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USMNT facing creativity crisis ahead of Canada clash

ORLANDO — The U.S. Men’s National Team is facing crisis heading into Friday’s Nations League clash with Canada.

Christian Pulisic’s absence from the squad leaves a huge hole in the USMNT attack, and now an attack that was already struggling to generate chances will have to find a way to create them without its best player.

“We’re going to have to get creative to find that creativity,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said with a grin when asked by SBI about the squad’s lack of creative options. “But in all seriousness, it’s about putting the right personnel on the field to be able to capitalize on some of the weaknesses that we see in Canada.

“We’ll use this week to determine that, but we certainly want to be aggressive in that game and we want to score some goals.”

The current squad will be without regular starters Pulisic and Michael Bradley, which should provide opportunities for others to step into prominent roles. Paul Arriola is a player who could step into Pulisic’s wing role, while Sergino Dest is also someone who could be deployed further up the field in an attacking role instead of playing at left back, where he is projected to start.

Sebastian Lletget is arguably the most creative player on the current roster and is a good option in central midfield, but he is also a player who hasn’t played since his LA Galaxy were eliminated from the MLS playoffs on October 24th.

Potentially making things even tougher for the USMNT attack is the possibility that Canada will pack numbers back defensively. The Canadians only need a draw to secure their place in the Nations League knockout rounds, so the Americans could find themselves trying to break through a stingy defensive block.

If Canada goes that route, there will be even more of an emphasis on the USMNT being able to execute sharp passing and intelligent movement to unlock the Canadian defense.

The good news for the Americans is that their defensive group should be stronger than the unit that surrendered a 2-0 loss to Canada. The additions of John Brooks, Dest and Alfredo Morales will bolster the U.S. defense, which could allow Berhalter to commit more numbers to his attack.

Also working in the USMNT’s favor is the fact that some of its attacking players enter the current camp in good form. Josh Sargent endured a forgettable showing against Canada in October, but has been performing well for Werder Bremen in the month since then. Jordan Morris is also in outstanding form, having just helped the Seattle Sounders win their second MLS Cup title in four years.

Just how effective Sargent and Morris are will depend on the chances the U.S. midfield can generate, and the ability of Weston McKennie, Lletget and/or Cristian Roldan to deliver dangerous service.

That will be easier said than done against a Canada side that can afford to play for a tie, and it will be much tougher to pull off without Pulisic and his red-hot recent form.


  1. back to the days when if LD didn’t play we had no chance. But I disagree with the creativity thing being pitched here. The players look confused on the field, and that stifles creativity more than the personnel decisions imo

  2. Why do people have any interest in this new Nations League format? The US used to schedule friendlies against strong opponents and improve by playing against quality teams. The USSF gets the shaft, since Canada and Cuba are poor draws.

    On the positive side, we will not play a true meaningful game until mid-2020, and it’ll be roughly a year before a few of the young and rising players begin to grow and improve enough to compete for a spot in the senior team player pool. I am sure a few of the older veterans know that they are at risk come the WCQ cycle, and certainly for Qatar. Here’s hoping we see a breakout from a few hopefuls in the winter months.

    • I’m thinking’…… proooooooooobably be good to be able to get by Canada before griping about having to lower your team to playing inferior competition?

  3. I’d argue that the USMNT is in a “Creativity Crisis” because Berhaulter has failed to invite any creative players….with the exception of Pulisic….to USMNT Camps for a while now.
    He has preferred to call-up North & South runners (Morris, Arriola, Baird, Zardes, Yedlin, etc…) or industrious motor types who cover ground (McKennie, Roldan, Morales, etc….).
    We’ve seen very few or very rarely used players who can possess the ball or connect the lines with a final pass. Green, Holmes, Weah, Lletget, and others of like them have rarely been called or used.
    Until Berhaulter changes his approach we’ll remain a stagnant team without direction or leadership.

  4. Throwing this out there…

    What are the chances that this core managed by GB wins a Round 16 game at the WC to make the quarterfinals? 30%, 20%, 10%, 5, 1 or no chance?

    I’m posing the question because this was the goal/standard we previously were striving for prior to firing JK.

    • Not sure what JK has to do with anything. Klinsmann’s target in 2014 was clearly to best the performance of his predecessor in 2010, which is where the “quarterfinals or better” standard came from. He failed, yet was not fired (mostly the tournament was viewed as a success actually).
      Using the same logic, all the current coach would have to do to improve upon his predecessor is qualify for the WC. While we’d all like to see more than simply qualification, the fact is we have a weaker team and only a fool would set a target of “quarterfinals or better” for this group of players.
      Anyway it’s all a moot point. Much as we might not like it, Stewart today said that Berhalter won’t be fired regardless of results vs. Cuba/Canada. So might as well get used to this…. change ain’t coming soon.

      • My point is the goal posts have moved. We can rationalize it all we want but that doesn’t change that what equals success has now changed.

      • On that point absolutely I agree. The goalposts have moved. And unfortunately I think they are still moving.

