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Altidore substitution raises questions about Berhalter’s tactics late vs. Mexico

The U.S. Men’s National Team suffered a painful lesson on Sunday night in Chicago after a 1-0 Gold Cup finals loss to Mexico. It was the first tournament defeat under Gregg Berhalter, one in which the USMNT had chances to provide a different outcome.

In a scoreless first-half, the U.S. had the better of the offensive chances and easily could’ve led by a goal or two at the break. Not long before El Tri broke the deadlock through Jonathan dos Santos’ eventual game-winning goal, Jozy Altidore was replaced for Gyasi Zardes. It was an intriguing substitute as the veteran forward looked fine and was still giving the U.S. a physical option up top.

“I felt good, I felt strong and thought that I was effecting the game,” Altidore said in post match mixed zone. “It was good to be out there tonight.”

“It was a good game, both teams got after it and I thought we played well in the first-half. We put pressure on them, but we didn’t make the most of our chances. It just didn’t fall for us tonight.”

Altidore was making his third start of the tournament, after scoring against the winning goal against Panama in group stage play. His physical presence helped in the opening half, holding up balls for players like Christian Pulisic and Paul Arriola to connect with. He even had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the eighth-minute, scuffing a chance from near the penalty spot.

Yes, as the match went on, the USMNT began showing signs of fatigue as Mexico began pressing and holding possession. Altidore wasn’t getting much service from his teammates, but the team continued to struggle even after he was off the pitch. Zardes replaced Altidore nine minutes prior to Mexico’s goal, but failed to do anything noticeable in his 30 minutes of game time.

“We brought Gyasi on because we needed fresh legs, you can’t press Mexico if you are worried about some of the guys’ stamina,” Berhalter said. ” I thought Jozy put in a good shift, we used him a lot this tournament and I though he did well. But we needed legs.”

“We have a young team so there was a 10-15 minutes where we kind of lost the game,” Altidore said. “We’re trying to play out of the back and stick to our guns, but maybe we should’ve taken more chances down the field and get into their half. It happens, it’s a learning experience. We have to learn from this.”

The U.S. could not find an equalizer as they fell to its fifth all-time finals defeat to El Tri. For Altidore, now 29-years-old, he will return to club play with Toronto FC, in hopes of staying healthy and adding to his five domestic goals this season. With the inaugural Concacaf Nations League just near three months from kicking off, Altidore still can offer something to the USMNT going forward.

The loss to Mexico will hurt for a little bit, but eventually the team will need to power onward. Players like Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie excelled in the Gold Cup, while Altidore and Michael Bradley proved they can still contribute as older players. Altidore is excited for the next chapter with the team, knowing even other players like Tyler Adams and DeAndre Yedlin can return from injuries.

“I think it’s an exciting way to play, it invites us to take chances and put pressure on teams,” Altidore said. “There were still a few guys that weren’t here so if we incorporate them we could even be more dangerous. The starting points are good, I think Gregg did a good job of implementing his tactics and style.”


  1. It boils own to player selection. The players on the pitch are to blame BUT WE DID HAVE OUR FAIR SHARE OF CHANCES we squandered. If we had the right players on the pitch things could have (would have, should have …lol) been different. At the end of the day THE TEAM wasn’t successful. look at the comradery of the USWNT….
    1) They communicate well with each other.
    2) They focus on goals and results.
    3) EVERYONE contributes their fair share.
    4) They offer each other support.
    5) Team members are diverse IN TERMS OF ABILITY AND STRENGTHS
    6) Team possesses Good leadership.
    7) They’re well organised.
    8) They have fun playing the game
    ….and all of these traits were seen on the Mexican Team, an environment Tata created even in Atlanta.

