Check out the best dang Brunswich Stew I have had (almost as good as my mema’s) or the BarBQ Ribs, Pork, Brisket, Chicken & More at RackZ BarBQ on the corner of 131 and Hazelldell right across the street and down from Badger Field. Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 10% off your next meal. Call ahead at 317-688-7290 M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday. Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You! Save 10% on your order (mention the ole ballcoach)
USA vs Honduras Fox Sports 1 – 7:30 pm Wed night
Well US Soccer fans we can look at this two ways after our devastating 2-0 loss to top of the Table Canada at the Donut Box in Ontario Sunday afternoon. (Hi-Lights) The world is ending and we are on the edge of possibly not qualifying for the World Cup AGAIN with really tough games on the road in March still at Mexico and at Costa Rica (both where we have never won a qualifier). Obviously things are getting much more heated – Defcon 2 maybe? The US now has a home game in Minnesota vs Honduras Wednesday night that has become a MUST WIN GAME. The US stands tied for 2nd well behind Canada. I mean Pulisic is playing horrifically, our #9 hasn’t scored in 3 games, our Captain and enforcer Tyler Adams was hurt in the last game and Berhalter has no clue on how to get this team to score a goal.
Listen I have defended Coach Berhalter for months now, while questioning his starters at times – and selections at times, overall I have supported the overall job done, the development and introduction of fantastic young players and just the way the US has worked to dominate possession vs fellow CONCACAF teams. But EVERYTHING Changes if this US team does not qualify for the World Cup – this is 100% on him. PERIOD. Canada coach John Herdman flat out – outcoached Berhalter on Saturday night. The first mistake was not starting 18 year-old forward Pepi – AGAIN! Unless we find out that Pepi is either hurt or kicked Berhalter’s dog – I just don’t understand why he didn’t start in this most important of games. The other mistake as I mentioned pre-game was not flip flopping Pulisic to the right side instead of the left. I am sorry but Pulisic is flatout in a funk – and he needs a change of some sort. The choice was easy – Alphonso Davies – is out – he’s a left sided player – so take advantage of this by putting Pulisic and Dest together on the right side – and let em fly. This would have allowed for a Aaronson/Morris left side attack and Pepi a true #9 up top. I called the other change – with Zimmerman being replaced by Miles Robinson. Now I didn’t know he would slip on the turf and give up the winning goal vs Canada 7 minutes in.
At the end of the day – the US had 70% of the possession but let’s be honest – that is exactly what Canada wanted. The US had fewer dangerous shots as Canada absorbed the pressure and counter attacked with lightning speed and accuracy. Canada’s 2 forwards had more legit scoring chances than the entire US team did. Credit to the Canadian GK Milan Borjan, dressed in his 1990’s Score Sweatpants, for making THE 2 SAVES on the US best shots on goal. Berhalter finally made subs at the 68th and 74th minute marks – WAY too late on Pepi finally coming in. Honestly it was the insertion of the dreaded MLS’er Paul Arriola who added the most energy late and provided the best 2nd half chance with a bicycle that went just right of the goal. I truly think Berhalter set this up to try to beat Canada and take over first in the group. But his team and his tactics failed miserably – now the US must win vs Honduras or we might be on the outside looking in on this World Cup cycle. This is MUST Win – he DAM sure better start Pepi up front !! I am not predicting ANY American to score for this next game – I have learned my lesson. I will simply hope and pray for a 1-0 win over a horrific Honduras team.
Oh and Thursday night I would play the MLS guys – heck I wouldn’t hesitate to start Morris on the left – and possibly Arriola on the right instead of Pulisic and Weah? I love Musah but we gotta change things up – get an experienced American who plays with the tenacity and guts and blood like a Lletget. Of course Weah should be available and quick off the bench if he doesn’t start on Wed night. Either way I like the US to win 1-0 (it should be 3-0 but I am not sure we can do that anymore.)
Shane’s Starters Wed night
Pulisic or Morris/Pepi/Weah
Jedi Robinson/Miles Robinson/Zimmerman/Dest
US ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB)
DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergiño Dest (FC Barcelona), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Antonee Robinson (Fulham FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC), Tim Weah (Lille), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)
DOOM’S DAY SCENARIO AS LAID OUT BY MY GOOD FRIEND Long Time Carmel FC Coach Mark Stumpf
US may have a problem. I was looking at the standings and the remaining schedule and it is possible that they could be on a collision course with a ‘winner takes all’ game at Costa Rica for 4th place.
Costa Rica drew Mexico today, which gave them 1 more point to 13 (5 pts behind the US).
Here’s a bad, but very realistic scenario:
Canada is at 22 pts.
@El Salvador (my prediction – Draw) — 23pts
@ Costa Rica (Draw) — 24 pts
home vs Jamaica (Win) — 27 pts
@ Panama (Loss) — 27 pts
Mexico has 18 pts,
vs Panama (Win) — 21 pts
vs USA (Draw) — 22 pts
@ Honduras (Win) — 25 pts
vs El Salvador (Win) — 28 pts
Panama has 17 pts.
@ Mexico (Loss) — 17 pts
vs Honduras (Win) — 20 pts
@ USA (See below)
vs Canada (Win) — 23 pts <- keep in mind Canada would have nothing to play for here.
Costa Rica has 13 pts now.
@ Jamaica (Win) — 16 pts
vs Canada (Draw) — 17 pts
@ El Salvador (win) — 20 pts
vs USA. (See below)
USA has 18 pts.
vs Honduras (Win) — 21 pts
@ Mexico (Draw) — 22 pts
vs Panama (See below)
@ Costa Rica (See below)
Basically, if everything plays to above, the US must take one of the final two games because if they don’t….
When the US plays Panama,
If USA loses to Panama, Panama has 23 pts, US (with 22) the most can get is 25 with a Costa Rica win. If Panama subsequently beats Canada, US’s highest finishing position would be 4th.
If USA ties Panama, but lose to Costa Rica: Panama’s max is 24 pts, US sits at 23. A Panama win would put Costa Rica and USA in a tie for 4th. A Panama loss or draw would eliminate Panama and put US/Costa Rica in a tie for 3rd.
A USA loss vs Panama, but tie with Costa Rica would put the US in 4th. Panama in 3rd regardless of Canadian outcome.
Doomsday: If USA loses to both Panama and Costa Rica, US has 22 pts, Panama 23 (pending their game with Canada — which would no longer matter), Costa Rica 23. We would be OUT.
There’s your oh crap scenario. The above also assumes the US steals a point against Mexico @ el tri — not a gimme. Needless to say, Thursday is critical because most of my concern vanishes if Jamaica shows up and takes some pts from Costa Rica. We shall see. But it ain’t over yet and it could be nerve-wracking again this cycle. Eff’ing Mexico couldn’t just take 3 pts from Costa Rica and made this a little easier yesterday. Last thing I want to see is Taylor Twellman getting airtime again going on a 10 minute tirade with no viable solutions.