      • Realistically our current “standard” (of urgency) should be not to F’ing continuously lose to inferior teams. We should at very least continuously play equivalent to Mex/CR… we should never lose to any other Concacaff side. EVER! So there’s a starter. We should NEVER miss WCQing EVER!!! Obviously and unfortunately for us, it starts at the bottom! Our 23’s are nothing to write home about and our 17’s just got swept away by the 3rd world down in Brazil last month. How many coaches have we needed to replace, yet have not? How many coaches do we even have in the US? Why do we even need just strictly US coaching? Why not also hire outsiders to teach our athletes. I’m getting into my mid 70’s friends. It’s my dream to live long enough to see our boys win the WC! Much of this past decade has be sickening. The USA with over 300 million people cannot fill a pool of world class athletes to comprise and train a 23 man roster capable of winning the vaunted WC?

        Why do we rely so heavily on MLS? It’s like sending Class AAA Oklahoma City, to the World Series instead of a full roster of Dodgers? Our training is part MLS players basically only in camp. Then when Fifa window opens, we get our foreign based players for a bit. The MLS schedule not being in sync with Fifa prevents the continuity of a full squad camp prior to every friendly. Also applicable to the other tournaments or friendly’s. USSoccer needs to fix the scheduling along with the MLS factoring so heavily in our players pools.
        SMH! Ok I’m done whining now

  5. Creativity crisis for sure. Enough good midfielders that Roldan should be a benchwarmer ( got sick of all the hatred ), but no number 10. Putting Roldan in the role when he should be a defensive mid and then hating on him does nothing to solve the fact that between Morris and Pulisic, NEITHER can be a 10.
    I say play McKinney there and run the offense through him. See if it works. Right now, you have a bunch of people NOT playing that should ( GB’s fault ? ) and a bunch that seem to barely want to.

  6. Personally, I’d like to see somebody step up and grab a leadership role here. For all of GB’s problems, this team also suffers from a lack of leadership on the pitch, as well. Our youngsters are decent players but they still look timid, and we are missing a dominant personality. Who is going to the guy who takes responsibility and makes it a point to boss the game? We are still looking for a captain here, as far as I can see.

  7. Did anyone else notice Bradley had a great final it reminded me of 2010 world cup Michael Bradley. Now we know he had 6.5 million if he won final contract option. He was all over the field. For sure we have no creative player not one not one guys. It’s going to be a tough game I expect canada to be tough to break through their lines. Maybe on a corner or a set play. But we haven’t had a goal on set play since alditore and dempsey. It would not surprise me that Zardes starts after all that’s why he omitted altidore.

    • Toronto would be fools to sign him again. He gets that contract and back to Bradley who can barely make the playoffs again.

  8. USMNT facing crisis….
    “Christian Pulisic’s absence from the squad leaves a huge hole in the USMNT attack, and now an attack that was already struggling to generate chances will have to find a way to create them without its best player.”






    …… but our prayers have been answered and the USMNT has received an indirect blessing, as the reason for that offensive (and defensive) struggle – Michael Bradley, WILL NOT be selected for the upcoming match against Canada due to injury. In his place will be a much more capable, dynamic and talented Bundesliga player Alfredo Morales, able to complement the playing style of another Bundesliga player Weston McKennie both offensively and defensively. The balance has been restored to the USMNT!!!!!! lol

    In all seriousness, I really wonder what is going through GB’s head right now!!!!!!

    • I like this lineup given the players in camp. But, this lineup makes the most sense if we stray away from the GB system. That system proved to be a failure against Canada in the last game, so I really hope shows some tactical flexibility. Although, part of me wants Berhalter to stubbornly refuse to adapt a system to our player pool and for us to continue to show poorly- then hopefully he would be replaced sooner rather than later.

      • “Although, part of me wants Berhalter to stubbornly refuse to adapt a system to our player pool and for us to continue to show poorly- then hopefully he would be replaced sooner rather than later.”……Looks like we are both on the same page. Having him force a system that doesn’t work, which aids in forcing him out. 100%

    • What has Turner did to get a start? Johnson>Turner. I also played with Johnson when I went to the UCF summer soccer camp when I was in high school. He is the real deal, ball sticks to his hands like glue.

      • Mysterious
        What has Turner did to get a start? Hmm…. well lets see Almost earned best goalkeeper in MLS for 2019 season (behind Steve Clark), Highest ranked MLS goalkeeper by whoscored (7.06) and the best among those currently on the USMNT. Stats:

        Cool you know / played with Johnson though….

      • Matt Turner may have had a wonderful year in MLS. That doesn’t mean a lot IMO. International play is a whole different kettle of fish and many good ML?S players have been found wanting on the international level. He has 0 caps, so we know nothing about how well he would do in a pressure packed international game. While many people dis Guzan, he played almost 150 games in the EPL and has a whole lot of international experience. If you want to give Turner a look see, the best time is a January camp and some meaningless friendlies.

