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Loss to Mexico proves USMNT has a lot of work left to do

The U.S. Men’s National Team looked dominant at plenty of points during its run to the Concacaf Gold Cup Final. They opened the tournament with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Guyana. They enacted revenge on Trinidad and Tobago with a 6-0 win. They didn’t concede a single goal until late into the semifinal match against Jamaica. Despite those positives, Sunday night’s 1-0 defeat in the final proved that Gregg Berhalter and his staff still have a ways to go in their efforts to rebuild their team.

While the team created a lot of chances in the later rounds of the tournament, they struggled to finish many of them. They only scored once in a quarterfinal win over lowly Curacao. Their defense did break down a couple of times before conceding against Jamaica. But, most importantly, they couldn’t get over the hump in the final against their arch rivals Mexico.

That isn’t to say that the USMNT doesn’t look better than they did two years ago, or even than they did at the start of the summer. They made progress as they started to get the hang of Berhalter’s tactics while playing solid defensively for most of the tournament.

“Overall, proud of the guys, proud of the development this month,” Berhalter said in his press conference after the final. “We did make strides as a group. The group became much closer. I think the general understanding of our game model was much better over the course of this month. So, in one sense we did make progress.”

“We’re always searching for a perfect performance.,” he continued. “So when you evaluate every game there are things in every game that you could have been better. I think the understanding of ball movement, I think some of the offensive principles are much better understood. Defensively, we conceded two goals all tournament. So there’s a lot of good things. Chance creation I think was positive in most games.”

One thing that hurt the USMNT in the end was the levels of physical fitness and experience coming from the opposition. While the American attack was efficient and quick in the first half, they slowed down a lot and started to lose control of the match. The lack of a goal in the first half despite creating several opportunities to score was a major black spot. Had, say, Jozy Altidore finished his golden chance early in the game, perhaps the team could have afforded to sit back and conserve some energy for defensive play.

While this isn’t Altidore’s first shot at a Gold Cup Final, it was his first USA-Mexico showdown at this stage (he was an unused sub the last time the two nations met in the Final in 2011), and he may be a bit old to really benefit from this failure, the rest of the team hopes to take what happened on Sunday night and improve because of it. The young potential stars like Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic both played important roles in this match and can use that experience in future matches against top-level opponents.

“I think the guys will learn a lot from this game,” Berhalter said. “I think that’s the first thing. There’s a lot of guys playing in their first game like this. For us, the whole month the focus was on guys, we need to make progress this month and when I look back at it and evaluate it we did make progress and this experience will help us moving forward.”

Berhalter isn’t exempt from this learning process by any means. Sunday night showed that he has a lot to learn about coaching at the national team level and about is team in general. He faced plenty of criticism for his substitutions in the second half and perhaps he didn’t adjust enough after Mexico came out flying in the second half.

“We need to learn,” Berhalter said. “We weren’t ready for the step tonight but we will be.”

The USMNT aren’t in action again until the inaugural Concacaf Nations League this Fall.


  1. I mentioned several times, a moment Berhalter picked a Gold cup roster he demonstrated he is a looser, idiot. He coaches for his job, not for the future US MNT. Blame on USF staff and Steve who decided to hire Berhalter. He will try to win many unmeaning games or easy opponents to get the f.king numbers to save his f. king job. not thing else. Period

  2. Off topic but just going to throw this out to the board to see what y’all think, I’m not so sure it would work myself but would like to see this idea explored along with others to try everything to find something that may work and fill the hole at LB…

    What do y’all think of trying to convert Arriola to LB? I’m in favor of trying everything shotgun style see what hits. FJ redo? Antoinee Robinson? Shaq Moore? Gloster, Bello? Garza in a bubble boy room? Let competition rule because damn we need a LB.

    • I thought about that at least in terms of a late game goal push adjustment. I don’t see it as a likely solution but it could work as a stop gap if your LB goes down in the first match of a 2 match window. For me if Lima and Arriola are on the roster though I’d still put Lima there.

    • In the us this crazy, what about sliding Long to LB with Brooks, Miazga, Zimmerman,CCV, EPB, and Richards as CBs. More speed than Ream and better ability to get forward. He wouldn’t be Dani Alves but no worse than some other options.

      • I’m all for using the upcoming fall camps to let competition rule and trying everything. Same goes for other positions too. So might as well try it.

