US MEN vs HONDURAS TONIGHT 7 pm on CBS SN MUST WIN SCENARIO
For the first time in over a year – the US Men’s National team will take the field in a meaningful competition for CONCACAF bragging rights. The US faces Honduras Tonight at 7:30 pm on CBS Sports Network and Univision for the semi-finals of the Nations Cup. Mexico faces Costa Rica at 10 pm on Univision setting up what is expected to be another USA vs Mexico final on Sunday evening 9 pm on CBSSN. The US youthful squad collected 23 combined trophies over the last season – as the Golden Era of US Soccer appears to have arrived. The talent playing in Europe currently is the most of any group of US players on a team ever. Will that add up to must win victories over Honduras and set up another showdown which the US needs to win over Mexico is the question that must be answered starting tonight.
Looking back at the 2-1 loss to the Swiss on Sunday – remember the Swiss are Top 15 in the world with a very experienced squad that’s been together for 8-10 years. With its starters in the US dominated possession in the first half and had the best chances to score. Subs in the 2nd half certainly helped the Swiss who added their 3 top mids/strikers while the US rotated out Brooks and Yueill in the center of the defense. I thought Dest struggled this game especially on defense leaving a flat footed Brooks on an island too many times early in the 2nd half. Without the speedy Long to cover for Brooks the US defense struggled. McKensie played fine but he does not have the speed or instincts to cover for Brooks the way Aaron Long has the past couple of years. That will be a concern moving forward as Brooks is great in the air and a good organizer but not fleet of foot and gets exposed in 1 on 1 defending at times. I thought Jackson Yueill cemented his spot as the back-up #6 to Adams over Acosta (who’s really an #8 midfielder). It was Acosta and Tim Ream who gave up the 2nd goal and multiple opportunities in the 2nd half. GK Ethan Horvath was spectacular in goal and cemented his #2 slot behind Steffan with his man of the match performance and multiple spectacular saves. I thought Brendan Aaronson was dynamite on the left wing slot and if Pulisic or Reyna are ever hurt or need rest – he should be the first slotted on either wing. Of course all Lletget does is score so don’t be surprised to see him slotted as a starter in the midfield with Weston McKinney tonight. I could see Letget or Musah getting the nod as dual attacking mids.
Tonight this is what I see as the starting line-up barring injuries we don’t know about.
McKinney/Lletget or Musah
Adams or Yueill if Adams is hurt
I think Dest will move back to the right back and Robinson will plug in as a better actual defender vs Honduras tonight. Of course Berhalter could surprise us and go with 3 in the back tonight – but that would cost him Musah or Lletget in the midfield as #8s? I think that might be a move we make vs Mexico as opposed to the game tonight vs Honduras. HUGE GAME TONIGHT FOR US SOCCER in a MUST WIN SCENARIO. We are at home playing an inferior Honduras squad – we must win and convincingly for the US to show progress with our new young talent. Honestly the US needs to win tonight and again on Sunday vs Mexico to start to show the potential this group possesses and whether Burhalter is the right man to take us there.
Christian Pulisic becomes First US Man to Play in Champions League Win
Wow an American has actually won and lifted the Champions League trophy in a game that he played in and almost scored. I will admit I was teed off when Chelsea coach Tuchell did not start Pulisic on Saturday. I wanted to see an American lined up listening to the best anthem in sports – the Champions League anthem. But it was not to be as Pulisic didn’t come on until the 60th minute or so. He did have an impact however as his hold up play and darting runs toward goal were impressive. He just missed the chance at a put away goal as his shot was just wide of the goal late. Still impressive to see an American have an impact on a Champions League final – great to see him with his USA hoody holding the trophy with his parents by his side.
I was not surprised to see Chelsea win the game when the GREAT Pep Guardiola posted his starting line-up with no defensive midfielder. Tuchell beat him at the mindgames again – with his 3rd straight win over a superior and much more expensive Man City team. Chelsea’s defensive shape held thru and the quick counter attack was ripe for the taking with no defensive midfielder for City. Not sure why Pep is held in such high regard – while spending the most money in the world he’s managed to win league titles with Barcelona, Bayern Munich (not tough) and now Man City. His only real success in Champions League was with Barcelona with the perhaps the best ever player in Messi and certainly the best midfield with Messi, Insausti and Javi. He’s a very good coach – but he’s also had the most money to spend over the past few seasons and this is the first time he got City past the quarter finals. Anyway both shocking and Great to see Chelsea and especially Pulisic lift the Champions League trophy. Certainly wasn’t expected this season! Oh and 3.65 million watching on CBS was a 100% increase over 2019 when combined English CBS and Spanish Univision– and that’s without what is estimated over 300K watching on Paramount plus. Cool video on Christian’s hometown pride
2021 Champions League Final TV Ratings (Average Viewers)
- CBS: 2.095 million
- Univision: 1.55 million
- Total: 3.65 million
Indy 11 home Saturday – Pride Game
Our Indy 11 are back at the Mike fresh off a huge road victory 2-1 over Louisville and a hard fought 1-1 tie vs OKC. The game on My Indy TV and ESPN+ on Saturday night 7 pm vs Memphis 901 will be Gay Pride night with a special ticket and tshirt offer for fans. Limited Tickets are still available visit here !! The Indy Eleven are unbeaten in its last three times out (2W-0L-1D) and pushed Indiana’s Team back atop the Central Division standings, its 10 points even with Birmingham Legion FC.
All evaluations and tryouts will be held at Shelborne Fields. 3451 W 126th St, Carmel, IN 46032.
June 8, 2021 – Players 10u, 9u and 8u (Birth Years 2012 to 2015)
Check-in starts 1/2 hour before evaluations begin.
Evaluations for all age groups: 6pm to 7:30pm
June 14, 2021- Players 11u and older (Birth Years 2003 to 2011)
Check-in starts 1/2 hour before tryouts.
Tryouts for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011: 5:45pm to 7:15pm
2021 Alumni/College Age Soccer League
High School graduates, college students, young professionals come join our soccer league this summer!
Who can play? ages 18-30, experienced, new to the sport and anyone wanting to be active and meet new people.
When does it start/end? Mid- June through early August Where? Shelborne Soccer Fields 3451 W. 126th Street
Cost? 105.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Do I have to be a Carmel resident? There is no residency requirement for this program.
Please click here to register for this league. Registration is open now- June 12 Jerseys and socks are provided Questions please contact the office 317-846-1663 or email email@example.com
Good Luck to the 4 Carmel FC teams for advancing to this weekend’s President Cup and Challenge Cup Finals games at Grand Park 2009 Gold Girls, 2010 Boys Gold, 2008 Gold Boys, 2007 Gold Boys.
Summer of Soccer
European Championships June 11 – July 7 ESPN
Copa America June 13 to July 10 FS1, FS2, Univision
Olympics US Ladies July 21-Aug 5 NBC
Gold Cup July 10 – Aug 1 FS1, FS2
GAMES ON TV
Thurs, June 3
2:45 pm ESPN+ Belgium vs Greece Friendly
3 pm ESPNU U21 Euros Netherlands vs Germany
7:30 pm Univ+CBSSN USA vs Honduras Nations League Semis
10 pm Para+ Mexico vs Costa Rica
Fri, June 4
1:30 pm ESPN Spain vs Portugal Friendly
Sat, June 5
7 pm ESPN+ Indy Eleven vs Memphis 901
7 pm Para+ NY/NJ Gotham FC vs OL Reign NWSL
Sun, June 6
2 pm Para+ KC vs Houston Dash NWSL
3 pm ESPN2 Euro U21 Finals
6:30 pm Para+ 3rd place game Nations League
9 pm Para+CBSSN Finals – Nations League
Wed, June 9
7 pm ESPN2 US Men vs Costa Rica
Thur, June 10
8:30 PM ET FS1 US Women vs Portugal
EUROS + COPA America 2021
(all times ET; coverage starts about 30 minutes before kickoff; all games also stream on ESPN+)
Friday, June 11
Group A – Turkey vs. Italy, 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Univision, TUDN)
Saturday, June 12
Group A – Wales vs. Switzerland, 8:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group B – Denmark vs. Finland, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group B – Belgium vs. Russia, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Sunday, June 13
Group D – England vs. Croatia, 8:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group C – Austria vs. North Macedonia, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group C – Netherlands vs. Ukraine, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
3 TakeAways from US Lost to Swiss Matt Doyle MLS.com
Pulisic’s Champions League win headlines American run on European silverware
Pulisic on becoming 1st U.S. man to play in, win Champions League Final
Pulisic Watch: How did USMNT star perform for Chelsea v. Man City?
