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USMNT grinds out scoreless draw at Mexico

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The U.S. men’s national team did not suffer defeat at Estadio Azteca on Thursday night, but will feel it left points on the table in a scoreless World Cup Qualifying draw vs. Mexico.

Gregg Berhalter’s side earned one point in a 0-0 draw with El Tri, failing to take advantage of dropped points by both Canada and Panama on the night. The Americans remained in second place in the octagonal round standings on 22 points, but now sees only four points separating them and fifth-place Panama.

Guillermo Ochoa was the busier of the two goalkeepers, making a pair of key saves on Christian Pulisic in the match. Pulisic’s golden opportunity in the 36th minute was denied by Ochoa after the Chelsea forward was left wide open in the box.

However, Pulisic drilled his shot right down the middle of Ochoa’s goal, making it a quick reaction save for the 36-year-old.

The USMNT continued to create chances after halftime and Pulisic came close to breaking the deadlock again. Pulisic created room on the left side of Mexico’s box before stroking a shot towards goal that Ochoa pushed away with both hands.

Jordan Pefok and Gio Reyna both came off of the bench in the second half and almost connected for the go-ahead goal. Kellyn Acosta’s over-the-top ball was gathered by Reyna in the box before a pass into the middle was shot wide by Pefok.

Zack Steffen had little to do in the match, but denied Hirving Lozano for his best save of the match. Lozano’s high effort was poked over the crossbar by Steffen, keeping El Tri at bay the rest of the way to register the clean sheet.

The USMNT held on for an important road point, extending its unbeaten run against El Tri to four matches across all competitions. Berhalter will be without DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Weah due to yellow card accumulation, forcing a pair of changes to his starting lineup for Sunday’s home showdown with Panama at Exploria Stadium.

Comments

  1. Any Pefok advocates want to comment on his game other than the miss (that was unlucky and happens to the best fwds in the world – I’m sure 99 out of 100 times he would score there – just got caught wrong footed). Happy with his play, disappointed?

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    • ………crickets…….. so a Pefok realist will go instead.
      Defensive work rate: ok (especially early in his shift)
      Hold up play: poor
      Positioning: poor
      Aerials: poor
      Passing: poor
      He is what he is … a poacher who needs a lot of chances and isn’t going to contribute much outside the 18. He’s had two golden chances in qualifying the header against ES and the one against Mexico. Missing two chances shouldn’t disqualify any of our strikers but when finishing is the one thing you’re supposedly good at?

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      • JohnnyR – I am interested to see what a Pefok advocate thinks, but I don’t think anyone will respond. I personally think we saw Pefok’s game and that wasn’t a bad performance for him but in fairness, I have never seen him play at the club level, so I have a pretty small sample size. I am a Hoppe advocate so I guess I won’t have the opportunity this window to comment. Doh!!

    • He’s not a marquee name, but this was his chance to be in the 9 rotation. He’s not going to get the benefit of doubt. I still see value in Pefok! His job is to score. If the most value you have is to score, and you don’t do that job, (not much value) your stock will drop! There was no point in this match, where Pefok needed to hold the ball up to let players run onto, so not sure how people are accurately judging his hold up play, unless you see him play for club. If he scores against Panama, or CR and we win & qualify, this miss won’t matter as much, in the long run. Players of all types of quality miss chances. People who live in reality, don’t make false equivalencies, or have bad faith arguments. Example- If player A makes a mistake, then player B would’ve done better, is an example of this. Player B has nothing to do with the mistake from player A. Example: If Turner was playing, v Jamaica, he would’ve save Mikhail Antonio shot from distance. I could say the same thing, if Steffen was playing v Panama away, then he would’ve saved a Zardes on goal.
      Hypothetical arguments never have an ending. Example 2- If the Bengals had Tom Brady, instead of Burrow, they would’ve won the SB. Brady isn’t on the Bengals so that argument, the point of view, is irrelevant. Pefok’s miss was disappointing but US tied in Azteca. Which is more important?

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      • OK – not sure if your response was to me, but I was asking for an opinion excluding the miss. Was that the game from him you expect or do you think he had a poor performance for him, excluding the miss. I am curious to hear what people who want him to play think about his performance excluding the miss.