On that note, with Qualifiers happening with 3 games in just a week, what happens if US has to play Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica needing at least 4 points, but dealing with injuries. Yikes. I hate this format.
Carmel Dad’s Club/Carmel FC opens New Field House
Just a few pictures here from the new Field House at Carmel Dad’s Club at Badger Field. I will have a full write-up Friday in the Ole Ballcoach but it is truly magnificent and should be a huge boon to Carmel FC and all the Dad’s Club sports as it features a full size professional soccer field and 4 Full court Basketball courts/Volleyball/futsal and baseball batting cages to come.
BIG GAMES TO WATCH
Weds, Feb 2
2 pm beIn Sport African Cup Semi Senegal 3-Faso 1
7 pm Paramount + Jamaica vs Costa Rica
7:30 pm FS1 USMNT vs Honduras
9 pm Para+ El Salvador vs Canada
10 pm Para + Mexico vs Panama
Thurs, Feb 3
2 pm beIn Sport African Cup Semi Cameron vs Egypt (Salah)
Sat, Feb 5
7:30 am ESPN+ Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Plymouth Argyle FA Cup
10 am ESPN+ Man City vs Fulham (Robinson, Ream) FA Cup
12 noon CBSSN/Para+ Inter vs Milan Milan Derby
12:30 pm ESNP+ Bayern Munich vs RB Liepzig (Adams)
3 pm ESPN+ Tottenham vs Brighton FA Cup
Sun, Feb 6
7 am ESPN+ Liverpool vs Cardiff FA Cup
9:30 am ESPN+/ESPND Dortmund vs Bayer Leverkusen
10:15 am ESPN+ Barcelona (Dest) vs Atletico Madrid
11 am Fubu TV African Cup 3rd place
11 am ESPN+ Notingham Forest vs Leicester City FA Cup
2 pm Fubu TV African Cup Final Senegal (Mane) vs Cameron/Egypt
2:45 pm Para+ Juve (Mckinney) vs Hellas Verona
2:45 pm beIN Sport Lille (Weah) vs PSG
3 pm ESPN+ Real Madrid vs Granada
11:30 am Fox Sport 2 TBA vs Chelsea Fifa Club WC
2:45 USA Tottenham vs Southampton
2:45 USA Liverpool vs Leicester City
11:30 am Fox Sport 2 TBA vs Chelsea Fifa Club WC FINAL
12:30 pm NBC Norwich City (Stewart) vs Man City
2022 SheBelieves Cup schedule
Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif.
#16 Iceland vs #22 New Zealand, 8pm ET – ESPN
#1 USWNT vs #24 Czech Republic, 11pm ET
Feb. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USWNT vs New Zealand, 3pm ET – ABC
Czech Republic vs Iceland, 6pm ET
Feb. 23 in Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs Czech Republic, 6pm ET
USWNT vs Iceland, 9pm ET – ESPN
“The performance doesn’t hurt”: Gregg Berhalter, USMNT defiantly levelheaded after Canada loss By Charles Boehm
USMNT humiliated in defeat at Canada: What went wrong?
Gregg Berhalter says USMNT ‘dominant’ in eye-popping post-loss presser
Berhalter: We dominated Canada in USMNT loss – ESPN Kyle Bonagura
Canada’s Larin: We’re CONCACAF’s best; U.S. played scared Cesar Hernandez
Canada bolsters its World Cup hopes with shutout victory over U.S.
Canada vs USMNT final score: Hosts smack aimless Americans, 3 things we learned
Surging Canada beat flat USA to take huge step towards 2022 World Cup
World Cup qualifying concern for USMNT? Still confident in Gregg Berhalter? Our experts weigh in
2:31 PM ETESPN
The U.S men’s national team are approaching the end of World Cup qualifying and — surprise surprise! — their trip to Qatar is still not booked after Sunday’s 2-0 defeat in Canada. The USMNT are in second place, level on points with Mexico, with the top three teams guaranteed a World Cup berth. (Fourth place means a one-off game against Oceania’s representative in June.)With the U.S. making heavy work of booking their spot at the 2022 World Cup, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle,Caitlin Murray, Kyle Bonagura, Bill Connelly and Danny Guerra offer their thoughts on this international break so far, as well as what they’re looking for in Wednesday night’s clash with winless Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota.
So … are you still feeling good about qualifying?
At the risk of taking a trip to meme-land, “Not great, Bob!” The reason for such sentiment is simple: The U.S. is one slip-up at home away from letting the whole qualifying process spin out of control. The U.S. has two such encounters left: Wednesday’s match with an already eliminated Honduras, and then what is going to be the big one, the March 27 matchup with Panama in Orlando, Florida.
For the most part, the U.S. has defended its home turf — the one blemish being the 1-1 draw with Canada back in September. But not only is the specter of the 2018 cycle still hovering in the background, but the U.S. looks to be playing worse of late, not better. The U.S. will collectively breathe easier with a win on Wednesday, but the Octagonal appears to be going to go down to the wire, and away dates with Costa Rica and Mexico make it imperative that the U.S. takes care of business on home soil. — Carlisle
The odds are still in the USMNT’s favor even if the table looks tighter than anyone would’ve wanted. But USMNT fans don’t need to be reminded: The odds were overwhelming for the U.S. to qualify for the 2018 World Cup going into the final match day of qualifying then, too. Of 27 possible results-based scenarios on the last match day, only one would’ve resulted in the U.S. missing the World Cup — and that’s the one that happened.
But here’s some more math: Historically, averaging north of 1.6 points per game has been enough to qualify automatically in CONCACAF, and the USMNT is averaging 1.8 so far. The USMNT just needs to stay the course. — Murray
About reaching the World Cup? Yes. It’s not a foregone conclusion the U.S. will qualify, but I have little doubt the team will be in Qatar.
The reality is that the U.S. is in second place, plays an eliminated team at home on Wednesday and has the fourth-place team (Panama) at home in the final window last month. That should be enough of a recipe to finish in the top three and progress automatically. There are treacherous trips to Mexico and Costa Rica, too, but Panama has the hardest remaining schedule (at Mexico, Honduras, at USA, Canada). If disaster strikes and the U.S. falls to fourth, it will still have a chance to punch its ticket with a game against the Oceania winner (likely New Zealand) in a one-off match in June. — Bonagura
The odds are still very much in the United States’ favor, obviously. But such consistently dreadful results on the road have created a situation where they’re just one poor home result away from drama. Obviously qualification matters far more than scoring style points, but the “two steps forward, 1.9 steps back” routine has made things more dramatic than they need to be. — Connelly
A little qualifying drama never hurt anyone (until you don’t actually qualify, that is). But overall, yes. The U.S. is still in a position to pick up six points out of nine from what has been a unique window. There has never been a January window in CONCACAF qualifying, wedged in because of the calendar delays brought by the pandemic. The weather, logistics and lack of form from some key players haven’t helped, but with the home game on Wednesday and one more in March, things remain in their hands. — Guerra
Is Gregg Berhalter still the man for the job based on promises/delivery?