Tuchel says he sensed Chelsea would win Champions League
Champions League fallout: Where should Man City go from here?
Guardiola the fall guy as Man City’s Champions League anguish goes
Disappointed Guardiola eyes UCL final return, different ending
De Bruyne faces race to make Euro after facial fractures
Soccer-Tuchel factor brings new life to Premier League race
USA vs. Honduras, Concacaf Nations League Semifinal: What to watch for
The United States Men’s National Team will begin their quest for a trophy this weekend in Denver as they compete alongside Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras in the Concacaf Nations League Finals. First up is a semifinal match tomorrow against Honduras. The USMNT will want to get out to a hot start against Los Catrachos in order to book their trip to the Final. It’s the first trophy in this competition’s history, so there’s added incentive for the USMNT to win and forever be known as its first winner.
L (1-2) – Switzerland – Friendly
W (2-1) – Northern Ireland – Friendly
W (7-0) – Trinidad and Tobago – Friendly
W (6-0) – El Salvador – Friendly
W (6-2) – Panama – Friendly
L (1-2) – Greece – Friendly
D (1-1) – Belarus – Friendly
L (1-2) – Guatemala – Friendly
D (1-1) – Nicaragua – Friendly
W (4-0) – Trinidad & Tobago – Concacaf Nations League
What To Watch For
Finish chances. Against Switzerland, the USMNT did a decent job in the first half of creating opportunities, but they just didn’t finish them. Against Honduras, they will be able to use our creative attackers to cut holes through the defense. But, it doesn’t mean a thing if they can’t punch it home. Whoever plays as the 9 will be very important because he has to be super dangerous and keep the pressure on the Honduran defense.
Control the midfield. Our midfield will be extremely important in keeping possession and ensuring that nothing gets behind them to the defense on counters. We want to keep the ball moving forward and keep Honduras on their back heels. If our preferred midfield is healthy and ready to go, we should have the advantage there. Let’s exploit it.
Dominate quickly. The guys who played 90 minutes on Sunday in St. Gallen looked gassed towards the end of the match when they were pushing for a goal. So it’s simple: dominate the match early. Get the goals you need early so that you can rest guys and rotate people in to save legs for Sunday.
We’re going to assume that everyone on the 23-man roster is fully fit and available for selection. With that being the case, I think head coach Gregg Berhalter is gonna to put out what he thinks is his best lineup to get the win:
Zack Steffen is back after being on the bench for Manchester City in the Champions League final, and he assumes his place as the #1 goalkeeper. Sergiño Dest will start on the right this time on the back line, with Antonee Robinson operating as the left back. This should hopefully give Dest more room to play his game. John Brooks and Mark McKenzie looked to be a good centerback pairing, and they get the start.Tyler Adams, held out against Switzerland to rest, gets the start in the middle, and he is joined by Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah. The midfield is going to be important, and with Adams back there, Musah and McKennie have the freedom to move forward as well.For the forwards, Champions League winner Christian Pulisic is back as well, and he will be on the left side for the USMNT. Gio Reyna again gets the start on the right, where he can hopefully partner with Dest in space on the right flank. Up front, Josh Sargent will be the man, and he will look to show that he can be the first choice at the 9 for the United States for these big time matches.
The USMNT take a few minutes to get their legs under them, as Honduras tries to bog the game down in the trenches. The USMNT eventually get going and open up the scoring in the middle of the first half, and they don’t look back. The USMNT win 3-0 to move onto the Nations League Final on Sunday.
Gregg Berhalter feels “very positive” about USMNT’s performance in Switzerland loss
By Charles Boehm @cboehm Sunday, May 30, 2021, 07:23 PM
The US men’s national team turned in something of a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance in Sunday’s 2-1 friendly loss to Switzerland, matching and occasionally besting the No. 13-ranked team in the world in the first half before losing their grip and surrendering one clear scoring chance after another in the second 45 minutes.With a Concacaf Nations League semifinal vs. Honduras looming on Thursday, head coach Gregg Berhalter took an optimistic approach in his postgame press conference.
“It was very positive,” said Berhalter. “The attitude of how we want to play, and the positioning and the intention to be very aggressive, very high-pressing, pinning them in, dealing well with balls that came out, that’s what I envision this group being able to do.“Over the course of 90 minutes we lost a bit of that power to be able to do it, but overall I think the guys did a great job. And the game plan was there – we were able to move the ball, create goal-scoring opportunities and really put them in a bunch of trouble. So to me it’s positive. I don’t love the result, I think we could have gotten a tie in this game, perhaps if the finishing is a little bit better we can even get a win. But the guys did a great effort and it’s a great measuring stick.”
The USMNT troubled the Swiss out of the gates with the aggressive pressing posture out of a 4-3-3 formation that has become their favored setup, and took an early lead via the impressive Sebastian Lletget. However their hosts adapted their own tactics after halftime and grew all too comfortable passing through the United States’ ranks as the past week of high-altitude training took its toll down the stretch.
“The first half, we had it pretty under control. I mean, we’ve had elevation training and we’re doing our thing and trying to prepare and we’re working hard throughout the week,” said USMNT captain Weston McKennie. “So I think it’s not so much of what didn’t work, I think it’s just more a little bit heavy on the legs to maintain pressing like we did in the first half throughout the whole game.“But we’ll look back at the video and Gregg will definitely go over with us how we can fix that or how we can pick and choose, I guess, when we want to stay back and let them play in front and when we want to press.”Led by veterans playing in Europe’s top leagues, Switzerland are preparing for a big summer of their own at the UEFA European Championship and are less than two weeks out from their Group A opener vs. Wales, with rugged-looking fixtures against Italy and Turkey to follow.Their quality rose to the surface after the break as Steven Zuber exploited disorganization in the US defense to tap home a simple winner in the 63rd minute before Breel Embolo ran riot in the latter stages, forcing Ethan Horvath to make some big saves to keep the scoreline from spinning out of control.“So we definitely lost compactness in the second half,” said Berhalter. “They changed their shape to a 5-3-2 having a central midfielder behind our pressing forward, and we didn’t really solve that well. It started to open up space, gave them time on the ball, forced our backline to move back a little bit and that created more space in midfield. When they dropped one of the strikers down also, they started creating the numbers there that we didn’t do the best job of dealing with.”He and his staff have structured this international window to replicate the intense schedules and squad rotation that awaits them in World Cup qualifying later this year, so Thursday’s lineup could look quite different. Berhalter suggested that Sunday’s skilled opponents provided not only a test and a bit of a reality check, but also a model.
“This is a team that has been playing together for a really long time, it’s the same group that Switzerland’s had for the last four years, five years. So it’s a mature group, it’s an older group than us and our guys can look at that as what this team could be in the future,” said the coach.“When you see the [US] group and you see the potential this group has and see how they can come here without fear and really take the game to Switzerland says a lot about this generation of players. And it’s exciting. I think part of my job as a coach is to find the balance between high pressing and stability, and we didn’t always have that today, and I’ll take responsibility for that. But other than that, these guys are ready to go.”
