to this, as he continued to make vital tackles in the closing minutes of both games. While not always flawless on defense (notably in the first half vs. Ecuador), Dest more than made up for some positional deficiencies with his strides forward on the right hand flank, in partnership with Konrad de la Fuente and Timothy Weah.

With our thin depth at full back at the senior level (and we see Adams mostly as a holding mid), we wouldn't be surprised to see Dest get included in a Senior camp sooner rather than later.

Dest’s highlights against France:

Tyler Boyd (24, Santa Ynez, CA) - Vitória de Guimarães, Primeira Liga

A hopeful debut; a new dimension for the USMNT in the final third: After securing approval for a one time switch from New Zealand to the United States, Tyler Boyd got his first start for the USMNT against Venezuela. Though the US looked pretty weak moving the ball through the middle, on the wings, Boyd whipped in several dangerous crosses and proved to be one of the few sparks in an otherwise lackluster performance. More than anything, Boyd brings something to the table that has proved largely elusive at the senior level in recent games: an ability and willingness to take on defenders 1v1. A hallmark trait for Boyd is to cut open the opponent’s defense with driven runs in behind the back-line and cutting back into the center with the ball at his feet. While we only saw a few glimpses of this quality against Venezuela, we think it’s already safe to say that he brings another (much needed) element to the final third for the USMNT.

Immediately taking control on set pieces: It was interesting to note that in his first game, he automatically became the main set piece taker, swinging in corners from both sides, as well as long distance free kicks. Most of his corners curled in and around the penalty spot, which could have been more dangerous if his teammates anticipated the delivery and started their runs deeper. Boyd has been in great form this season in Turkey and utilizes his natural speed and sharp shooting to bolster attacks from the wing. With Berhalter leaving out some notable names of the attackers, we hope that Tyler can make a huge impact starting in the Gold Cup.

MLS Spotlight

Paxton Pomykal (19, Lewisville, TX) - FC Dallas, MLS

The MLS had a pretty light week in terms of matches played, so let’s shift our MLS spotlight  to Paxton Pomykal who was one of the best American players at the U20 World Cup. Arguably the top performer on FC Dallas this season, Pomykal captained the U20s to a strong run in the tournament. Pomykal’s engine made him a relentless force in the midfield, running his socks off in every single game. While this admittedly took away from his offensive spark at times, it was a crucial role to assume that not only showed his leadership abilities, but also underscored his grit on the field. One of the more intriguing matchups was Pomykal going up against the monstrous Dan-Axel Zagadou (France) who often pushed into the midfield in the round of 16 matchup. Paxton closed down Zagadou everytime he was on the ball, nipping at his heels, sliding on the ground, and putting his body on the line against a player who had nearly a foot of height on him. Pomykal’s incredible work rate in American colors should teach some of the senior players a lesson or two.

PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Youth Spotlight

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

Our Youth Spotlight goes to Chris Richards, who we believe was the best US player throughout the U20 World Cup. A leader of the back line, not afraid to get stuck into a tackle, composed at playing the ball out of the back, and physically superior - Chris Richards showed all of the qualities needed to make it at a higher level. Speaking of higher level, Richards recently got promoted from Bayern’s U19 squad to the Bayern II team, which competes in the third German division (highest division permissible for a German reserve team). With Bayern in the midst of a roster overhaul, that reignites some focus on younger players, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see Richards in the contention for senior minutes soon. Keep an eye out on this guy.

OneGoal’s 2022 World Cup Roster as of Today

Note: After a detailed roster analysis (see our piece here), we have added Tyler Boyd and Paxton Pomykal to our roster in place  of Walker Zimmerman and Kellyn Acosta.

Goalkeepers:

  • Zack Steffen (24, Coatesville, PA): Played 90 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica and played 90 minutes in a 0-3 loss to Venezuela (Intl. Friendly).

  • Ethan Horvath (24, Highlands Ranch, CO): Did not play due to injury.

  • Bill Hamid (28, Annandale, VA): Did not play this week - no game for DC United and not part of the Gold Cup roster (MLS).

Defenders:

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

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

  • Antonee Robinson (21, White Plains, NY): Played 80 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica (Intl. Friendly).

  • Matt Miazga (23, Clifton, NJ): Played 72 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica and played 90 minutes in a 0-3 loss to Venezuela (Intl. Friendly).

  • Cameron Carter-Vickers (21, Baton Rouge, LA):  Played 18 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica (Intl. Friendly).

  • Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY): Played 90 minutes in the USA U20s 3-2 win vs. France and played 90 minutes in a 1-2 loss to Ecuador (U20 World Cup).

  • Aaron Long (26, Oak Hills, CA): Played 45 minutes in the USA’s 0-3 loss to Venezuela (Intl. Friendly).

  • Nick Lima (24, Castro Valley, CA): Played 31 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica and played 90 minutes in 0-3 loss to Venezuela (Intl. Friendly).

Midfielders:

  • Tyler Adams (20, Wappingers Falls, NY): Did not play this week- part of Gold Cup roster.

  • Weston McKennie (20, Little Elm, TX): Played 62 minutes in the USA’s 0-3 loss to Venezuela (Intl. Friendly).

  • Wil Trapp (26, Columbus, OH): Played 90 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica and played 90 minutes in a 0-3 loss to Venezuela (Intl. Friendly).

  • Duane Holmes (24, Columbus, GA): Played 24 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica and played 28 minutes in a 0-3 loss to Venezuela (Intl. Friendly).

  • Paxton Pomykal (19, Lewisville, TX): Played 90 minutes in the USA U20s 3-2 win vs. France and played 90 minutes in a 1-2 loss to Ecuador (U20 World Cup).

  • Djordje Mihailovic (20, Lemont, IL): Played 90 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica (Intl. Friendly).

Forwards:

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

  • Paul Arriola (24, Chula Vista, CA): Played 72 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica and played 90 minutes in a 0-3 loss to Venezuela (Intl. Friendly).

  • Jonathan Amon (20, Summerville, SC): Played 31 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica (Intl. Friendly).

  • Tyler Boyd (24, Santa Ynez, CA): Played 28 minutes in the USA’s 0-3 loss to Venezuela (Intl. Friendly).

  • Timothy Weah (19, New York, NY): Played 90 minutes in the USA U20s 3-2 win vs. France and played 90 minutes in a 1-2 loss to Ecuador (U20 World Cup).

  • Josh Sargent (19, O’Fallon, MO): Played 90 minutes in the USA’s 0-1 loss to Jamaica (Intl. Friendly).

On the Rise / In the Hunt

  • Kellyn Acosta (23, Plano, TX), Midfield, Colorado Rapids

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

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

  • 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

  • Walker Zimmerman (26, Lawrenceville, GA), Defense, LAFC

News / Transfers

Injury Update

  • John Anthony Brooks (Ligament strain, missing Gold Cup)

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

  • DeAndre Yedlin (Groin surgery; missing Gold Cup)

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