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Pepi’s magical night, substitution saviors, and more: Five takeaways from the USMNT win in Honduras

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Gregg Berhalter began his post-game press conference wearing a smile on his face, and relief in his eyes. The U.S. men’s national team coach could be excused for enjoying the satisfaction of a dramatic comeback victory sparked by the substitutions he made and the teenager he gave his debut.

Berhalter should have also felt some relief for pushing all the right buttons at halftime and in the second half of a match that started terribly for the Americans against Honduras. After watching the starting lineup and formation he chose for Wednesday night’s crucial Concacaf World Cup qualifier deliver an atrocious first 45 minutes, Berhalter made a triple substitution at halftime, along with a formation change, moves that were the universal sign that a coach has gotten his setup wrong.

Berhalter could not have gotten his team’s starting set up more wrong, but could not have been better at making all the moves necessary to help his team come alive. Substitutes Antonee Robinson, Brenden Aaronson, Sebastian Lletget and DeAndre Yedlin were all out standing, and instrumental to a comeback that helped turn the USMNT’s World Cup qualifying from a looming disaster to one that managed to successfully navigate a challenging September window.

Wednesday’s win also served to introduce the USMNT fanbase to a new teenage sensation, with Ricardo Pepi turning in a dream debut, and we also saw two players in Antonee Robinson and Matt Turner bolster their cases for owning starting roles going forward.

Perhaps most importantly, September’s qualifiers helped a young generation of players gain their first taste of Concacaf World Cup qualifying, and all the challenges it presents. The experience gained this month, and the belief that Wednesday’s victory should help instill, will go a long way toward helping this young USMNT side put together more impressive, and hopefully fewer panic-inducing performances in the coming months.

Here is a closer look at some of the key takeaways from Wednesday’s 4-1 USMNT win over Honduras:


Pepi’s magical debut


When Ricardo Pepi was called into USMNT for the September qualifiers, there wasn’t a ton of expected from him given the presence of two more experienced strikers in the camp in Josh Sargent and Jordan Pefok, and when he failed to play a single minute in the first two September qualifiers it felt like we might not get to see much of him.

Berhalter not only gave Pepi a look, but handed him a start in a crucial qualifier, and Pepi responded by carrying over his red-hot MLS form into his USMNT debut. His hold-up play, willingness to do the defensive dirty work, and his movement and mobility helped Pepi have a hand in all four USMNT goals, including the winner, which he scored himself.

It was the best performance by an American striker in a road qualifier since Conor Casey scored a brace to lead a USMNT comeback win in 2009 in the very same stadium Pepi made his own on Wednesday night.

What made the performance even more satisfying for USMNT fans is the fact Pepi just recently committed to playing for the United States, easing some fears about the possibility that he would choose to play for Mexico. Wednesday’s appearance didn’t formally cap-tie Pepi, but given how unforgettable a night he just experienced, and his new status as a USMNT hero, it’s a safe bet he will be sticking with the United States going forward.


MLS contingent steps up in absence of Euro stars


If someone had told you a month ago that the USMNT would be in Honduras, tied 1-1, playing without Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie, Sergiño Dest, John Brooks and Zack Steffen, you might not have given the Americans much of a chance of pulling out a victory, let alone a 4-1 romp.

The USMNT did just that, and it it led by several top performances by MLS players. Pepi, Matt Turner and Miles Robinson were among the few bright spots in the starting lineup, while Sebastian Lletget and Cristian Roldan made valuable contributions in the second-half turnaround, rewarding Berhalter for his faith despite there being segments of the USMNT fanbase that have long been calling for them to be replaced by younger options.

As for the European-based players, Pulisic tried his hardest to will the team to victory, but an ankle injury knocked him out before the Americans ran away with Wednesday’s match. Tyler Adams was the only established European-based star still on the field for the comeback, capping a September that saw him start in all three matches.

So much was expected from the European-based big names that September’s disappointments, from McKennie’s suspension, to Reyna’s injury, to poor play from Dest and Brooks, could have derailed the team’s qualifying campaign, but credit to the MLS contingent for stepping up, and in the process showing why MLS players very much still have a big part to play in helping the USMNT qualify for the World Cup.


