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USMNT ‘on the right track’ for World Cup qualification despite disappointment of dropped points in Jamaica

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The U.S. men’s national team concluded its 2021 competitive schedule on Tuesday night with a road draw against Jamaica, and although the result won’t feel like a positive to many, the Americans continued on the right track heading into its final six World Cup Qualifying matches.

Gregg Berhalter’s side saw an early advantage slip away in a 1-1 draw with the Reggae Boyz in Kingston, hanging on for the USMNT’s third draw through eight qualifiers overall. While the USMNT did drop two points on the road, hanging on against a Jamaican side desperate for points was key to ending November’s window without a defeat.

“We’re not looking at tonight as a disappointing result, we’re looking at it as a good result,” Berhalter said postmatch. “Any time you can get a point on the road is a good thing. I think for the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more from tonight is completely natural, but this is a point we’ll absolutely take from the road.

“What we will do now is evaluate, we’re going to be back in camp in about two weeks for the friendly against Bosnia and then we have another break before the January camp begins,” Berhalter said. “There’s not a lot of rest for us. The message to the guys was to come into this camp and end in one of the top two spots and we’re in position to do that. Now we have six qualifiers left and hopefully we can see the qualification.”

Outside of Michail Antonio’s thunderous blast in the 22nd minute, the Americans held the Jamaicans to only one shot on goal. Walker Zimmerman and Chris Richards did well to keep the West Ham forward in check for most of the match, while DeAndre Yedlin did the same with Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey.

Timothy Weah continued his good run of form with his second international goal, showing off his determination in the box and clinical ability from a tight angle. Ricardo Pepi and Brenden Aaronson both logged a lot of running in the match, pressuring Andre Blake and the Jamaican backline for their 77-minute outings.

It wasn’t a glamourous performance by the Americans at all, but it’s another positive step for this youthful squad of players.

“I think we’re on the right track, having the guys get experience on the fly,” Berhalter said. “We’re playing an Olympic-eligible team in regards to age, roughly 22.3 years old average age. The guys have done a great job adapting to that and we’ve had some very strong performances at home and the road performances we’ve earned five points from four matches.”

“In 2021 we’ve lifted two trophies, we’ve won 16 games, and we’re where we want to be in qualifying,” Berhalter said. “The guys have done a great job and it’s all down to them and their commitment to the program.”

The USMNT will take plenty of positives from its four-point window, especially after handing rivals Mexico its first loss of qualifying on Friday. Several young players are racking up consistent minutes in the squad, providing an early glimpse of what the long-term roster could be for 2022 and beyond.

Veteran players like Christian Pulisic, Zack Steffen, and Zimmerman have contributed big moments this month and will now aim to continue playing leading roles heading into the new year. Other players like Gio Reyna, Sergino Dest, and John Brooks could be back into the squad by January and February’s qualifiers, giving Berhalter even more options to call upon for matches against El Salvador, Canada, and Honduras.

“The first window was a major learning experience for us in terms of how to mentally prepare for these three games and get through the travel and we got five points from those matches,” Berhalter said about the September window. “Then the next two window we still averaged four points in each of those, so that’s pretty good when you think about the inexperience and youth of this group.

“We’re learning on the fly,” Berhalter said. “One game is in a cold environment, the next is in a tropical place, so it’s all different challenges we have to face. I think the guys have done a good job of learning as we go, and now it’s about making sure we’re ready for 2022. We will take our position for right now.”

