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Jamaica 1, USMNT 0: The SBI Breakdown

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WASHINGTON — There is no sugarcoating it: That was awful.

The U.S. Men’s National Team suffered its first defeat under Gregg Berhalter on Wednesday, losing, 1-0, at the hands of Jamaica in a game in which the Americans were far too predictable, lackadaisical, experimental, and, frankly, second-best.

Here are a few thoughts on what happened yesterday:

EXPERIMENTAL FAILURE

The U.S. got very experimental here, playing in a fluid 5-2-2-1 (5-4-1 if you want to simplify it) that would morph into a 3-2-2-3 when in possession. Here is what the Americans were looking to do in that setup:

  • Wing backs Paul Arriola and Antonee Robinson turned into wingers high up the field when the Americans had the ball and were solely responsible for providing width to the attack.
  • When out of possession, Arriola and Robinson had to race back from their advanced positions as quick as possible to try and help the three centerbacks put out the fires.
  • A midfield foursome of Wil Trapp, Jackson Yueill, and Cristian Roldan, and Djordje Mihailovic were tasked with winning the center of the park.
  • Positioned in a square, Trapp and Yueill were the double 6s in front of the back three and Mihailovic and Roldan played higher up and served as the two 10s.

Defensively, Arriola and Robinson held up okay on the day. Not great but not horrendous either. Attacking-wise, though, they were abysmal, especially Robinson, who repeatedly found himself in good spots only to either flub his ensuing cross or fail to get it past his mark altogether.

Meanwhile, the middle four were all unable to make good on their assignments. Neither Trapp nor Yueill won the ball from the Jamaicans with great effect, and Roldan and Mihailovic wasted the line-breaking passes they received on occasion in the final third by failing to accurately place the next pass in a dangerous spot. Mihailovic was particularly ineffective at this, predictably trying over and over again to play Robinson in behind on the left.

Seeing new tactical wrinkles introduced and implemented has been one of the more intriguing aspects of the early days of Berhalter’s tenure, but he made a mistake in doing far too much vs. Jamaica. Rather than try to keep things simple for a patchwork lineup that already does not have much chemistry, Berhalter tried to have his men fight through their overall lack of familiarity and understanding with one another in a complex setup that only added another layer of confusion and discomfort.

What’s more, Berhalter did this in a game on home soil. Fans paid their hard-earned money to go and attend this friendly, and all they got in return was a match littered with reserves and a needless experiment that yielded an unimaginative and ugly display of soccer. It’s fine to try a bevy of new things out, but when it is this drastic it’s probably best to do so in a scrimmage behind closed doors and not a game where fans’ expectations come into play.

After all, the supporters at Audi Field made their feelings known with boos at the final whistle. Who could blame them? They deserved to see better. Much better.

BERHALTER’S POST-GAME COMMENTS WERE CONCERNING

The most notable thing any member of the U.S. did on Wednesday was make an odd and somewhat concerning post-game comment. Berhalter uttered a dumbfounding remark when responding to a question about what he would tell fans after that dismal performance.

“There’s going to be more,” said Berhalter. “As time goes on, there’ll be more poor performances when I’m coach. I guarantee it and that’s part of it,”

Err, what?

If Berhalter did not immediately realize and regret the error of his ways in answering the question that way, then that is a major problem.

The national team is not an MLS club. The national team does not play every weekend. The national team does not suit up 40-plus times in one year, and as such the occasional complacency and lack of motivation that creeps in over the course of a long league season does not exist. It should not, anyway. Not on the international level, where the margin for error is even smaller.

To guarantee the U.S. is going to have more poor performances under his watch is not only a slap in the face to fans who are spending their hard-earned money to watch and already skeptical after the recent World Cup qualifying failure, it is also a bad message to deliver to his players. How can you expect to get the most out of your team in games that matter and have them believe that every practice, match, and play counts if you are promising more awful displays in the future? That type of message can easily create a false sense of security and complacency in the locker room.

Will there be rough nights and tough battles ahead? Almost definitely, but it is Berhalter’s job to try and get his team to perform at acceptable levels every time they step on the field for a match. Saying otherwise is not only baffling, it is the single biggest misstep Berhalter has made as the U.S. head coach to date.

FINAL CUTS, FINAL SQUAD

The official 23-man roster for the Gold Cup will be named early on Thursday. Here’s the group that Berhalter could end up going with:

Goalkeepers: Zack Steffen, Sean Johnson, Tyler Miller

Defenders: Nick Lima, Matt Miazga, Aaron Long, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson, Daniel Lovitz

Midfielders: Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Wil Trapp, Jordan Morris, Michael Bradley, Cristian Roldan, Paul Arriola, Jonathan Lewis, Duane Holmes

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Gyasi Zardes, Josh Sargent

Comments

  1. The goal should be to get to the quarter or semi-finals in 2022 (i.e, in THREE YEARS) and the finals in 2026 (i.e., IN SEVEN YEARS) with a set of players (a mixture of the current U-17s, U-20s, and U-23s) that are just much, much better than the “veterans” in the current crop that failed to get us to 2018. Too much ink has already been spilled on that “missing generation,” so I won’t belabor it. If we have some hiccups along the way, so be it. If the Federation wants to lower their ticket prices for friendlies to compensate for the possibility of experimental line-ups and tactics, that’s fine with me. But I’d take a “guarantee” of future performances like this–by which I mean experimentation within a system, unlike Klinsmann’s experimentation for experimentation’s sake–if it means we attain the ultimate goal. If we get there, no one–and I mean NO ONE–is going to look back and give a hoot about a Gold Cup warm up game without a full complement of players against Jamaica.