Antonee Robinson cements case to be starting left back


When Berhalter decided to start George Bello over Antonee Robinson on Wednesday, it felt like a head-scratcher of a decision given how well Robinson played against Canada, and after Bello endured a lackluster 45 minutes, Robinson took the field and played like a player who never wants to be left out of a starting lineup again.

The Fulham fullback came into the September qualifiers in excellent form, enjoying a strong start to the League Championship season, and having had only just recently scored his first goal for Fulham. On Wednesday, Robinson needed just three minutes to deliver an equalizer, and an acrobatic backflip goal celebration.

Robinson was excellent throughout, with his speed, strength and improved attacking quality going forward helping neutralize the Honduran threat on his side of the field.

Sergiño Dest’s uninspiring shifts at left back have only served to bolster the clear evidence that he should remain at right back, leaving left back wide open, with Bello and Sam Vines two other options to start.

Robinson is the best of the bunch though, and what he showed in September should ensure he is given the starting nod at left back come October’s qualifiers.


Turner makes the starting goalkeeper job his own


The starting goalkeeper position for the USMNT was supposed to be Zack Steffen’s when the September qualifiers began, but back spasms ruled him out, and then COVID-19 kept him out, leaving the door open for Matt Turner to follow up his outstanding Gold Cup with a trio of September performances that should keep him in the starting lineup going forward.

Turner’s poise, command of the penalty area, and quick reflexes make up for any deficiencies he may have in his passing and possession, which has long been the knock against him over Steffen, who is well known for his passing range and quality on the ball.

With both Steffen and Ethan Horvath currently serving as backups for their club teams, and Turner currently starting for the top team in MLS in New England, there should be little argument against Turner keeping the starting USMNT goalkeeper position when October’s qualifiers roll around.


What happened to John Brooks?


Back in August, writing out a USMNT starting lineup would have to include adding John Brooks as one of the first names on the list, and easily the first defender. Two poor showings in September, including his woeful 45 minutes against Honduras, has suddenly put his ‘lock starter’ status in question.

So why exactly has a player who has been so dominant and consistent for current Bundesliga leaders Wolfsburg managed to look so lost with the United States? One factor could be Brooks struggling to settle in with ever-shifting collection of teammates in the U.S. defense, as well as the varying tactical setups the USMNT uses.

The reality is Brooks has had good games in both the 4-3-3 and 5-4-1 formations in the past, and he has played well alongside a long list of different centerback partners. The USMNT will have to hope this is just another temporary slump for a player who has had poor showings in years past and managed to rebound and deliver some of the best defensive performances the USMNT has ever seen.

Comments

  1. The biggest lesson (reminder) is that CONCACAF qualifying and WC/European football are vastly different animals. Player skill sets don’t always translate between the two. It’s like the difference between a street fight and a boxing match.

    CONCACAF: More intensity, and focus on one on one physical battles. Less protection of skilled players by referees. Pitch conditions are not suited to skillful play. Chaotic environments.

    EURO/WC: More focus on skillful play, speed of thought and passing. Protection of skilled players by refs. Immaculate pitch conditions. Organized environments.

    It’s not surprising that European stars often struggle in CONCACAF, and that players who can excel in CONCACAF can not succeed in the Euro game, because they are different games.

    Guys who are highly valuable in CONCACAF are physically strong grinder scrapper guys, who also have ballsy temperments. (Acosta, Roldan, Lletget, also Adams – Pepe from the looks of it.). Softer technical and athletically quick but not rugged guys struggle in CONCACAF relative to their value in Europe. (Dest, Pulisic, Reyna, Konrad). It’s clear to see. This isn’t to say never play these guys in CONCACAF. It needs to be a mix like several other posters said.

    When we qualify for the WC the game will then favor the Euro stars and a bunch of the CONCACAF-valuable guys listed above will struggle, or shouldn’t play.

    Roster construction and lineup decisions need to better account for the stark differences between the two different games of soccer.

    Reply
    • You are right, and there is an interesting explanation for this. MLS has become the league most of the starters for most of the CONCACAF teams play in. So, in many ways, the MLS style of play… direct, physical, lots of travel… is now the CONCACAF style of play.