Let’s be clear: Berhalter is not getting fired, nor should he be. Getting rid of him now would be a massive mistake, and here’s why. This team is still playing hard for him. Are they making some mistakes? You bet. Is he making some mistakes? Yep — his choice of striker being the biggest one right now. But there also seems to be less “throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks” decisions. Getting rid of him now would create considerable upheaval ahead of the final fixture window.
There have been moments when Berhalter has delivered on style. In others, he’s gotten results. Delivering on both of those aspects consistently has been the challenge, but I think he’s done enough to still be the man for the job, at least for the moment. Let’s not forget: some of what is transpiring right now is on the players. He can’t wish better performances from Pulisic into existence. — Carlisle
The question of whether Berhalter is still the man depends on whether you ever thought he was the man to begin with. We’re here now, and although Jurgen Klinsmann was deservedly dumped in the middle of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, the truth is that once the USMNT has started down a particular path, it’s hard to get off it. With only one more window left to go, Berhalter is going to have to be the man.
That being said, the players — at least from the outside — seem to have bought into what Berhalter is doing. That’s important. There have been bumps along the way, but the USMNT has never qualified for a World Cup without such bumps. The players and Berhalter are on a shared mission to take the USMNT to new heights and change the perception of a team that was previously a laughing stock. If the players are on board, we should be as well. – Murray
Considering the U.S. won two trophies over the summer and sits in second place in qualifying with four matches to go, it’s simply unrealistic to allow for the possibility that a change will be made. That said, nothing about the way the U.S. has played during qualifying has inspired confidence that Berhalter has the ability to raise the team’s play to the point that it can make a run in Qatar. While the U.S. has mostly dominated possession, that possession doesn’t mean much when it doesn’t lead to consistent chances.
In its last 14 competitive matches, the U.S. has scored more than one goal just four times and just once (against Honduras) has scored more than two. For a coach who made grand statements about changing the way the U.S. plays, this clearly falls short. — Bonagura
Obviously he’s going to keep his job as long as the team qualifies, but each window of qualifiers has brought a new series of “Wait, what?” decisions that make it seem as if he’s making his job harder than it needs to be. We have no idea what his goals are for the center-forward position, and he has in no way cracked the code on how to break down packed-in defenses. There’s obviously no easy answer there and while injuries have impacted lineup choices, his vision gets blurrier with every set of matches. — Connelly
Berhalter had two road losses and some not-so-pretty performances in qualifying, but remember: He has three wins over Mexico across three different competitions. That’s to say, he has shown he can lead various versions of the team over its biggest rival, aside from emerging Canada. There are plenty of valid arguments over his tactics and player selection, but there’s been no visible or reported discontent among the players and staff that marred the 2018 cycle. A coaching change before that tough March qualifying window won’t help anyone; the same perhaps can’t be said about Gerardo “Tata” Martino with Mexico, though… — Guerra
The USMNT’s starting striker should be…
Ricardo Pepi. There really isn’t anyone else with the ability to get on the end of things and be a force in the box. Sure, guys like Jesus Ferreira might link up with their teammates better and Gyasi Zardes is more adept at doing the hard work defensively, but the U.S. attack is in a dreadful slump, and needs someone capable of being a threat in front of goal. One only had to watch Pepi’s substitute appearance on Sunday to see that he’s the guy to occupy the center-backs and be dangerous.
One thing that I’d like to see in the future is a forward who can be a battering ram when the situation demands, like a Daryl Dike (yes, I know he’s out for a while with injury) or Jordan Pefok. Right now, there’s nobody on this roster who can deliver an ugly goal. — Carlisle
Berhalter’s decision to start Ferreira and Zardes so far in this window was surprising. Both are out of season with their clubs, and it was predictable that neither were particularly effective against El Salvador and Canada. Now, Pepi hasn’t scored in roughly his last 500 club minutes for FC Dallas or Augsburg, but of the USMNT’s three goals from a center-forward in this qualifying cycle, Pepi scored all of them. Few of the USMNT’s existing options at No. 9 — players out of season or with lower ceilings — are better.
The only other option is Tim Weah, who couldn’t travel to Canada due to his vaccination status and was sorely missed. He’s been one of the USMNT’s brightest attacking options lately despite his own club struggles. The problem is Berhalter has preferred to play Weah wide. — Murray
It’s got to be Pepi. One of the biggest issues this team deals with — and a common one in international soccer — is that the players don’t play with each other often. It’s a problem that has been compounded by Berhalter’s insistence to cycle through striker after striker, providing even fewer opportunities for players to get comfortable together.
Pepi made an emphatic impact against Honduras and Jamaica and while those are two of the lesser opponents in the region, the team has generally looked better with him in the starting lineup. Pepi has been the starting No. 9 in four of the United States’ five wins (Ferreira started against El Salvador) and his recent club form certainly shouldn’t be held against him.
The one player who hasn’t factored into the discussion, but I’d be curious to see get a crack, is Matthew Hoppe. He made a strong impression playing on the wing in the Gold Cup and plays with a confidence this team has lacked. — Bonagura
Pepi, I guess? The main goal should be to choose a guy and stick with him as much as possible. Despite his obvious limitations, he’s had some strong moments in qualification, and consistency in selection could go a long way even if the pool of options has lots of flaws. — ConnellyFor Wednesday’s match? Pepi. He didn’t enter the El Salvador game and made an impactful appearance in the Canada loss, so overall he’s rested. As for March and beyond, the U.S. can cross that proverbial bridge later. Maybe that two-goal performance at Norwich City is what Josh Sargent needed to find his touch again, or Dike can bounce back after his injury. Jordan Pefok has double-digit goals once again in the Swiss Super League, though if Ferreira buries that early chance against El Salvador, this debate is way less stressful. All that said, the options and potential for the No. 9 position are still there. — Guerra
What do you want to see vs. Honduras besides a victory?
Some fluidity in attack, especially in the final third. Granted, with game time temperatures expected to be hovering around zero degrees, that might be asking a lot, but the U.S. needs to generate some positive momentum that it can take into the final fixture window, and the offense is where the team has struggled the most.
It will help that Tim Weah will be available again. He missed the exertions against Canada due to not meeting the country’s entry requirements regarding COVID-19 (but he met France’s it should be noted), so he should be plenty rested. Christian Pulisic needs to find a way to get back to his old, marauding self. The absence of Tyler Adams to a hamstring injury is a big blow, but Kellyn Acosta needs to step up and provide the platform for Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie to contribute to the attack. — Carlisle
The USMNT looked slow and static against Canada; instead of getting into space and exploiting it, they seemed intent to pass the ball laterally or sideways until everyone got set in pre-planned positions. The players seemed too stuck on Berhalter’s system, which emphasizes sticking to assigned roles and zones to create the tactical overloads Berhalter wants. In addition to defanging the USMNT’s bite in transition, it was also frustrating to watch.
