Your Weekly USMNT Update — June 18, 2019

It’s finally here. The first competitive tournament for Gregg Berhalter begins tonight at 10 PM EST against Guyana at the Allianz Arena in Minnesota (FS1, Univision Deportes). With a lot of questions around squad selections and recent performances, the USMNT’s performance in the Gold Cup will be a true test for the squad and could potentially define Berhalter’s tenure at the helm.

Here is a little preview of what we think are the biggest points ahead of the 2019 Gold Cup.

  • Possession Dominance: Berhalter likes to dominate the game in possession, often building up controlled attacks, starting with distribution from the center backs into the midfield. That’s also why we see the RB shift to a CM position when we have to ball - to create a numerical advantage in the center of the park. While this system looked promising during the January and March camps, in recent friendlies, lack of movement in between lines caused the US game to stagnate and lack an element of surprise offensively. Can the US move the ball quickly enough against quality opponents later on in the tournament? Further, with injuries to key midfielders requiring last minute roster changes, will players like Djordje Mihailovic and Nick Lima (starting RB to CM) be able to step up?

  • Can the team adjust tactically? If Berhalter’s possession game plan fails to create enough chances, will the USMNT be able to switch their tactical setup mid-game? Both Jamaica and Venezuela focused on limiting the spaces deep in their own half against the USMNT when they were attacking, creating this exact problem. As we all know, this completely stifled our options in the final third and it seemed like Berhalter had no return punch to this tactic. What’s the Plan B? Perhaps the squad could shift to a more traditional 4-3-3 that sees both full backs join the attack, driving the ball out wide and giving the wingers the freedom to roam and make additional runs to supplement the central striker, leaving more options for the midfield to find a deadly pass up top.

  • Limiting defensive errors: Against Venezuela, the team made several major defensive errors, including inexcusable giveaways in our own half. Clearly, the mentality of the players was not in tune with the aggressiveness that Venezuela brought. Zack Steffen, Tim Ream, Matt Miazga, and Aaron Long were all culpable at times throughout the match. This is a bit worrisome, as they are considered the defensive leaders in the squad with Brooks and Adams unavailable. While we aren’t playing the world’s best teams during this Gold Cup, limiting defensive errors is a necessity to make a deep run. Berhalter should be able to channel the negative energy from the last two results into a “wake up call” for players who have it in their abilities to be solid at the back against this level of competition.

  • Who will provide spark in the final third? Many USMNT fans are absolutely gutted to know that Duane Holmes will not be a part of the Gold Cup roster due to injury. Replacing him is Djordje Mihailovic of the Chicago Fire, who has had some stellar performances this season, but looked uninspiring against Jamaica. We fully expect that the brunt of USMNT creativity going forward will fall on the shoulders of Christian Pulisic. Listed as a midfielder in the Gold Cup roster, he will most likely play one of the playmaker positions behind the striker, with a license to drift out to the flanks. He scored from this position against Chile in March, but we’re not yet convinced that this is the most fruitful place on the pitch for him. Hopefully, Tyler Boyd can step up and provide a spark that was missing in recent USMNT outings.

With the majority of European leagues in the off season and MLS having fewer games this week, our spotlights will focus on one standout MLS player and a youth player who has looked really sharp in the USL this season. We close out this newsletter with the Top Five USMNT moments in the Gold Cup.

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

MLS Spotlight

Keaton Parks (21, Plano, TX) - NYCFC, MLS

Best Performance of the Season: Keaton Parks scored a brace in NYCFC’s 4-0 victory over North Carolina FC in the US Open Cup this past week. Parks, a midfielder on loan from Benfica in Portugal, is physically powerful, tall (6’4”) player who has an eye for runs into the box. Though he has only seen limited minutes this season, his standout performance against USL opposition should earn some more time. Against NCFC, he used his height to nod in a cross and also finished off a quick counter from NYCFC by making a driving run through the middle and maintaining an eye on the defensive line to stay on side. He coolly finished to the bottom right corner, underscoring his composure in front of goal.

In his two seasons with Benfica B (also had six appearances for first team), Parks had seven goals and seven assists in 42 games. Parks has one USMNT senior cap, playing 29 minutes against Bolivia in May 2018 and has represented the U23s as well. Parks has only tallied 55 minutes for NYCFC in substitute appearances, but his double-goal performance in the Open Cup should surely earn him some more time.

Youth Spotlight

Ricardo Pepi (16, El Paso, TX) - FC Dallas, MLS

What were you doing when you were 16? Ricardo Pepi was penning a contract with a professional team and scoring a hattrick in his USL debut. He then continued to go on scoring seven goals in six appearances for North Texas SC. For a 6’1” striker, Ricardo is surprisingly mobile and has impressive distribution skills. He is fully capable of spraying cross-field passes, something more akin to a holding midfielder. Another American striker with a high ceiling, youth coaches from Texas commend him for being mature beyond his years, down to earth and “coachable.”