    • Long would be a defensive options of course in that idea, again I’m for trying everything but one prerequisite I think any LB/RB or winger needs to have is the ability to send a cross into the box well. Arriola’s not great at it and even though he’s not left footed his cross into the box off his left foot is better than most that I’ve seen in our pool and he plays with heart on D tracking back so that’s where the thought came from. I’d be concerned Lima and Long don’t give us enough offensively from the position lead to more of the same problems we faced in the second half and an ongoing unbalanced nature to our attack but that may be by design in the system using an iRB but we didn’t really see that this tournament. I’d also favor the FJ redo as a stop gap for a year or two until we see what comes from Gloster and Bello.I am high on Bello’s upside too but I’m biased as an ATL fan too.

      • One possible solution is to go to a 3 man back line in a 3-5-2 that morphs to a 5 man back line when under pressure. It demands that left and right back wings be fast and be able to track to play defense when needed.. With the present personell it might look like
        any 3 of Long, Miazga, Zimmerman and Brooks in back, Ariola and Boyd, Cannon or Yedlin as wide mids, Adams and McKennie as 2 deep lying mids with Pulisic in front. Then we get to the crux of the problem who to pair up front. Altidore is OK, but he needs a partner with speed and skill who has a nose for the goal, I can’t think of a good, or even serviceable player for that role.

    • @Joe D.
      As of now I don’t think it’s a crazy idea, loved his toughness & work rate at the world cup (I think Ukraine knocked us out) and I’m really surprised at how well he controlled the ball in tight spaces – But by his own admission he hasn’t been able to transfer that work into results, but he can play all up and down that left side.
      Plus GBs whole system falls away without Ream (unless he brings back Matt besler)
      If Fabian Johnson plays outside back again this year I’d want him, period, I saw him play a few games & to me he didn’t look any different… Run DMB 2.0..
      And as much as I was high on Garza he just can’t stay healthy enough.

    • Dennis- I’d argue that in your 3-5-2 that Pulisic pair with Altidore or whomever. He can defend and is adequate with pressure, but he does not full time defend, much more like a forward than even an attacking MF. It sounds like Chelsea is starting with him as a 10 and perhaps Lampard will fix that. Part of the disconnect against Mexico was Pulisic was pushed high and the wings were pressing high so when we won the ball McKennie and Bradley were not connected because we were trying to play with a 4-2-4, the passes were too long to connect.
      I’d drop Pomykal into the 10 role and let him connect it to CP and Jozy.
      I don’t think Berhalter would use a 3-5-2

  3. in an era of South American 10s, making big money and winning games.
    Paxton Pomykal is one that is constantly getting fouled to be slowed down.
    At age 19.
    Felt like he could have been a difference maker. Maybe too early tho. Probably better said I feel like he could BE the difference maker in the future. Need someone to create and control the midfield for sure.

  4. But we all knew this…this was always going to be a long process when you are devoid of talent in 24-29 age range.

  5. Unless Boyd & Lima were injured to some extent, than the substitutions Berhalter made is concerning.
    1) Lovitz has proved time and again that he is not capable of playing at the international level. Lima, who plays LB for the Earthquakes, should have been the player called into action for Ream.
    2) While I don’t hate Roldan we needed a more attack minded player with pace. Boyd should have either started over Morris or been used as the Sub to bring new life to the attack.
    There are still plenty of area’s where this team needs to improve but the good news is that we were missing a couple players who could have helped make a difference. Guys like Brooks, Yedlin, Fabian Johnson, Adams, and Holmes.
    Brooks & Yedlin provide more experience along the back line. Brooks is a very good distributor of the ball & Yedlin has the speed to be a threat down the touch line.
    Fabian could be used as either a LB/RB or LM/RM. Yes he’s getting older and been fighting some injuries, but I’d take him as a player over Ream, Trapp, and a number of others who were on this roster. His versatility makes him a perfect bench option if not a starter.
    Adams was missed. Start him & McKennie together in a 4-2-3-1 and move Bradley to the back-up roll. Would have been nice to have had an opportunity to rotate the CM’s more in this tournament in order to be fresher come the final.
    Holmes was suppose to have been on this team. Another versatile player who could have helped in the player rotation for ACM and Wide Attackers.
    We have some very nice prospects who look ready to move up a level (or 2) that should help this team down the road when Qualifying picks up. Guys like Sargent, Weah, Robinson, Dest, Gloster, Mendez, Pomykal, Soto, De La Fuente, etc… Just need the coach to put guys in positions where they can succeed and stop trying to hold onto the aging veterans.
    On a positive note I think we’ve finally seen the last of Omar.

    • At the time Lovitz entered it was pure long balls in and hope. Lovitz apparently is better at that than Lima. You could have gone Zimmerman, moved him or Miazga up as another striker I guess instead it was desperation time. I can’t fathom why you wouldn’t have subbed Boyd earlier unless he’s injured.