      • It’s: I think we’re essentially saying the same thing overall. I will say I disagree with your opinion that he didn’t have any opportunities to hold up the ball. He was on for 20 mins before we added the 3rd and 4th CBs and parked the bus. I’m not going to go back and watch those 20 mins but if we didn’t play the ball to him with his back to goal in that 20 mins that’s at least partially on Pefok for not finding space. Pefok should be still in the conversation until 2 or 3 guys differentiate themselves and no one has done that. Hopefully we can clinch this today or Wednesday and then get guys like Sargent, Hoppe, and Nico some chances and/or Pefok/Jesus/or Ricardo get into form.

    • Tele57- Ola! I’m a Pefok advocate. I was responding to yourself…. & JR, since both of you are on the thread. I’ve had many of conversation with JR, to understand he values Zardes more than Pefok. It’s frustrating when any player misses a clear chance. I also know, fans criticism of players doesn’t mean someone hates that player they criticize. We’re allowed to be disappointed. At the same time players make mistakes. No more, no less! Pefok is a traditional 9. His job is to score. He had a chance, he didn’t finish. (We’ve already discussed that he doesn’t in 4-3-3, and neither does Dike.) I hope he has a short term memory because Panama is up next. I hope he doesn’t dwell on one poor performance. 2 matches to go!

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  2. Am I the only one who noticed that we were very lucky in a way. First, the call for a penalty when a Mexican attacker ran into Zimmerman or Long in the box and went down. Second Morris’ clumsy challenge that resulted in the striker going down and, instead of getting a penalty, got a yellow for diving. I can remember many times in the past when we would have had one or both of those calls go against us when playing in qualifying on the road. One the other end, we really should have scored at least once and maybe twice. Finally, I thought one aspect of our defense was lacking. Whatever happened to playing out of the back? Steffen kicked some goal kicks out of bounds and the CB’s too often just kicked the ball as far up the field as possible. I can understand that late in the game, but generally our passing from the back was very poor. I would say it was MLS style, but even most all MLS teams now play from the back much better. The game was a mixed bag for me. It could have been better, but it could have been worse, so a draw at Azteca is a good result. A win over Panama becomes vital though.

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    • Hi Gary – in fairness, I think you could say that about almost every team in every game. I think CAN deserved at least 2 red cards when they beat Mex at home but they got none because it is refs discretion but clearly by rule, goalie should have been thrown out and missed game against US and mcKennie probably scores and game ends 1-1. Lots of fortune in soccer …

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    • I think refs are more cautious with penalties because they know VAR will review and let them know if it needs review. The Zimmerman one it looked like the attacker was bringing his foot forward and then purposely made an unnatural move to go back and clip Zimmerman. 80,000 screaming fans in the Azteca it probably gets called though.

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  3. not mentioned is the 3/4 pressure vs. full field, nice touch to not over extend the spaces in the midfield and also behind the back 4. Pepi observably better at understanding and executing that concept than Pefok. Pepi is a good defensive 9 who also create things, again last night, and has some skills with his feet which Pefok lacked noticeably

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  4. I don’t understand Berhalter’s defensive subs in the final 10 minutes. Yeah I get WHY a coach would in theory want to protect the point, but he put in 2 players that had very little recent experience one of whom was coming off of injury. The predictable result was that Mexico got a golden opportunity to score less than a minute later and probably had better chances to score in the last 10 minutes plus stoppage time than in the 80 minutes prior.

    On the positive side. Berhalter’s decision to deploy his first choice lineup against Mexico was a good one. We should have won that game. There is no way we GB could have foreseen Wonder Boy and the “Current In Form Striker” would each blow golden opportunities. Kudos to GB for having confidence in his team and going for the throat……..except for the last 10 minutes. Anti-kudos for that.

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    • “On the positive side. Berhalter’s decision to deploy his first choice lineup against Mexico was a good one.”

      I will leave the jury out on this until AFTER the Panama game.

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    • I didn’t understand why Berghalter subbed out Weah instead of Pulisic. Weah received a yellow, and I thought therefore suspended for the next game. Why not sub out Pulisic who you know you need for the next game and let Weah finish out the 90 as he cannot play the next game.

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    • Yedlin had to come out to avoid second yellow and avoiding go man down. The only option then was Adams, Acosta, or Palmer-Brown. None of those are natural FBs, and Adams was on a yellow so he has to comes off too. So your left with EPB whose a regular starter in France, Sands hardly playing in Scotland and Long starting first three weeks of MLS. None of the options were great with injuries, Covid, and cards.

