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Five Takeaways from the USMNT draw with Uruguay

Progress that we could clearly see.

That was the simple request from U.S. Men’s National Team fans heading into Tuesday’s friendly against Uruguay. A victory against the South Americans would be nice, but simply seeing signs of a program improving, and a team adapting to its new style of play, was the modest hope after the USMNT’s 3-0 loss to Mexico last week.

Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Uruguay did succeed on that front, but it would be a considerable overreaction to suggest it was the kind of performance capable of erasing all the fears surrounding the state of Gregg Berhalter’s reconstruction project.

Even before Jordan Morris’ awkward and fortuitous equalizer, the match had gone better than expected for an inexperienced USMNT lineup missing most of the players who would be considered first-choice starters. Uruguay didn’t have a first-choice lineup either, but the South Americans still had enough quality in the lineup to make it a worthwhile test for the young Americans.

The USMNT didn’t ace the Uruguay test, but did earn a good grade for showing poise against an opponent that may not have pressured much defensively, but still also didn’t make things easy. The Americans created chances, moved the ball well, and showed more composure than you would normally expect from a team so young.

Could it have been better? The final passes could have been sharper, and the finishing could have been better, but after the loss to Mexico — which felt like two steps back for the program despite Berhalter’s insistence it showed progresss — Tuesday’s draw glowed by comparison.

Taken together, the September friendlies showed a program that is still early in its process under Berhalter, and far from resembling the well-oiled machine USMNT fans dream of when they hear talk about a possession-oriented team.

The friendlies also gave us a first glimpse at some members of the next generation of national team talents, a generation with tons of promise, and one that it’s time for Berhalter to fully embrace.

Tuesday’s lineup suggests Berhalter agrees, and that realization may ultimately be the most encouraging thing to take away from the September friendlies.

Here are some more takeaways from the USMNT’s draw with Uruguay:

Josh Sargent looked the part

He didn’t score a goal, but Sargent showed with his movement and hold-up play that he has the quality to take on the starting striker role in Berhalter’s attack.

Sargent was matched up against Uruguayan veterans Jose Gimenez and Sebastian Coates, a formidable pair of central defenders, and he looked right at home battling those two as he worked hard to find the ball and provide an outlet for his teammates.

Jozy Altidore remains the top striker option in the player pool as the program heads towards Nations League in October, but Sargent has shown himself to be a prospect who is already polished enough to handle a more regular role in the lineup, and he should be firmly positioned ahead of Gyasi Zardes on the striker depth chart going forward.

Dest is worth continuing to invest in

It may have come as a surprise to some to see Dest start in both September friendlies, especially after a Mexico friendly that saw him beaten badly on Mexico’s opening goal, but Dest’s performance against Mexico wasn’t as bad as some framed it, and he built on that with a steady showing against Uruguay.

The left back position has been a notoriously difficult one for the USMNT to fill over the years, and even though Dest isn’t a natural left back, he clearly looks comfortable in the role. He still needs some work on his defending, but as an 18-year-old he has time to grow and learn.

The lingering question is whether he is going to stay in the USMNT setup, or if he is going to be pried away by the Dutch Federation, which has already shown interest in him now that he has broken through at Ajax. Tuesday’s friendly could be the last time we see Dest with the USMNT this year given the fact the year’s remaining matches are Nations League matches, which would cap-tie him.

The good news for the USMNT is the talent pool has some very promising left back prospects in the pipeline, from Antonee Robinson to Chris Gloster, to younger prospects such as George Bello and Kobe Hernandez-Foster. Losing Dest to the Netherlands would be a painful loss after watching him develop as part of the USMNT Under-17 and Under-20 national teams, but the USMNT’s left back position still has more promising prospects than ever before.

Centerback is where Tim Ream should stay

With John Brooks continuing to be injury-prone, Ream’s solid showing against Uruguay provided a reminder of why he just might be the next-best option for the left-sided centerback position.

Aaron Long showed against Mexico why having a right-footed player on the left side of central defense can be problematic. His natural reliance on right-footed distribution put him in a difficult position that helped lead to one of Mexico’s goals.

Ream isn’t just a comfortable left-footed player, he is the best passing defender in the player pool, so having him in central defense gives Berhalter’s possession-based system a boost. That said, there is a trade-off because Ream isn’t the fastest defender, which is part of the reason his days as a left back for the USMNT should be over.

At 31, Ream is one of the older field players still in the mix for minutes, but until players like Matt Miazga and Walker Zimmerman improve, prospects like Chris Richards and Miles Robinson mature, and John Brooks finds a way to stay healthy, Ream will continue to have a part to play for the USMNT.