U.S. continue to show progress vs. Switzerland but key areas of improvement remain
May 30, 2021Kyle BonaguraESPN Staff Writer
Heading into this week’s CONCACAF Nations League Finals in Denver and, more importantly, World Cup qualifying in the fall, what the United States men’s national team needed more than anything was a step up in competition. Its nine-match unbeaten streak over the past 18 months was at least partially a product of the quality of the opposition, which made Sunday’s match on the road against Switzerland, the No. 13-ranked team in the world, a valuable barometer for coach Gregg Berhalter.The results were mixed. After a strong first-half performance in which Sebastian Lletget scored the opening goal, the Americans faded after halftime while playing at altitude in a 2-1 loss. Berhalter has said all week part of the goal for this match — from its location to the day of the week — was to mimic the timeline for what the team will face in the unusual upcoming three-game World Cup qualifying windows. Playing in Switzerland essentially replicates the final club game the European-based players will have before flying across the Atlantic Ocean to take on CONCACAF opposition.Any benefits from the scheduling exercise won’t pay off until the fall, but playing against a strong Switzerland provided a decent snapshot of where the team stands, albeit without three key players: Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen, due to their involvement in Saturday’s Champions League final, and midfielder Tyler Adams, who is rehabbing a back injury.In the first half, the U.S. was the better team on balance. They created the more dangerous scoring chances, were patient and played effectively out of the back and pressed Switzerland into some mistakes in the final third. Sergino Dest was effective pushing forward on the left side, where Brenden Aaronson — who impressed last window and since his move to Austrian champion FC Salzburg in January — was also an energetic presence.
“I think it was it was an interesting game for Jackson, it seemed that he gave [Liverpool‘s Xherdan Shaqiri] a difficult time with this movement and he opened up and got the ball in some good positions,” Berhalter said. “There are a couple times that he lost the ball, but he was feeling the game out. I think his diagonal passing could have been a little bit sharper, but overall pleased with his effort.”Yueill was replaced by Kellyn Acosta in the second half, and both players figure to be in the mix to see playing time in the Nations League with Adams’ status still uncertain. Berhalter said he would receive an update on Adams’ status on Monday, after the team travels to the United States.It was a difficult game for striker Josh Sargent, who wasn’t able to make much of an impact before being subbed off for Jordan Siebatcheu in the 72nd minute. Sargent has always had a reputation for being a talented player expected to come good with time, but as other options at his position have emerged over the past year, it’s fair to question what the depth chart should look like at his position. Daryl Dike finished the season on fire with Barnsley, while Siebatcheu scored 15 goals in all competitions for Swiss champion Young Boys. Siebatcheu didn’t necessarily improve his standing, either, on Sunday, but the idea that Sargent deserves the benefit of the doubt has become less convincing the longer he goes without being a consistent scoring threat.Despite Sargent’s minimal impact in front of goal, Berhalter praised the job he did in other aspects of the game.”I think that he had a game where he gave everything he got. He battled,” Berhalter said. “I think he played a good game save for scoring a goal, because that’s what we want our forward to do. But other than that, very active, very committed.”Darryl Dike isn’t on the Nations League roster, but he is with the team in this camp and is expected to play against Costa Rica on June 9. Timothy Weah has been training primarily as a winger with the team but is another option Berhalter could experiment with at the No. 9 spot, having played there some with French champion Lille.The U.S. had some decent moments to start the second half, but it didn’t take long for Switzerland to tip the scales in its favor after switching from a 3-4-1-2 to a 5-3-2 formation. By using a central midfielder behind the American’s pressing No. 9, Switzerland played through the press more easily, and it led to several good chances — with goalkeeper Ethan Horvath coming up big on a few occasions to keep the score within reach.Switzerland’s game winner came almost immediately after the U.S. took off Lletget, Yueill and center back John Brooks, with Acosta, Tim Ream and Yunus Musah coming on. A stray touch by Dest and some suspect defending in the box allowed the ball to bounce around before Steven Zuber beat Horvath.”It’s a great measuring stick,” Berhalter said. “This is a team that has been playing together for a really long time. It’s the same group that Switzerland has had for the last four years, five years. It’s a mature group, it’s older than us and our guys can look at that as what this team could be in the future.”Berhalter didn’t completely tip his hand at what to expect in the starting lineup against Honduras in the Nations League semifinals on Thursday but indicated that Pulisic was firmly in the plans.”Try to tell Christian that he’s not playing on Thursday,” he said. “It’s gonna be a very difficult one coming off of winning the Champions League, coming in the game making an impact in that game. He’s ready to go.”
Three takeaways from USMNT loss to Switzerland
By Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76
Sunday, May 30, 2021, 05:23 PM
The US men’s national team kicked off this summer of soccer with a pretty blah 2-1 loss at Switzerland on Sunday afternoon.here were some good moments, and it was unmistakably a friendly in terms of the urgency with which it was(n’t) played, so I don’t think anybody should be panicking. But there were also some bad moments, and that lack of urgency is a concern in and of itself given how close the US are to games that actually matter who whole damn bunch.
Real quick on that: Friendlies are friendlies, and good teams know how to work their way through them and find good stuff to learn and take away from them, then apply them for real when the whistle blows in official competitions. But history is littered with teams who did only part of that and were just never able to flip that switch, get out of third gear and get into “must-win” mode.
I think we saw some of that with the US U23s in Concacaf Olympic qualifying. I’m sure their build-up patterns looked nice and well-rehearsed in training, but once the games started for real they didn’t match the energy of their opponents at any point. And we have received lesson after lesson over the past decade — including a gigantic one in Couva — about how it is an absolute necessity to play this game with some urgency.I don’t love how clearly that was missing today. I am, in fact, very worried about that.Anyway, I’m tired of writing “it’s just a friendly.” We’ll get the real thing on Thursday (7:30 pm ET | TUDN, Paramount +) when the US play Honduras in the Concacaf Nations League semis.
Taking the test
US head coach Gregg Berhalter sat down with Bobby Warshaw for a preview of this entire camp about a week ago, and in it he said one of the ways he was looking at this particular game against Switzerland was as a test for Jackson Yueill and Kellyn Acosta in particular, as well as Mark McKenzie, Brenden Aaronson and a few others. These players broadly fall into the “talented newcomers” category, but not in the way that the likes of Gio Reyna and Sergino Dest — remember, they’re both still newcomers as well — do.
Reyna and Dest are so talented that you just have to figure out a way to get them out there. Yunus Musah might be as well, and there are a few others on that list.
Yueill, Acosta, McKenzie and Aaronson are a cut below that, and the roles they’re fighting for are clearly defined. “Reliable backup” is the bar that needs to be cleared.
To that end I think this game served as a positive data point for McKenzie, Aaronson and especially Yueill, who had more of a direct defensive impact in his hour on the pitch than I think I’ve ever seen from him. I threw together a mini comp of his defensive interventions over just a small slice of the first half, and he was everywhere:
Yes, that included him pantsing his Swiss counterpart Denis Zakaria to set up that chance for Dest. I did not see that coming, and neither did Zakaria.
This is the test for Yueill. There aren’t many questions about his ability to pass the ball at a high level (though he played it way too safe for my tastes today), but there are valid questions about his ability to be, at the very least, “acceptable” against the likes of Zakaria.
He passed the test, as did McKenzie, who played as a right center back. In fact I’d say both passed the test so well in the first hour that Switzerland changed their approach and, instead of trying to play through central midfield or attack the US right, they almost exclusively switched to going at the US left side.
Aaronson passed the test for the first half before struggling a bit in the second. I also thought there were some communication issues between he and Dest — often when Dest came inside off the ball in possession, Aaronson didn’t stay wide to present John Brooks a wide option in distribution. That is the kind of thing that can be ironed out in film sessions.
Acosta did not pass the test. He looked energetic, but not entirely comfortable reading and breaking up plays as a No. 6, and didn’t track the run that led directly to the second Swiss goal.
Whether he’s at right back or left, Dest is an inimitable attacking weapon. He has to be out there, but it’s increasingly clear that one problem Berhalter must solve is how to keep him out there without him becoming a defensive liability.
Dest was caught up, in no man’s land pressing no one, on the first Switzerland goal. He conceded a penalty that was missed. His failed clearance led to the second Switzerland goal. In between all of that, there was this:
Armchair Analyst_ Dest caught up
That’s not all on Dest, obviously. Weston McKennie got turned and allowed Switzerland to play through the first line of midfield pressure too easily on that first break-out. On the second, it was a mess of a 50/50 that turned into a quick transition moment (which is basically the definition of modern soccer, so yes, that is a teamwide concern).
Nonetheless there’s a reason Taylor Twellman was talking so much on the broadcast about the 3-4-2-1 the US played back in March, one that puts Dest at wingback instead of fullback and thereby limits the fallout from his occasional defensive indiscretions. You want to be able to get him forward, but you don’t want the trade-off to be “John Brooks is going to have to make multiple plays in the open field while backpedaling.”