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  5. Some random thoughts:
    – Gyasi would have found away to knock that in with some other appendage.
    – I don’t know if it’s playing four times in a year or the friendship between managers but these teams seem to like each other much more than ever before. Still go hard but more respectful.
    -Why sub in Morris if we’re going to bunker why not Arriola or Luca?
    -Felt like Mexico got Timo that yellow if they don’t freak out with everyone including Tata storming at Tim the ref wasn’t going to give one. US did a great job of maintaining poise in that moment with no one else getting one.

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    • Morris and Arriola are basically the same at that point – run around with a lot of energy and help kill off the game. But I’d say Morris adds more vertical speed and better finishing if the opportunity comes on a counter.

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      • Plus if something goes wrong in those last 10 minutes when you’re trying to kill off the game and you’ve got Arriola in there, the Tactical Manager types wearing “Berhalter Ball” T-shirts would be looking to remove Gregg’s head with some pruning shears upon his return. I think he wants to keep it attached, and he’s seemingly aware enough of his criticisms by the fan base to NOT put Arriola or any of his MLS favs in the game when it could conceivably get him fired. Just sayin’.

      • Q: I think 3G couldn’t care less what Tactical or any of the other grassroots “media” thinks. If you are ever going to play Arriola, ten minutes to defend when we aren’t even trying retain the ball made more sense. If he couldn’t get in then why didn’t you bring Nico or Hoppe?

      • JR: Oh, no doubt…and I personally see some utility in both Arriola and (drumroll) Gyasi Zardes, and I don’t hate Christian Roldan. I mean, every team I ever coached, I had those kind of guys who maybe weren’t the most technical or physically talented but would run through a brick wall to win and would give you literally every drop of effort for 90 minutes and were good guys in the locker room, and I’d often favor them over more talented primadonnas because if you put too many egomaniacs in one room your team chemistry is crap and the guys end up hating each other and it turns into misery for everybody.

        So I get why Berhalter likes those guys, I really do. You need a certain number of them. So when I see Berhalter passing on, say, Konrad de la Fuente in favor of these guys I figure he probably has his reasons…and lo and behold, there’s reports coming out of Marseille about “professionalism issues” with de la Fuente, you start understanding why he maybe isn’t getting that call. John Brooks? I mean, he’s got the pedigree, sure, but he’s had a bunch of bad outings with the Nats. So I do get it.

        It’s really easy to throw stones from the safety of Youtube, or a comments section on a website. But we’re fans and we’re greedy…and we’re gonna.

        And unfortunately, the perception is a consideration for coaches. Berhalter went for the W down in Azteca because he had to. You swing and miss, fine, but if you’re perceived as not ever trying you can lose the support of the fans and especially the superfans, and when you’ve got the likes of Herc Gomez wearing “Berhalter Ball” T-shirts on their show on ESPN…well, you do have to be mindful of that. Or the USSF can get mighty edgy with you in a hurry.

    • JohnnyR – to build on your thoughts, Pefok had a bad touch, lost most balls that were passed to him, didn’t win many duels or air balls, and missed a sitter. Other than missing the sitter, all other were predictable from what I have seen of him. It isnt missing the sitter that is the big issue because that happens, but the parts are pretty apparent weaknesses in his game
      – I would prefer Morriss to either Arriolla or LDT if playing bunker and counter as I think he is much more likely to score than either of them
      – I never saw a replay of Weah yellow so I dont know but I suspect HH jad four fouls at least that worse
      – tactically the subs were brought in to get a draw but they in fact dis tje opposite of what was intended as Mexico’s attack improved against the subs
      – the point is actually extremely important and essentially means a win against Panama and US is in whereas a loss may have required a tie in CR. I was in the camp of resting pkayers but I think GGG knew netter than me. Tje yellow cards and suspensuons hurt but that game was more omportant than I thought
      – I am going to work on shorter, more concise posts …

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      • After the last subs we stopped even trying to possess the ball or even counter it was just hit it long and get back into shape. I suppose the answer is we weren’t supposed to do that but instead try to effectively counter. Arriola is a far better defender than Morris and Luca is better ball retainer.
        -It’s almost like some people said, that numbers in a different system in a mid level Euro league when your team spends twice as much as everyone you play could be deceiving.
        – If we qualify by that one point it was the right decision. If we stumble because of fitness or suspended players then we can’t say it was the right decision.

