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Reyna and Pulisic goals help USMNT beat Northern Ireland, extending winning streak to five

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Things are clicking right now for the U.S. Men’s National Team, and it has a first road win vs. a European nation in six years to show for that.

The USMNT used goals from Giovanni Reyna and Christian Pulisic on either side of halftime to record a 2-1 victory over Northern Ireland on Sunday. The narrow win at Windsor Park in Belfast was the Americans’ first as visitors against a European side since 2015, and extended their current winning streak to five games.

Reyna provided the opener at the half-hour mark with a deflected shot while Pulisic added the eventual winner in the 59th minute with a penalty kick he earned. Northern Ireland made things tight late, however, with a ferocious half-volley from Niall McGinn.

The USMNT had multiple opportunities to make it 3-0 during the final 30 minutes, including on a couple of looks by substitute striker Daryl Dike, but could not put them away.

Gregg Berhalter’s side opened the scoring with its first shot of the match, as Reyna unleashed a shot from distance that took a big deflection before looping into the back of the net.

Pulisic doubled the USMNT lead just before the game reached an hour, firing a low penalty home after being fouled in the 18-yard box.

Substitute midfielder Brenden Aaronson could have made it 3-0 five minutes later, but he awkwardly hit the ball over the frame after getting on the end of a cross from Antonee Robinson.

Dike then came up with a pair of chances that almost gave him his first international goal. He had a 78th-minute look saved by the foot of Northern Ireland goalkeeper Conor Hazard, and was denied again minutes later on a chance at the near post.

The inability to find a third and put the game well out of reach made for a nervier finish. McGinn hit a thunderous effort in the 88th minute that soared over USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen, but the Americans held on to grab their first road victory vs. a European nation since beating Germany, 2-1, on June 10, 2015.

Sunday’s match also served to cap-tie Yunus Musah to the United States as his fourth national team appearance. Bryan Reynolds also made his USMNT debut on Sunday, replacing Sergino Dest at halftime and marking his debut by playing a role in the sequence that led to Pulisic’s goal.

The USMNT will reconvene in a couple of months, as a friendly away to Switzerland is scheduled for May 30.

Comments

  1. I thought over the course of the two games, Dike and Aaronson showed why they will be hard to ignore going forward. I remain surprised how well Lledget did, but he does fit in with the group. I thought Acosta showed why he is behind Adams, Mckennie and maybe even Yuell. Richards showed he has speed and seems to have moved on from the bad game he had against Hoffenheim. With Pulisic, Reyna, Dike, Sargent, Musah, Adams, McKennie, Lledget, Dest, Robinson and Cannon all looking like they deserve a spot, some difficult decisions await GB.

    Berhalter won’t find things much easier in the back line whether it is 4 or 3 he will have to decide from Brooks, Long, Miazga, Richards, Dest, Cannon and Robinson.

    And that is without even considering De La Torre, Siebatcheu, Gioacchini Weah, Green, Palmer-Brown, Carter-Vickers, Reynolds, Zimmerman, McKenzie, Zardes, Yuell, Acosta and eventually Morris. I probably left someone of my list, but…

    Never before has a USMNT coach had so much to chose from.

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    • Those are called “uptown problems”.

      I think at that point you probably evaluate who’s in form and who you’ve seen mesh well with the group, and maybe who fits well with the tactics you’d prefer based on who you’re going up against.

      Nice luxuries to have. Definitely a hallmark of top squads in the world.

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    • aaronson looked good. i think he, lletget, reyna, and some others provide a somewhat AWOL precision element.

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  2. GB used a 3-4-3!! We just had a nice convo on SBI comment board about seeing USMNT with 3 CBs. (I didn’t think it would happen!). I like how the formation today, fit the personnel. Dike & Siebatcheu don’t fit in a 4-3-3. De La Torre fits into right midfield, no matter the system. The wingers had the freedom to find the game. Someone pointed out that Adams & McKennie will be side by side in the 3-4-3. Reminder: Dike has only 2 matches with the senior team. This time last year, he wasn’t even in the player pool for Olympic qualifying. GB is trending in the right direction. Slow moving train since’19, but we did get a win on European soil. Positive post on this ‘cuz I’m not going to be after failure to qualify for the Olympics, altravez.

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  3. thought it was backwards to try the 343 against the tougher organized opponent when if you ever used it, it would be on the softer teams. maybe they wanted to avoid trying it twice unsuccessfully on jamaica. it was not as bad as the pre gold cup friendlies but the defenders didn’t seem comfortable and competent. i don’t think we have enough good defenders to remove some structurally from the field. think they’d be better off pushing a forward or two back and playing 451 or 442. maybe we don’t realize 433 is aggressive enough as it is.