    Now lets look at player selection: What are GOOD (not even ELITE) players suppose to possess?
    1. Technique – ability to create space and opportunity 1-V-1
    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.
    Body movement & shapes – How you move your body efficiently with and without the ball to maximise impact with balance and coordination.
    Just like learning a language, it does not happen overnight

    2. Mindset – the fearless ambition of youth and ability to lead!!!!
    Passion & Drive – The ambition and hunger to succeed.
    Mental toughness – In times of adversity, how does a player react?
    Coachability –How do players react or respond to instructions, criticism and suggestions?
    Self-Motivate – elite players staying back for extra training or spending hours upon hours mastering skills and techniques.
    Responsibility – Football is a team game but each player has a set of responsibilities both on and off the pitch.
    3. Game Intelligence –
    Like “great vision”, “tactical awareness”, “footballing brain”, “composure on the ball”. by a player on the pitch.
    Spatial Awareness – Players need to quickly visualise and understand the pictures that are created on the football pitch.
    Risk assessment – What happens if I run into this space or if I pass a ball into that space? Are you able to make the right decision that will have a positive impact for your team and minimise the risk.
    4. Team Player
    5. Physique – Where the USMNT player lack as a whole (hence we struggle against the Jamaicas and the Curacao’s). This is why CONCACAF team can select players from USL and 3rd tier team around the world and still complete with the USMNT. Professional level footballers are should be “athletes”, their bodies should be built and conditioned like top level athletes (size doesn’t matter!!!) and this athletic ability can often set a player apart from others.
    ABC’s – Agility, Balance & Coordination – with 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

    So player selection was the issue but also TEAM cohesion, consistency, mentality and mindset was also where we lacked. To put it into words we were out played and out coached by a team (ON THIS PARTICULAR DAY) were not NECESSARILY superior to the USMNT.

  2. I didn’t like the last sub at all, and it certainly didn’t work out, but if you can remove hindsight it does make some sense. The thought was obviously to remove a stay-at-home left/centerback and insert a wingback. Left wingback pushes up line, Left wing pushes up and inside, and then we have effectively brought an extra attacker to push for a goal. Frankly, it makes more sense than removing Ream and just plopping in another striker, with no linking in-between. Again, it didn’t work. And I don’t think Lovitz has what it takes to do what was asked. And I also would have left a tired Jozy in, because even at 70% he is so much better than the alternative. No idea why we didn’t see Boyd when we desperately needed someone to be aggressive and take some shots.

  3. For a country with so few really good players I don’t think that being in form or in bad form should really matter (playing times with clubs). If someone is at a big club and not playing just because the player is behind others is just because they are behind, not that they aren’t good enough for this national team. I think GGG should have brought Sargent and Nova instead of some other guys. If you have a talented player not getting minutes because he is playing somewhere where there is more talented players that shouldn’t be held against them. If at this time this was the best 23 squad other than injuries I am worried going forward with GGG player scouting and roster selections. So go ahead and drill me with the what players should have been called in.

    • Sargent was called in and didn’t do much in 90 minutes against Jamaica. I’m not sure about Nova other than he’s already in preseason camp with Reading so perhaps the plan was to leave him to try to make his club.

    • It benefits the players who are not playing regularly for their clubs to get a good start in preseason. The opportunity to nail down a potential starting spot, or at least put yourself in a good position to earn regular minutes to start the season off is key and will bode well for those players getting call ups sooner rather than later. It does no good calling in players that are your 18-23 players on a GC roster, knowing they won’t play, instead of letting them kick start their club season fully healthy and in form with the rest of your club mates

  4. Like many others, I was not entirely thrilled nor impressed with player section and tatics. I’m not sure Berhalter is right for the job, only time will tell.

    Furthermore, the talent disparity between Pulisic and the rest of the team is so evident. I feel bad that he goes from playing with stars like Sancho to someone like Zardes. He deserves to play with better players, and the USSF and MLS need to do a much better job of finding talent players and developing them into solid pros and cons stars. Until then, it will be the status quo.

    • MLS academies are makig big progress in their devlopment of youth players. If you want to complain about development it needs to be aimed at our youth players abroad that quite frankly are relying on loans and reserve matches right now. People that are clear about our youth players being better served going abroad need to have the same energy(or patience rather)when those same players aren’t playing right away, and have to earn their keep. There is no arguing the top leagues in europe offer quicker development, but all the same if players can’t get on the field there needs to be a measured critique and some patience.