      It isn’t just the US that has had to adapt. Mexico has absolutely had a couple of torrid qualifying runs and is struggling too right now (though they have had a slightly better result thus far). Both the US and MX have an issue in that their best players don’t play MLS ball… they play EU ball. It is part of the reason Brazil and Argentina superstars often don’t play like themselves in qualifying too.

      We just have to learn to accept that we will need both type of player as part of the national team, while acknowledging that in, I dunno 70% of the cases, great qualifying performances won’t translate to the EU leagues. So be careful hyping Pepi.

      Reply
    • You could clarify this further, and adjust lineups for away WCQ games in CA. We haven’t seen Panama’s field yet, but El Salvador surface was spotty and Honduras was apparently below par too. The fields in the US are good quality, so a short passing game is effective. The officiating in the first round was actually better compared to past WQC periods, so maybe CONCAFAF raised their standards. But the games against CA and Caribbean opponents have always been physical and tactically disruptive. Players with grit and bite are needed for those games.

      Reply
    • Great post. I mentioned the extra travel from Europe as a factor too, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. The managers from US soccer need to try and work on this and factor in when planning (don’t get me started on why they haven’t already, especially since the guys in charge have actually lived it). For instance, next window we have the big travel away game in between two home games. Why not plan on using some of the European stars in the home games and leave them in the US to train for the road match to avoid the travel. Play a mostly domestic based lineup at Panama, guys who won’t also have to deal with the travel from Europe. This also ensures alot more rest for most players, and allows us to take advantage of our depth. Some exceptions of course, depending on how things go, and what is needed to field a balanced team.

      Reply
      • Easy to say leave the euro guys at home, but they’re also the most talented players in the group. Leaving the starting RB at Barcelona off of a road qualifier is a ballsy move in itself. Not saying its wrong necessarily.
        I think more important than personnel is the set up of the team.
        Set up for a more direct style of play. Play 2 strikers. Have a physically adept midfield and CB pairing. Players good in the air to attack/defend set pieces.

    • Ronaldihno — “Easy to say leave the euro guys at home, but they’re also the most talented players in the group.”

      Yes and no. I remember US Men’s basketball having a torrid time in an olympics once because of the hexagonal paint… and therefore a different style. I also remember them never figuring out that the refs weren’t going to call a foul when you jump into a Defender that had left his feet. So talented in getting guys to jump and doing 3-point plays wasn’t useful.

      If it is a different game, then maybe we are looking at the wrong talents, or maybe their talents aren’t useful in particular situations? I don’t think you can say Dest is just, “more talented,” or “most talented”. Sure he is phenomenal at what he does… which is play offense and a bit of D from time to time against mostly overmatched teams. Is that the talent we need? and if not, maybe Yedlin is more talented at making up for other people’s fuck ups… and maybe that is the talent we need more of.

      just thinking aloud. Not saying I would leave dest in Austin… but I might not start him, and bring him in later if I need more offense.

      Reply
  2. “the starting LB for Fulham” is all that needs to be said. Same for Arronson, etc etc. What’s hurting the team is 1 thing: mls and its political influence. Berhalter is not stupid, someone is telling him to play the mls guys over European players. And keep BROOKS on, bring in GREEN, Hoppi, Sabbi, Chandler . Every high level player vs other high level players day in and out is better than mls.

    Reply
  3. Pepi, Hoppe, Pefok should all be in the mix for starts next window, with Sargent available off the bench.

    I can’t imagine either Robinson sitting out an important game for us for a while.

    This window was a good test of depth and character fir the team if not great for my blood pressure. Hoping we can take these learnings and make the next window less of a roller coaster.

    Also predicting right now that 3rd games in these windows will be a chance for us to use our depth like last night to pick up 3 points against tired legs. We have 3 left with 2 home (Honduras, Costa Rica) and Costa Rica on the road.