Comments

  1. Some of you are acting like we should have lost and seem to prefer that this had happened. The team was playing well until Antonio hit a once-in-his-career bomb, which rocked the USMNT mentally. The lesson here was that of working on mental recovery. Wes being out seemed to hurt that. Overall, we got a point away. We’re playing better, and we’re on track to make the WC.
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    6 games left. 10 points put us at 25 pts total, should send us to Qatar. 3 wins and a draw should do it. Or 2 wins and 3 draws puts us at 24 pts, and that may do it too.
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    Canada and Mexico away are presumed losses, but, chicken littles aside, we could also draw one of those.
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    Panama plays us here. USMNT should win or draw that one. As bad as that away game was, I think GGG learned big lessons on team selection and tactics from that one. Mexico victory should have solidified those lessons. I say we win against Panama at home.
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    We also play Honduras, and El Salvador at home. Old n’ Slowsta Rica away… Not going out on a limb to suggest we win all of those.
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    I don’t care where the results come from, or who against, but I think we’ve got this.
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    And no, GGG and the boys don’t read the SBI comments. We, and fans generally, have net zero effect on the type and level of soccer played by the USMNT team. Whatever “standards” we hold the team to on this comment board will have no effect on the team or the expectations on them. *laughing emojis*

    Reply
    • People wanted qualifying over by this point but that rarely happens. The combination of inexperience and the stars missing a ton of minutes have left us with a normal amount of points. Win the three at home and draw one or two on the road and we’re in.
      Our current 1.875 pts per game qualifies every time so yes we are on track even if it’s still nervy. In 2018 after 8 matches we had 9 pts so we’re in a far better place even if weren’t safe.
      —————
      Historically the first 8 matches
      2022 15 pts 1.88 per
      2018 9 pts 1.13 per
      2014 16 pts 2 per
      2010 14 pts 1.75 per
      2006 19 pts 2.38 per
      2002 13 pts 1.63 per
      1998 11 pts 1.38 per
      1994 Automatically Qualified
      1990 11 pts 1.38 per

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  2. National—————-MP—-W—–D——L—–GD——PTS

    CANADA—————-8——-4——-4—–0——8———16

    USA———————–8——-4——-3—–1——7———15

    MEXICO—————–8——-4——2—–2——4———14

    PANAMA—————-8——-4——-2—–2——2———14

    I think it should kinda be a little worrisome for USMNT fans because of:
    1. How close the points are between the top 4 teams
    2. the fact that Canada has played the best of CONCACAF and haven’t lost a single game
    3. Our lack of consistency, motivation and focus during away games

    …but I guest we’ll see

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    • Canada has 4 of their last 6 on the road. They have 3 road points from 3 road matches. US has played 4 road matches and has 5 pts. In the only shared road opponent Canada drew 0-0 in Jamaica (no Antonio or Bailey, not their fault). The difference right now is Canada taking pts from the US in Nashville. Herdman had a lot of opportunity to build a group and shared tactics through qualifying against mostly minnows. Canada and Panama the two most consistent groups both had to qualify for the Ocho.

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  3. Looking ahead, our two most challenging games are Mexico and Canada away, and Mexico is in March when qualification may be set. Canada, all must admit, is for real, and has yet to lose a game. The top 3 auto-qualify, and I doubt the top 3 will change in 2022.
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    A win or draw vs Canada in January is attainable. 4th place Panama has tough games left, and has to travel here in 2022. A head-to-head US win makes moving up very hard for Panama. El Salvador and Honduras at home should be 3 points, and a win or draw in Costa Rica is attainable. Jamaica should be a tough game for 2022, and we do not play them again, despite yesterday’s uninspiring game. Stay on track, and a WC slot is there.
    .
    WCQ is tough. Just go look at the results in Europe for perspective.

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  4. The remaining matches we have, and where those matches are, make the “on the right track” comment a little overly optimistic for my taste. With the three difficult away matches we have left (1st place Canada, Azteca, and another place we have never had much success in Costa Rica), we absolutely have to take all 9 points from our Home matches.

    All three of those are matches we should win, but I thought the same about our home Canada match. I have a feeling any slip-up in those, especially against the Panama team that is breathing down our necks, could mean 4th place and a play-in game.

    Even if all 9 home points are taken, any draw from the three away matches could also be key to ensure our top 3 finish with such a logjam amongst the top 4 right now.

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  5. One positive is this is a very young team and they are in the stage of their careers where they are (or at least should be) improving both physically and tactically. It will be fun to see how much they can improve before Qatar. Along the way there will be ups and downs as there always are, especially for young players.