The USMNT needs to show it has both the recognition and the license to take advantage of potential counterattacks when the opportunities arise. It should lead to more goals — and more excitement. — Murray
A goal from Christian Pulisic. It’s clear he’s off-form at the moment and he wears the appearance of a man who is experiencing very little joy playing the game. He remains the most talented attacker on the team by a wide margin and if he’s able to get back on track, that should go a long way toward restoring a sense of positivity around the team. More specifically, I’d like to see him stay in wider positions and stop dropping so deep into midfield to receive the ball.
With McKennie and Musah playing centrally, they have players (in theory) who can progress the ball centrally without having Pulisic bog things down. When he’s able to isolate in 1-on-1 situations, Pulisic can be a game-changer. That’s been consistent throughout his career at Dortmund, Chelsea and the U.S., though he’s not being used that way right now. — Bonagura
Proper execution near the goal. Somehow, the cohesion in the attacking third has grown weaker as qualification has gone on. The U.S. actually generated plenty of threats against El Salvador, but couldn’t finish chances; then, against Canada, they barely generated any quality chances. They “dominated,” in Berhalter’s words, but managed just three shots on goal. I want to see the type of confidence and creation we’ve seen sporadically (but haven’t in this window), just to know it still exists. — Connelly
A first-half goal and no more injuries, since European-based players will be thrown back into the mix come this weekend and the MLS guys are on the verge of preseason. Tyler Adams and Chris Richards will probably miss time with their clubs, and like we saw with Giovanni Reyna and Christian Pulisic, any knocks during international matches – especially against a tough-playing Honduras side – could cascade down the road. Get Luca de la Torre in there to create in the midfield. Maybe Sergino Dest can log some minutes at left-back to relieve Antonee Robinson, considering Reggie Cannon and Deandre Yedlin are options on the other flank. — Guerra
Weston McKennie: USMNT ‘held back’ from direct play in games vs. El Salvador, Canada
3:36 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
The U.S. has struggled for goals against both El Salvador and Canada, with Antonee Robinson‘s tally against the Cuscatlecos the only goal the U.S. has managed to score in the two games. Against Canada in particular, the U.S. seemed oddly reluctant to push the tempo in transition. That’s an area where McKennie feels the team can improve.
“We’re a young team. We’re a team that can run. We’re a team that loves to press,” McKennie said during a Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday. “We’re a team that is most effective and create a lot of our chances from winning balls and pressuring and going straight to goal. I think we kind of held back on that these past two games and didn’t use it to its full ability, I guess. Being effective in the final third and scoring the goals and the opportunities that we get, if it is one or two times a game, I think it’s very important to be effective.”3dJeff CarlisleMcKennie was also asked about his two-game suspension in September for violating the team’s COVID-19 protocols. He expressed regret about his behavior, which ESPN reported at the time as including bringing an unauthorized person inside the team’s bubble, as well as spending a night outside of the team’s bubble.
“I think it was just a learning lesson, obviously,” he said. “I think as I went back, it was just important for me to put my head down and work. Juventus definitely helped me out with that a lot. I struggled for a bit, lost some of my confidence and like I said it was a learning lesson. I felt like I let my team down and let my country down and my family and myself. So whenever I got called back in it was just to try and rebuild the relationships and the trust with everyone and just perform and show that I’m there for the team and then I’m there to try and win. And so I think the best thing as a person to do is be available. So I think that was my biggest thing is just to be available and not have a situation like that again.”The U.S. team’s problems in attack aren’t limited to how it executes in transition. The play of Christian Pulisic has come under scrutiny as the Chelsea attacker has looked far short of his best.”All of us have had our ups and downs. All of us have had difficult times,” McKennie said. “The most important thing is that we’re there for each other and obviously, with the situation that he’s in, maybe the amount of playing time that’s involved in is just catching his footing again, and then building his confidence. But I think, in general, he’s still an important piece because he’s one of those type of players that might have one spark in a game … he could maybe not do anything all game and then have one spark. He’s one of the players very unpredictable to the opponents. And I think he’s just someone that adds another type of dangerous, one-on-one ability in the final third.”
2022 Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers: USA 0-2 Canada – the Americans put up a blank end in a bad loss
The USMNT and Canada set out to play in what has the makings of a great rivalry. With cold weather, possible snow, artificial turf, it’s clear that the teams were set to play what is distinctly soccer and distinctly not football. The stage was set for this to be a pure test of grit, athleticism, and preserving over skill and technical ability – whichever team did sports the best would win. Indeed, it may very well be the first international soccer rivalry in history.The USA put together a lineup that featured three changes from the first match of the window. Miles Robinson got the start at center back, Brenden Aaronson replaced the not vaccinated enough for Canada Tim Weah, and since no American strikers can score on purpose, one who scores on accident got the nod with Gyasi Zardes up top. The Zardes move might have turned some heads, but he’s got better movement than Ricardo Pepi and knows how to play in what French Canadians would call a spectacle de merde than just about any other player on the roster. In fact, if anything it’s somewhat surprising that Berhalter didn’t go with a lineup that had more players accustomed to playing bad soccer really well given the conditions and field dimensions.Canada started a bunch of guys that love plaid and maple syrup.In the end, the team with more MLS players starting won 2-0. Canada capitalized on an early mistake from the Americans, used an effective press to hold off the American attack, and got some timely goalkeeping to boot. For the USMNT, it was a rough game. The first 45 saw the visitors nearly completely unable to get any chances going forward and the second half was not much more productive. A second goal came in injury time for Canada and the match would end at 2-0.
Gifs of soccer and jokes I stole from a movie that came out in 1994*… and maybe one from 1983
It wouldn’t take long for soccer to happen, a goal kick from Matt Turner that Canada won and quickly played forward found its way to Cyle Larin. Chris Richards lost his footing and couldn’t close him down before the striker scored and watched the entire country of Canada pledge allegiance to the maple leaf.This was an ideal situation for Canada, with the lead they could turn the game into a real poutine disaster, and just kick Christian Pulisic – they were clearly not there for futbol, their goalkeeper wears sweatpants.In a twist of irony, Canada was able to do what the USMNT did against Mexico for years – somehow get a goal, and then run fast and do teamwork to make up for their comparative lack of skill.
