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A closer look at the USMNT win vs. Honduras: Centerbacks shine, midfield struggles, and more

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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


Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos

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.

 

Comments

  1. It’s not just that Lletget was bad but he also made Pulisic look poor too by not working with him and being way too selfish in the build-up.

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  2. Sometimes I think you know what you’re talking about here but you usually show me you dont. Just two things I want to say here
    1) While Brooks did well on defense… he was also caught upfield multiple times leading to breakaways for Honduras. A better team (like Mexico) would have scored. So dont ignore the mistakes he made
    2) Sargent – The problem is NOT Sargent. Its the poor play of the midfield that is causing all the problems. Get rid of Yueill and Lletget and maybe we’ll beat Mexico. Continue with them and we lose. Sargent gets next to no service and somehow he’s bad? NO fix the midfield

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    • You say: “Sargent – The problem is NOT Sargent. Its the poor play of the midfield that is causing all the problems. ” I agree to a large extent, although I’d say Sargent is also suffering a bit in confidence. He needs to nick an easy one to unlock himself.

      I’d also say this: Brooks – The problem is not so much Brooks, as it is the poor play of the midfield that is causing all the problems. Really sloppy, unnecessary turnovers in really bad positions and a lack of defensive coverage. Can’t say I recall one time where Yueill broke up a counter the other way. Brooks had a very solid game, but he will never be a gazelle on recovery runs facing his own goal- we have to be smart enough not to over-expose the greatest weakness in his game. Robinson, McKenzie and Yueill/whoever is at the 6 need to be hyper aware. Looked better with Dest on the right, Robinson on the left……. hopefully that takes another leap forward and well, Adams can play or as I’ve said- Mckennie if not. Mexico will torch Yueill.

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      • Also on the Elis breakaway that Steffen stopped. Brooks and McKenzie stepped up to play him offside and Dest fell asleep and kept him on.

  3. leave mckennie deep in the field without coming to get involved on offense too much remember the last final the goal was scored on the counter and on several counters from mexico the U.S.team was cut off guard because our defenders where out of position. If it wasnt for that headed assist on goal last night he didnt contribute much. By now we should expect that we dont have much of a tactician of a coach but if we did i hope he would play a 4 4 2 with sargent and weah up top we struggled to score and we need to attack from all angles its a final. With pullisic on the left playing as a freedom having left sided midfielder and having Reyna as the center midfielder he and pullisic can create give and goes creating chances. Reggie cannon playing as a right side midfielder would help send in crosses and dest can overlap on the right coming from defensive right wing. In conclusion i want to see these players show mexico they can play and that they arent scared to play offensively and show that they want to win and beat mexico. It will be a tough game because mexico will give it its all im just hoping that the us will too and really show it on the field. Lets go USA 2-Mexico 1

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    • Ahh, longing for the days of dos a cero. Even the mentality of the fan is changing. Mentality, expectation, whatever you want to call it. There is nothing wrong with playing a 4-3-3, as long as you can adjust to a 4-5-1 when playing defense. When that adjustment doesn’t occur, the 4-3-3 has big problems. Same thing applies to the 3-5-2 reverting to a 5-3-2 in defense. This should be a pretty basic principle to understand, yet when the USA has a one goal lead, they still manage to get caught on a counter, several times in the last couple mins of the game. Weird!

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    • I’m less concerned with calling out players and more concerned with how the team is working as a unit, or not working as a unit. The players with the most talent seemed in their own bubbles. Lots to work on, and I just hope the coach is up for it.

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      • Dibo, I thought Sargent, McKenzie and Brooks were exceptions to that. I think they were looking for ways to combine while their teammates did not (or could not).

  4. I think we should get Keaton Parks as #6 as back up to Adams but Beerholder doesnt ever rate him. He may not be a natural #6 But at this point it’s best to convert someone.

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  5. I thought Aaronson did very well in his short shift vs Honduras. He has great speed and very quick feet. If only he and Gio would get a bit more muscle and be more physical; I suspect that will happen as they mature. Despite that, I would not mind seeing Aaronson in place of Lleget vs Mexico, though I do worry about his physicaliity vs Mexico. Then McKennie could take Yueil’s spot and make room for Musah (or for Weah while with Gio dropping back to midfield).

    OTOH, it is probably too drastic a step, but Miazga could play as a 6, it is not something he has done, but he is a solid defender and can pass fairly well, he would at least have the instinct to play defense first something McKennie is less likely since he is more attack oriented.

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    • Gio is 6’1 and a big kid, if a center back was asked to play a 6 it would be EPB which he has done in the past for youth teams.