    Another positive is that here does seem to be enough depth that injuries, even to a few of the stars, does not seem to seriously limit the team’s success.

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  6. The way our team is set up to play does not translate well to road concacaf qualifiers. As wonderful as it was to see us finally realize a pressing skill-based buildup style against Mexico at home, that kind of game is just not going to work as well on dodgy pitches in central america and the caribbean. Hindsight is 20-20, and all of us (including me) were calling for the lineup that we saw against jamaica, but it didn’t work. We are going to have to play more of a direct game in these situations, and call appropriate players as necessary. As good as Zimmerman was defensively, when Jamaica dropped off him, he was unable to hit long balls behind their lines, and our guys weren’t making those runs either. I guess the good news is there is only one more trip to central america, the other road games in Mex and Canada should have quality pitches. I agree with those that say we are in a good place. With 6 games left, three wins should do it. In fact, beating Panama at home would probably do it.

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  7. The average age is 22 yet you guys are complaining about not gettting consistency. Y’all are hilarious. They’re a bunch of kids.
    Someone on another website posted only 18% of CONCACAF Hex games have been won by the away team. That’s in the history of WC Qualifying. So if you want to say a tie is a bad result then go on with your delusional thinking.
    Yeah, our team is made up of professionals but so are the other teams.
    Let’s make this clear. It’s WC Qualify! IT’S GOING TO BE HARD!
    Just because you don’t think it should be means nothing.

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    • It was a tie that should have been a 3-1 loss. It seems like there’s a camp that’s looking at results and a camp that’s looking at performance. The result, statistically, is acceptable. Our performance was objectively bad. SBI called it “flat” in a headline. So many turnovers and unforced errors. Yes, the field wasn’t exactly a carpet, but Jamaica played on the same field and they did better and had more chances. This is not Mongolia, it’s a four hour charter flight from Cincinnati, in the same time zone. And there weren’t even any home fans.
      Watching a pro player like Antonee Robinson turn the ball over almost every time he touched it was really frustrating. He’s 24. Yes, he should be more consistent than that. Plenty of other examples.

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      • Flat or just what one should expect from a B team line up in an away WCQ match against a decent level opponent.

  8. Every single former USA player will tell you that winning on the road in CONCACAF is harder than it looks. The fields in particular turn games into a battle instead of a smooth soccer game. It’s not propaganda, road WQC wins are tough.

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    • Propaganda – lol. That’s why there’s so much time from end of game to press conference. “They” have to get together to get “their” messaging in line for “the sheep”….dude…

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  9. Accepting bad away results is wrong. Look where Panama is now, after everyone trotted out the old concacaf excuses for losing to them away. They’re on 14 points. We are 8 games into a 14 game series, and we’re exactly one bad day away from fourth place. This is not “on the right track”.
    We played a great game against Mexico, but four days later we look like garbage and get a tie that should have been a 3-1 loss. How is that acceptable?
    This article and the berhalter quote are literally what I tell my 10 year old when he loses. I’m sorry, these are professional athletes. A lot of them make 7 figure salaries. You can’t choose a team of young players and then make the excuse that they are young.
    We’re playing inferior teams. We should be winning games. If you aim for “ok”, you get “bad”. This is as old as sports. It’s as old as humanity. We need wins.

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    • Dave, I blame you. I think a lot of fans have marginalized concacAf so much over the years that it makes these games and the players who play in them a little indifferent. Why??? Why not, when these players have grown up hearing this stupidity. Nauseating, is what it is. I think you should look in the mirror, and think about this stuff. World Cup qualifying is not easy, not in any region. Maybe you didn’t notice, but the defending European champions, are going to need to go to a playoff. Actually, the last two champions of Europe are going to have to go to a playoff to qualify. France won on the last day to avoid the unheard of trifecta of the last three champions having to win a playoff to qualify for the next World Cup. Buddy, you better buck up, and get with the program. You can’t change the past, but you can concentrate on what you can do to improve the future.