That is not a good trade-off for any center back in the world, but especially for Brooks. Dest either has to get better at sniffing out when opposing attacks are aiming for the gap behind him (and then, you know, getting back!) or Berhalter might have to scrap the 4-3-3 against good opponents when Dest is out there.
You can absolutely get better at recognizing those patterns, by the way. Alphonso Davies did for Bayern Munich, and that’s what propelled him from “devastating attacking fullback” to “probably the best left back in the whole damn world.”
Dest is an unquestioned starter for the US, and the way the team is set up and is supposed to play is designed to fit his strengths. He’s got to minimize his weaknesses so that the whole system can function better.
No. 9 up for grabs
I have long been a card-carrying member of the “Josh Sargent will figure it out when he’s in a coherent system with talented teammates.”
He has that with the USMNT. At this point, though, I think I am more discouraged by his lack of goalscoring output than I am encouraged by the fact he did, in fact, make a number of good and dangerous runs in this one. He really was trying to be a threat and often was, but the payoff was not… great. It was not great.
More frustrating is the reason Sargent presumably tops the No. 9 depth chart is because of his link play, which has occasionally been awesome (I still fondly remember that Peru game a couple years back). In this game it was non-existent to the point of being a liability rather than a strength.
The competition for this spot is wide open. I suspect we’ll see Jordan Siebatcheu get a crack at it for at least a few minutes vs. Honduras, and it seems likely that Daryl Dike is going to get the final game of this camp, a friendly vs. Costa Rica. Gyasi Zardes is, of course, still waiting in the wings.
I don’t know who we’ll consider the starter by the time World Cup qualifying begins in September. I just hope that whoever it is earns the job, rather than takes it by default.
USA vs. Switzerland, 2021 Friendly: What we learned
Here’s what we learned from a USMNT loss to a tough Swiss team in advance of the Nations League Finals.
Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
The United States Men’s National Team took on Switzerland in a friendly match in St. Gallen. Alas, the USMNT walked away in defeat, falling 2-1 to the home side. It was a match that showed both a lot of promise, but also a lot of points to improve on.
Over the past year or so, I’ve had to put in a bit of a disclaimer about the quality of the opponent in this part of the article. Because of COVID-19, the USMNT hasn’t been able to play many matches, and they’ve all come against either relatively weak opponents or opposition fielding a weakened side for whatever reason. Against Switzerland, that wasn’t the case. I don’t know if the starting 11 that we saw from the Swiss was necessarily their best, but it was most certainly a very strong team. Every single Swiss player who took the field plays with a Champions League team or with a top flight club in England, Germany, or Italy. While Switzerland isn’t stocked with any superstars, they are stocked with experienced professionals plying their trade in the top clubs at every position. For the first time in a very long time, the opposition’s players come from clubs that are just as prestigious as the USMNT’s, if not more so. This was a stern test for the national team, with the USMNT ranked as the underdogs, and we should evaluate the match as exactly that. With that said, let’s get started.
What’s with Sebastian Lletget?
We came into the match knowing that there would be a few changes from the expected starting lineup. Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen were with their respective clubs for the Champions League Final just the day before, so we knew they were going to be out. We also knew that Tyler Adams very well likely was out due to a back injury. The only real question for the lineup seemed to be who would step up and take Aaron Long’s centerback spot now that he’s out with a long-term injury (evidently, it was Mark McKenzie that earned the start). However, Berhalter threw in another wrinkle into the lineup that caught me by surprise. It had seemed like Yunus Musah was the starter for one of the two box-to-box midfield roles alongside Weston McKennie. And you know what? I was a bit disappointed that Musah didn’t start the match. He’s consistently been a good presence in the lineup, even though he’s still only 18. He meshes with the other starting midfielders (Adams and McKennie), he presses well, and he is so deft while on the ball that it’s extremely difficult to take the ball away from him. Sitting him on the bench seemed wrong. But to Sebastian Lletget’s credit, he took his opportunity. Not only did the Galaxy man get the MNT’s early goal, he arguably was the team’s best player through the first half. It looked like the swap worked. But why though? What’s the logic behind starting Lletget?
I think the key here is to think about overall midfield composition and about the team’s overall offensive/defensive balance. On the offensive side, the USMNT is missing their most threatening player, Christian Pulisic. On the defensive side, the team is also missing their most proactive player, Tyler Adams. To compensate for those two absences, the team needs to make some adjustments. While you can slot Brendan Aaronson and Jackson Yueill (respectively) into those roles, they can’t replicate what Pulisic and Adams do. Instead, you need to make decisions and sacrifices in order to compensate. On the defensive front, the move is rather clear: have McKennie hang back and contribute more on defense. But if McKennie isn’t making those attacking runs, you now have a bigger attacking deficit.
And I think that’s where the logic is for swapping Musah out for Lletegt. Musah does not have the same offensive output as either McKennie or Lletget. He doesn’t make those runs dangerous into the box. And the numbers reflect this. In the five games he’s appeared in with the national team, Musah has 0 goals and 1 assist. And that one assist has a pretty big asterisk given the nature of that goal. In those exact same games, Lletget has 4 goals, 0 assists (he has an additional goal in that time frame against El Salvador in a match that Musah was unavailable in). Offensively speaking, Lletget is just doing more things. You can see exactly that from this game. Lletget led the team in shots. And his goal reflects this.
At the start of the clip, Lletget is already in the box, moving to present a possible option for Gio Reyna to pass to. Before Lletget can get to that spot, Reyna puts in a cross towards Sargent. Lletget responds to that by turning past his man and tucking in towards Sargent, in the exact place where the ball would most likely go if the defense can’t clear it on the first try. Lo and behold, that’s essentially what happens. Nico Elvedi gets to the ball well ahead of Sargent and makes a poor effort to clear the ball, pinging it straight into Lletget’s foot. Lletget does well to react quickly and play the ball straight to Aaronson before receiving the ball back and scoring.
A lot of people will chock this kind of play up to luck. Indeed, it is a bit fortunate that Elvedi screwed his play up. But Lletget is in that position for precisely this kind of scenario. He’s there to try and snag second balls. While we can say that getting the chance was based on luck, scoring it was not. Because it was a calculated move, a calculated and aggressive move, in order to potentially score a goal. Lletget gets so many opportunities and so many goals precisely because he consistently makes those kinds of calculated and aggressive moves. And we can’t say the same about Musah. Indeed, in this game, the number of shots the USMNT had dropped after Lletget came off for Musah. You can’t go and say that’s because of Musah; there were other substitutions and the Swiss adjusted their game plan. But it does make sense.
However, there are tradeoffs for playing Lletget over Musah and it would be remiss to ignore them. Both Lletget and Musah press energetically and contribute a lot defensively. But Musah presents a far better outlet when the US is being pressed and needs to keep possession. In this game, we had Gio Reyna on the right wing, so the team still had someone who could do that role, so that skill didn’t go missing. But Reyna isn’t the same kind of direct offensive threat that a player like Tim Weah or Jordan Morris is. Considering that the team couldn’t turn enough of their chances into goals, perhaps it would have been worth it to have Weah and Musah on instead of Reyna and Lletget? That feels too hazy for me to make a call on, especially since Lletget scored while Reyna played pretty well, but that trade off might be worth taking a second look at in other circumstances.
Left (Back) in the Dust
I spent 2019 complaining about how the USMNT under Gregg Berhalter struggled to win the ball back without Tyler Adams, particularly against good opposition. One of the promising things to take away from this match was the fact that, even though the team didn’t have Adams, the team still had a way to win the ball back. The press implemented by the USMNT was startlingly effective at strangling the Swiss offense. McKennie, Lletget, and Aaronson relentlessly closed down Swiss players in possession and contested 50/50 balls, while Yueill stalked passing lanes (I mentioned in the recap that Yueill kicked off the move for the goal by intercepting the ball). Through the first half, the Swiss offense was constrained to a total of two shots. That’s a pretty good record! The problem was that the first shot, while a speculative effort from outside the box with a defender in the way, took a nasty deflection and went in. The second one was a penalty and also should have gone in.