  5. Here’s the thing. Whatever happened between GB and Boyd, he disappeared after 70′ of Curacao never to play the rest of the tournament. RF became Morris backed up by Roldan, who until then was playing as a mid. Same starters and same 3 subs both Jamaica and Mexico. I think the first part of the problem is the long list of omitted attackers (Green, Weah, Sargent, Holmes, Lletget, Amon, Gall, Wood etc etc) that narrowed his choices. So that he had just 2 attacking mids (Pulisic and McKennie) who already started. In Mexico he then makes 2 forward subs before their goal, which don’t work and arguably backfire, and rather than rethink what he did, and since he had no mids left and basically the choice of Boyd who upset him somehow, and Lewis, he flips out and sends on a LB. This is the product of his own dumb rostering and him being stubborn about Roldan and Boyd. And he did the same subs twice so this is something he believes in.

    • Basically he believed so strongly Arriola and Roldan are forwards — a questionable notion — and in Zardes as a striker — again dubious — that I think he told himself “I have already made 2 forward subs, he had no attacking mids left, and he couldn’t contemplate moving his favorites back and throwing Pulisic and perhaps Boyd forward. He actually thinks his forward ideas work and was probably deluded by Jamaica to believe his own bull. And as we have seen in other ways eg Bradley, he is stubborn as a mule.

    • I wonder if Boyd has a slight injury we don’t know about. His playing time stopped around the time it was announced his deal with Bestikas was set. Don’t want to risk an injury that could cost you a deal.
      Holmes would have been on the roster for Mihailovic if not for injury and Weah opted to play U20s to show himself for scouts which worked out well for him. Sargent couldn’t get on the pitch the second half of the season and did little to impress during friendlies. Amon and Gall have been benched by their Lower Mid level Euro clubs. The guy you don’t like Nova probably had a better case than those guys.
      Two friendlies in September bring an opportunity to bring in more than 23. It also gives Wooten 2 months in MLS and Nova has a chance to make Reading and Sargent to improve his situation.

      • I don’t believe Weah had a choice either to play for the senior or the U20. That choice was made by GB. GB choices are all based on resume, nevermind how well the player is currently doing. And lastly, Sargent was given a single game to play, a game where the whole team didn’t play well and he was the only one that had a scoring shot blocked by the keeper. Do you really think Zardes or Josy has a better touch or more moves than this kid?

    • You put me in the position of having to defend GB. You are criticizing him for roster choices that were unavailable. Holmes and Wood were two examples of players INJURED. Moreover, Holmes was on the preliminary GC roster only to suffer an injury in training. I love when uninformed people have no idea what they’re talking about. SMH

      • I named 7 and you named 3 back. That is not the refutation you think. Furthermore, with the exception of Holmes and Adams we only know they were rehabbing injuries during club season, not that they were OUT by nearly June when GC started. So you’re wrong.

    • Injured:

      Called In, but didn’t impress:

      * Julian Green has been given several chances to prove his worth to the NT, and aside from the Belgium WC goal he hasn’t impressed either. Gall is tricky because sometimes he plays and sometimes he doesn’t, in a really weak european league. Weah decided to play with the U-20’s, which i can’t fault him for. Wood, stop it……he got benched and was injured, so no!

      • Green may not have impressed you, but he impressed me. The beef is that didn’t even make the 40-man, which along with Morales, is indefensible. Players with their club resumes should be given a chance to impress the new manager.

      • I’m not sure what your list has to do with my desire for situational attacking subs. When he looks at his bench at this point, he sees 12-Sean Johnson, 22-Tyler Miller (keepers), 2-Nick Lima, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Walker Zimmerman (backs), 6-Wil Trapp (lousy mid), 18-Jonathan Lewis, 20-Djordje Mihailovic (lousy mid), 21-Tyler Boyd. Plus Lovitz. Two attacking options total. Adams would have started, Brooks and Yedlin are backs. You named two actually injured attacking players, Lletget and Holmes. I gave a long list of other options. Green Wood Weah Sargent Gall etc etc. Drop Trapp, Lewis, Mihailovic, call some of them, and like magic, people I can call late against Mexico and maybe score. Really uncomplicated. Gets into his mule stubborn focus on hustle and club form. But sometimes you need actual attacking talent. He had Boyd. He could have had the others. But he boxed himself in so bad he put on Lovitz.

    • I like Boyd, but this insanity from USMNT fans not seeing how poor he was vs. Curacao after an uneven performance against Trinidad has to stop.
      Absolutely he should have come on vs. Mexico, but he didn’t exactly show well post-Guyana. Morris was uneven as well, but got himself into noticeable spots and was very unlucky not to have scored against Mexico…getting headed off the line.