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      • Gio may be tall, but he is still not muscular enough, neither is Aaronson. If you look at Pulisic 3 years ago compared to now, you will see there is an obvious difference in musculature, not that Pulisic is bulky, but he at least appears to be much stronger now than then.

  6. While I was hoping for 5 goals, we did give ourselves a chance to play for a trophy. While disappointed about this match, beat El Tri it’s ‘water under the bridge!’ Peku & A Robinson have been officially captied, that’s positive. Same back line vs Mexico for me. I hope the younger players understand now, CONCACAF refs suck!! Get use to it!! What’s up with this RW “Hero Ball” stuff. Morris, Boyd, now Reyna?! Pass the ball!! Sargent had two really good chances in the 1st half, but he looked like a CB heading the ball out the net. His start vs Honduras was justified for me because of that one play. Vs Mexico, I would like to see Sargent & Weah -LW, Reyna-RW subbed in at the exact time. Haven’t seen Weah be productive as RW since Bolivia. Have him play off Sargent’s left shoulder. You know the defense from Sargent will be there to see out the match. Yueill got moved in the 1st match in the Olympic qualifying vs CR by Perea, who is a backup for Orlando. Showed me where his level was. We need physical players against Mexico. Someone is going to have to mark Guardado!! So Acosta, who isn’t a 6 (We Know!) is likely to start. McKennie left-midfield, Musah right-midfield (GB needs to captie’em, have we forgotten?). CP, Siebatcheu, Aaronson (When he goes forward, good things happen for the offense. You can see it on the pitch, it’s obvious) 3 forwards/wingers sub out because Mexico is going to stomp, & kick ankles, and all 3 players had long domestic seasons. Who’s ever tired out of Wes & Yunus, then bring on Lleget. Why? Moreno, Araujo & backline will have tired legs facing CP, Peku, & Aaronson. The insurance goals or winning goals will come from a young trio that’s been waiting for a match like this. Wes or Yunus will tire as some point. That’s asking a lot from a back line to withstand 90+ minutes from US’ attack, especially, if players are played so that there’s more continuity. Wishful thinking! Cautiously optimistic!

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    • 1. It’s Pefok. People just figured out how to spell Siebatcheu now we can’t spell his mother’s family name either.
      2.I really hope he doesn’t start but Yueill got moved in qualifying because none of the other CMs could pass. He moved to the 8 because Perea was bad as an 8 not because Jackson was bad as a 6. Jackson was one of our three best players in OQ and arguably our best field player. We can say someone had a poor game and followed it with an absolute stinker without making up things about their past.

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      • Ugalde marked Yueill the whole match. Took him out the match, what are you talking about? Yueill couldn’t or didn’t move the ball up the pitch. He was a air traffic controller just pointing where the ball should go. The reason he didn’t do the same vs Senior Honduras, because he wasn’t voted captain. Perea came in as the 6, USA suddenly had ball movement. Oscar Pareja just this year started to move Perea up in advance position. Next your going to tell me fullbacks in 3-4-3, and 3-5-2 occupy the same space as a 4-3-3. Durkin & Servania weren’t on the pitch at the same time occupying the same space vs Ukraine in ‘19 U20 WC. USA had the most fans in Jersey the night we lost CR in qualifying. Nick Lima is a good LB. Making stuff up? ‘Tyler Boyd is a better positional defender than Jordan Morris!’ ‘Perea is bad as an 8‘, is parallel to saying Duane Holmes is a 6! Not true!! You go to transfer market for 90% of your info, bruh! I actually watch matches. Miss me with that you actually care about players mothers maiden name, like you’re the name police or some crap. Siebatcheu is my auto type. You and I know, ASN has been writing about him over 3 years now. Your reply to my post reeks of pretentious bs!

    • Tyler Boyd is a better defender than Jordan Morris. I never understand your Nick Lima LB claims are you saying I said that or you think that? Better than Dan Lovitz sure better than Sam Vines no. Servania is not a 6, even if his position is deep in a formation he’s going to shuttle the ball, and go box to box as an 8 would do. He covers ground well, was in the same space as Durkin when Ukraine had the ball probably did he stay in the same space when we had possession no. I don’t think Holmes is a six 100% never said that. Perea couldn’t do anything as an 8 in qualifying some of that is on the terrible wingers Kreis brought. Yueill was told to vacate the space and let the CBs carry the ball forward, Kreis said so in the press conference many pundits confirmed this in recaps, plenty of comp videos showed this. You can’t blame Yueill for implementing Kreis’s strategy. I’ve only seen Perea play once this season and he was playing as a RW but wasn’t that because Nani was out. As for the 3-4-3 vs 4-3-3? Did you watch the US vs Jamaica and Ireland? Dest and Robinson/Cannon were in the exact same space. The difference was instead that Acosta being slightly in front and between the CBs, we added Miazga slightly behind and between the CBs and Acosta pushed up into Lletget’s space. As for the name, I didn’t mean to imply that you have been misspelling Siebatcheu only that people have been butchering it since 2015 and it was hilarious that people were screaming about how he was a call up snub but they wouldn’t even take the time to google his name.