  6. According to Wikipedia we are playing Mexico and Uruguay in September. I know people want to see wholesale changes, I think 7 or 8 changes will be the max. Plus it will be hard for Euro based U20s to have made a club performance to justify callups. The other two fall windows have home and aways vs Canada and Cuba. We need to use those Cuba matches to get new players experience. January will be an MLS cup chance for guys like Yueill, Ebobisse, and others. March is the final four of NL and assuming we qualify we’ll be looking for the win more than trying new players. Without any announcement I would guess WC qualifiers will then start in Fall of 2020, giving us a couple June friendlies to test new players.
    Guys that need to step up for their clubs and get first team minutes:Weah, Sargent,Gloster, Amon, Ledezma, Pomykal (at his Euro club), Mendez.

    • Agreed the young guys must do well for their clubs (if they cannot, they will not do well for the USMNT if they are even called in). The most pressing need is goal scorer, call him what you want, forward, attacking midfielder, winger or whatever, just someone how puts the ball in the net.

      Next either Bradley must be replaced or a different tactical approach needs to be implemented that does not fit his particular skill set and tactical intelligence so well. Personally, I don’t think either McKennie or Adams would play that particular role as well as Bradley and when/if either replace him they will be asked to do things they generally do not do. Clearly both have an upside that Bradley no longer has, but neither has really shown the ability to provide a safe outlet when teammates are under pressure so consistently, emphasis on consistently. That is a trait the USMNT is sadly lacking even with Bradley since a single choice s not enough and is a reason that when Mexico increased the pressure in the 2nd half that the US floundered and gave away the ball repeatedly. Mexico figured out Bradley was going to be the first guy the US looked for when under pressure and no one else was there, when Bradley was under pressure there were, too often, no easy targets to relieve pressure.

      Finally, can’t the US find a LB who as a bit of speed and good tactical defensive abilities? I was hopeful that John Nelson, now of Dallas, would be the answer in the long term, but he is having trouble breaking in over Hollingshead, so maybe not.

      • Lima I would think could be a temporary solution since he plays LB for SJ. Of course Fabian could also get us through the fall. If Gloster is starting in 2Bundesliga he could work his way in there or there are transfer rumors. Nelson hasn’t been dressing and didn’t dress for the friendly with Tijuana yesterday, FCD listed him out for last weeks match with DC with an abdominal strain.

  7. Assuming everyone is healthy, thoughts on something like this in our next round of friendlies?

    Yedlin, Brooks, Long, FJ
    Weah, Pulisic
    Sargent, Wood

    We need FJ back – he’s not over the hill and can still contribute. GB deliberately didn’t want him in the squad – it wasn’t FJ who said no. There was an interview about it posted on SBI, you can look it up. So for me FJ is still avail for us. He’s still one of our best.

    Wood has mostly been good with the US jersey, I’d like to see him back.

    Let’s see what Sargent and Weah can do. I don’t mind Altidore starting – I actually think he still has some upside for playing back to goal, but I want to see if the others can step in, because he’s clearly on the way out.

    Let’s stop anything with Zardes, Trapp, Rodlan, Arriola, and Morris. We must be able to do better or it’s pretty depressing.

    I still think we can be decent come the WC, but we need to believe in our young guys and MLS products choosing the hard path in Europe!!

    PS – wouldn’t mind taking a longer look at Boyd and maybe some of the other promising U20s that can sort their club situation out.

    • Another option is to slot in FJ in the midfield for some veteran presence and experiment with some LB options – Ream can be serviceable there in a bind

    • FJ has missed a lot og games, some due to injury, some due to manager’s decisions. I am not sure he is the player he was 5 years ago.

      • “FJ has missed a lot of games, some due to injury, some due to manager’s decisions. I am not sure he is the player he was 5 years ago”…….I guess a lot of veteran USMNT starters are not the players whey were 5 years ago. Join the club

  8. I think Berhalter realizes that in today’s soccer you need 11 quality players, and that this US pool does not offer that. This is the reason, moving forward, for the Adams to RB move because, as we saw, when good opponents press and your team can’t build, you will have to go long and then defend again for longer periods. This re-occurring sequence is what wore the US down in the second half vs Mexico: lose the ball, defend, repeat. So you put a player like Adams in the back line who will help get you out of your third and up the field. Building off that move, Berhalter sees we might in the future fill some midfield positions with young players like Pomykal and Reyna, and allow Adams to stay at RB, not to mention Pulisic to move into attack.
    LB is another tough piece. Very tough, but clearly we need a player who can distribute the ball there as well. Having said all that, I saw a lot of heart from LB Tim Ream. He has played a lot worse in the past. Not the answer, but great efforts.
    The team will evolve. Much need for younger players, though.