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  2. the ugly truth is we suck at round ball. we should just stick to pointy ball and stick ball. we’ll never be any good at round ball.

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  3. And to think that USSF/Earnie Stewart never even considered interviewing Tata Martino. Maybe that’s the root of our problem–going with what is comfortable instead of seeking out the best available.

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  4. we’ve been seeing this argument a lot in the past 2 years, that MLS is helping other Concacaf countries catch up to the USMNT. The fallacy in that argument is that at least half of the US team is comprised of MLS players and, for the most part, our MLS guys are higher paid (which suggests more valuable) than MLS players used by the Jamaicas and Panamas. On top of that, we have Bundesliga and EPL players on our team, so shouldn’t that be enough to tip the scale in our favor?

    I actually see MLS giving other Concacaf countries a place to develop and improve as a positive for USMNT. That should push American players to get better and be “uncomfortable” so that they are motivated to improve to keep their roster spots on their respective MLS teams.

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    • It’s worse than what you say. Jamaica had several USL players, one from the Slovenian league (whatever that is) and I think I heard that one of their players is playing in their domestic league. Not exactly an awe inspiring background for those players. The US players, MLS or whatever, seemed to play below the standard of MLS play. The US has underachieved for a couple of years. Now that’s concerning.

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      • did you read the article I posted to you in another thread detailing the epic breakdown Herr JK caused? Are you ready to face the realities of that dumpster fire of a locker room he created while destroying the historic USMNT strength? the echoes of his massive failure began further than a couple of years ago, along with the astute alarms sounded by many

  5. Franco, thank you for the great write up and analysis. You too bizzy. Anyway, MLS readies players for other regional countries that then use those players to help beat us, and then we complain about MLS players repping the USMNT? I’ll look deeper and expect a much stronger showing at the Gold Cup, with this anemic performance as a catalyst for improvement, but who knows? Who cares where you play club ball? Show up with your balls and sack up, whether you play in MLS, Europe or Mars, or get the Eff out

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  6. Franco, you are probably kinder to the U. S. team than I will be. From my perspective, their passes were too soft on defense, and too hard on offense, so that they were making connections with the wrong people. The goalkeeper came too far off his line too many times and paid the price. The ball-striking by the forwards and mid-fielders was amateurish when it came to shots on goal, and the entire team kept looking for calls against the VERY physical Jamaican Team, when none were in order. And, Yeah, it appeared that none of the team members had ever played or practiced together prior to this match. So, other than the above, the team looked O. K…………..for a D-League Team.

    As far as the coach’s post-match comments, I agree that you have to take a look at everyone at some point in time, so maybe this was one of those times. But that was the attitude of former USWNT coach, Tom Sermani, and we all know long he lasted after the Algave Cup. So I will assume that better things are ahead for the USMNT. But I think that USA Soccer will be wanting to see some of them at next Sunday’s Match. Oh, and BTW, I thought that Josh Sargent was the one bright spot in an otherwise dismal effort.

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  7. I thought Roldan was fine, he had nothing to work with.
    .
    The problem isn’t last nights game though, guys like Roldan should be a good option off the bench….and most of those players were battling for a spot they aren’t going to get now.
    .
    The problem is who the starting team is. One, ZS needs to be better. Two, US doesn’t have a left back…Three, when they put Adams at Right back and they probably will. The midfield will be mediocre with Bradley or Trapp or both replacing him. Four the US doesn’t really have a good choice up top either.

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  8. I did like formation and with this formation players like Dest would benefit.
    Sadly, I continuing to see players that passed their prime or proven themselves not enough at their age with USNT like Roldan or Trapp.

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  9. Dreadful performance. I don’t care what the formation is, or who the players are, there has to be more effort and more intensity. We in the US get a little too caught up in “formations”, when the game is essentially the same, regardless of how you line up. Spacing, passing, moving, technical skills of receiving, turning, picking the right pass, executing. Making attacking runs, showing up to give teammates passing options, covering for teammates defensively. Fighting for 50/50 balls. It was striking watching this game after watching the u20s v France the day before. I honestly think either u20 squad would have beaten either team from last night’s friendly. I truly believe our senior players care and want to win, but it looked really bad in terms of their effort last night. That level of intensity is simply not good enough, even for a friendly.