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      • Buddy?? really dude? Thank you for this motivational talk. I did look in the mirror, and I didn’t see a *professional soccer player*. I saw a fan, and it’s my right to vent when my team sucks. The people who need to buck up are the ones who get paid millions to *play a game*, and the guy who gets paid to coach the team. Criticism is what you get when you sign up for this life. Find me a pro athlete or coach that is immune from criticism anywhere.
        Yes, they’re young. If the coach picked 11 slow guys would you say to lay off because they’re slow? The team is the best we have.
        Do you think fans of the struggling European teams are making excuses for them? You guys want an “authentic soccer experience”, well here it is, exactly the way they are getting it in Europe: They sucked. They should do better.

      • @Dave P,
        I’m totally with you on this. If the USMNT and fans do not set the standard and expectations higher than what they are right now, we’ll be forever mediocre and failing to qualify for WC and Olympics will become a norm.

      • Well golly gee wiz Dave, I’m not sure if you’re lumping all European experiences as the same. The German experience is not the same as the Dutch experience. The fans aren’t the same. The foundation is not the same. Yeah, I’m calling you out, and others. We have a choice of the path we choose, as fans, as a soccer nation. I’m just afraid you might be choosing the wrong path, and we can change that, before it’s to late. Hey, I’m sure you already know France missed out on the two world cups prio. before they won their first, so maybe that our destiny.

    • @Dave and Simon
      The US starting line up was missing half of its preferred starting field players. Half. Five of 10. Perhaps the the five best players in the pool at their positions. How many teams across the world could lose there two best forwards, best number 8, best center back and right back, go on the road and get a result? To put things in perspective. Jamaica (pre-Micheal Antonio) sit in the rankings at the level of Finland, Northern Ireland and Burkino Faso. Finland who has in the last year beat France and came within a point of qualifying for a UEFA playoff for WCQ, Northern Ireland who held both Italy and Switzerland to draws at home in WCQ and Burkino Faso who went 1-0-2 vs perennial powers Nigeria and Algeria in WCQ. There are very few walk throughs in WCQ – and none in this Octagonal.

      WCQ anywhere in the world for the powers in those regions is a slog. And that slog while missing 5 of your best players would mean many of those powers don’t qualify. Look at Norway…no Erling Haaland meant no WC. One player made all the difference (ok, he might not be human but…Pulisic) the US was without five! Italy and Switzerland couldn’t make hay away versus a similar level opponent with their full squads.

      Let’s not embarrass ourselves like Mexican fans with fantastical expectations.

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      • @Master of the Obvious, I’ve got what you’re saying. WCQ anywhere in the world is difficult. Having said that, missing Gio, Dest, Brooks, McKennie, M. Robinson & Pulisic not at 100% definitely was a huge loss; however, with the current pool of talented players, we still have plenty of top quality players in Adams, Steffen, Musah, Weah, Aaranson, Richards, Busio, Pepi, A Robinson and a recovering Pulisic.

        Unless we are happy with our national team being forever mediocrity instead of top of CONCACAF, the USMNT, the coaching staff and fans should aim higher. Look, we would have lost 1-3 should Reid capitalize on the easy scoring chance and the questionable call (I saw no foul at all) on the Jamaican game winning goal.

        Why the most threatening & capable players Weah and Musah were taken out yesterday was beyond me.

      • Look, I think you had a fair point without the “embarrass ourselves with fantastical expectations” line. Why do you need to escalate like that?
        We were bad, ok? The article was about the coach saying we’re “on the right track”. And we had just played badly. That offends people who had just been frustrated by that game, because it sounds like we’re accepting failure. Sure, we lacked some preferred starters, as all teams do these days most of the time. We should be at least expecting to win these games, if not actually winning them. That is not a fantastical expectation. That’s a winning attitude.