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  4. As one of the USMNT Fans who’ve been screaming for Roldan to be left out of camps, I can acknowledge that he did play well last night. However that does not excuse his past 12 poor performances in a USMNT uniform….and I’ll continue to call for Green and/or Luca DeLaTorre to be included in his place.
    The fact that Gregg was out coached in 5 of the 6 halves is disturbing. The fact that he was bailed out in the 2nd half of yesterday’s game is the only reason he still has a job today. If he doesn’t get his tactics & starting XI corrected by the next window we’re going to be right back where we were before the 2nd half yesterday.

    Reply
    • While I’m not a particular Roldan fan, he has his uses. The solution is simple. Expand the roster and bring in Green, de la Torre and Roldan for the next cycle. Also should have Hoppe, Richards and maybe a few others. Don’t need Bello or Yueill. It’s an international date so all the European players will be available and 2 of the games will be at home so travel won’t be as much of a problem.

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  5. GB’s gotten more decisions right than wrong, and when he’s wrong, he’s adjusted pretty well and decisively throughout the summer and up until now. He handled the McKennie thing, he handled halftime in Honduras missing the stars, done it with varying combos of players for all kinds of reasons. Imperfect for sure, but the guy is a battler, and that locker room responded with a road grader 2nd half, just buried Honduras who could barely move around down the stretch. Specifically wanted to mention Aaronson, who just ran Honduras into the ground and can play wing for me on this team anytime, no problem. his defensive effort impacts far better than any of the other options there, his defensive intensity, and in WC qualis (and everywhere these days in world football) that stuff matters and impacts games and did last night. The guy is electric with his effort and pressing yet calm in the moment in attack, perfect player for what GB wants from that position, perfect fit

    Reply
    • Beach as you know I’ve been firmly in the Berhalter corner but the Canada game and the first half had me rattled and I’m not sure I’ve recovered. He seemed to make the exact same mistakes in roster construction from GC to WCQ leaving one group light which then inevitably faced injury or suspension. He was painfully slow to respond against Canada. Even last night at least Klinsmann got out of the 5-3-2 against Mexico before halftime in Columbus. If we only call 26 again next window I might lose it.

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      • hey johhny, I’m not in his corner or anything, just calling them like I see them. After the Canada game I knew it was win vs. Honduras or cut bait imo. But wow, pretty amazing display in the heat under fire. I expect more mistakes from GB, they all make them, but at this point I also expect him to keep figuring things out, he’s shown he can do that, at least to me all summer and this past week. Winning in Honduras after going down a goal is flippin unbeliebvable, and he had a hand in creating the issue and resolving it. He’s done that for months now and I have respect for the battler that he’s shown himself to be, like Antonee said, they believe they can and will respond. I give GB credit for that, definitely, and it was the key ingredient last night imo

      • especially with all these youngster first timers, missing players, numerous others having to step up…any coach deserves credit for that when you pull it off like our boys did last night, and all summer, etc.

    • Don’t you know that it’s “in” now to roast Berhalter? Given that second half and our position in the current standings, Berhalter is going to remain our coach whether people love him or hate him. People just have to accept that and hope he learns from past mistakes.

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    • I don’t agree with some of your comments about the US national soccer coach because he should be held to the highest soccer coaching standards which he obviously failed significantly in the first half of the Honduras game. But I TOTALLY agree with all your comments about Aaronson who also scored a great goal & assisted on another one in the second half. JA, he should be used as a winger in the next US WC qual series without any doubts!!!

      Reply
      • right on Adi. I am holding him to the standard, I realize he messed up, but again, they all do, and his fixes to the mistakes were effective. And doing it with players that so many here say don’t deserve it…well, GB gets my praise for it.

    • Berhalter out if he doesn’t get 3 points against Jamaica at home. No more excuses for home draws against weaker opposition. Losing to CR and Mexico is one thing, but dropping points against the lesser teams at home, is not acceptable.

      Reply
      • He lost points to Canada, who if they have all their weapons available might be the best in the region certainly top 3. Herdman is a wildcard he’s gotten it right against the US twice but also got blasted because he played his best attacker as a defender and lost the match in Orlando in the first 25 minutes. He also rested a bunch of guys in the quarters of GC in 2019 and lost to Haiti. So you never know when he’s going to outsmart himself. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

  6. Our young team survived the baptism by fire. They gained valuable experience the last two weeks, and will be better prepared come October. The October break should be easier to manage with 2 home games, and easier travel from Texas to Panama for the 2nd game. It is apparent the condensed schedule and excess travel is draining.
    .
    If players are healthy, and the team is prepared, 6-7 points is possible. Getting a good result in Panama feels more realistic after the confidence gained in San Pedro Sura. We’re tied with Canada and Panama, and Canada has not traveled south of the US border yet.