The big defensive concern in this game, all through the entire match, turned out to be Sergiño Dest. The FC Barcelona man did not have a good outing at left back. He repeatedly was caught too high up the field, allowing the Swiss attack to get into dangerous places.
We only saw glimpses of the problem in the first half, but not only were those the only real defensive issues in the half, they presented major failures. On Switzerland’s opening goal, Dest pressed over-aggressively and went way too high up the field, leaving acres of room in behind him. McKennie didn’t shade over to take up the space and that left John Brooks isolated 2 vs. 1, unable to do anything to prevent the cross. Conceding the penalty was more unfortunate than an outright mistake on Dest’s part (under the current hand-ball rules, I think that one’s iffy, and I think the current hand-ball rules are terrible) but nonetheless, Dest could have avoided this by being tighter on his man. With better defending and awareness from Dest, the game could have been 1-0 for the US, instead of 1-1, or, if the penalty had gone in, even 2-1 in favor of the opposition.
In the second half, Switzerland took Dest’s struggles and made it into an entire attack plan. Instead of trying to play through the wood chipper that was the US midfield, the Swiss decided to just bypass it and try and attack down the right as aggressively as possible. If Dest was too high up the field, John Brooks would be isolated and forced to scramble against one of the Swiss strikers. And Dest was often too high up the field. The result was that Breel Embolo skinned John Brooks twice, before forcing some heroics from Ethan Horvath. The third time Switzerland tried to find Embolo matched up against the American left center back, this time Tim Ream, Embolo missed the ball, only for Dest to make a hash of it and hand him the ball. Tim Ream couldn’t scramble effectively enough and Zuber tucked it in.
Look, in spite of this result, we know that Sergiño Dest is going to be a starter for the national team. The question isn’t whether he plays or not; it’s whether he plays on the left or the right. Still, defensive issues like the ones clearly present in this match can’t be allowed to become systemic problems, otherwise good teams will always find ways to exploit them. If Dest is playing but isn’t sufficiently defensively sound, it will force changes in the lineup and formation to compensate. I really don’t like a 3 center-back formation for the USMNT. It necessarily requires taking a midfielder out in order to field another defender. And that has ramifications for the rest of the team. Taking a midfielder away mitigates the America press, and neuters the (too-often struggling) American attack. And that means sorting out Dest’s defensive frailty needs to be a top priority.
Pragmatism and Naivety
I believe the USMNT should have won this game.Throughout the first half, the USMNT created plenty of chances and almost entirely limited the opposition’s offensive ability. That first half was legitimately a good display against a top-15 team.The problem was that the first half was a good display and not a good result. And while the first half was really good, the second half was bad. I’ve already talked about the defensive frailties. But I now want to talk about experience. The Swiss team had it, the American one didn’t. And you know what? I think the real difference between the display and the result, between the first half and the second, was that gulf in experience.We’ve seen the core of the American side for what feels like a while now. While he missed this game, Pulisic’s still been with the national team since 2016. Josh Sargent, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen, Ethan Horvath, and Reggie Cannon all came into the program way back around 2018. The truth is, while we’ve been seeing some of these players for years at this point, they are almost all still quite young and still quite green, especially at the international level. Among the starters against Switzerland, only Horvath, Brooks, and Lletget were over the age of 22. None of the starting players had 50 caps (including that game), with Brooks (41) being the only one who even gets close.In contrast, the Swiss team was stocked with experienced players in their prime. While only one player was at least 30 (substitute Admir Mehmedi), none of the players who took the field for Switzerland were under the age of 23. The Swiss lineup also had way more international experience. The American starting 11 had a cumulative 149 caps, including this match. The Swiss lineup had 586, nearly quadruple as many caps as the Americans. The Swiss captain, Granit Xhaka, has by far more caps than the entire midfield and attacking line combined. No matter how you look at the numbers, the Swiss team had way more experience.And that experience made a difference. While the Swiss couldn’t keep back the American attack in the first half, they were able to organize and mitigate the threat. The result was that, while the MNT got a lot of shots, none of the chances were individually all that great, with the exception of the goal. The Swiss were organized and diligent about keeping numbers between the MNT and goal. And in the second half, the Swiss were able to use their experience to identify and exploit a weakness in the American line. The Swiss were pragmatic, limited their risk, and attacked specific weak points after allowing the US to tire. It was a game plan built and executed on experience with the game at the highest levels.I think one of the big shortcomings that we saw in the game was the relative naivety of the American team. I don’t think it’s an accident that the one player who scored, the one player who demonstrated the most attacking urgency, was the one attacking player who already has a decade-long career. The trouble with youthfulness is that you can’t just swap things around to fix things. To get experience, you have to play through the problems. I think that’s what happened here. And, given the state of the team, I think that requires some patience from us, the fans. It’s good to have expectations of success, to demand that the team perform well. But we should be realistic that the team will struggle at times, that they will fall short. The important thing is to keep a focus on the big picture, to watch that the overall quality continues to improve.
Mark McKenzie was good. No further comment from me at this time.
Ethan Horvath was also really good. Like, really, really good. It’s a shame he doesn’t get regular playing time because his shot stopping was excellent.
Josh Sargent really needs to start scoring goals. You can see from this game that Sargent was making some dangerous runs, but he needs to start scoring them. He hasn’t scored for the national team since 2019 and even then, 3 of his 5 goals came against Cuba.
The attacking shape was really narrow. The USMNT probably could have benefitted from seeing the attacking players spread out across more of the field. With both Aaronson (11) and Reyna (7) coming inside, while Sargent (9) dropped deep, the whole attacking band was too consolidated in one place. One of the reasons having Lletget (17) in the side seemed to work likely was that he makes runs up past the striker, stretching the field vertically. In contrast, both Aaronson and Reyna (especially Reyna) like to come inside, making the shape too narrow. Some balance is needed here. This is one place where Christian Pulisic, or even Jordan Morris, were really missed.
Pass network for USMNT, taken from MLSsoccer.com
I though Reyna had a pretty good game, but he needs to diversify his skills a bit. It’s really easy to make comparisons between Gio Reyna and Pulisic. They both came out of the Dortmund youth program as wingers. They demonstrated both talent and potential as teenagers. They are both extremely technical competent and skillful on the ball. But the way that they play is really quite different. Pulisic’s game is ruthlessly goal-oriented; he’s constantly trying to move the ball past defenders and towards goal, whether by dribbling or by passing. Reyna is more about having and controlling the ball and creating space for himself to shoot or cross. I’ve noticed he takes a lot of shots from outside the box. In this game, he hit the post. I’m just thinking, if Reyna can make his runs and positioning a little more aggressive, he can turn more of those outside-the-box shots into inside-the-box shots, and thereby turn more of his shots into goals.
Breaking down the U.S. team’s 2-1 friendly loss to Switzerland in St. Gallen
The United States national team was defeated by Swtizerland 2-1 as part of a friendly ahead of Thursday’s Nations League semifinal against Honduras. Berhalter’s team started off strong but was done in by a lackluster secnd half where it struggled defensively. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta is here with his thoughts.
