Your Weekly USMNT Update — June 25, 2019
The USMNT has had an emphatic start to the Gold Cup, scoring 10 goals unanswered in the first two matches against Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago. Without a doubt, these are teams that the USA should easily take care of, but with the shaky performances in the previous friendlies and the history with T&T - the wide-margin victories were a sigh of relief for many American fans. The caliber of opponents is sure to get tougher as the USMNT approaches the later stages of the tournament, but the game against T&T leaves us excited for more.
A couple of thoughts on the games:
Staying true to possession style: Berhalter stayed true to his tactical system that places a strong emphasis on dominating possession. This was especially apparent in the second half vs. Trinidad where the USMNT finally showed some fluidity to its game as Nick Lima often made runs in behind T&T’s back line and offered an additional outlet out wide. Further, after looking a bit shaky against Guyana, the team looked comfortable at building the play from the back, a hallmark trait of Berhalter’s teams.
Hybrid no more? At least flexibility was there: One of our key questions ahead of the Gold Cup - can and will Berhalter tweak his tactical system when things don’t go as planned? Our answer: it seems so. While Lima continued to try and drift into the center of midfield at times (to create a positional advantage in the center), more often that not, Lima stayed out wide and got forward on the wing, allowing Boyd to cut into the center. This exact sequence let to a tap in goal for Zardes after Bradley found Lima on the right wing with a nice through pass:
Not only does this flexibility make the USMNT less predictable on offense but it also shows that Berhalter is able to deviate from his original vision- crucial for success at the international level, in our view.
The team looks different with Pulisic: Christian Pulisic showed once again why he is the undeniable star of the USMNT at just 20 years old! His ability to take on defenders 1v1 is unmatched and always creates an element of surprise in the final third. His ability to draw in several defenders when he is on the ball opens up valuable space for his teammates to attack - something that is often overlooked. After finding his way into the game, he absolutely embraced the role as the USMNT’s main creator and was a constant torment for a struggling T&T back line.
Consistency can pay off: Surely a double edged sword, but Berhalter stayed true to his starting XI two games in a row and his trust in his players was rewarded. The link up play between Pulisic and Arriola visibly improved the more minutes they spent together on the pitch, Tyler Boyd looks increasingly comfortable in the lineup, and Aaron Long - one of the weaker links vs. Guyana and during the friendlies - repaid Berhalter’s trust with a commanding performance in the back and two goals against Trinidad.
We are excited about the T&T Display but Guyana serves as another warning sign: Our takeaways from the Trinidad game are clearly overwhelmingly positive, but in light of some of the disappointing friendlies, it has to be said that not everything was great against Guyana - a team that (with all due respect) fielded few international caliber players. Specifically, the USMNT was too slow and careless in possession, often making it easy for Guyana to close down passing lanes and cutting off service to the wings or strikers. Yes, the victory was never truly in danger, but even that game underscored how slow Berhalter’s possession game can be through the center backs/Bradley, the reliance on Pulisic to provide something special in the final third, or hoping that Boyd creates something out of nothing. The fact that McKennie and Arriola combined for the go-ahead goal was important for the team and something we need to see more of against better teams. As much responsibility as Pulisic has already taken on, he can’t do it alone.
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Star of the Week
Christian Pulisic (20, Hershey, PA) - Chelsea FC, Premier League
For the first time in his career, Christian Pulisic is the key player for the US in a competitive tournament. This Gold Cup presents the opportunity for him to become the most important leader on the pitch for red, white & blue and after two games, Pulisic is flying. With a goal and two assists in a man of the match performance against Trinidad, Pulisic showed his star quality through moments of individual brilliance. Whether it was pretty 1v1 skill moves, pinpoint crosses or blistering dribbling through several defenders, Pulisic had a dominating presence in both games.
Sitting behind Zardes in a “number 10” role, Christian roamed freely and often found himself on the left wing regardless of his team sheet position. He seemed to drift there out of instinct and applied plenty of pressure on the left and center backs of both opponents who could not cope with his speed and skills. He mentioned that he was playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder in the Trinidad match, fueled by his raw emotions in the 2017 loss. As the tournament continues, we want to see Pulisic channel more of that energy and continue driving the USA to glory.
Pulisic’s performance vs Trinidad & Tobago:
Pulisic's skill vs. Guyana:
Pulisic's nutmeg vs. T&T:
Other Notable Performances
Weston McKennie (20, Little Elm, TX) - Schalke 04, Bundesliga
After a slower start against Venezuela and Guyana, Weston McKennie came alive with a superb performance against T&T. Weston’s engine drove him all over the pitch as he worked on both ends of the ball, breaking up T&T counters by tackling tough and consistently linking up with Paul Arriola. McKennie’s attitude in this match showed the grit and hunger to win that many of his teammates were lacking for several matches. He even earned a yellow card after he sprinted across the pitch to defend Gyasi Zardes, who had gotten into a shoving contest with some of the visibly frustrated T&T players. It is this fighter attitude that sets McKennie apart from the rest of the team and something that the USMNT desperately needed. In fact, the 20-year-old Schalke midfielder’s aggression reminds us a bit of another former USMNT Schalke player: Jermaine Jones. His game wasn’t always pretty, but if McKennie can continue to serve as the aggressor in the center of the park, he will soon establish himself as an invaluable box to box player alongside Christian Pulisic.
