Sometimes, an excellent late winner is enough to gloss over a disappointing performance, particularly in a tournament, but Jordan Siebatcheu’s late-game heroics wasn’t about to transform the U.S. Men’s National Team’s performance against Honduras into an appealing performance.
Securing a place in the final was obviously the ultimate goal, but for a team loaded with players coming off impressive club seasons, Thursday’s 1-0 win felt very much like an underwhelming showing.
It wasn’t all bad obviously. Siebatcheu’s stock is soaring after the goal, the USMNT centerbacks turned away an aggressive attacking effort from Honduras, and Gio Reyna continued to show flashes of brilliance that have him continuing to look like it won’t be long before he is the team’s best player.
Here are some more thoughts on the USMNT win vs. Honduras:
Brooks played like a captain
John Brooks was an imposing force in Thursday’s win, helping set a strong tone that was needed against a Honduras side that set out to try and be physical and intimidating against a young American side.
Brooks was having none of it. He made tough tackles, took on Honduran attackers, and stepped up for teammates when things got heated.
Brooks played play someone who meant what he said when he told SBI that he wanted to be USMNT captain.
As if his defensive contributions weren’t enough, his passing was excellent yet again, including his pass on the sequence that led to Siebatcheu’s winner.
What should be clear by now is Brooks is the most indispensable player on the USMNT, the one player Berhalter would find impossible to replace if he were unavailable, and he looks more and more like a player who is ready to take on a bigger leadership role going forward.
Yueill has poor showing in starting ‘six’ role
Honduras deserves some credit for making things tough on the USMNT, but it is tough to deny that Sebastian Lletget and Jackson Yueill struggled mightily to provide much in the way of progressive passes that could test the Catrachos.
Yueill was neutralized by a Honduran defensive setup that clearly intended to limit his effectiveness. Berhalter’s system relies heavily on a defensive midfielder capable of being the focal point of distribution and Honduran coach Fabian Coito set out to force the Americans to have other players distribute, which is part of the reason Brooks and Mark McKenzie wound up having to complete so many passes.
Yueill is a disciplined player, but his inability to create threatening passes, and work around extra attention from opposing defense makes him an easy player to neutralize, and that will only become more obvious against higher-level competition.
With Tyler Adams still working his way back from a back injury, Berhalter could turn to Kellyn Acosta to face Mexico. Acosta brings more of an ability to dribble through pressure, though he isn’t as disciplined defensively as Yueill, leaving you with which poison you want to pick.
McKenzie aced his centerback audition
John Brooks is getting plenty of deserved credit for his performance against Honduras, but McKenzie’s start was just as impressive, and maybe even more so given his limited experience.
Berhalter figured to start McKenzie over Miazga due to his superior quickness, which was going to be a major bonus against a quick and dangerous Honduras attack, but McKenzie showed off his full range of gifts, including his passing, his strength in the challenge, and excellent positioning.
McKenzie’s MLS Best XI season with Philadelphia Union in 2020 saw him take his game to a new level, but it is clear his time at Genk since his January transfer has helped give him some added confidence and polish to his game. He also had to endure the struggles with fighting for playing time, and the fact he emerged from that to win a starting role during Genk’s most important matches late in the season showed how much he had grown.
Will Berhalter give him another start on Sunday, or go with a rested Miazga? Given how well McKenzie played, and how good his partnership with Brooks looked, Berhalter could very well give McKenzie his third straight start in eight days, with Sunday’s being the biggest of them all.
Lletget cools off, opening door for Musah and others
After scoring four goals in his past five USMNT matches, Lletget was always going to start against Honduras, but after an extremely quiet match against Honduras, Lletget looks like a much less-obvious choice to start on Sunday against Mexico.
It isn’t a surprise that Musah might be struggling with fitness after not playing many minutes over the past month of his club season with Valencia, but unless Berhalter doesn’t think he can handle starter’s minutes, there’s really no reason to pass on including Musah against Mexico.
The USMNT will struggle to win the possession battle against Mexico, and Musah’s impressive ability to keep the ball and dribble out of pressure would be invaluable against a team like Mexico.
Lletget should still have a role to play for the USMNT, especially as an attacking option off the bench of Mexico has a second-half lead, but his subdued performance against Costa Rica should pave the way for a lineup change on Sunday.
Will that change be Musah? Not necessarily. Berhalter could choose to play Gio Reyna in a central role in order to insert someone like Brendan Aaronson or Tim Weah on the wing. The Americans can look to pressure Mexico’s fullbacks, while Reyna’s ball skills could cause some headaches for the heart of the Mexico defense.
Siebatcheu shines, Sargent struggles
Jordan Siebatcheu made a very strong case to start in Sunday’s final after coming off the bench to score the winner against Honduras, but also working in his favor was Josh Sargent’s latest lackluster attacking performance.
The Werder Bremen striker was roundly ineffective in attack, and while he did wind up with some shots, he spent far too much time dropping deep, and not enough time threatening the Honduran attack and finding good chances for himself.
Sargent did a ton of defensive work, as always, and actually saved a goal off the line for the Americans, but his penchant for dropping deep in midfield to help defensively, rather staying high up the field to push for openings has made him a less-effective attacking weapon.
Siebatcheu may not have Sargent’s defensive work rate, and penchant for pressing, but Siebatcheu holds the ball up well, makes excellent runs, and is also an underrated passer. Now with a goal to his name, it is clear he has carried over the confidence gained from his standout season in Switzerland.
Berhalter will find it hard to keep that sort of confident and good form on the bench again come Sunday.