THE UNITED STATES dropped a 2-1 decision to Switzerland in St. Gallen in its only tune-up friendly ahead of the final rounds of the 2021 Nations League – which will open on Thursday against Honduras in a semifinal in Denver. After six friendlies against either CONCACAF or lower-level European oppositions, this marked a bigger challenge for Gregg Berhalter’s team.Berhalter fielded a strong lineup that used most of the top players that were available to him. Tyler Adams and Antonee Robinson were out carrying injuries while Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen were involved in the Champions League final. he United States actually opened up on the front foot and was the better team for long stretches. The U.S. took the lead in the 5th minute when Sebastian Lletget took advantage of a sloppy clearance from Switzerland to put the team ahead.But from there, Switzerland was able to claw its way back. In the 10th minute, the U.S. team left too much space on a counter attack and a cross-field pass found Torinos Ricardo Rodriguez who was wide open. His shot deflected off Reggie Cannon and past Ethan Horvath – who had no chance – for an equalizer.Just before halftime, Switzerland was awarded a penalty after a handball call on Sergino Dest. On the ensuing kick, however, Rodriguez missed the net with a low shot to the right. Horvath guessed correctly but the shot missed the target.In the second half, Switzerland changed formation and the U.S. the advantage of play it had from the first half. Steven Zuber gave the Swiss the lead in the 63rd minute after a botched set of clearances – that was magnified by an error from Dest.“We definitely lost compactness in the second half,” Berhalter said. “It became difficult to press. They changed their shape to a 5-3-2, having a central midfielder behind their pressing forward – and we didn’t solve that well. It started to open up space, it gave them time on the ball. It forced our backline to move back a bit. That created even more space in the midfield. When they dropped one of their strikers down, also, they started creating numbers there. We didn’t do the best job dealing with it.”“I was really happy with the effort of the guys – the will, and the effort to keep going, keep pressing, keep trying to impose our game on them,” he added. “But in the end of the day, in the second half, I think we came up a little short.”Switzerland was able to see out the victory and the U.S. team lost its ability to aggressively pressure the Swiss defense.Here are my thoughts on the game:
U.S. MIDFIELD/ATTACK STARTED STRONG
The U.S. team started off strong and Berhalter was quick to complement this area of the team. He liked the wing play from Aaronson and Reyna while also indicating Josh Sargent’s hold-up play was effective.In the midfield, Lletget was effective and it wasn’t just his goal. He completed 93% of his passing, and won a solid percentage of his duels.. Meanwhile, Weston McKenie covered ground, brought energy, and helped with the team’s passing range. Jackson Yueill, meanwhile, was good with the ball and his passing was pretty good. His defense was mixed. He read the game to break up passing lanes and pick up inceptions but he didn’t close down on defenders quick enough. That will need to improve for him to maintain the Tyler Adams backup No. 6 role. Still, he was pretty good overall.The second half was far more disjointed but this shows that the team will need to be flexible to adjust to different looks from opponents.You could easily tell that Switzerland was a veteran team that had played together for years and was comfortable changing approaches while maintain chemistry. The U.S. team, for all its talent, is still new to each other and is in the process of learning a system under Berhalter.“It was very positive to go away, and just have the attitude of how we want to play and the positioning and the intention to be very aggressive, very high pressing, pinning them in, being very aggressive with balls that came out,” Berhalter said. “That’s what I envision this group of being able to do. Over the course of 90 minutes, we lost a bit of that power to be able to do it. Overall, I think the guys did a great job. The game plan was there, we were able to move the ball, create the goal-scoring opportunities and really put them in a bunch of trouble. To me, it’s positive. I don’t love the result.”“It’s a great measuring stick,” he added. “This is a team that has been playing together for a really long time. It’s the same group Switzerland has had for the last four years or five years. It’s a mature group. It’s an older group than our guys. We can look at it as what this team could be in the future.”The U.S. team is still building, and it on’t get there overnight. The Swiss team is the finished product and their ability to change approaches on the fly is one of the benefits of that.
TRANSITION DEFENSE NEEDS TO IMPROVE
The U.S. team needs to adjust to getting into better defensive positioning after a turnover, or when the opponent is on a counter attack. That has been a problem in recent games and was a bigger problem against Switzerland.On Switzerland’s first goal, the U.S. team simply allowed way too much space on the far side of the field. A well-executed long pass across the field opened up the play and the U.S. team was forced into emergency defending.The U.S. is an aggressive team. Its fullbacks like to push forward, Weston McKennie likes to push forward. There are times when it is vulnerable when possession changes quickly. Good teams like Switzerland will make them pay.
DEST & DEFENSE STRUGGLED IN THE SECOND HALF
Sergino Dest is easily one of the most talented American players and there is a good reason why he deservedly starts for Barcelona. Today was not one of his better days – and this is granting the penalty as unfortunate accident that could have happened to any defender.There were a few times when Dest showed his elite quality and was part of good chances. But defensively he was careless at a few important moments and was also dispossessed a few other moments.He’s been so good for the team that it makes some subpar games understandable but this was simply a game where he was off.As for the rest of the defense, it was out of synch too often. John Brooks had a lot of work to do with Dest typically looking to get further up the field. Unfortunately, Brooks was unable to always stay with the players he was guarding. McKenzie had more success given that he had more defensive help from Cannon, the fullback, on his side.
PLAYER RATINGS STARTERS
Ethan Horvath: 6.5: The Colorado keeper was put in touch situations by his defense but did a decent job. He couldn’t have done anything for either goal.
Reggie Cannon: 5.5: No major mistakes from Cannon and he was pretty good at the limited moments he pressed forward.
John Brooks: 4.5: Struggled in several 1v1 situations and in emergency defending. He is definitely capable of more.
Mark McKenzie: 5.5: Benefited from having a more defensive fullback on his side but also was the team’s best defender on the day.
Sergino Dest: 4.5: Tough day for Dest who showed a lot of quality but also made some key mistakes that were costly.
Jackson Yueill: 5.5: The San Jose defensive midfielder was good with the ball but also needed to close down on space better:
Weston McKennie: 6.0: The Juventus midfielder brought energy to the game on both sides of the ball. The game would have been worse for the U.S. team without McKennie.
Sebastian Lletget: 6.5: The Bay Area native was the best U.S. field player on the day. He took a lot of shots, was good with his passing, and deserved the goal. His aggression helped.
Giovani Reyna: 6.5: While Reyna was frustrated on the day, he was also one of the few American players who had a good day at the office. He was also involved in most of whatever dangerous plays the U.S. team had.
Brenden Aaronson: 5.5: The Salzburg attacker is playing on the wing but is a better central attacking midfielder. He started off the game playing well but tired in the second half.
Josh Sargent: 5.5: It was good hold up play from Sargent but he still wasn’t able to threaten too much.
Kellyn Acosta: 5.5: Acosta completed a perfect 14/14 of his passes.
Tim Ream: 5.0: Got away with one mistake in a play with Dest.
Yunus Musah: 5.5: Brought some energy into the midfield but wasn’t a part of anything dangerous.
Jordan Siebatcheu: 4.5: Just three touches in 18 minutes. He needs to get more involved.
Tim Weah: 5.0: Was part of one half-dangerous chance in his 18 minutes of action.
DeAndre Yedlin: NR: Played nine minutes, but wasn’t part of anything significant.
USA vs. Switzerland, 2021 friendly: Man of the Match
The United States Men’s National Team suffered a 2-1 defeat to Switzerland on Sunday in what was a tough game that had some promise early on. The Swiss fought back into it after the USMNT took an early lead, equalizing 7 minutes later and then eventually getting the game winner in the 2nd half.For the USMNT, there are a few performances that were notable, with several people impressed by the games that Sebastian Lletget, Mark McKenzie, and Brenden Aaronson had. However, the player that had the best match was the #1 on the field, Ethan Horvath. Horvath stopped 3 shots and earned the Man of the Match honors from the SSFC community.The full list of ratings for the USMNT by the SSFC community:
Ethan Horvath – 7.63
Sebastian Lletget – 6.66
Mark McKenzie – 6.21
Brenden Aaronson – 6.20
Gio Reyna – 6.18
Josh Sargent – 6.18
Weston McKennie – 6.12
Yunus Musah – 5.94
John Brooks – 5.87
Sergiño Dest – 5.55
DeAndre Yedlin – 5.32
Reggie Cannon – 5.16
Tim Weah – 5.12
Jordan Siebatcheu – 4.87
Jackson Yueill – 4.73
Kellyn Acosta – 4.66
Tim Ream – 4.04
Tim Weah returns to the USMNT after years of change, ready to prove his worth in ‘hugely talented’ team
Carlisle U.S. soccer correspondent
- FacebookMuch has changed for Timothy Weah since he last played on American soil.The date was Oct. 16, 2018, and the United States men’s national team had just tied Peru 1-1. His 90-plus-minute stint came at a moment when the U.S. was transitioning to a new generation of players. Back then, Weah was a raw prospect, full of hope and potential.In the ensuing years, the Brooklyn-born Weah has experienced a career’s worth of ups and downs. There were league titles with Paris Saint-Germain and Celtic, although he admits he didn’t feel completely part of those teams due to a lack of playing time. That was followed by a lost inaugural season with Lille in which he sustained a trio of hamstring injuries, and considered quitting the game.
