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Chippy match against Mexico prepares young USMNT for Concacaf style of play


Tuesday night’s U.S. Men’s National Team friendly win over Mexico was about as gritty as it gets. It was a physical affair filled with hard fouls, trash talk, a red card, and two teams that generally don’t like each other. While it wasn’t the peak Concacaf match, it certainly had the all the physical components that the confederation is known for.

Hard fouls that weren’t exactly aimed at winning the ball? Check. Odd bounces and close calls that swung the momentum of the match? Check. A goal that came from the right player being in the right place at the right time? Check.

The only thing missing was the beat up, waterlogged pitch set up in a cricket stadium.

But it’s the physical, sometimes dirty, play that the U.S. needed to adjust to the most. Too many times in the past they’ve allowed their opposition’s questionable tactics affect the way they play. Tuesday night in Nashville showed none of that, as the USMNT kept their cool as Mexico got increasingly chippy with their play.

“That’s one of the things going into games against Concacaf opponents is having composure in moments where it could lead to maybe a red card or something. They got a good taste of it,” head coach Dave Sarachan said after the match.

Sarachan was very pleased with how the young players handled the aggressive second half. He specifically credits the calming effects of Tyler Adams, who, in addition to scoring his first ever national team goal, was a major reason the USMNT didn’t go off the rails, even as the match grew in intensity.

“He’s a winner, this kid,” Sarachan said about Adams. “I’ve been really pleased in terms of his growth on the ball in tight spots. We know that he can run and cover ground and win tackles, but at the next level now can you do the next part and that is have a presence with the ball and picking your spots. It just keeps getting better, It’s not perfect, but I think he’s shown that he’s emerging as a guy everyone’s starting to look up to a little bit when the game’s getting crazy, Tyler was starting to calm us down.”

Having a player that can keep the team on the level is important in Concacaf games that can often feature plenty of chippy play. Thankfully for the USMNT, Adams relished Tuesday’s game and he seems ready for more of it.

“You want to be in the middle of games like that,” he said. “Ones that are chippy. Ones where you have to show your composure and match up against good players. It tests the quality of the team.”

“Coming out on this day I think it’s the most important. I think we showed our character and pride for the country. We went out there and battled at times. Maybe in the beginning, the soccer wasn’t there completely. It was a little chippy at times, but we handled ourselves well.”

Although it is still more than nine months before they play another competitive match, this young United States squad is going to see a lot of Concacaf opposition in the next few years. Between next summer’s Gold Cup, the beginning of the Concacaf Nations League next fall, and concluding with an all important World Cup Qualifying campaign, matches like the one against Mexico are going to seem tame by comparison.

The sooner the USMNT adapts to the chippy, often dirty, style of play the confederation is known for, the better off they will be as they try to shake off the failures of the last cycle.


  1. I’m fine with MB not being a staple moving forward. He’s not as youthful and sharp as he used to be.

    However, I would argue that Jozy is absolutely in the mix. He’s our third highest goal scorer and serviceable. Saying that, he has his faults and by no means a lock. Wood is just as serviceable. Zardes is making a name for himself at Columbus (though I would argue he’d be better suited paired up with Wood or Jozy). Sargent is improving his club standings and likely will be in the mix by Gold Cup. Novakovich is making a name, though it’s a shame he didn’t get PT this camp.

    It is quite possible that come WC 22′ Jozy won’t be in the WC picture, but come GC, he absolutely will be.

  2. Ok. let go over the starting 11. Astrik is a most likely starter that didn’t play vs Mexico.
    Yedlin Miazga Brooks* Robinson
    Adams Mckennie
    Pulisic* ????? Weah

    I think in the back 4 there is no questions.
    Is Bradley better than Mckennie or Adams? Bradley is as slow as molasses.
    Who would play the CM?. Is Kennie better than Weah?
    Altidore vs Wood could be a toss-up.

    So, you see we can arguably have only 3 different players from the Mexico game.