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      • “limited?” we had aaronson off the bench, pulisic and reyna wide when they could all play central mid. i think he wanted to try it once and picked NI due to their 352 and not being jamaica again.

  4. they need some chemistry work. they don’t look like they’ve played together enough. more position swapping, combo play, wall balls. higher tempo, more flicks and quicker direction switching. too much predictable perimeter passing. you can see where the goals are coming not from working slowly around but from when someone dribbles at people, or a mid makes a run and then squares the ball on the ground, or cutting back against the grain. they need to resist everyone sitting in their formation slot slowly passing it to someone else who stands where their slot is. was not fooling NI and is going to be low % against most of Concacaf.

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    • i think we need ferreira or siebatcheu out there in the middle, someone whose game is based around leaving a ball for others. their style of play would move along the missing chemistry cause their whole thing is a little leave or backheel or flick.

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      • IV, Dike had a little knock on him which is why he didn’t play that much this window, not necessarily GGG’s thoughts of him.

      • y’all are reading a lot into a player being the 3rd choice forward for 2 separate pairs of games. reminding y’all we start playing for real next window and he has 2 games totaling 50 minutes with no goals or assists. there is a long line and while you may not like the sample size, the problem is he neither played much nor put one in the net. to jump up into a top 3 slot and make the 23 he probably needed to be healthy and play a lot and score. i think looking ok while playing hurt maybe gets you gold cup.

  5. Robinson was imprecise despite opportunities and I think that will mean Dest starts LB going forward, Cannon RB. Since it’s going to be 3 games in a short period my guess would be they play 2 of the 3 games coming up, Robinson sneaks on for a game.

    Broken record but our goals right now are not coming off wing crosses from the flag, they are coming off more direct play, taking people on and squaring balls in the box, shots from the top of the box.

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    • I thought Robinson looked a lot more dangerous than Cannon. I thought Cannon was sloppy with the ball on several occasions and is behind Robinson in ability. I certainly would want to give Yedlin another chance before settling on Cannon and would prefer to have Robinson on the left and Dest on the right instead of Dest left and Cannon on the right.

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      • they aren’t competing for time. it is dest vs robinson and then dest vs cannon. you can’t play dest both places.

        your better argument is dest has had some LB glitches every time he plays there, ergo “robinson left” and then once switched right dest becomes cannon’s selection problem.

        if i was running the team reynolds, richards, and lichaj would be getting wide looks and it would be even more complicated for robinson.

    • Lichaj is not even playing currently, not Wood he doesn’t get games. He’s literally not even with a club. He’s not practicing daily he’s basically retired. He has no business playing for the NT.

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  6. Dike has a chance of being a player who gets fouled, but gets red carded. Sounds silly but in CCAF it is actually possible down in Central America. Players r going to fly off him, stay down and act like they were shot, and they are going to get the call most of the time due to incompetent officiating….and cultural bias. I have heard from so many of my CA friends over the years how it wasn’t fair that other teams players were so big. Of corse the foul was on that player because they are to big. If it was once or twice I wouldn’t comment…..but it was clearly a widespread thought. The officials of those regions clearly agreed.

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    • i think you need one big body tall target forward off the bench in world cup quali. i think he’s battling with siebatcheu for thatkind of job and whatever you think of how dike looked today, the coach played jordan both games not dike.

      in terms of how other teams and refs react to big players, is what it is. they pose an advantage in a way. you may get some joy but the other teams don’t just lay down for it. they will flop, pick fights. that comes down to watching how you play and minding your temper.

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    • I think both Dike and Siebatcheu show real promise, but they need to play a lot more internationals before we see how well they will do at that level. At least Siebatcheu has played Europa League. Neither is ready to replace Sargent. With all the games this year they and others will have plenty of chances to show their stuff.

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      • i don’t think they are competing with sargent. i think sargent and zardes are probably GB’s first two in which case everyone else is competing for the third slot and there are so many options for just one person to fill. i think a lot of the people i have advocated or GB has tried are either in for that one spot or hoping for gold cup. most gold cup. so a lot of these striker experiments are really destined for the “B” team and maybe if we struggle in NL or early qualifying they get a second look after producing in gold cup.

  7. People need to stop saying Dike is “a better version of Altidore”. They’re entirely different players. Dike times his runs in behind really well, takes up great and intelligent positions, and is a constant goal threat. Altidore prefers to play facing to goal, doesn’t have particularly strong technical reputation, and is more of a passing forward despite his size. So other than them both being big, strong looking guys who both play(ed) in MLS, there really isn’t much of a reason to keep saying he’s a better “version of Altidore”. They have two completely different approaches to the position, and it’s a terrible take. Note: I’m not saying that it’s a racist take, as no fans are out there saying Zardes and Altidore are better or worse versions of each other, and this is probably because they’re not built the same. Americans have a reputation abroad for reducing players into builds and athleticism profiles sometimes and clustering players together or expecting them to play a certain way because of this. I think takes should revolve around how someone actually plays and produces, not how they look on the pitch or fill out a uniform.