    Reply
    • The bad news is that I watched Panama vs. Mexico last night and Panama looked much better than I expected. Mexico had to come from behind in the second half to get the draw. I’ll be happy with a draw in Panama. We usually beat CR and Jamaica at home but lost 2-0 at home to CR last cycle. Hopefully we are better now and will know to keep defenders back along the wings, which is how they beat us last cycle.

      Reply
    • I would agree that a draw away in Panama would be an acceptable result. It will be the toughest of the three games in October, being an away game. But I sense the US players now know what to expect in these types of games.
      It is interesting that while Mexico is at the top of the standings, they really have not been dominant thus far. Let’s see if they adjust in October.

      Reply
  7. Mexican-American boys woke up this morning and saw interviews of a teenager that looks like them wearing the stars and oddly diagonal stripes talking in Spanish about scoring the game winning goal. That might be bigger than the 3 pts.

    Reply
    • I hope it persuades Julian Araujo of the Galaxy. Berhalter ought to tell him that he expects him to be able to hold his own with Dest and Yedlin. That’s my opinion anyway.

      Reply
      • I think it can’t hurt. I thought it was a good sign that Julian has at least held off on filing his switch. It was funny yesterday Julian posted a pic of himself in his Galaxy uniform with the US flag flying on the scoreboard behind him, the US fans were reading into but the Mexican fans were celebrating because he also had taken down his USMNT on his employer.

  8. Here are five points to add if you don’t mind a bit of tongue-in-cheek:

    1. Berhalter should play Adams in goal during the first half of games in the next round, just to unleash him in the second half. That will surprise teams who, like our coach, aren’t aware that Adams is a midfielder.

    2. Someone mentioned Clint Mathis in a thread and it made me miss his nasty bald-head/mohawk combo. Maybe our current guys are too clean-cut for Concacaf. Someone please tell Pulisic–“less tattoos, more mullet.”

    3. Can we replace John Brooks with Jeff Agoos’ thighs if Jeff will donate them to the cause? We can plant them in the back like oaks and that should strike more fear in our opponents.

    4. Aw man, the fourth point was gonna be something about soccer, but I can’t remember. Um…

    5. Oh I remember, some dude named Harry Kane scored a screamer against Poland yesterday, and I watched it and thought– “dang, Berhalter needs to give this guy a call. He might not be cap-tied to England yet, and, well, the English do have a history of deflecting to the United States.

    Reply
    • 1. Harry Kane wants to be an NFL kicker. Maybe something can be worked out.

      2. No one on this team even approaches Cletus’ attitude which is a shame.

      Reply
      • Haha and maybe when Kane admitted to wanting to kick in the National Football League, he just assumed that was our version of soccer.

  9. Here’s something to ponder. What if we have all the Euro stars healthy and back for the next round? Do we stick with the high profile Europeans and send the MLS players who saved our behind in Honduras back to the bench? You have to play Pulisic and Reyna, but striker is still up for grabs with Pepi maybe in the lead. Do you give Dest and Mckennie another chance? Is there a place for Zardes? Tyler Adams has to play, as do the two Robinsons. What do you do with guys like Weah, Konrad, and Aaronson compared to Lletget, Acosta, and Roldan? Do you stick with Brooks or go a different way like Richards? A lot of difficult choices and Berhalter hasn’t always made the best choices. At least the next round we have 2 of the 3 games at home (Jamaica and Costa Rica) with a trip to Panama.

    Reply
    • Of course just opinions, but I think Aaronson, Acosta, Lletget, and Pepi are in the definates list with those you listed (unless they have some ridiculous drop in club form). Other Europeans should be based on form at the time. There are many players to choose from. With other commitments I really only am able to watch Nats so I dont even know who other MLS options are but I think there needs to be a mix. This is what past coaches were criticized for but I think people underestimate the travel and not everyone handles it the same. After Jan, might be another group of exports which would impact availability for qualifiers like several in this window.