    • Reyna is 17? with 0 pro appearances to his name? Good prospect, but no one is making any plans with him in mind.

      The left back issue isn’t a huge concern for me. We’ve had success with worse players than Ream there in the past and can cover that position in other ways if needed. We’re definitely weak at Lb but lack of an attacking threat outside of Pulisic and depth at CM are major issues that will hold us back.

    • I disagree. Putting Adams at RB negates his full potential. He is much more valuable in mid-field, where he plays for his club in one of the world’s best domestic leagues, than wasting away at RB. A healthy Yedlin is more than sufficient there, and a guy like Cannon shows he has some upside.

      Let’s not waste our best players in positions that are not their best.

      Also, as has been argued here relentlessly, GB left off some arguably better players than the Arriolass and Trapps and Morris of this world, so his roster selection was also suspect and his in game management was abysmal.

      Not saying we would have beat Mexico, but when El Tri was toying with us in the second half and GB’s best response is to make the subs he made, it’s pretty sad and shows that, along with a lot of players on the roster, GB has serious limitations when faced with decent teams – he’s just not that good a coach let’s be honest: what has he achieved in his career??

      • I don’t necessarily think putting someone at RB means wasting them over putting them in the midfield. Maybe you don’t either.
        But the guy that almost cost us the semis with very bad marking on a late shot and trailed the play that lost us the finals ( after trialing the play time and time again ), plays right were Adams would have been playing if GB wasn’t trying too hard to create ( or trying too hard to get Bradley on the field maybe ).

  9. Mls academies are producing great talent that have headed to Europe unfortunately we will have to wait. But mls needs to give the youth more playing time for their development I disagree that mexico produces better players we had a much younger team last night excluding bradley and altidore. We need a real foward a central one that can play from back to goal and is good on his feet Weah Soto Sargent are needed soon qualifying starts next year and we also need strong midfielders whi make tackles on time to pair with Tyler Adams. To think that Tyler Adams would have played right back in gold cup smh he will be needed now definitely in the midfield. I am very sad we lost last night but there are plenty positives.

  10. Loss to Mexico proves MLS has a lot of work left to do

    Mexico won because they produce better players,
    That’s on MLS, not the national team or its coaches.
    I’m sure Berhalter would love the kind of talent Mexico produces at his disposal instead of what he gets from the domestic league.

    • Wow, I agree with Rob.
      Let me qualify tho, as he tends to be a bit of an emotional troll. MLS has really produced quality ( Stephen, Adams who was missed badly, etc )…but still have a ways to go.

  11. I’ve been saying for a while that a legit #9/goal scoring threat is my largest concern for our player pool. For years there has been a massive Dempsey/Donovan sized hole in the team that does not have an immediate answer.
    We are really in need of fast development from one of our young guys to complement Pulisic. Most likely candidate is obv Sargent, but he could still be years away from being reliable.
    Attacking support around Pulisic consisting of Altidore, Arriola, Zardes. Boyd, Roldan, Morris does not have enough cutting edge and is by far my biggest concern.
    Lack of midfield depth was exposed last night. McKennie and Bradley completely lost control of the game and we’re great candidates for substitution. We turned to Lovitz??? Bc there just wasn’t anyone who could come into CM and bring us what was needed. Adams will be a huge asset here, but who else can we count on? I’ve heard Nagbe and agree he should be included. I am not sure he’s a huge upgrade.
    My overall impression was still positive though. Great learning experience for the young guys and hopefully will keep them grounded and hungry to prove a point next time we line up against Mexico. W/o another goal scoring threat I fear we’re going to lack the firepower needed to edge out these close ones.

    • Maybe that guy who was on fire scoring in droves in 2nd division Germany would have come in handy in this type of game… roster selections…

    • I agree, of the 3 players who I think are truly international quality goal scorers who played in the MLS before they were washed up, Drogba, Vela and Ibrahimovich each scored about 1 goal per 90 minutes; Robby Keane was about 0.7 goals per 90 minutes. That easily surpasses any US player, Wondo is around 0.5 goals per 90 min pretty consistently, pretty much the same for Dempsey, Bruin, etc. It is impossible to compare states across different leagues, but for the case in which we do have players scoring against the same competition, the US players are about half as good as they need to be. I think comparing goals scored in the 2nd division anywhere to the MLS is unfair to the MLS players got some guys like Bobby Wood a look he did not really deserve.

      If the US had a forward who buried one of those first half chances that Altidore and Pulisic did not, the game would have looked much different. When you have an international quality goal scorer, the opposition is scared every time he touches the ball. I don’t see that in the present US corps.


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