The ref had let a fair amount go, but did produce a yellow card when Vitoria kicked Pulisic’s legs from under him when a nice counter was developing for the USA in the 31st minute. The US really struggled to create much in the half, Canada wasn’t even just sitting in a low block, the home team pressed the Americans and forced them to play out of the back. When the away team got the ball into the final third, a delivery to a forward in the box was missing and Canada would no longer be in danger.The best chance of the half came in the 43rd minute when a corner found Weston McKennie. His header went on target, but Milan Borjan made a nice save to keep the lead as once again, Canadians are always dreaming up a lotta ways to ruin our lives. The metric system, for the love of God! Celsius! Neil Young!*The half would end at 1-0 and Gregg Berhalter would have to once again hope to conjure up some magic in the second half after a listless 45 minutes.It’s not entirely clear that there was an adjustment, but the USA did seem to come out with more urgency and intensity. For example, Sergino Dest tried to start a fight with Tajon Buchanan and Weston McKennie was intent on trying to score a hat trick on one shot it seemed like. His effort paid off at the hour mark when the midfielder worked a pass to Aaronson at the top of the box. The forward’s shot forced a save but was not good enough for an equalizer.In the 68th minute Gregg Berhalter decided to match MLS with MLS as Kellyn Acosta, Jordan Morris, and Ricardo Pepi came in for Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, and Gyasi Zardes. Adams had gone down before his substitution and seemed to be nursing the back of his leg, but it didn’t seem too concerning.Just after the subs, Canada pounced on a poor USA effort at playing out of the back, Jonathan David forced Matt Turner into a save and Larin got a shot off on the rebound that the keeper also managed to keep out of goal.The game got more MLSy as Paul Arriola came on for Yunus Musah and Reggie Cannon entered for Dest in the 76th.As the clock wound ever closer to 90 minutes, the USA was a bit more convincing… well, it was different. Pepi was an improvement over Zardes and provided more of an option to pass to. Jordan Morris also offered a bit more in terms of at least attempting to deliver the ball into the box, but these were marginal improvements on an overall subpar performance for the team.Arriola very nearly scored a spectacular equalizer in the 87th minute but just missed the far post with a bicycle kick. That would be the best chance the Americans would get late. The team franticly tried to produce something, but nothing materialized. Adding insult to injury, Sam Adekugbe scored on a counter in the last minute of stoppage time to put any doubt about final result to rest.
Who’s the USMNT No. 9?
Five Different Players Have Started at Center-Forward in 10 World Cup Qualifiers for the Goal-Poor USMNT After Sunday’s 2-0 Loss at Canada
HAMILTON, Ontario — Remember October? It wasn’t that long ago. An 18-year-old named Ricardo Pepi started for the U.S. at center-forward against Jamaica and scored twice off tremendous crosses, giving him three goals in his first two games. The sample size was tiny, of course, and yet you couldn’t help but wonder: Was the USMNT potentially on the verge of ending a decades-long quest to find a truly world-class center-forward?
Three months later, in the wake of Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Canada, those three goals in those two games remain the only ones scored by any U.S. center-forward in the 10 matches of World Cup qualifying. Obviously, no verdict is in yet on Pepi, who just turned 19 and recently made a $20 million move from FC Dallas to Augsburg in the German Bundesliga, but the U.S.’s search to find a go-to No. 9 continues.
Surprisingly, coach Gregg Berhalter has chosen not to put Pepi in the lineup for either of the first two games this window, opting instead for two MLS forwards, Jesús Ferreira and Gyasi Zardes, who haven’t played club matches in nearly three months. All told, no fewer than five U.S. players have started at center-forward in World Cup qualifying: Ferreira, Jordan Pefok, Pepi, Josh Sargent and Zardes—the last of whom has made two qualifying starts, at Panama and Canada, coinciding with the U.S.’s two defeats.The U.S. can say all it wants about controlling 64% of possession against Canada, and it certainly did on Sunday. “It’s hard for me to remember a performance away from home this dominant without getting a result,” Berhalter argued. “So the result hurts. The performance doesn’t hurt.” But the facts remain that 1) the U.S. possession dominance was due partly to the game state of Canada retreating after going ahead 1-0 in the seventh minute, and 2) despite the U.S.’s ball control, it had only one golden scoring chance: Weston McKennie’s first-half header that was saved by sweatpants-wearing keeper Milan Borjan.
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In the big picture, the U.S. is still on track to qualify for the World Cup and in second place in the Octagonal with 18 points (and a plus-6 goal difference), behind Canada (22) and ahead of Mexico (18, plus-5) and Panama (17). But the U.S.’s margin for error is slim, considering the fourth-place finisher will have to go to a one-game intercontinental playoff against the Oceania winner in June for a spot in Qatar. Beating last-place Honduras in frigid St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday will be crucial ahead of a daunting final window in March that includes a home showdown against Panama and trips to Mexico and Costa Rica.
But there’s a worrying trend: The U.S. isn’t scoring many goals. In fact, the current output of 1.3 goals per game is the second-lowest for the U.S. in the seven final rounds of CONCACAF qualifying since the World Cup was expanded to 32 teams in the 1998 cycle.
U.S. GOALS PER GAME IN FINAL ROUND WORLD CUP QUALIFYING BY CYCLE
- 2022 1.3
- 2018 1.7
- 2014 1.5
- 2010 1.9
- 2006 1.6
- 2002 1.1
- 1998 1.7
That’s not entirely down to the center-forward. “I don’t think we created that many clear-cut chances that we should have finished,” Berhalter said after the game. “So I don’t think today was an issue of poor finishing. I think it was more a lack of chance creation that I think got us down a little bit, a lack of precision in the final third.”
Canada’s Continued Rise Should Look Familiar to USMNT
Canada sits undefeated atop Concacaf’s World Cup qualifying table by operating like an older edition of the U.S., whose current group’s margin for error has diminished.
- BRIAN STRAUS 1/31/22
- Concacaf history may be repeating itself, and Sunday afternoon’s World Cup qualifier in Hamilton, Ontario, offered an ironic glimpse into a power structure that appears to be evolving again in real time.Forty years ago, it was Mexico, the unquestioned regional power, that had to contend with a vigorous challenge from an upstart to the north. Lacking El Tri’s pedigree and polish, the nascent U.S. men’s national team compensated with vigor, efficiency and an exhausting commitment to be difficult to play and defeat. Over time, it worked, and an American soccer culture took root. The two countries now are essentially equals, at least on the national team level, and have been trading blows and titles for decades. In many ways, Mexico is still coming to terms with the loss of its permanent place at the Concacaf summit.