Now Weah has come out the other side. The just-completed campaign saw him as part of another league title, as Lille held off PSG’s late charge to finish atop Ligue 1. Weah could have done without the late drama, as his side dropped points down the stretch, making the race tighter than it otherwise might have been. But in the end, Lille was able to prevail over PSG, the former club of both Weah and his father, George, a one-time Ballon d’Or winner with AC Milan, who is now the president of Liberia.”It was a much sweeter fight,” the younger Weah told ESPN about this league title compared to his previous triumphs. “PSG was close to us, and it was a battle. But it was a beautiful story.”
Even more magnificent for Weah is the transition he has made from prospect to solid contributor. His five goals in 37 appearances speak to his consistent presence in the Lille lineup, even as he was asked to play right wing-back at times. But even those numbers don’t quite do him justice. Observers in France noted a more focused player who makes better decisions on the field.”A lot has changed for me,” he said. “I feel much more confident now going into a game than I’ve ever felt before. I just feel like I’m important to the club now, and important to the national team, so you know it’s a good feeling and hopefully I can continue making the coaching staff on both sides [of the Atlantic] proud.”That sentiment is echoed by U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter. He has watched Weah’s progression the past 10 months, and the player’s growth is clear. Weah was in danger of being forgotten, another cautionary tale of a young American player, hyped up at youth level who faded out. Now he’s the attacker who came in from the cold. There might be players like Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna who are in front of him, but he’s placed himself in a position where he can pounce in case of injury or loss of form. And Weah has improved in areas where one might not initially expect.”There’s structure in his game now that I haven’t noticed before,” Berhalter said during a recent Zoom call with reporters. “Particularly on the defensive end, his team is very, very structured, very well-drilled. He understands how to press. He understands how to prevent certain passes from happening and then build pressure at the appropriate time. That’s been really, really good for me to see from him.”When Weah thinks about the past two years, there isn’t enough Dramamine in the world to mitigate the peaks and valleys he endured. He missed six months with a hamstring injury at the start of the 2019-20 season, only for the muscle to give way again when he made his comeback in February of last year. He also alluded to another setback after that.”It was three times, you know?” he said about the series of injuries. “Working through that mentally, not being there to try to play the sport I love, just watching a lot of other guys go by and not getting the chance to be on the field with them was hard. I think any footballer, it takes a toll on you after a while.”But in some respects, Weah knows how lucky he was. In France and elsewhere, people suffered from the pandemic to a much greater degree than he did. So it’s with mixed emotions when he thinks about how it affected him. When Ligue 1 shut down for good in late April 2020, it was a hammer blow for Lille. Les Dogues missed out on qualification to the Champions League by a single point to Stade Rennes. But for Weah, the break bought him more of a commodity that is in short supply during the league season.”I had a lot of time to focus on myself and focus on getting my body right, getting my leg healed and just tapping into a new me and getting better,” he said. “That’s what the pandemic helped me do. Lockdown, I was in the gym 24/7, with one of my trainers.”A recovery from a muscle injury can be tricky, especially in terms of how they can affect a player’s psyche. Will the muscle heal completely? Will it hold in a full sprint? Weah insists he had no doubts, despite the repeated setbacks.”I never thought about getting injured again,” he said. “I wasn’t holding myself back, thinking about, ‘OK, what if I do this? What will happen to my leg? Will I get injured again?’ I really wasn’t thinking about that. My mindset was just, ‘You’re always just pushing your limits. If you get injured, you get injured, but don’t hold yourself back. Just continue pushing forward.’ It’s been great so far. And, you know, I really haven’t had a relapse, and I feel good. I feel fit, 100 percent, and I’m ready to go.”About the only question is where Weah should play. He has been penciled in as a winger or second striker for most of his club career, although the spell as a wing-back gave him a new perspective on the game.”It was different. It was cool having everything in front of me,” he said. “I liked it. I was a bit nervous because you don’t want to slip up on defense, but it was a great feeling. It was something new.”Weah’s recovery, as well as his versatility, has him well positioned to help the U.S. in the upcoming CONCACAF Nations League. Berhalter feels Weah’s best position is still to be determined.”[Weah] is aggressive,” the U.S. manager said. “I still think he’s finding his footing a little bit in terms of what position he’s best at, whether that’s as a second striker or whether that’s as wide player.”But Weah is focused on being part of the group again, a generation that has immense upside.”This team is going to be a force,” he said. “There’s huge, huge talent on this team.”After the past two years, Weah can celebrate being a part of it again.
What Nations League will tell us about the future of U.S. and Mexico soccer teams
Tue, June 1, 2021, 8:00 AM
Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic celebrates with the trophy after winning the Champions League final soccer match over Manchester City in Porto, Portugal, Saturday. (Manu Fernandez / Associated Press )
Alexi Lalas knows a turning point when he sees one.It happened in his first national team start, at the Coliseum against a Mexican team that had lost only one of its previous 26 games against the U.S. But on that day, the 20-year-old Lalas helped the Americans gut out a 2-2 draw, starting a streak that would see them lose just one of eight games with Mexico.
“I was right there in that shift,” Lalas said. “It was kind of the start of that generation that didn’t accept that we should continue to be inferior to Mexico on the field, that we should continue to lose.”By the time a teen-aged Landon Donovan made his international debut nine years later — also against Mexico at the Coliseum — the pendulum had swung back and the U.S. was inferior once again. Donovan changed that, with his game-winning goal beginning a roll that would see the U.S. go 9-2-2 in its next 13 games with Mexico, its most successful stretch ever in the cross-border rivalry.Now another group of young Americans is poised to flip the script anew in this week’s Nations League in Denver. If both teams win their preliminary matches Thursday — the U.S. against Honduras and Mexico over Costa Rica — they will meet for the 71st time in Sunday’s championship game. The U.S. heads into the semifinals with perhaps the deepest and most talented collection of young players in its history. Nineteen of its 23 players are with top-division teams in Europe, where nine of them appeared in at least 30 league games this season. Twelve of those European-based players are under the age of 24.Meanwhile Mexico, ranked 11th in the world by FIFA, has a roster that includes 12 veterans from the last World Cup in Russia, where it fielded the second-oldest team in the tournament.If the momentum shifts once more, the change may be a lasting one since the core of the U.S. team could be together for a decade, while Mexico’s aging squad will soon need a makeover.“This young generation, they come with a swagger and a confidence, an arrogance that they want this moment. It is their time,” Lalas said.“If I was the Mexican Soccer Federation, that would be cause for concern.”The two countries have followed different paths to this latest crossroads, paths influenced in large part by their domestic leagues. The deep academy system in Liga MX has made Mexico a world power at the youth national team level, where it has reached the final in three of the last five U-17 World Cups while winning gold in the 2012 Olympics.
“The level of talent showcased on [the] U-17s, U-20s is second to none. It’s probably one of the four, eight [top] programs on the youth level in the world,” said Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese, who was director of Mexico’s youth national teams for several years before taking over the entire national team program ahead of the 2018 World Cup. “So there’s a lot of talent. That’s not the question.”Once those players reach a first-team roster in Mexico, however, they can get stuck there, which is why just eight of the 23 players on Mexico’s Nations League team play on the continent, while more than half play in Liga MX.The exorbitant transfer fees Mexican clubs often ask for their players and the relatively high salaries in Liga MX are two reasons players don’t leave. Another factor slowing the development of young talent is a Liga MX rule that allows teams to carry as many as nine foreign players on match-day rosters. Under pressure from Tata Martino, coach of the Mexican national team, that number will drop to eight next year and to seven in 2022-23.
