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Lack of creativity puts slight damper on otherwise solid USMNT win


The U.S. Men’s National Team got the job done on Tuesday night. A young group put in a strong performance against Paraguay and, when the whistle blew, the U.S. had captured a much-needed win.

Still, for a friendly, there was a noticeable lack of creativity, in more ways than one.

Given the roster at hand, the USMNT emerged in a 4-1-4-1 formation featuring three central midfielders. That trio of Wil Trapp, Marky Delgado and Tyler Adams bossed the middle of the field, but it was what happened, or what didn’t happen, in front of them that was one of the big takeaways from the performance.

Lacking a true No. 10 or playmaker, the U.S. struggled to create in important parts of the field with many of their opportunities coming from fullback overlaps and one-on-one wing play. There were attempts at fluidity but, by and large, there as a lack of a creative spark in a match that saw the U.S. fire just six shots with three on target.

“I think the system, on paper, is a 4-1-4-1, but the information throughout the week is that we want movement and interchange,” said interim boss Dave Sarachan. “We don’t want to leave our strikers stranded and we have some decent passers in the middle with Wil and Marky. Tyler is so effective in terms of breaking out as he showed on the penalty and also defensively when we want to press.

“That system allows us to really get after teams and make it difficult on them. Systems are overrated, it changes all the time, but I think that’s the approach we took and I thought it was okay.”

On the day, Kenny Saief was likely the USMNT’s primary danger, at least through the first half. The winger played well on the left side alongside Jorge Villafana, even if the final ball was a bit lacking. In front of him, Bobby Wood struggled to hold the ball or link to the other attackers, taking away another element of creativity.

Now, it was very apparent that there was one giant Christian Pulisic sized hole in the USMNT attack, and that problem will be fixed in time. Still, aside from Pulisic, the U.S. will need to find another player to provide a bit of creativity in the attack over the next year or so.

Perhaps some of those players started the match on the bench. Timothy Weah showed a bit of flair and confidence that has been missing from the USMNT. Andrija Novakovich’s long strides looked pretty good on his breakaway late in the second half. Rubio Rubin has proven a solid attacking presence with both the U.S. and Club Tijuana.

But, by and large, the substitutes were a bit quiet as Sarachan once again chose a safe route over a more exciting one. We didn’t get a look at Antonee Robinson or Erik Palmer-Brown or Shaq Moore, first time callups that didn’t get a chance to make a first impression. It felt like an opportunity wasted. We know Villafana, Wood, DeAndre Yedlin and Darlington Nagbe. Would it have hurt to have inserted someone a bit fresher?

Sarachan said that was due to the “ebbs and flows” of the game, one that certainly changed as it went on.

“All the guys that came in had a great experience of being a part of the national team throughout the nine days,” Sarachan said. “You don’t just make changes for changes sake. We did want to make at least three or four subs, and it could have been six, but that game sort of evolved in a way where we felt the players on the field needed to be rewarded for a great effort. ”

Still, it certainly wasn’t a missed opportunity. After a dull draw in January, a win was certainly a positive for the U.S., a team that hadn’t tasted victory since Panama last fall. Winning builds confidence, and from confidence comes the creativity.

In the months to come, the U.S. will get more chances to impress and build on a solid but understated effort against Paraguay.

“You always want more. That’s a work in progress in terms of developing a chemistry and combination play in the final third,” Sarchan said. “Paraguay defends well. They really do. They have blocks of four, they look to step up quickly. They traditionally don’t allow a lot of chances. I didn’t expect a lot of chances.

“There were moments in the game where it became a real track meet and they could have caught us and we could have caught them, but in terms of build up, we knew we would limit them and we knew we would have not many opportunities. Those games are going to be like that.”


  1. One way to have addressed this would have been to move Nagbe, who had a decent outing, into the Delgado spot & bring Weah on earlier.
    Other than the one great pass Marky didn’t seem to put enough of a stamp on that spot, and with Adams’ versatility and work rate he could have easily moved Nagbe & given Weah more time to overcome his nerves and play…
    In other news: Tyler Adams, please get to Europe soon… get him practicing day to day vs better competition. He’s got more speed and a high high work rate and needs daily work at an urgent rate to get to the next level. Do it NOW, don’t wait

    • Anyone know what Tyler Adams’ contract situation is? How much time does he have? Would be nice to see him really step up and control the midfield this season and make the jump in January. He needs to show he’s grown from his debut season.
      Looking forward to seeing him and Acosta get to Europe and find their level. I believe Acosta’s contract is done after this season and all reports say hes heading overseas.

  2. Sarachan is kind of an a$$hat. Hope he is replaced ASAP. Kenny had a rough start but got better as the game went on. Adams seemed like the only starter who still had legs in the 80th minute…hopefully he gets an good opportunity in Europe. Nice to see Matt have a bit of edginess about him. Look forward to seeing more of Weah in the future. Andrija missed an opportunity late in the game. Wanted to see Antonee but Villafana played well. Can’t wait until Josh and Julian join this group.

  3. I thought we played decently in the game. There were clearly some players who were rusty (Wood), some nerves (Weah, CCV, Delgado), and some unfamiliarity (lack of understanding) between players. That said there were enough positives among the individual performances that once we add in some of the other players (Pulisic, McKennie, Brooks) and give them a more extended camp we’ll hopefully get a better understanding of what we have. That’s why I’m truly looking forward to the 3 friendlies in May/June….so long as the coaching staff continues to call in youth instead of the group that failed to qualify for 2018.

  4. I thought the young kids were pretty good going forward. Very few side passes and hesitant back passes purely for the sake of keeping possession like we saw with the failed USMNT during qualifications. I thought the kids passed forward and did very well against a rugged defense for a friendly.

  5. I am not big Dave Sarachan fan but I see what he is trying to do. His well drilled 4-1-4-1 is simple, accentuates the defensive skill of the team, and prevents blowouts. These are mostly players new to the international game and getting experience and building confidence should be the main goals. Winning or losing friendlies matters littte to veterans but I think it helps the confidence of such a young group.

  6. Like a fast food joint for the young and gifted
    “Bayer Leverkusen your order is up (tyler Adams), Bayer Leverkusen your order is up” 😀
    ….or maybe like Everton

  7. “You don’t make changes for changes sake.”

    No, Dave. You don’t do it for changes sake. You make changes to see what you have for the future and get some exposure and experience for some younger guys. That’s what you do it for, you dope.

    • I actually think this is a game where you make changes for changes sake. The result did not matter at all. Many of these guys traveled from Europe and worked hard during camp. Can’t he just throw them a bone? Would it really be a problem to use all 6 subs and give the guys at least 10 mins?

  8. I don’t think that is the final answer by any means, but add Pulisic to that and a few years experience? Pretty exciting.


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