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  10. I won’t name the winger but this guy was brought in to provide speed and 1vs1 ability but every time he got he ball he made safe passes rather than trying to beat the defender or make intelligent diagonal runs behind the defender for a through ball.

    Dude if you are going get 10 mins to show your worth, do something to make a difference rather than play short safe passes. Btw, Kemar Lawrence shut down everything from Jamaica’s left side. If you are national team level player, we expect you to be better than MLS level guys like Lawrence.

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    • Kemar Lawrence is the best left back in MLS and would probably be in Europe if he could get a work permit. He would certainly be the starting LB for the US for the next cycle as he is better than anyone in our pool. The main disappointment is that Jamaica simply played a better team game and out worked us. Something the team lost with Klinsman and has not returned was the US never say die attitude. We won games in the past by out working our opponents we desperately need that back as our other soccer skills, visions and ability show that the US is an average international team.

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      • I fined it interesting how people still blame Klinsmann for everything. It’s been almost 3 years since he was fired. He was succeeded by supposedly the best US coach ever and we are on our 3rd coach post Klinsmann. If Klinsmann were the problem you would think the other coaches would have corrected it by now.

      • I have to agree with Gary. The real problem is that there was a missing group of players to step up and improve on Dempsey, Besler, Gonzalez, Beasley, Donavon, Bradley, Altidore, etc. It appears that missing group goes on longer than we would like. so Bradley, Altidore and Gonzalez are still around.

        That said, I thought Klinsmann was a terrible coach; in his defense, no team is better than its players, but of course, he was more or less constantly blaming players in public, something that nearly everyone who has had any experience in managing people will recognize is self-defeating in the long run and almost guaranteed to backfire.

  11. Jamaica beat us with straight physical attributes. Our players looked slow, weak and lacked stamina. On raw speed alone Jamaica was able to use MLS, USL and home based players to take control of a game that should have been an easy win for us. The old USMNT had heart and played from an underdog stand point. Some how these days we feel entitled and lack the mental toughness for some reason. We lack in these areas:

    1. Technique
    Ball mastery & control – The ability to collect, control and manipulate the ball with both feet, legs, chest & head. Dribbling & running with the ball – moving the ball in different directions at varying speeds with the ball in full control.

    2. Mindset
    Passion & Drive – The ambition and hunger to succeed. Mental toughness – In times of adversity can handle the pressure. Leadership – leaders that organize and are vocal and those that lead by example. Either way will work and it is a great asset to have. Self-Motivate – elite players staying back for extra training or spending hours upon hours mastering skills and techniques, always want to better themselves by continuously learning and mastering their abilities. Responsibility – a set of responsibilities both on and off the pitch.

    3. Game Intelligence
    “great vision”, “tactical awareness”, “footballing brain”, “composure on the ball”. Spatial Awareness –quickly visualizing and understand the pictures that are created on the field. Where are the players standing or moving and what are the distances and spaces in relation to the ball etc

    4. Teamwork – playing for each other with a solid risk assessment of when to pass or when to shoot

    5. Physique
    ABC’s – Agility, Balance & Coordination are vital because there are so many movements that happen in a soccer match. This is with and without a football as you dribble, jump, turn and place your body into a variety of positions. Power & Strength – This is not the size of the individual but is more about how effectively you use your body to win a physical battle. Speed – This is not only straight line speed but it is the speed at which you accelerate, decelerate and how quickly you can change directions with and without a football at your feet. Stamina – As your body fatigues, your control, focus & decision making becomes impaired which are all critical in a match situation. The ability for a player to deal with the constant stop, start nature as well as endurance during a game to keep moving will be examined.

    Think about it. Why do CONACAF countries use players from their no name leagues and from OUR LOWER LEAGUES (players the USMNT, with our pay to play mentally, wouldn’t even select in our 40 man initial roster) to beat / compete with us? Because we seem to be going after the wrong attributes.

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  12. Read the first paragraph and about to read the rest but one comment first. The U20 guys aren’t the team that played Jamaica last night. Typo I know.
    But it brings up something. Watching last night after watching the U20 games made things stand out. Huge difference in organization and skills. The U20s might have scored a half dozen on the US team last night.

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  13. Awful just awful. If anyone thinks Will Trapp can play anywhere but MLS they are mistaken. I think he lost his shorts a few times out there last night. GB needs to figure it out quickly.

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  14. IMHO the reason Berhalter gave that “guarantee” is obvious. No matter how much negative criticism he receives and boo’s from fans the USMNT is still the MB90 Show. Trapp and Zardes will also be auto-roster

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  15. What do you expect from Arena’s little lap dog? Bradley, Gonzalez, Ream its like we cant move on from the loser mentality. You should have known right away when he moved Tyler Adams, a kid who broke into a big-four league Champions League team as a 20-year old, to RB, LOL. Just to accommodate Bradley acting his best version of a traffic cone.

    The sudden disappearance of Canouse from the USMNT stratosphere after being better than Bradley in January camp.

    don’t get me started on Trapp.

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