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    • Thanks for addressing this, I agree with your whole comment. Just like Fifa has regens, some nations have second coming of players.

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    • And let’s stop with he’s better then Altidore. Jozy is the 3rd leading goal scorer in US history. The guy needs some respect. He was a trailblazer for Americans getting bought by big European clubs. He set the benchmark.

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      • and doing nothing for those big european clubs. Outside of Netherlands he didn’t do anything in La Liga or EPL. Sorry I couldn’t avoid it. I like Jozy but him being our 3rd leading scorer just reminds me how many big US games he didn’t play or didn’t do anything

  8. Acosta was a liability. He gives it up too cheaply for this formation.

    It was also hard to not notice how much better we were once Dike got in there. His end product wasn’t the greatest today but he looked like the missing piece – that big, strong target guy who could push-n-shove and win headers in the box and get on the end of stuff. We’ve got all those flashy guys buzzing around all over the field who can dribble anybody, they just need somewhere to put the ball at the end and I think Dike might be the answer there. Dike got about 3-4 clean opportunities in about the last 20 minutes alone and looked like a better version of Jozy Altidore.

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    • Ref was really favoring the NI defenders with Dike. They’d grab and pull and as soon as Daryl brushed them they’d crumble and get the whistle. Always a problem for bigger players. It just takes the ref one time though to say play on and he’s in all alone. Aaronson continues to look good on the break he set up Dike at least maybe twice.

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    • dike was shaky against TnT, omitted the other day against jamaica, came in off the bench today, two silver platter setups and no goals. even if you liked how he played coming off the bench game 2 means you have some work to do before playing a serious role. he’s probably below sargent zardes ferreira etc.

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    • I agree Acosta had a poor day. I thought it boiled down to NI being a good harassing defensive team. Acosta wasn’t up to the speed of play and they keep getting onto him in possession. Most nights in Concacaf are going to be more this level of intensity so it is probably telling.

      I do think we were shopping for bench 6s with some players on the U23s this week. Not sure he did enough the second game to get ahead of Yueill. But not comfortable Yueill is physical enough for tough Concacaf contests.

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    • While we definitely have better options than Acosta (even Morales in Germany) you need to remember that he is in pre-season in MLS and, as the announcers pointed out, not yet in real match fitness with a quick turn around between the two games.

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      • Which sort of begs the question of why did Acosta start against NI? Instead of pushing a guy who is in pre-season, we could have seen some combination of De La Torre, Otasowie and/or Cappis.

  9. I like the formation with these caveats. Long went too far forward on occasion, leaving us more vulnerable to a counter attack. I think none of the back 3 should go into the opponent box except on a corner kick. Although he was okay today, when playing 3 in the back, Ream needs to be replaced by someone with speed. It will work better if we have Adams and McKennie as defensive mids. I doubt this formation will work with Mexico as the opponent. It should work with every other team in CONCACAF, though.

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    • It looked like a formation that could be used as a change up in the future or if injury dictates. I’m not really sure what it gains us if everyone is available as Dest and Robinson seemed in the same space the last game. I’d rather have Musah and Wes with Adams protecting the CBs instead of three CBs.

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      • razor – I think the formation has more validity if we make a small tweak and when we have the full team.
        changes:
        1) CBs used: Richards (LCB), Brooks (CB), Miazga/Long (RCB).
        2) Adams & McKennie as the CMs.
        3) Tweak: 3-4-2-1 push the CF further forward. Use a pair of Pulisic, Reyna, & Musah under the CF. Musah if we need more defense…Reyna if we need to unlock a bunker.
        These minor changes would yield a better on field product.

    • we don’t have the defensive quality to remove defenders from the field, period. it’s a formation for teams with stud marking players. we didn’t look that great on defense today — gave up a goal — and lost the last two times we tried this. c’mon people.

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      • I agree at the moment, I don’t think we have 3 CBs with the speed needed for a 352 or 343. That lack of speed will be problematic in games we dominate possession. The backs can get lured forward like I think Long did today. Without the speed, and no numbers back the susceptibility is pretty high to fast forwards making counter-attacks off of long balls.

      • Long looked good and Brooks is first rate when he concentrates. Richards is starting every game with Hoffenheim and then there is the kid at Roma who is starting to get minutes. Add in Miazga and CCV and we certainly have the depth and it won’t be hard to find 3 good ones out of that bunch, plus any new ones who will develop over the next year.

      • I forgot to add what I said in my original post. The formation will be good against teams lesser than Mexico. It probably won’t work in a World Cup unless we are playing a weak team like Saudi Arabia.

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