Now Canada, a country that hadn’t even advanced to the final round of World Cup qualifying since the late 1990s, is writing a similarly stunning script. While the U.S. has received the plaudits, press and attention for its growing young core of talented athletes, its UEFA Champions League players, its high-profile transfers and its Gold Cup and Nations League winners, Canada has been forging a steely, collective identity. While U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter tries to instill an ambitious and proactive style of play, leaving behind the reductive soccer that once was the program’s hallmark, Canada’s John Herdman has focused on consistency, cohesion and mastering the basics—playing mistake-free soccer and contesting a game on his team’s terms.Hamilton is the traditional home of Canadian steel production, and on Sunday, its national team reflected that solidity and strength. One team passed, moved and passed some more. The other refused to break, then made the plays that won the game. Canada’s deserved 2–0 triumph wasn’t a fair reflection of the possession stats or of the visitors’ commitment to attack. Instead, it was a reflection of the home team’s old school defensive discipline and mastery of the moments that mattered.Canada (6-0-4) has earned qualifying points in the U.S. and Mexico, and it’s now defeated both traditional powers on home soil. It’s clearly earned its spot atop the Octagonal standings and could all but seal its first World Cup invite in 36 years when the qualifying window closes next Wednesday. The U.S. (5-2-3), meanwhile, has a huge game coming up against Honduras in frigid St. Paul, Minn. With treacherous trips to Mexico and Costa Rica scheduled for March, the Americans’ margin for error is almost gone. The top three Octagonal finishers will advance to this year’s World Cup and the fourth-place side will head to a one-game intercontinental playoff“Our focus right now is finishing off the window with a win against [Honduras], which we know is easier said than done,” Berhalter said. “But that’s going to be our goal. That’s going to be our focus. If can do that, we’ll be in good position. And then it’s about going into the last window and getting results. And we’re confident we have a team that can do that.”Berhalter’s confidence is borne from a couple years of solid development, two recent trophies and his players’ obvious talent. He wasn’t shaken by Sunday’s final score, and was borderline defiant when assessing the game’s ebb and flow.”We asked them to be dominant. We asked them to embrace the conditions, embrace the physicality of the opponent. And I think we did that and more,” he said. “It’s hard for me to remember a performance away from home this dominant without getting a result. So, the result hurts. The performance doesn’t hurt.”
Berhalter played to win at Tim Hortons Field, where the temperature was about 25 degrees at kickoff. In the Octagonal’s two previous three-game windows, he rotated his squad significantly for the second match on two full days rest. He swapped out six starters ahead of the September tie against Canada in Nashville, and then rotated seven before losing at Panama the following month. On Sunday, however, he changed only three. Right forward Brenden Aaronson started in place of Tim Weah, who wasn’t able to make the trip because of his vaccination status. Striker Gyasi Zardes was deployed up top in place of Jesús Ferreira, and Miles Robinson filled in for Walker Zimmerman (hamstring) at center back.Canada’s roster concerns were more pressing. Its top player, and perhaps the brightest star in Concacaf, Bayern Munich left back Alphonso Davies, is out with post-COVID-19 myocarditis. Influential Porto midfielder Stephen Eustáquio was missing with COVID-19 concerns as well. No matter. This is an old-fashioned side that plays better than the perceived value of its parts. It’s also a team whose strikers are a strength. While the conveyor belt supplying the U.S. with young talent has yet to produce a reliable finisher (Ricardo Pepi is 19 and a work in progress), Canada’s Jonathan David and Cyle Larin lead the Octagonal in scoring and are as mature and ruthless as they come in the region. They changed the game in the seventh minute.U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner took a poor goal kick into the wind, and a long Canadian header put the ball right back into the heart of a defense that wasn’t sufficiently compact. A quick exchange between Larin and David sent the former past a flailing Robinson, and Turner failed to reach Larin’s shot toward the left post.
“I don’t think they dominated much of anything tonight, to be honest, but give them a lot of credit for the resiliency. And one thing that separates Canada from from most of the other teams in the group is the quality of their strikers and their ability to finish a really small amount of chances,” Berhalter explained.“They deserve credit for what they’ve been doing. They’ve been resilient all qualifying window. They’re leading the group for a reason. Finishing off that first one is a great example,” he added.Larin’s effectiveness stood in winning contrast to the visitors’ wastefulness. The U.S. enjoyed 64% of possession and won the midfield battle but, like their first encounter in Nashville, had no answers for a Canadian side content to withdraw and counter. The Americans’ recognition of opportunities to attack in transition was slow, and passes into the penalty area were too frequently blocked or inaccurate. Christian Pulisic often drifted toward the middle rather than trying to stretch the Canadians on a narrow field, and the U.S. put a meager three shots on target.Weston McKennie had the Americans’ best scoring chance, but his first-half header off a Pulisic corner kick was brilliantly saved by Canada’s Milan Borjan, who reached high with his right hand to nudge the ball off the crossbar. Aaronson had the best look of the second half, but he failed to take advantage of a nice feed from McKennie and sent his bid straight at the goalkeeper. Substitute Paul Arriola then came close with an audacious bicycle kick in the closing moments. While the U.S. was willing to try anything, it was Canada that was uncomplicated and productive. Sam Adekugbe, an England-born, Vancouver Whitecaps product who now plays in Turkey, provided the exclamation point with a strong, stoppage-time run down the U.S. center and a pinpoint finish past Turner. It was his first international goal.“I don’t think we created that that many clear-cut chances that we should have finished off. So, I don’t think today was an issue of poor finishing. … I think it was more of lack of chance creation that I think got us down a little bit, a lack of precision in the final third,” Berhalter said.He added, “Overall, when we talked about what we needed to do to win this game, we checked almost all the boxes. And that I’m pleased with.”It’s easy to imagine the coaches who faced the U.S. in the ‘90s and early 2000s saying similar, wondering how they were beaten by a less-heralded squad that had little of the ball yet always seemed to be in some sort of command. The Canadians were rarely threatened in Hamilton. They appeared to have the Americans right where they wanted them, even when the U.S. was on the front foot. Soccer has a habit of separating style from the final score, and teams like Canada have a habit of amplifying that phenomenon.“We’re living the dream. Through the hard work and the effort, we’re living a big moment. This country feels like they’re behind us and we’re nearly there. It feels like we’re a football country,” Herdman said. “That’s what this is all about, team spirit. We’ll never stop fighting and we’ve got a football nation behind us now.”Turner said, “Credit to my teammates for fighting for 90-plus minutes. We just couldn’t get the goal. … I think we can take a lot of positives from this game. But at the same time, points count for more than moral victories.”The U.S. now needs points. Berhalter will have little choice but to rotate more of his squad against Honduras. McKennie, Pulisic, Yunus Musah, Sergiño Dest and Antonee Robinson are among the key men who started two qualifiers in four days. And Berhalter may be without midfield linchpin Tyler Adams, who left Sunday’s game with a hamstring issue, and center back Chris Richards, who suffered a foot injury. Wednesday’s game in Minnesota isn’t mathematically a must-win—the U.S. still is in shape to finish at least fourth—but in practical terms, it is. Perhaps that desperation will help the Americans rediscover the qualities that helped change the face of Concacaf years ago.