      • @dave and simon Of course being disappointed in a draw over a win makes sense. The original premise of “accepting bad away results is wrong” is what I’m pushing back at. Not only do I believe the result wasn’t bad (bad would be zero points) but I also believe accepting (as a fan) that the team will sometimes not get three points is a pretty realistic attitude to have – especially when put into context with examples across the footballing world and the roster limitations (again not one injured/unavailable player but 5. Not just any 5 but the top at their positions. That’s half a starting line up).

        The coach believing the team is on the right track should not be controversial. They sit in second place. The fifth and sixth place teams would need to run the table to surpass the US even if the US only wins its home games (likely) and loses the rest (unlikely). And actually only one of those teams could because they play each other – oh and Mexico and Canada as well. So you are looking at a US team that worse case scenario would finish 4th. So looking at WCQ – they are on the right track. The team is young – like insanely young, teenagers and very early 20 year olds. They are gaining experience and have only lost once in qualifying. They are feeling and getting use to the pressure of WCQ. Again they are on the right track. I don’t get what the problem is with that phrase. It’s kind of objectionably correct.

        My only conclusion is you have a problem with that phrase because who said it. You don’t like the coach and your emotional response to anything he does keeps you from seeing things rationally. Yes, the US only got a point and it would have been much better to get three. Yes, as fans we should always want the team to play hard and go for three points. But also, when they succeed in gaining a point away from home – especially when five starters are out – we should accept that result as OK – because that’s what it is. Not good and not bad…but OK.

    • It’s one thing to be critical of “bad” performances and quite another to lack perspective. Yes, they played bad everyone can see that with their own 2 eyes and people are making excuses for sure, but this team is really young with 17-18 players getting wcq experience for the very first time, that matters, and I’m more willing to listen to ex players say lack of experience matters and away games are brutal to win before I listen to a fan equate something on this level to the lessons he teaches his kid! Our euro players are making 7 figures, so what, the majority of them however are not even impact players for their teams, but nice pieces, so until we’ve reached the point where they are relied on to get results for their clubs and are playing consistently at a high level we’re still a young team figuring things out, albeit talented, in route to qualifying for a WC.

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      • Also, no one seems to ackowldge that as we get better, other teams do as well. Look at Canada. It’s not like only our team is evolving in some vacuum, *If we are lucky* qualifying will always be difficult as other teams in CONCACAF get better. Otherwise, we can kiss the (admittedly distant) dream of winning a World Cup, or at least getting close, goodbye. It should be difficult, it should be competative, we shouldn’t always win, it makes our team better, it makes it exciting to watch. As a fan, how much satisfaction do you really get when our team beats the pants off T&T 7-0?

  10. I wish soccer suits in general and Berhalter in specific would stop with the propaganda. We are 1 point above having to go to a playoff just past the midpoint. Given the amount of talent the team has this can basically be termed barely satisfactory / could be worse. Furthermore, we have road games against the 1st, 3rd and 5th place team in our group so we are in now way comfortable. The team needs to become more consistent to guarantee a berth to the WC and to realize any hope of doing well IF we get there.

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    • Propaganda? Nah, more like perspective, but it’s always nice to see fans who’ve never played at this level try and build their narrative around something they’ve never experienced personally. Could the team be playing better, absolutely, but when you can’t get any fluidity/consistency because some of our best players are either always injured, suspended or sick(with Covid), it kind of hard to make the case they should be ahead of where they are right now!

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      • It’s always nice to see posters who declare that OTHER posters are somehow not qualified to use a fan comment board because they don’t meet their own set of arbitrary standards. It must be nice thinking so highly of yourself.

        I stand by my point. Our position is precarious, and to state otherwise is propaganda. That’s not narrative, it’s math.

    • to arbitrarily use terms like “suits” when talking about propaganda, and then have the audacity to say I think highly of myself is laughable, I’m not the one getting cute with word play, your first post came off as arrogant. Boards are what they are, we all have opinions, but I’m confused about what propaganda you’re referring to? Is the team in the place it wants to be in right now, Greg seems to think so and we’re in second place, so while you expect more maybe your judgement of where we should be is misplaced, furthermore we’re only at the halfway point and people are panicking to quickly.

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