“In the United States they give an outlet to young players and in Mexico they are more concerned about bringing foreigners than about giving the young players of Mexico an opportunity,” Carlos Hermosillo, whose 35 goals rank fourth all time for Mexico, said in Spanish. “The clubs have to understand that in order to grow our football, we have to generate young players.”The Mexicans have heard that chatter, which is why so many of their players took delight in their team qualifying for the Olympics — a U-23 tournament — for the third time in four tries while the U.S. did not.“The young players in Mexico, they’re aware of all the talk around the U.S. [about] the young players playing in Europe,” said Stu Holden, a former U.S. national team player and now an analyst for Fox Sports who covered the Olympic qualifiers. “They have some really good young players that will be on the verge of making those moves to Europe in the next couple of months. Or at least in the next year, year and a half.“So I don’t think it’s as clear as we’re head and shoulders above them with our next level of talent.”U.S. players have gotten there first partly because they typically face far fewer hurdles. While the MLS academy system is still growing, it has already helped current national team players such as Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna, Tim Weah and Josh Sargent move to major clubs in Europe without playing a game in MLS. Several others, including Christian Pulisic, Jordan Siebatcheu, Antonee Robinson, Sebastian Lletget, Sergiño Dest, Konrad de la Fuente and Yunus Musah, were developed on the continent.“These American players don’t depend on Major League Soccer and these Mexican players depend on their domestic league to go abroad. And that’s a huge problem because if the domestic league thinks their product is worth more, there aren’t going to be teams in Europe to take a chance on them,” said Hérculez Gómez, a former U.S. international who played five years in Liga MX. “Your avenues for opportunity are greater on this side than in Mexico.”It’s not like Mexicans have never played for big clubs. Dozens have, just not now, with only two under-24 players on the Nations League roster — Edson Álvarez and Gerardo Arteaga — playing in Europe. The U.S. has six times as many, which gives it an advantage, said Te Kloese.
“There’s not a lot of science to it. And it goes back to younger players,” he said. “The more players you have at higher competition and in good environments and playing the best against the best, that’s how players get better.“Obviously that is going to matter. It’s going to make a positive impact on U.S. Soccer’s program. 100% sure.”Yet it was Mexico’s success and the U.S. failure in the last World Cup cycle that led both countries to this latest potential turning point. Mexico won the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, beat defending champion Germany in its World Cup opener in Russia and advanced to the knockout round for a seventh straight time. Brazil is the only other country to have achieved the feat.And Mexico kept winning, losing just twice in 25 matches since Martino took over as coach in 2019, climbing into the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time in 15 years. As a result, there has been little reason to change course and the inevitable roster overhaul has been delayed, with just five players on the Nations League roster having made their senior international debut since the last World Cup.“It’s actually kind of a huge dilemma for them right now,” Holden said. “Tata really hasn’t turned the team over yet because no one’s taking those spots.”
Added Claudio Suárez, whose 177 international caps are the most in Mexican history: “My point of view is you have to take the best players you have at the moment. It’s not important if they’re 30-something or 22 or 23. You have to take the best. You have to think about winning, not building a foundation.”But, he added “it’s incredible that there’s no long-term project … planning for the future.”For the U.S., meanwhile, the failure to qualify for World Cup for the first time in more than three decades led U.S. Soccer to start over, with national team coaches Dave Sarachan and Gregg Berhalter issuing the soccer equivalent of open auditions, giving 64 players their first senior national team caps in the last 3 1/2 years. Fourteen of the 23 players on the Nations League roster made their senior international debuts during that period.“The lowest point in U.S. Soccer history was not qualifying for the World Cup,” Lalas said. “And yet we find ourselves in possibly the most positive and bullish moment in our history, given not just the talent that we have, but the depth of the talent. It remains to be seen whether it’s going to live up to the expectations that we have.”That question will be answered in the crucible of CONCACAF competition, including Nations League and this fall’s World Cup qualifiers. Because while the players on the U.S. roster have a combined 80 games of experience in the Champions League, just seven of them have appeared in a World Cup qualifier.And the two competitions couldn’t be more different.“The only way you can get comfortable in that environment is experience with it,” said Donovan, who played in 40 World Cup qualifiers, behind only Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore among Americans. “There’s no simulation for going to Barbados, on a tiny little island, playing on a horrible field, 95-degree weather with 90% humidity other than doing it and feeling the pressure involved.“We don’t have enough guys right now who have been through enough of those experiences.”Mexico does. And if this young American team can’t adapt to those challenges, it won’t matter how many of them play in Europe or how many Champions League games they win.
USL CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP: INDY ELEVEN 1 : 1 OKC ENERGY FC
By Indy Eleven Communications, 06/02/21, 11:00PM EDT
Midfielder Nick Moon’s First Goal of 2021 Campaign Pushes Indiana’s Team Back Atop Central Division Table
INDIANAPOLIS – Indy Eleven used a late first half goal by midfielder Nick Moon to take a lead over OKC Energy FC, but the visitors would find a second half equalizer through Frank Lopez to force a 1-1 draw at IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium. The result kept Indy Eleven unbeaten in its last three times out (2W-0L-1D) and pushed Indiana’s Team back atop the Central Division standings, its 10 points even with Birmingham Legion FC.
“I really felt like the whole team the first half was pretty good, the second half wasn’t quite as energetic and as driven from the team as I was expecting. I felt like we were almost playing the result more than the game,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Martin Rennie. “That’s not how we play and that’s not how we win. I think coming off of a big win the game before was a little bit of a letdown in the second half and something we need to put right.”The match took 10 minutes or so to pick up the pace, but it did so quickly when Eleven forward Gordon Wild collected in midfield and raced to the top of the area only to his shot high. A minute later OKC forward Villyan Bijev broke out himself, beating a defender to get towards the endline but ultimately firing a shot that Eleven goalkeeper Jordan Farr let slide through his six-yard box without worry.A Wild set piece delivery nearly paid dividends in the 17th minute, but defender Nedelkjo Malic’s header at the six glanced just wide left, as did shots from the edge of the area by forwards Manuel Arteaga and Cammy Smith in the 20th minute. Moon got in on the shot parade in the 28th minute, running onto a free ball 25 yards out that rose just over the crossbar.After a flurry of OKC set pieces fell by the wayside around the 35th minute, Wild again found space on a counter opportunity, firing a chance that didn’t miss the near upper left corner by much. It was midfielder Nicky Law’s looping ball over the OKC backline finding Wild once again in the 39th minute, this time a mishit ball bouncing to a fortunate Cochran on his line.Instead of finishing, it was Wild playing provider to give Indy the opener in the 42nd minute. The German’s in-swinging corner kick swerved to meet Moon at the six, where he thundered home a header to notch his first goal of 2021 – and give Wild his league co-leading third assist of the early season.The second stanza opened with mostly half chances through the first 15 minutes, but sparked to life in the 63rd minute when Lopez turned on an Indy defender and nearly caught Farr off his line, only to see his chipped effort bounce just wide. Six minutes later Lopez would indeed even for the visitors, his lunging effort to get on the end of defender Robert Coronado’s cross to the six landing just inside the right post to square the proceedings. Before being subbed off, Wild would have one last go at goal in the 75th minute with a shot from 20 yards that Cochran handled on the bounce. The last quarter hour and four minutes of stoppage elapsed with neither side offering a major threat to break the deadlock, sending both squads home with a share of the spoils.Tonight’s match was the second of five games in an 18-day stretch for Indy Eleven that continues this Saturday, June 5, versus Memphis 901 FC (WISH-TV, ESPN+ and Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com). Tickets for the 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Carroll Stadium are now available and can be purchased at indyeleven.com/tickets orby calling 371-685-1100 during regular business hours.
2021 USL Championship Regular Season
Indy Eleven 1 : 1 OKC Energy FC Wednesday, June 2, 2021 – 7:00 p.m. ET IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, Ind. Attendance: 3,999
IND – Nick Moon (Gordon Wild) 42’
OKC – Frank Lope (Robert Coronado) 69’
OKC – Aidan Daniels (yellow card) 65’
Indy Eleven lineup (3-4-3, L–>R): Jordan Farr; Neveal Hackshaw, Nedeljko Malic (A.J. Cochran 77’), Karl Ouimette (captain); Patrick Seagrist, Nicky Law, Jeremiah Gutjahr (Gershon Koffie 66’), Nick Moon; Cammy Smith (Jordan Hamilton 66’), Manuel Arteaga, Gordon Wild (Peter-Lee Vassell 77’)IND substitutes: Bobby Edwards, Jared Timmer, Aboubacar Sissoko