Analysis: USMNT offense falls apart in 2-0 WCQ loss to Canada
The USMNT suffered a tough loss to Canada and while the team had an edge in possession, its offense had no bite. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks down the game after a second viewing
BY BRIAN SCIARETTA JANUARY 31, 202212:45 PM
THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL team dropped a 2-0 decision to Canada on Sunday in a defeat which has now raised the stakes dramatically for its Wednesday night clash against Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota. The loss was disappointing for Gregg Berhalter’s team in that it was decent with possession, but often the possession lacked any bite.Berhalter kept most of the starting lineup together from the team the defeated El Salvador on Thursday – changing just Brenden Aaronson in for Tim Weah, who was not permitted to enter Canada, Miles Robinson for Walker Zimmerman, and Gyasi Zardes in for Jesus Ferreira. The entire midfield of Tyler Adams, Weston Mckennie, and Yunus Musah stayed the same. The fullbacks of Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest also stayed the same.Canada struck first, in just the 7th minute. A weak goal kick from Matt Turner barely reached the midfield line. Canada won the first and second balls, played Cyle Larin into the box on a quick break and Larin made no mistake with the finish.From there until the end, the U.S. team had the ball but lacked purpose. The narrow field (played at the FIFA minimum of 70 meters) helped allowed Canadian defenders to quickly close down on American attackers.Most shots the U.S. team had were of little threat. Weston McKennie had the best chance in the first half off a corner kick late in the half and Paul Arriola’s bicycle attempt late in the game was the best chance in the second half.After Chris Richards was forced out of the game due to injury, the U.S. team was shorthanded since all substitutions were made. Deep into stoppage time, Sam Adekugbe took advantage of open space in the U.S. team’s backline and scored on a counterattack to ensure all three points went to the Canadians.Here are some thoughts on the game
NEED MORE MIDFIELD PLAYMAKING
The midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Yunus Musah has promise and all three players are talented. But it is fair to ask if they are redundant – especially between McKennie and Musah – and if there is enough ability to create. If not, it puts a lot of stress on the front line to do all of the work in the front third.In this game, the front three fell apart and were not in-synch and were often left to do things individually. The absence of teamwork among the front three or the link between the midfield and the front three was lacking. In this game, the U.S. team outshot Canada 13-8 but the better chances were all in Canada’s favor. Most of the U.S. chances were half-chances, at best.There are other options to explore. Can Aaronson play in the midfield with McKennie? This replicates the role that Aaronson plays at Salzburg. There is also the pending return of Gio Reyna as well, and he could slide into the attacking midfield as well. Then there are the traditional backup players such as Lletget, Roldan, and de la Torre.The midfieders are all talented and have qualities but exploring combinations that not just help with possession but help with creation seems to be a worthwhile task.
The U.S. team seemed to play into Canada’s hands in this game. The U.S. team completed over twice as many passes as Canada (438-210). The passing inside the opposing half was even more lopsided in favor of the U.S. team with 233-78.Canada didn’t seem to mind. Head coach John Herdman trusted his team’s defense and knew he had superior forwards in Jonathan David and Cyle Larin where it only needed a few chances to score.Who cares about possession dominance when they (Canada) are playing for the counter attack all day,” Murray said. “We were out coached today. I would also add that the like for like subs were not the answer. Should’ve gone to a back three – pushing Robinson inside and bringing another player into the center of the park higher up the field. The players need to understand that it’s win or bust in the approach. That’s not what the head coach was talking about after the game.”Regarding the substitution approach, Murray seems to be correct. The team’s approach wasn’t working and chances were minimal. Canada had the U.S. team figured out and a different look could have tested Canada. Instead, a like for like substitution pattern allowed Canada to keep up with its same, effective defensive plan.
Canada deserves to be at the top of the Octagon right now and the reason why is that they are very well coached, and the players all understand and believe in each other. When I was watching them, it reminded me of the U.S. national team under the first cycle of Bruce Arena in 2002 or the Bob Bradley-coached cycle in 2010. This team has no problems punching above their weight and they find goals despite being at a possession disadvantage.No one liked to play against the U.S. team in those eras and no one wants to play against this Canada team either.
LOOKING AHEAD TO HONDURAS
This game is now massively critical. Yes, Honduras is dead last in the Octagon – without a win and sitting on just three points from 10 games. But upsets happen and this cannot be taken lightly.The U.S. team has to win this – and it would also help massively if Mexico can pound Panama. The U.S. team has just a one-point lead on fourth-place Panama. If the U.S. falls into fourth, it would be in the relegation playoff position.The minute the draw was announced, what stood out was the difficulty of the final window with away games against Mexico and Canada along with a home game against a Panama team that is playing very good soccer right now.It is going to be very close if the U.S. team heads into the final window with a lead of fewer than four points on a qualifying spot. If it is four points, it becomes all about winning that second game in March against Panama. Right now, a U.S. win over Honduras and a Mexico win over Panama would give the U.S. team a four-point cushion. But if either of those don’t happen, it is going to be very tight.In this game on Wednesday, Berhalter will probably stick with the staples of McKennie, Adams, A. Robinson, Dest, Pulisic. Weah will likely return to the starting lineup. The interesting decisions will come in who completes the midfield? Who starts up top? Who is in central defense?And while this has been stated many times, the U.S. team’s attacking set pieces have been woefully ineffective during the entire Octagon. There are many reasons for this, but one is that Pulisic’s deliveries have not been good.
LAYER RATINGS VS. CANADA
THE STARTING LINEUP
Matt Turner: His poor goal kick gave rise to Canada’s attack up the middle. The worst part wasn’t the kick but rather that he took it before his fullbacks moved up the field. It gave Canada numbers in the midfield to start their rush. Aside from that, Turner was okay but it was a tough moment. Rating: 4.5
Antonee Robinson: Was one of many players caught a bit flat-footed on Canada’s opening goal. His final ball let him down for most of the day. Rating: 4.5
Miles Robinson: Tough day at the office for Robinson who had a hand in both goals, albeit his missed tackle on the second goal was when he was covering a lot of space due to Richards being out injured, with his team down to 10 players, and trying to press. Still, this was not his day. Rating: 4.0
Chris Richards: He could have done better on the first goal, and his absence was felt on the second goal. Still, it wasn’t that strong of a performance. Rating: 4.5
Sergino Dest: Did a decent job defending Tajon Buchanan, which was one of the team’s top priorities. Dest didn’t get forward that much and he had a turnover in the 71st minute which gave Canada a chance. Rating: 5.5
Tyler Adams: Did his part against a physically strong Canada team that was gunning for counter attacks. Rating: 6.0
Weston McKennie: The Juventus midfielder should have done better with his 43rd minute header off a corner and he also committed five fouls to interrupt the flow of the game. He lost a lot of his 50/50 balls on top of the fouls. Still, he was aggressive with his dribbling (probably the best on the team) and his passing from distance is an asset. Rating: 5.5
Yunus Musah: the Valencia midfielder was on the ball enough but his offensive bite was lacking and he wasn’t part of anything too dangerous. Rating: 5.0
Christian Pulisic: The Chelsea winger had three shots, although none were dangerous. His set piece deliveries were also not improved from the El Salvador game. He did draw a lot of attention to Canadian defenders who looked to foul him once he looked threatening. His dribbling never really opened up anything and his winning of 50/50 balls was also poor for a second straight game. In this one he was 3/13. Rating: 4.5
Brenden Aaronson: Aaronson brought energy in this game and what little offense the U.S. team created, seemed to come from him as he set up each of Pulisic’s three shots. He also won a majority of his duels (7/13), was more effective in his dribbling, pressed, and was also 3/3 in his tackling. Rating: 5.5
Gyasi Zardes: The Columbus Crew midfielder struggled on the smaller field where the defense was immediately collapsing around him. Part of his struggles were on a lack of service, but part of it was also on him. He had some good hold-up plays but couldn’t help generate anything near the goal. Rating: 4.0
Ricardo Pepi: He brought some energy to the U.S. team’s attack but skied a half-chance late. Rating: 5.0
Kellyn Acosta: Acosta was decent but didn’t really elevate the U.S. team’s midfield other than once nice long-looping ball into the box which created a half-chance from close-range. Rating: 5.5
Jordan Morris: The Seattle Sounder was aggressive with his runs but could never find the open space he craves against a deep-lying Canadian defense. Rating: 5.0
Paul Arriola: The new FC Dallas winger probably should have come into the game sooner and he was one of the more aggressive U.S. attackers the final 15 minutes of the game. He nearly had an equalizer with an acrobatic bicycle kick that would have been a goal for the ages. Rating: 6.0
Reggie Cannon: Came in late for Dest but didn’t really help the team push forward when offense was needed. Rating: 5.0
Honduras bounceback job: Another gut check for Gregg Berhalter & USMNT
By Charles Boehm @cboehm
Monday, Jan 31, 2022, 01:18 PM
HAMILTON, Ontario – The US men’s national team‘s postgame press availability ran a lot shorter after Sunday’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Canada than the home win over El Salvador last week, because their traveling party had a flight to catch.