Promising sign from the wing options

Tyler Boyd has a poor showing against Mexico, but Gregg Berhalter handed him another opportunity against Uruguay and the Besiktas midfielder responded with the kind of match that suggests he is still a good wing option.

While Boyd rebounded well, he still wound up losing ground to Jordan Morris, who played well on Tuesday even before his chested equalizer. Morris worked on the left wing against Uruguay, and showed he is capable of being a threat. This after coming on as a substitute against Mexico and drawing a penalty.

Morris is in the midst of an outstanding season with the Seattle Sounders, and he is showing clear signs of improving as a winger now that he is seeing regular time on the wing for his club. He looks significantly more comfortable out wide than he did back in March

Some more positives and negatives

Jackson Yueill helped his national team stock against Uruguay, in a match that was set up well for him to impress. It was a tidy performance, but not one that leaves you convinced he’s clearly better than other options in the player pool. You can’t help but wonder how he would have faired against Mexico’s pressure, and you have to wonder if Wil Trapp wouldn’t also have fared well against Uruguay’s minimal pressing.

Brad Guzan had one spill of a ball in the first half that almost proved costly, and was beaten to his near post on Uruguay’s goal (albeit on a well-struck shot). It wasn’t the kind of performance that left you feeling he should return to being a regular call-up.

Aaron Long was beaten on Brian Rodriguez’s goal, and wasn’t nearly as influential defensively as we have seen him be in previous matches this year. It was still better than his showing against Mexico, but that was a low bar. His overall form has dipped since the Gold Cup, but he remains a lock starter because nobody is stepping up to really challenge his spot at the moment.

Reggie Cannon made his fourth straight USMNT start, and completed all 23 of his passes, but he struggled with his positioning at times, and wasn’t as sharp defensively as we have seen him in the past. Did he do enough to lock down the starting role when Nations League arrives in October? The fact Berhalter didn’t give Nick Lima a start in either September friendlies suggests he’s ready to commit to Cannon for the foreseeable future.


  1. It’s hard to compare anything from the two matches because the opponents played such completely opposite styles. For instance, I was fairly impressed with Yueill, but how would he have done against Mexico’s press? I thought Sargent was much more involved than Zardes, but was that because Sargent was better showing for the ball or because he got better service because the team had more possession? My takeaways in general are that we are definitely making progress in breaking down bunkering teams (remember how often lesser concacaf teams do this to us, and Uruguay is much much better), but we are still embarrassingly susceptible to pressing teams. It will be interesting to see how we fare against Canada, an improved team with some dangerous weapons, but a team I think we should beat, even at their place. That will be the last measuring stick of the year.

    • You make it sound almost like it’s not smart to make sweeping judgements about an entire national team system after 2 friendlies….

  2. While I was much happier with the teams performance in this game than against Mexico, there is still a lot to be desired in the Player Pool and the coach’s approach.
    My observations:
    1) Who are defenders are is still in serious question.
    – CB’s: Brooks can’t stay healthy. Unfortunately Miazga wasn’t available. Robinson, CCV, & EPB are all Olympic contenders and should start seeing more inclusion with the Sr. National Team. Long & Zimmerman both took a step back…if they don’t start performing soon they need to be dropped. Alverado is another player who deserves another look.
    – Outside Back has options and are improving. Yedlin, Dest, Cannon, & A. Robinson should be our focus going forwards until Gloster and other younger players start getting minutes.
    – I don’t care how good a passer Ream is, his time with the National Team should be over. He’s a liability against speedy teams, and he tends to have a Seriously bad gaff at least once a game.
    2) Midfield transition needs to happen sooner than later.
    – CM: Adams & McKennie are the blocks to build around. Who backs them up is the issue. Trapp has proven he’s not capable. Bradley is at the tail end of his usefulness. That leaves a couple re-treads (Morales & Williams) or a group of prospects (Parks, Sands, Pomykal, Servania, Durkin, Yueill, Scott). Hopefully the Olympic team will help sort out the pecking order.
    – Wings: Pulisic, Weah, Boyd, Arriola should be the starting point. Who else joins the conversation from the younger generation is still To Be Determined. Again there are some interesting prospects (Soto, Sabbi, Wright, etc…) but their not yet ready for the 1st team.
    3) Forwards are still a concern/issue.
    – Jozy & Sargent should be 1 & 2 in the pecking order. Morris & Zardes are 3rd & 4th….not so much for their ability, but their versatility of being able to play the wing in a pinch. I’d like to see some new options emerge, but right now no-one else is ready.
    4) Keeper is an open battle. Steffen & Horvath are probably 1a & 1b. Guzan, Johnson, Gonzalez are fighting it out for the 3rd string right. Will likely go to Guzan due to his experience.