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  7. Replace Lletget w/ Rena in the middle where he excels- highlights his team best playmaking and spends 90% of his time anyway. Start Weah a true winger to spread the field, pose a wide threat. A big issue every game is- We have a FB in Dest who comes inside most of the time, Pulisic and Rena who love to come inside, we have strikers dropping back to get the ball rather than making runs. Everyone is trying to occupy the same space w/ no width- room to work, easy to defend. If Adams can’t go- play Mckennie at the 6, bring in Aaronson. Yueill is clearly overmatched at this level- Acosta is not a 6.

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  8. I have 2 quibbles with this analysis. I wouldn’t be so quick to play Musaqh as a starter. I really wonder about his playing starter minutes at altitude against Mexico. I fear he will get run over by Mexican midfielders, especially if he tires. Although they are different types of players, I would substitute Aronson for Lletget. Aronson has been playing a lot of minutes and is a real offensive threat and you can use Reyna more of a distributor if you need someone for that role. Secondly, I wouldn’t automatically substitute Siebatcheu just off the strength of one goal. The reason Siebatcheu scored while Sargent didn’t had a lot to do with the opportunity that developed.I’m not necessarily against it, but I would give it a lot of thought since Sargent’s defensive work turned out to be very important. Better to win 1-0 than to lose 3-2. Not to say those are the only options, but there are other ways to improve our offense without subtracting from our defense. Quicker passing and movement on and off the b all come immediately to mind.

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    • We get five subs. If Musah tires, he tires. Let’s play him and see what the kid brings.

      Ditto for Tyler Adams. Let’s plug him in and see if we can get a half out of him at the least, and if he must sub out…Acosta, please, not Yeuill.

      I wanna bring our straight-A team for at least a half, see what it looks like. As that lineup tires we can use the Lletget’s and the Acostas and the Aaronsons as subs. But Musah looks like the future, to me, and I wanna see what he looks like rampaging in there alongside Pulisic/Adams/McKinnie/Reyna, let’s give those kids a spin and see what the USMNT future looks like for a minute, I bet we like it.

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  9. Agree on pretty much everything. Lletget was also extremely wasteful and poor on set pieces, which is inexcusable. There are enough quality options that would consistently, or at least once or twice, put the ball over the first defender, which he failed to do.

    I do think another way to add both defense and offense would be to throw a 3rd CB out there along with Musah and Siebatcheu

    Pulisic Siebatcheu Reyna
    McKennie Musah
    Robinson Brooks Miazga McKenzie Dest

    The 3 CBs could provide enough cover for Dest and McKennie to play forward

    I’d love to go all in on offense with the following, but not likely vs Mexico and given how poor the D has been…..unless US is down 2-0 already and needs lots of goals

    Pulisic Siebatcheu Weah
    McKennie Reyna
    Musah
    Dest Brooks McKenzie Yedlin

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    • So, you are saying that the answer to a suspect defense is to weaken it more and hope to outscore the opponent? Not sure I agree with that. It may produce more exciting games, but also more losses.

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    • Lietget has been delivering pretty well on the set pieces and into the back of the net tho last night not his best for sure. If Gio would just finish one of his many chances in theses past 2 games, much different the conversation would be about all of this. All the tactics and tight play would be different. I love Gio, and vs. Mexico I think he breaks out

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  10. I thought Jackson Y struggled against the Swiss and expected better against Honduras, thinking he would be ok against CONCACAF teams. But seeing how he struggled twice against Honduras, I wonder if he can be good enough for Concacaf top teams (bc he won’t be good enough to face Mexico)….

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    • It seems for USMNT right now that the overseas talent is playing pretty soccer but soft and players are still young, so underwhelming relative to expectations, yet at the same time, CONCACAF is so much better now that MLS-based talent for USMNT alone isn’t good enough anymore to dominate like they could have 10-15 years ago.

      A long term positive for USMNT but an airgap to overcome until the young, Euro-based players turn into grizzled vets

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      • and MLS gets plenty of credit to the rising tide for other teams in our region, right? just not on the USMNT

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