      Reply
    • Gary you’re forgetting Aaronson, Robinson and Yedlin saved our butts. Without them we have zero wide attack in the game. Pulisic lead for the first goal. Miles Robinson and Pepi were huge no doubt and should be part of the A team in the next call up. I forgot Matt Turner too but the rest are just grinder guys who can be replaced easily

      Reply
      • I said Robinson should be a lock and Aaronson a top choice. I did forget to mention Yedlin whom I generally like. His cross on the goal scored by Pepi was perfect.

    • Gregg has to determine the best tactics to use against each opponent, and then select the players who are best able to execute those tactics. With the compressed schedule (3 games in 7 days) it’s not as simple as who’s the every game starter and who’s not.
      The inked in starter’s should be….Pulisic, Adams, M. Robinson, A. Robinson, Dest, & McKennie.
      Split starters (Every other game rotation/Opponent/tactics) should be….Reyna/Aaronson, Lletget/Musah, Pepe/Sargent/Pefok,
      Form Starters: Brooks/Richards, Steffen/Horvath/Turner
      Bench Options: Cannon, Yedlin, Vines, Bello, Sands, McKenzie, Acosta, Konrad, Luca DeLaTorre, Green, Williamson, Weah, Hoppe

      Roughly 18 players who should be part of every camp and a part of the starting rotation based on form & opponent. 12 players who are our depth options, players who will round out camps and fight for the depth positions. These are the players most likely to vary in the camps due to form and/or tactics Gregg wants to use.
      Next window we have 2 home games (Jam & CRC) and 1 away game (Pan). History shows winning home games is the key to qualifying. I’d go heavy Euro players for the home games….and use the MLS players to grind out a result in the away match.

      Reply
  10. re MLS helping out, the delayed MLS season means that should continue through november (our season runs longer than usual and thus to within a week of those quali) though i will be curious how january gets handled. the original concept of camp cupcake was getting in winter fitness and games, ahead of march NT contests, when MLS didn’t start til april. i will be curious how that gets handled because the games count this time. germany is not on break the same and the europeans in general may have to stay until days before the game. so we may be running on 2 separate tracks at that point. we may be depending on the euro based then, even though they will have limited release.

    Reply
    • by games count i mean we have a january quali window. MLS is offseason but europe, depending the country, probably isn’t.

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  11. Starting in a WC qualifier does not cap tie Pepi? Qualifies are not considered the same as FIFA sanctioned tournaments? Qualifies are not friendlies. I don’t get it.

    Reply
    • FIFA rules have changed and in Pepi’s case it’s down to his age continuing to leave him an out. Basically FIFA doesn’t want young player being coerced into committing only to have a single game (official or not) tie them for good. Now, Pepi’s debut doesn’t cap-tie him, but it starts the clock on him being cap-tied. He’s three games away from being tied, that’s three games of any kind, friendly or official.

      It’s all a bit complicated but FIFA did well to adjust the rules so players aren’t railroaded into decisions at a young age that they might wind up regretting. After Thursday’s heroics, something tells me Pepi won’t be changing his mind.

      Reply
  12. 1. Don’t play Adams as #2 when Adams is our best #6, reason why Honduras scored on us.
    2. Pepi deserve another start, Sargent and Pefok looked they’re 80 (un-mobile, slow and don’t shoot the ball).
    3. Have a listed at 28 players ready!
    4. Robinson is our leftback.

    Reply
    • personally i think the strikers should be pepi and pefok, pepi while he has target chops is a little more fluid, pefok is for the battering ram situations. now that he’s dethroned, if you carry 3-4 i am not sure if sargent should even make that list. kinda depends what qualities you want in a backup striker. he hasn’t scored in so long that hint hint nudge nudge he ain’t the guy to put into a game down a goal, which is criteria for picking players in his upcoming role. i don’t expect the coach to downgrade him that fast but then he is always glacial, still hasn’t figured out dest ream brooks yeuill etc. but long term you can’t start at 9 for a quality NT and not score for years, and his club situation doesn’t seem like it will promote dramatic change in that.