    • Did you have a point, or nah? And who is worried about a starting eleven right now when, as the article clearly says “it is more than nine months until there is another competitive match”?! People need to relax and let this total rebuild take shape without the pressure to win now, or win impressively. I’d argue the youth players coming through the US is ahead of Mexico right now, because for all of the tricks and ability shown by Lainez and Alvarado there was nothing to show for it, nor was there another player that stood out for them

      • 9 months is not that long. I would wager Sarachan has a starting XI, or something close to it, penned in right now. Not that he is expecting to utilize one, but I’m sure he’s worked it out as well regardless of the rebuilding processes.

        He’s even mentioned that he’s going to start bringing in some vets to his rosters in the upcoming friendlies. It’s been great to see all these players getting a shot, but some of the standouts are going to have to start being introduced to seasoned vets who will likely fill the ranks come Gold Cup so that they can establish some degree of chemistry

      • My point is we are not improving since our first game, we are just playing with heart and hustle. I’m pointing that out and others have said…”Well, that is not our starting 11″ and I’m saying that is most of our starting eleven in 9 months and we need to start to play better, our passing is stuck, we can’t make more than 2 passes in a row. The team is not playing fluid ball.

  3. Mexico’s senior team is not as great as self-hating USA fans make it out to be. They were lucky to back into the knockout rounds after a workmanlike but unremarkable Sweden dismantled them easily at the WC. And Brazil finished them off without breaking a sweat. Sure they had a better last 24 months than us, but they aren’t light years ahead at all

    • That’s spot on. I don’t get why we’re so quick to minimize the effort our boys put in on Tuesday. We get that neither team had their A team, but let’s stop the self-loathing and enjoy the victory. And I agree that, while Mexico did shock Germany (and most viewers) in that first game, if you examine their 4 games in Russia, Mexico was quite pedestrian. They were completely exposed by Sweden.

      Yes, their full squad is probably a bit better than the USMNT’s full squad at this moment, but it’s not a big divide. We are starting our rebuilding process further back, while Mexico thinks they can just make a couple tweaks, find Marquez’ replacement, and keep trucking. I think the next year (including the Gold Cup) will be very telling.

    • Taking what I think is a realistic and critical look at the US team is hardly self-loathing. The US did not play particularly well until Mexico went down to 10 men and they were a team missing most all of their best players. That’s a fact. However, talent wise, even this young US team we are fielding now should be better than any team in CONCACAF except maybe for Mexico. We have a lot of young players playing together for the first time, so it will take a while before they reach their potential as a team. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take a realistic and critical look when it’s called for.

      • Gary-

        I would argue that the USMN started picking up the game once Green came into the equation. There are two reasons why the US were on their heels for most of the first half.
        Mexico came out swinging for the fences and the lineup.

        It was no coincidence that Sarachan’s first two moves made the difference. Green opened up the field for other players to get in the attack as he drew pressure from Mexico’s CM. This allowed Adams and Weah to become relevant. Robinson replacing Lichaj opened up the pitch as it allowed Weah to push more centrally and allowed for an actual crosser to overlap him.

        The Red card help the situation, but the game was already shifting towards the US by the time that occurred. Given if Sarachan started Robinson and Green we might have seen a better offensive approach to the game from the beginning (though I’m not talking about the result as it could have easily been different with different personnel).

  4. Our youth team beat their youth team. The problem is they have a senior team while our youth team is it. Meaning, our boys need to improve at a faster rate. I didn’t see any improvement since their first game vs Portugal. We may have won 1-0 but we didn’t look particularly good until Mexico was down a man and Green was moved to the middle.

    • Sorry, but this was far from our “A” team. If this game counted for something, at least half the starting lineup is different. Brooks, Yedlin, Pulisic, Jozy, Johnson, and possibly Bradley would all have started last night in a real game. Also, don’t forget about Johansson and Saieff. Both can potentially be starters if they can ever get healthy.
      So it was their youth/B team against our youth/B team. In the end, it was a fun game and a good result for the USA, but it’s not much more than that in the big picture.

      • You are crazy to think Altidore and Bradley will still be called up. They have not retired bit they both are trash. Highly disappointed US fans are still considering thembafter they played with no heart last time they were in an American nats jersey.

      • Sure. Mexico’s senior team is aging too. But if last night’s game counted, our team would have looked much different. The idea that last night’s team is the best we have right now is simply wrong.

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