      • Gary,
        In the game of soccer you play your best players,( and with that you factor in the players level of play and league played in) and that is the problem with the USMNT. Look at mexico and the players they put on the field against the US and later Argentina. They TAKE FROM THEIR TOP LEAGUE PLAYERS FIRST then fill in the “blanks” with the BEST La Liga players
        J. Corona – Porto
        Javier Hernández – Sevilla
        R. Jimenez – Wolverhampton Wanderers
        H. Lozano – Napoli
        Andrés Guardado (captain) – Betis
        J. Dos Santos
        E. Alvarez – Ajax
        H. Herrera – Atlético Madrid
        J. Gallaro
        N. Araujo – Celta
        C Salcedo
        M. Layun

        Look a the Mexican National team, THEY GET IT. Almost all their international players are in camp or ARE ACTIVELY playing on the team…..and it translates to their performance on the pitch.

        You will not see Marco Fabian on the field just because of his international experience. The question to ask is “where is he playing now”? If the US did that half our problems would be over. We go by ‘international experience”, get beaten by CONCACAF minnows, wonder why we cannot get a good team together and we have players in better leagues than MLS ABROAD (counting Liga MX) to form TWO GOOD teams that could compete in our division. It’s the very reason washed out veterans, with no skill or abilities, in lower level leagues stay longer and block the channels for new fresh skilled talent to flow through and we all act surprise when we get stumped by inferior competition. That’s because CONCACAF teams are not playing our best…they are playing our “International experienced” players, who are a shadow of their former selves, playing in a lower league to begin with and are not even the best Americans in that position of the field. Guzan is 13th in the GK rating this season for a reason….13TH!!. Put him up against tough opposition he will give you 13th rated MLS GK performance.

        This ‘international experience” is the reason players like Altidore, Bradley and Trapp see the field, game after game, in place of better players employed at a higher level. It should be simple….if you are not the best at what you do you should not be automatically in the starting line-up, if you play in a superior league you should be looked at first and not the other way around

        Forget the noise and look at the results after we spank Canada on Friday (yes you heard it here first). Watch what happens to the USMNT against Canada with no Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore (provided GB is not dumb enough to field Trapp). You will hear all kinds of analytical plays, key formations and strategies but the truth is……THERE WAS NO BRADLEY AND ALTIORE ON THE FIELD.

  9. Yeah we just don’t have the creative types in our player pool right now, and haven’t ever really had options there. I would have brought Green, but his ceiling appears to be very good second division player, and honesty I think he would struggle with Canada’s physicality. Other than that, there just aren’t any out there… If I was game-planning I think I would try and attack with fullback/wingbacks up the flank using Dest, who we know is skilled at this, on the left, and Yedlin, who just scored in premier league, on the right. Let Morris and Arriola cut inside and hustle back to cover defensively when needed, both are capable of this. And hope for a mature performance from McKennie and a clinical one from Sargent.

  10. You know who might be able to help as a creative attacking wing option?….Julian Green. Will some please ask GGG why he can’t get a call?

    • Why won’t he call in Green? Same reason he hasn’t called in Alvarado, waited forever to call in Morales, keeps playing Lovitz. He makes poor decisions on player selection is why.

  11. We have 4 hybrid #6/#8 players Yeuill/Morales/Roldan/Mckennie and one true #6 with Trapp who shouldn’t be playing on this team. Who’s the backup for Lleget’s role? Seem’s dumb that Julian Green can’t get a sniff.

    • Very much agree, he should have at clear roster hierarchy at this point as any other team/club does so if a players goes down someone else with a similar skill set is ready to fill that role.With Pulisic out that should mean he should have called up either another wing or another attacking CM depending on where he was planning to use CP. Green or Holmes would have made a lot of sense here. I bet that the pre camp nonsense made him feel he had the players he already wanted anyway and doesn’t want to bring in a guy last minute who didn’t know his system, of course this is the same trash excuse he’s been using the whole year to ignore players playing well in good leagues overseas while stacking his rosters with lots of mediocre MLS players with poor first touch, creativity, and movement. He basically fabricates a logical excuse to not using non MLS players.

    • GB like Arena 2.0, views Roldan as a attacking mid. Trapp hasn’t had many caps under Berhalter contrary to popular opinions. McKennie played the 10 vs Cuba. I think we are all struggling with USMNT. Most of us knew, there would be emphasis on MLS personnel, when GB was hired. Some teams take on the personality of the manager, this seems to be showing itself. SBI posted an interview, w/ GB, and he seemed disinterested, unmotivated and disjointed, just like the product we see on the field.

  12. This “creative crisis” is nothing new. You can even say that it has always been the USMNT’s weakness, going all the way back to 1990 WC. Of course, missing an in-form Pulisic doesn’t help, but it’s silly to act like we just lost Messi, Suarez and Griezemann. We have never been a creative team, even with Dempsey and Donovan on the field.

    This may actually be one of the main problems with GB. He’s trying to implement a system that does not suit the American player, and certainly not this current pool of American players. If he hopes to save his job, he will come to his senses (and also stop calling up horrid players like Trap and Zardes…).

  13. —————————SARGENT————————





    Lets go USA! Mckennie plays CB for Schalke because Long is not cutting it for me.

    • We saw Antonee Robinson @ LW vs Jamaica pre-GC. Didn’t work out so well. I know you think, Robinson isn’t good because of a mistake he made it a club play, but Cannon played RW in a playoff match vs Sounders and scored playing closer to goal. Would you ever play Cannon as a winger?


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