      Reply
      • I see Sargent as defensive striker (not a starter but more to defend a lead). Pefok is Ok but I rather see Dike (lack technical ability and first touch raw) with his power and speed for open space.

  13. i thought the first half was more of a personnel problem than a tactical one. the soccer was already more enjoyable, free, hoof-it-if-you-have-to, and we were creating chances. i told my wife it was at least more enjoyable to watch, if stressful based on how the result was trending at the time. i thought the second half matched the freer playing style/tactics with subbing in first choice players. to me the second half speaks to the potential of the team but only if the coach gets out of their way. it amused me to note that the (appropriate) endgame tactic of taking the ball to the flag and attempting keepaway is indistinguishable from how GB’s offense seems intended to work. “wait, are you saying we’re running the clock out on ourselves from 1′ onward??” hmmmm. slow buildup and making every groundball pass lets the defense get back, and taking it to the flag only makes it worse. yesterday we got some goals off tackling up high — roldan’s slide was excellent — and we also outletted the ball wide early and got to run at more of a high line. space to play in and get behind the defense for a breakaway or pass across. everyone not already parked back. having to respect a vertical threat gets the defenders off the backs of the forwards. and, more bluntly, some of my favorite goals are two long passes and in the net. as one commentator said, this isn’t hoosiers, ever player doesn’t have to touch the ball, we shouldn’t have to complete 30 passes to score once.

    personally i prefer watching atleti to barca — and the trophy followed that more battling mindset last year fwiw — and think it’s an aesthetic rather than sporting concern to impose some of the restrictions he seemed to have done. personally i’ve always associated keepaway concepts with late game time killing as opposed to chance creation, which to me often involves an earlier ball and taking more risk.

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  14. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying this was good coaching but that game may not have finished the same way had he not rolled out that starting lineup. He painted himself into a corner with personal and if he started those subs he wouldn’t have had anyone to bring in to run at tired defenders. This was almost identical to canada game in terms of bunkering and weathering the storm and then being able to run at tired defenders and I don’t think any of his subs had 90 minutes in them. The US defenders definitely tired against canada as did the hondoran defenders last night. Praise to Acosta for putting in hard tackles smartly. IMO, he has a toughness that only Adams also has and that makes him an important player that should be on the field with Adams until others can get some bite.

    Reply
    • What you’re saying then is he got lucky.

      More likely, Honduras, who went all out in the first half were all out of gas shortly after the second half started.

      Superior depth, nothing like it.

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  15. Turner’s been really good, but he makes you nervous every time he has to use his feet. And he blew it that one time he came out for a high ball and never touched it; luckily, it went out for a goal kick.
    No keeper is perfect, and Turner hasn’t made a mistake that’s cost us a goal. But I wouldn’t rule out Steffen getting back in as the starter at some point.

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    • How quickly they forget. Steffen and for that matter Horvath were so highly rated because of their shot stopping. It certainly wasn’t about their distribution.

      Matt has been great. His confidence has risen every game and that’s good to see. But if Steffen or Horvath had been there for this run of games like Matt has been, I’m sure they would have done just as well.

      Distribution is a problem for all three and they need to fix that regardless of who the keeper is.

      Reply
    • Turner is a good shot stopper but I think the fact that he forces us to play it long a lot more doesn’t help this team. Berhalter’s system often creates a fairly sizable gap between defenders midfielders and forwards, banging long balls often means we don’t have any one close enough to win the second ball off the header.

      Reply
    • turner, just kick it downfield. problem solved. genuinely curious how many goals since this coach got hired actually result from one of those 20-30 pass keepaway sessions — starting from the keeper’s feet — that he seems to be wanting to encourage. i can’t remember (m)any? cause that is the premise of the keeper short passes is the other team will press up and we will steadily get 1-2 passes ahead of the defense and 20 passes later tap it in their net. far as I am concerned if weah is speeding down a wing, here, let me play you into space on a break, spare us the 20 ten-yard passes. and it can be on the ground and just as aesthetic.