Aside from his physicality and grit, McKennie also showcased his passing skills - something that he had been criticized for in previous games - hitting several perfectly weighted passes in the final third across the two Gold Cup games. In fact, one of those passes led to the opening goal against Guyana, as McKennie popped up on the left wing and split the defense with a through ball to Paul Arriola who stayed composed in front of goal.
We continue to believe his style of play favors him in a deeper role as a ball winner, but his versatility and proven skills also make him a viable option for the attacking third.
All of McKennie’s touches vs T&T:
Tyler Boyd (24, Santa Ynez, CA) - Vitória de Guimarães, Primeira Liga
The most consistent player across the two games in our view, Tyler Boyd showed that he can be a consistent threat off the wing and fill the role of a much needed winger with a drive to goal that the USMNT needed. Even in the game vs. Guyana where the USMNT was not always creating chances from open play, Boyd was able to create something out of nothing by driving at defenders and taking a strike from distance. More than that, Boyd stood out with dangerous runs in behind the opponent’s back-line in both games, adding a vertical element to the USMNT game when in possession. In fact, those driven runs led Boyd to produce several dangerous crosses across the face of the goal, something that had been missing from the USMNT game for some time.
If there is one weakness in Boyd’s arsenal, it seems to be his decision making. The winger tends to favor a strike on goal from virtually any position, at times at the expense of slotting in teammates in a more favorable position. However, all in all, Boyd (who has drawn interest from Turkish top club Besiktas in recent weeks) is a much needed spark in the final third for the USMNT and one of the clear winners of the Gold Cup so far, after his two goals against Guyana.
Aaron Long (26, Oak Hills, CA) - New York Red Bulls, MLS
The former USL and MLS Defender of the Year has had quite a rise in the past three years. From being cut by the Portland Timbers as a defensive midfielder to captaining the USMNT under Berhalter, Aaron Long underpinned why the head coach trusts him to lead with a two goal performance against T&T. Though Long did have some suspect moments in the friendlies prior to the tournament, Berhalter has stuck with Long (preferring him over Matt Miazga) and Long repaid his trust with a strong performance against T&T. While he was admittedly unchallenged for a majority of the game, Long and Zimmerman looked comfortable in the back, were positionally aware, dominated aerial duels, and most importantly, Long vastly improved at opening the play from the back by finding Michael Bradley or one of the wingers as outlets.
Solid in the back, Long also found himself on the scoresheet twice, as he clearly had a license to break into the T&T box to try and take advantage of physical mismatches. This game plan clearly worked out as Long was able to outmuscle his opponents on two occasions and bury the ball from close range. We’ve always known that the likes of McKennie, Long, and Zimmerman can pose serious threats on set pieces given their aerial abilities, so it was good to see the USMNT take advantage of these situations. While overwhelmingly positive on the night, in order to remain a mainstay in the starting XI, we continue to believe that Long needs to regain some of his from defensively - something we will be looking for against quality opponents later in the tournament.
Paul Arriola (24, Chula Vista, CA) - DC United, MLS
Paul Arriola shifted into a second gear this group stage. Some of his missed chances against Venezuela were unlucky, but he made no mistake with a sweet curled finish and an assist against Guyana. In both games, Arriola’s use of space on the wings and overlaps added another dimension going forward. Specifically in the second half against T&T, the California native was creating chance after chance, spurning some, but finally converting a tap in after hopping ahead of his marking defender. Arriola’s stamina and energy kept him going throughout the match - the consistency of the threat on the wings is one of the reasons why both opponents caved in the second half of each game.
Paul Arriola is beginning to solidify his case for being a starter for the USMNT instead of a second choice. Still some way to go if the entire squad is fully fit, but his form for DC United this season and his consistent output in the two Gold Cup games makes him a must have for the rest of the tournament.
Jeremy Ebobisse (22, Bethesda, MD) - Portland Timbers, MLS
Jeremy Ebobisse notched his fifth goal of the season with a wonderful far post curler to seal a 4-0 victory for the Portland Timbers over the Houston Dynamo. Ebobisse, who must feel a bit left out from the senior USMNT team, has had a turn of form recently, nabbing an assist in his last match as well. Employed on the left wing, Ebobisse made surging runs throughout the match and kept a cool 81% pass accuracy too. Early in the game, he nearly pulled an assist for Fernandez after he played a delicately lofted ball into the box which the striker was unable to convert off of. Ebobisse’s goal was the exclamation point on a great win for Portland who have been struggling this season, but Ebobisse linking with star striker Fernandez is beginning to show some serious promise.