    The biggest issue for me is Berhalter. Can he get these players playing up to their potential and put them in a position to succeed….or is he going to continue to mess with this Hybrid system and/or hanging his hat on veterans & MLS journeymen (Lovitz, Roldan, Baird, etc).

    • We haven’t run the hybrid since Chile in March, and have used it once with Adams, when we dominated a SA opponent. I do think the development of Cannon and Dest makes it more likely Adams would just take Bradley’s spot.
      I think the bigger issue is who replaces Pulisic if he plays on the wing. We saw playing McKennie and Morales there was a pretty poor combination. Somebody needs to play that 10 role that can score and create. Lletget does one of those. Can Pax do it at that level, will Mendez start getting first team time?
      I don’t think you have to worry about Baird, if Weah, Holmes, and Arriola had been available. Roldan I think stays useful because he can play multiple positions but again if everyone is available no.

    • Why you giving Aaron Long a pass??? Ream performed way better than Long and Long got shaked and baked and made us concede a goal. Long was also atrocious in the Mexico game def Long is not good enough for Europe.

  3. 1. Guzan was good in terms of finding options. I get it that Mexico was much more of a challenge, but Guzan made strong decisions and accurate passes.

    2. Some good motion in midfield that I did not see vs Mexico. Nice work there, showing the coaching staff was aware midfield was too static in previous game.

    3. Josh S covered less ground, but he did make very intelligent runs/movements. Problem was he didn’t receive the service. I saw some pretty obvious open passes to Sargent that got played sideways instead.

    4. Reggie Cannon attacked the space with the dribble, then passed or switched. Much less tentative.

    Bottom line: I think the team was overwhelmed by Mexico, but there may be hope for qualifying/building a squad for next wc.

  4. Quit: who do you suggest play LB then? Dest is definitely a work in progress defensively but he’s at least equal to ARobinson there and better offensively, definitely brings more than Lovitz or Villafana. FJ was never great defensively better than Dest this week but not great. Gloster isn’t playing yet, Araujo has played mostly wing of late. If you think he’s a problem what’s the solution.

  5. Let’s see, Dest is 18, Sargent and Pomyal are 19, Adams and Pulisic are 20, McKennie and Cannon are 21. I think each of them will improve over the next few years. They will replace most of the generation that was not good enough to replace Beckerman, Bradley, Dempsey, Donavon, Beasley, Gonzalez, Altidore etc. soon enough.

    • Robinson and Yueill are just 22. Weah 19 would have been called in if not for injury. People complaining GGG isn’t playing the youth? Richards just 19. MLS regular starters Mason Toye, 19, Jesus Ferreira 18, Brendan Aaronson 18 could all get January call ups.

  6. Zardes came in and immediately began linking up and playing passes with his back to goal – much like Sargent did against Mexico. You can choose to ignore it. The fact is, that Ives is wrong, and Holden touched on it during the broadcast- Sarg flat out cannot cover the ground that Zardes can in terms of the press. Again, it was touched on during the broadcast multiple times, the players need to fit the system. Sargent will remain behind Zardes. It is not a mystery nor mystifying. The only thing that will catapult him in the next year over zardes is ~25 bundesliga appearances and ~7-10 goals. He has to produce heavily. Another mediocre season in the bundesliga as a guy coming off the bench won’t cut it and it shouldn’t cut it. Zardes is in his prime and guess what you morons – him and pulisic lead the USMNT in goals this year. Stop clamoring and pull yourselves together

    • It’s note worthy that Sargent has one goal in 90 mins of bundas league play, this season. Last season he had 2 goals over 200 mins. A goal a game strike rate in the bundas league, just to open your account is pretty impressive. Bigger deposits are coming for sure. Did you even see his goal last week? You don’t keep players like that off the field. What you do is move Zardes to the wing, or bench. Zardes defends well, he’s probably one of our strongest defenders, who has played the wide position.

      • It probably also denotes something that despite averaging around a goal every 90 minutes that he didn’t play much last year.

  7. I liked some individual performances, esp. speed and persistence of Morris and his ability to separate from a fullback, but altogether US team under Berhalter plays a monotonous brand of soccer.