      Reply
      • How many of those long ball headers did we win and how many of the second balls? The more you give away of possession the more chances your opponents create. Columbus rode the 30 pass goal scoring sequence to the MLS Cup last season. The difference is Nagbe is a possession machine accurate passer tough to tackle. The US doesn’t have a possession first CM that can link between front and back at least that we’ve used. The problem isn’t system it’s personal. Musah could be developing in that but it takes a lot of soccer iq to known when to move from possession to attack.

  16. 4-1 Very misleading score there.
    Roldan creating with US hustle old school nat team style.
    x
    In case people didnt realize/needed proof forwards in MLS scoring as much as Pepi is are really good at scoring. You got it.

    Reply
    • Great debut for Pepi. But we’ve seen great debuts before. Dike got off to a great start. They wanted 20 million for him. Yeah, right. Look at him now.

      If Pepi is still doing as well at the end of the Octagon as he did last night then great. Hope it happens.

      Reply
  17. I was struck by Sargent’s inability to work with Pulisic. At least three times, Pulisic used his dribbling skills to open spaces and dropped the ball for Sargent to step to. Sargent looked unsure of where to go or was busy getting out of the way instead of making the incisive run to space. Chelsea players make these runs instinctively whereas Sargent famously got little service at Werder Bremen. Thus, a mismatch.
    This may explain why Pulisic resorts to dribbling. He tries to open space for a layoff, or give and go, but his teammates(not just Sargent) often don’t react quickly enough . I was hoping he and Aaronson would be able to work off of each other in the second half, but alas…

    Reply
    • Agreed and I noticed this as well — was odd to see, two quality and team-minded players seemingly incapable of linking-up and finding each other as they moved forward. Also agree that Pulisic seems to feel the need to do it all himself at times, and that combined with the clear decision by Honduras (and others) to chop him down at every opportunity can make for a rough night. I thought one of the bright spots in the 2nd half (before Pulisic knock) was the way Pulisic and Pepi linked-up, particularly with Pepi showing some really good hold-up play and then laying it off for Pulisic nicely. I would also love to see Pulisic and Aaronson start to link-up more, but it seems like maybe Aaronson defers to Pulisic when they are both on the field, and really only steps it up and takes a stronger hand when Pulisic is off the field…

      Miles Robinson is a beast. Antonee Robinson was a revelation in the 2nd half. For me, our starting outside backs against Jamaica need to be Antonee and Yedlin — I have little interest in seeing Dest play defense again for this team anytime soon. He looks disinterested, and his talent ain’t enough to overlook that lack of grit, at least for me…

      Reply
      • Brenden and Pulisic tend to try and play in the same spaces. They need more practice together and I doubt they get it.

        Dest is an attacking fullback. The history of soccer is littered with them and there is a way to utilize them effectively w/o leaving your defense wide open. Just watch recent footage of Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester United., etc., etc. It’s not a mystery.

        This manager hasn’t figured out a way to do that yet which is not surprising.

      • It’s kind of amazing that you are roasting Dest in favor of Yedlin, when it was Yedlin that got absolutely shredded by Davies that led to the goal. Davies also is likely to do that at least once a game against most RB in the world by the way.

        I’d just like to see Dest play on the right with 3 CB and a covering 6 in the midfield just once. You know the way he plays for Barcelona.

    • Sargent doesn’t get service at his club because he has no idea to move to places where he can get service. When he gets the ball he makes non fixable errors such as tripping over the ball and running around his preferred foot. Time to move him out.

      Reply
      • Kevin, I was wondering about his club movement too. I only saw a few Werder Bremen games and Sargent was the least of their worries. Hard to blame him for much but he was not in an environment to up his game. Still too early to know if Norwich City can help. Age 24, clock is ticking

  18. More Euro kids: Weah was also missing, and Konrad did not play. Both are at big clubs and had been doing well, and had been expected to be at least offensive sparks off the bench. We’ve been told that such experience would help in WCQ but it seems like it’s much easier to, for example, hang out as RB for Barca while they win 3-0, than it is to deal with Concacaf. Brooks looked like he wanted to get back to Germany and didn’t want to chase those guys around.

    Reply

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