The USMNT usually travel by charter, which seemingly would have been unlikely to leave them behind. Nonetheless, the mood was clear: Gregg Berhalter and his team were eager to cross the border and escape the icy North, even if their next stop, Minneapolis-St. Paul, is even colder at the moment.
“I thought we were trying to create chances, playing in their half, winning duels and proving that we can control the game,” said Atlanta United center back Miles Robinson. “It’s just a matter of a few moments that can cost us the game. But yeah, it’s completely past all of us. I think we just have to focus in on Honduras at this point.”
Losing to the Octagonal’s undefeated runaway leaders on their turf should no longer be seen as a disappointment; the CanMNT are for real, and the only nation in the region that can honestly begin to contemplate a trip to Qatar 2022 in the fall. But setting aside for a moment what Berhalter said about it, this was a bad Sunday indeed for the Yanks.
Tyler Adams, an ever-present force in the lineup, fierce emotional presence and author of many a central-midfield conquest, is hurt with a hamstring strain that’s surely ruled him out for Wednesday’s meeting with Honduras at Allianz Field (7:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision TUDN).
The US finished the Canada game with 10 players because Chris Richards couldn’t continue following a foot injury. Berhalter told CBS Sports in a live standup interview it’s feared to be a broken bone. Nashville SC‘s Walker Zimmerman should start the next one at center back; in order to do so he’ll be shaking off a supposedly minor hamstring issue that led him to be shelved on Sunday.
(EDIT: Adams and Richards are injured and won’t feature against Honduras.)
Up top, three different strikers have started at the No. 9 spot in the USMNT’s last three qualifiers, and none have scored. Christian Pulisic was given a full 90 minutes to play his way out of his current dry spell, but showed only flashes of his devastating best. Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah continue to show quality, but must now adapt to being specifically targeted and neutralized by opponents.
“When I think about the big picture of this,” said a stubbornly calm Berhalter at Tim Hortons Field, “Canada is clearly in first place. We may drop to third place tonight, but we’re still in good position in World Cup qualifying and we want to close out this window with a win at home against Honduras to solidify our position.”
Make no mistake: The United States are most definitely mired in a crowded race for one of Concacaf’s three automatic qualification slots. Even tied in second place, a whisker ahead of Mexico on the goal-differential tiebreaker with plucky Panama just a point behind them, a World Cup return is far from certain with four games to go.
Fate has tossed his team a break in the form of a home game vs. the last-placed team in the group, who just suffered a backbreaking 2-0 home loss to El Salvador that makes them the first and only team in the Ocho to be mathematically eliminated from contention and remain winless. It’s a must-win, though, and the blueprint Canada used to take four points from their two qualifiers vs. the USMNT can be imitated by Los Catrachos.
Berhalter’s team has been persistently slow starters for quite some time now, scoring just two first-half goals in 10 Ocho matches. They also have a recurring tendency to be predictable in their buildup and were not particularly crisp or bold in their vertical passing on Sunday, often dawdling on the ball waiting for patterns to materialize. When that’s the case, opponents don’t mind letting them have the ball in non-threatening areas.
If and when they turn it over, well-executed transition play can catch them out, as Jonathan David and Cyle Larin demonstrated in their seventh-minute opener. With the likes of Romell Quioto, Alberth Elis and Anthony “Choco” Lozano in the mix, Honduras too can counter with pace and flair. They can also muck things up in the meantime – just hark back to the ugly Concacaf Nations League semifinal that required an 89th-minute winner from Jordan Pefok.
CanMNT boss John Herdman gave a hint of his plan after his side’s triumph.
“You see McKennie, Aaronson, Pulisic, Musah, Dest – guys that are in great form,” he said. “You’ve got to know that in a game like this, there’s going to be two elements: it’s going to be tactical and it’s going to be about team spirit.
“The first goal was key. I mean, once you score that first goal, you’ve got control. Now, you can take control of where you want to play the game, and how you want to play the chaos. And we were able to adapt, to allow them – similar to when we played them in Nashville – to allow them a bit more pitch control in areas, and to make sure that we were resilient. We’ve shown that we can do that.”
Fail to take all three points in St. Paul, and March becomes a nervy run-in indeed. A trip to mighty Azteca in high-altitude Mexico City opens the next and final Ocho window, one of the most daunting away days in the world even against this off-color version of El Tri currently stumbling along under Tata Martino. The USMNT have never won a qualifier there, with just two hard-won draws in their history.
Then it’s a rematch with Panama at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, where three points will be essential. And this cycle concludes with a visit to Costa Rica. US teams very rarely take so much as a point from Los Ticos in Central America, with an active streak of eight straight qualifying losses across two different stadiums and zero wins in San Jose all-time.
Of course, results elsewhere could break in Berhalter’s favor, as they already did with Costa Rica holding host Mexico to a draw Sunday evening. But that’s the very definition of not controlling your own destiny. Thinking back to the gut-wrenching roller coaster of the 2018 cycle’s final night, the cloud that emerged from Couva. So much had to go wrong for the USMNT to miss out on Russia 2018, but everything aligned.
If there’s one basic criterion that would show the USMNT have advanced from that point, it would be clinching a place in Qatar sooner and saving their fans from facing that scenario again.