  8. Thanks Ives. Everything you said makes Sense. My only quibble is that Yuelli was left in for all of the game. The coach must have
    Seen something he liked

  9. We look poor against real teams because our players aren’t good enough. Were I in charge I would put emphasis on preparing the U23 team for Olympic qualifying, including Pulisic and McKinnon. Our performance in U20 WC was pretty good, give those kids a chance to be the next USMNT and let the older guys prove they belong. And Jordan Morris and Steffin could be our designated old guys in the Olympics.

  10. We look poor against real teams because our players aren’t good enough. Were I in charge I would put emphasis on preparing the U23 team for Olympic qualifying, including Pulisic and McKinnon. Our performance in U20 WC was pretty good, give those kids a chance to be the next USMNT and let the older guys prove they belong. And Jordan Morris and Steffin could be our designated old guys in the Olympics.

  11. Crap team with little to no support. I love how they schedule matches in huge stadiums. Looks so good on TV seeing all those empty seats. Crap coach too! What fun it is to be a US Soccer “fan.”

    • You do realize that by putting fan in “-“ you are indicating that you are not an actual fan. Perhaps you meant to put “fun” which would mean you didn’t enjoy the experience.

  12. Boyd misses easy tap in = Good wing option??? Josh Sargent 0 shots on goal = Looked the part? What is going on? Is this the narrative we are convincing ourselves of? THIS, this right here is the reason why US Soccer is no good. We are misinterpreting poor performances with passing/acceptable competent soccer. As long as the media continues to push this narrative, our national team will be terrible.

    • I’d be curious to see what the Uruguayan media reaction was to the fact that they had three shots on goal. Did Jonathan Rodriguez have a shot?

    • yeah Love Ives, still having a beer with him is on my bucket list, but he is just flat out wrong on many counts here.
      Bring Dest back when he can play D, IMO, because he showed how bad D is played. Repeatedly.
      Boyd isn’t worth trying on anymore. He is 24 and just has too far to go to be the back up wing option. He had one good game against no one, the rest have been mediocre at best and most of them poor.

      • Follow the money. Dest = $$ – and it’s not because he can’t defend. C’mon guy. He offers something that no right back in the history of our program can bring. If you didn’t see that, trust me, you’re not seeing much. In fact, almost every positive offensive spell involved Dest. I.e., you’re extremely biased. “Quit whining” – give me a break. Yeesh.

      • Mal- I’m lost how does Dest mean more $$. I don’t think Dutch kids are going to run out and buy USA Dest jerseys.

    • I agree with your assessment, but with one addendum: did you ever watch Emile Heskey play for England? Or, more recently, Olivier Giroud for France in the World Cup? Hold-up play is still a valuable trait. I’m not trying to say Sargent is a great out-and-out striker, but at least he can hold up the ball and move it around quickly. Juxtaposed against Zardes, that’s something. You’re right though… expectations are low at this point.

    • Agreed. Five points should be:

      1. You can’t take typical American soccer players and transform their style of play when you only have access to them a couple of days every couple of months. At this rate, GB’s “process” will take decades to complete;

      2. Our player pool does not have the talent to allow us to play tic-tac, passing-out-of-the-back soccer against real competition;

      3. Certain players–Zardes and Trapp–have, after being given countless opportunities, proven they are unable to perform against real international competition;

      4. Daniel Lovitz? Really?

      5. Keep playing the youth.

    • @ Big Red: agree that Boyd experiment needs a pause, he’s been mostly disappointing, so time to explore other options. Of course USMNT lack of riches means that he will probably be called in the group if he plays and performs decently at club level over in Turkey, which is a pretty good league. But as a starter, we have to experiment other options. Just please no Arriola – Boyd is still much better let’s be honest.

      @Quit Whining: I am with Mal in that Dest is the real deal. His technical ability is right there at the top of class in our player pool, and as pointed out he is very involved offensively. There is a reason why a Champions League finalist in Ajax is consistently starting Dest, don’t you think? If we miss out on him to Holland it would be a real bummer, hopefully we can lock him in next month. He’s our best LB since FJ, though of course that isn’t saying much if we consider who we’ve thrown out there. Speaking of FJ – let’s please bring him back!

      • I’m not necessarily saying Boyd, Sargent or Dest aren’t worth looks. It’s the way it’s being framed here in the article. The only thing they have going for them is that they are young. You could say they have flashes of potential but need more professional seasoning. I’d say they are squad players with the USMNT for right now. They didn’t perform, so you give another player a chance. This article insinuates that they did well and should continue to get starts. It’s clear that they didn’t do well but you could keep them on the team if the next man up doesn’t perform.

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