      • What you’re missing is we’re down 1-0 and we have one sub left to change that, and he is probably the only guy on the bench with 2 tournament goals. Even if I buy your Curacao argument — and I think GB did — when I need a goal I have to sub someone on capable of scoring or creating one. If not Boyd, Lewis. If you throw a fit about Curacao and sub in a LB vs Mexico you are basically punishing the team’s chances for how that one game went. You are literally saying if you don’t like how a forward’s game went, we play short the rest of the tournament. Even if he scored in that tournament.

      • Not saying he shouldn’t have been in in lieu of Zardes, or certainly Lovitz, but man, do some fans have stars in their eyes yet from the Guyana showing.

  6. biggest tactic change would be to grab Guardado by the throat and dump him on his head the next time he touches and American player in the neck. End him

    • He’s been awful for Colorado, although I believe Casey has moved him back a DM position from more AM role he had been playing.

  7. Berhalter’s probably going to be a good manager after a few years of OJT at the USMNT’s expense. Thanks Jay! I BUY NOTHING from ussf.

    • you my friend need to grow up…these insinuations and presumptive falsehoods about Greg’s hire being nepotism are weak and assinine

  8. “” I thought Jozy put in a good shift, we used him a lot this tournament and I though he did well. But we needed legs.””

    Wait……. whaaaat?

    Legs are great…. used to run with intelligent intention, with a purpose. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Boyd. Morris’s game looked tired/devoid of ideas.

  9. Zero + Zero = Zero

    Nothing to question. He miss the ultimate chance and didn’t do anything when he was fresh on the field and its only down hill from there as far as his performance…..A tired Jozy or a fresh Zardes??? Hmmm….

    • I would change your equation to 0+0+0=NULL because that is what you get when you play slow/old players who also make too many mistakes like Altidore, Bradley & Morris. So, it would be much better to use younger/better players (a half dozen US WC U20 guys are ready to make very positive contributions)!!!

  10. Of course it questions his tactics altidore was supposed to start all tournament if he wasn’t fit then he could have taken him out early during group play and maybe if he started in sveral group stages and comes into final with a better rythm he makes that clear shot he created. Also sargent would have been better than zardes. Work rate shouldn’t be a reason a player is chosen.

    • Altidore has been playing high level soccer for most of his career, don’t you dare try and blame his miss on Berhalter, that’s just stupid and moving the goal post to further criticize Greg unnecessarily. Every coach has their favorites and their tactics, Greg’s no different. Sargent couldn’t get off the bench either for Werder the last 2 months, which tells you everything you should know, unless there is a narrative at play, and what it says is he has more developing to do which you don’t facilitate with the USMNT. The problem with US fans is we try to rush our younger players into positions they are not ready for and end up ruining them, and there are plenty of examples of this to go around. Let these kids develop the right way, without undue pressure. The WC is under 4 years away, plenty of time to let them figure it out at club level and earn their playing time.

      What’s funny to me is the same people saying the GC didn’t matter are the same ones up-in arms about subs, playing time and who wasn’t called in, can’t have both ways, so which one is it LOL?

      • You’re right, every coach has their favorites. GGG’s favorites just suck. I’m curious about all of these players that have been ruined by getting rushed in to MNT duty. Donovan? Beasley? Green is hardly ruined. Freddy Adu wasn’t rushed in to national team service, can’t point to him. I’m struggling to think of anybody.

      • I kinda agree with a lot of the stuff you say. We do tend to rush a lot of the young guys before they are ready. I remember when we wanted Agudelo and Shea up with the A team and it was clear neither was ready. But that not a soccer thing, fans do this in every sport. The backups or young prospect will always have more support than the struggling veteran.

      • The fact that Altidore is still playing is an embarrassment to the entire USMNT and the entire US development program. I mean, by all means play him all you want against Curacao, but against MX or better, he has nothing.

        and if you ask who is better, Wood. I don’t care if he got minutes for his club or not. Same goes for Sargent (unless the idea is to give him time at his club).

        And I say this as I even saw Altidore have a couple of shockingly good touches in this game.

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