Beautiful lofted ball:
Travian Sousa (18, Lathrop, CA) - Hamburg SV, 2. Bundesliga
Over the past week, Hamburg SV of the German second division announced the signature of Sacramento FC player Travian Sousa. Sousa will join the U19 squad of Hamburg after spending 3 years at various youth clubs in Northern California. Sousa has been referenced to have both defensive and offensive qualities, and perhaps will slot into a wingback position for Hamburg.
Hamburg fielded the youngest squad in the entire 2. Bundesliga, so look for Sousa to get a chance with the first team soon!
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!
Zack Steffen (24, Coatesville, PA): Played 90 minutes in the USMNT’s 4-0 win vs. Guyana and played 90 minutes in the USMNT’s 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup).
Ethan Horvath (24, Highlands Ranch, CO): Did not play this week - recovering from injury.
Bill Hamid (28, Annandale, VA): Did not play this week.
John Anthony Brooks (26, Chicago, IL): Did not play this week - recovering from injury.
DeAndre Yedlin (25, Seattle, WA): Did not play this week - recovering from injury.
Antonee Robinson (21, White Plains, NY): Did not play this week - no game this week and not part of the Gold Cup roster.
Matt Miazga (23, Clifton, NJ): Did not play this week - but part of the Gold Cup roster.
Cameron Carter-Vickers (21, Baton Rouge, LA): Did not play this week - no game this week and not part of the Gold Cup roster.
Sergino Dest (18, New York, NY): Did not play this week - no game this week and not part of the Gold Cup roster.
Aaron Long (26, Oak Hills, CA): Played 90 minutes in the USMNT’s 4-0 win vs. Guyana and played 90 minutes in the USMNT’s 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup).
Nick Lima (24, Castro Valley, CA): Played 90 minutes in the USMNT’s 4-0 win vs. Guyana and played 87 minutes in the USMNT’s 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup).
Tyler Adams (20, Wappingers Falls, NY): Did not play this week - recovering from injury.
Weston McKennie (20, Little Elm, TX): Played 74 minutes in the USMNT’s 4-0 win vs. Guyana and played 87 minutes in the USMNT’s 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup).
Wil Trapp (26, Columbus, OH): Played 38 minutes in the USMNT’s 4-0 win vs. Guyana but did not play in the USMNT’s 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup).
Duane Holmes (24, Columbus, GA): Did not play this week - recovering from injury.
Paxton Pomykal (19, Lewisville, TX): Played 90 minutes in FC Dallas’ 3-0 victory vs. Toronto FC (MLS).
Djordje Mihailovic (20, Lemont, IL): Played 16 minutes in the USMNT’s 4-0 win vs. Guyana but did not play in the USMNT’s 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup).
Christian Pulisic (20, Hershey, PA): Played 63 minutes in the USMNT’s 4-0 win vs. Guyana and played 90 minutes in the USMNT’s 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup).
Paul Arriola (24, Chula Vista, CA): Played 90 minutes in the USMNT’s 4-0 win vs. Guyana and played 90 minutes in the USMNT’s 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup).
Tyler Boyd (24, Santa Ynez, CA): Played 90 minutes in the USMNT’s 4-0 win vs. Guyana and played 61 minutes in the USMNT’s 6-0 vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Gold Cup).
Jonathan Amon (20, Summerville, SC): Did not play this week - no game this week and not part of the Gold Cup roster.
Timothy Weah (19, New York, NY): Did not play this week - no game this week and not part of the Gold Cup roster.
Josh Sargent (19, O’Fallon, MO): Did not play this week - no game this week and not part of the Gold Cup roster.
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
Travian Sousa has officially signed a contract with Hamburger SV after spending some time on trial with the team in Germany.
Andrew Wooten has officially transferred from Sandhausen in the 2. Bundesliga to the Philadelphia Union.
Timothy Weah has been rumored to join French club Lille for a $10 million+ fee.
Tyler Boyd has reportedly drawn interest from Turkish-side Beskitas Istanbul. In talks are a transfer fee of around $2 million.
Wigan Athletic has made an offer to purchase Antonee Robinson from Everton, after Robinson has impressed at Wigan on loan last season.
Christian Pulisic has noted that he does not plan to take much time off after the Gold Cup, so he gets to join his new Chelsea teammates early and compete for a spot in Chelsea’s starting XI.
Michael Edwards, a young US center back is getting the chance to train with Wolfsburg’s first team this pre-season alongside John Brooks.
Sergino Dest has been called up to train with Ajax Amsterdam’s senior team this pre-season.
USMNT Gold Cup matches this week:
Wednesday (9 PM EST) vs. Panama (FS1, Univision Deportes)
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
We have recently launched our contributor’s corner, where readers can publish articles with their takes on all USMNT topics. See here for our first few published articles!