Pepi has been in U17 camps for both USA and Mexico, but has appeared five times for the USMNT U17 squad. A bit of a meteoric rise, Pepi just signed a top division contract with FC Dallas on a short term loan to get minutes in the US Open Cup. Dallas is well known for giving youth a chance, so hopefully Pepi can get some more minutes and sign a full term contract.

Pepi’s performance in his professional debut:

The Five Greatest Moments in Gold Cup History

With Berhalter’s first chance for silverware just around the corner, we thought it would be interesting to roll back the years and take a look at the USA’s greatest achievements in the Gold Cup.

To start us off, we go back 17 years…

5) Gold Cup Final, Jeff Agoos’s Game Winning Freekick (2002)

In the final against Costa Rica, the USA had already taken the lead through a Josh Wolff goal at halftime. Agoos sealed the glory with a beautiful curling free kick. Agoos currently serves as the Vice President of Competition for Major League Soccer.

Extra: One of the most epic hairstyles in USMNT history?

Jeff Agoos Hair.jpg

4) Landon Donovan’s Semifinal Heroics vs Honduras (2013)

USMNT legend Landon Donovan doubled the USA’s lead and claimed the victory against Honduras in the Gold Cup semifinal. His two goal performance typified his clutchness, as he earned the Golden Ball for the tournament. The Stars and Stripes would go on to win the Cup, defeating Panama 1-0 in the final.

First Goal:

Second Goal:

3) Jordan Morris’s late Gold Cup Clincher (2017)

With the match locked up 1-1 against Cinderella story underdogs, Jamaica, Jordan Morris scored a dramatic game-winner in the 88th minute to clinch the USA’s sixth Gold Cup. The US had been pushing throughout the entire match but left it late for Morris to clean up.

Goal:

2)  Kasey Keller shuts out Brazil (1998)

The epitome of American goalkeeping legends, Kasey Keller, pulled off one of the best individual performances in USMNT history with a shutout against eventual World Cup champion Brazil. Keller had 10 saves against a merciless Brazilian attack, with Brazilian hero Romario even claiming, “That is the best performance by a goalkeeper I have ever seen.” The USA would eventually lose in the final against Mexico 1-0.

Highlights of his performance:

1) Benny Feilhaber epic volley crushes Mexico to win (2007)

The chance for redemption against Mexico in the final would have to wait 9 years. The red, white and blue faced off against their bitter rivals for Gold Cup glory, looking to avenge the 1998 loss. After going down a goal, a Donovan PK leveled the score before Benny Feilhaber pulled this brilliance out of thin air…

Clearly, one of the most exciting, awe-inspiring and skillful moments in ALL of USMNT history, we will never forget the pure joy of beating Mexico with a volley like that. Thanks Benny.

Benny Gold Cup.jpg

OneGoal’s 2022 World Cup Roster as of Today

Note: We have received a lot of feedback and requests to explain our choices for our selections in our roster. We wrote a deep dive article providing reasoning behind all our choices, complete with an analysis of Berhalter’s tactics. Find it here!

Given none of our players were in competitive games this week, there are no updates after their names.

Goalkeepers:

  • Zack Steffen (24, Coatesville, PA)

  • Ethan Horvath (24, Highlands Ranch, CO)

  • Bill Hamid (28, Annandale, VA)

Defenders:

  • John Anthony Brooks (26, Chicago, IL)

  • DeAndre Yedlin (25, Seattle, WA)

  • Antonee Robinson (21, White Plains, NY)

  • Matt Miazga (23, Clifton, NJ)

  • Cameron Carter-Vickers (21, Baton Rouge, LA)

  • Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY)

  • Aaron Long (26, Oak Hills, CA)

  • Nick Lima (24, Castro Valley, CA)

Midfielders:

  • Tyler Adams (20, Wappingers Falls, NY)

  • Weston McKennie (20, Little Elm, TX)

  • Wil Trapp (26, Columbus, OH)

  • Duane Holmes (24, Columbus, GA)

  • Paxton Pomykal (19, Lewisville, TX)

  • Djordje Mihailovic (20, Lemont, IL)

Forwards:

  • Christian Pulisic (20, Hershey, PA)

  • Paul Arriola (24, Chula Vista, CA)

  • Jonathan Amon (20, Summerville, SC)

  • Tyler Boyd (24, Santa Ynez, CA)

  • Timothy Weah (19, New York, NY)

  • Josh Sargent (19, O’Fallon, MO)

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 1-2 months)

  • DeAndre Yedlin (Groin surgery; missing Gold Cup)

  • Duane Holmes (Thigh injury; missing Gold Cup)

  • Tyler Adams (Groin injury; missing Gold Cup, 6-8 weeks)

  • Ethan Horvath (Hand injury; missing Gold Cup)

In Case You Missed It

The MLS released its annual report of player’s salaries. The post includes a searchable list of every player’s guaranteed compensation this season. Some of the numbers are staggering. Overall, MLS player salaries have grown 150% on average since 2014.

MLS is one of the few leagues that does this type of salary report. In this Athletic article, several MLS players pull the curtain back on how awkward the report can be between players.

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