      • My biggest objection to GB (ok- besides the fact his rosters inevitably seem to be dangerously thin in some area) is that at times, he seems to have his head buried in the books/theory/his plan while ignoring what is going on before his very eyes. If things are going well- the opposition is posing no threat- sometimes the best answer is: do nothing. Throw out the plan or at the very least, change very little of what is already working. Feels we missed very good opportunities to take 3 pts- credit to Gregg… also feels we perhaps we dodged a bullet late… live and learn. Anyhow- onward and upward. We move on with a point from Azteca with destiny in our own hands v Panama at home. Let’s put this to thing bed boyssss!!!!

  6. Some how the numbers don’t show if but we looked good and hungry against Mexico IN AZTECA. Closing down players, constantly running, quick to the ball, winning aerial battles, pressing high up the field…….we don’t need to change anything. What is good for Mexico is good for the likes of Panama and Costa Rica during this qualifying. Panama are quick and Costa Rica are divers (full of theatrics….ask Canada) so I’d like to see Long instead of Miles Robinson (who is a little reckless). Acosta and Musah have the wheels for Panama, Gio substitutes directly for Weah, Shaq Moore gets brought in for Yedlin and we keep it moving!!!!!

    —Pulisic——–Pepi———–Gio—–

    —Acosta——-Adams——-Yusah—-

    Robin—Long—-Zimmerman–Moore

    —————–Steffen——————–

    We have beaten Mexico convincingly in the past but some how this draw feels like a win. NEXT STOP PANAMA!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • there is no way we get the same midfield, there will have to be rotations after playing in altitude at Azteca, did you not see how gassed our players were? Tyler is definitely in line to start again, and maybe Musah, but I think this game is primed for Luca De La Torre to be a big performer in it, and maybe even Busio. The rest I’m good with, although Ferreira might get the nod up top in between Gio and Pulisic

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      • Ronnie – I actually thought Acosta was the best midfielder. Funny how he looks much better when he gets to play with people like McKennie, Adams, and Musah.

  7. Just a random thought directed at those who are frustrated that the US isn’t qualified yet.

    Firstly, in the previous 7 cycles – going back to 1990 – the US has needed until the second to last or last game to qualify in five. Only two qualifying campaigns were earlier. The best – with three games to go – was for France. They crashed out of France with 1pt. The closest call (not 2018) was in 2002. They went on to make the deepest run ever.

    Secondly, Canada sits in first place and lost its first match of the Octoganal – they were undefeated through last night…and are still not qualified. Yes, it’s pretty much a lock but you never know how things can go and technically they haven’t qualified yet. US were 98% to qualify going into Couva.

    So what would the US have had to do to be already qualified? The answer is….the impossible. Please check your expectations if you are mad the team is still working on qualifying.

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    • If I recall correctly, the US was in danger of not even making it to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for 2002 and needed a big win on the last day against the Bahamas to ensure getting out of the small 3 or 4 team second round.

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    • Even after 12 games Mexico, USA, Canada, Costa Rica and Panama all have a path to finish in the top 3. Only Canada is in the top 3 even if it loses the last 2 games.

      It is not impossible for Canada to lose to Jamaica, they tied 0-0 in their first game. If the US and Mexico both win as well, all 3 teams would be tied on points. With a CR win, they would still be in a position to move into one of the top 3 spots on the last day of qualifying. With a goal difference of 13 it is unlikely Canada will drop out of the top 3 even if they lose both the remaining games.
      If the US loses to Panama, that gives both Panama and Costa Rica a path to a top 3 finish and makes the away game in Costa Rica crucial.

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  8. The US is still in a very good position despite having left points on the table in Azteca. We are tied with Mexico on points, but ahead by 3 in goal differential. if we remain tied on points by next Wednesday. You’d think Mexico can grab 6 points in the next 2 games, but that is no guarantee. This Mexican side does not seem as fearful in attack as one would expect,

    The Panama game is now suddenly less critical than Costa Rica, but securing a win at home against a desperate Panama on Sunday puts us through. Weah and Yedlin will be back for Costa Rica after suspension, and Shaq Moore is headed to Orlando.

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    • A win against Panama means we will at least make the playoff (and so does a draw), but it doesn’t put us through. If Costa Rica wins at already-eliminated El Salvador, then we would need at least a point (or maybe a close loss) in our last game at Costa Rica. I feel like there was another time we went on the road for our last game needing just a point against a weaker team than Costa Rica and failed to get it.

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    • We’re of necessity going to have to make some switches against Panama with Weah out. Jordan Morris and his big heavy touches and Buick-sized turning radius are basically useless against a low block where he can’t use his speed to get in behind, so that means Gio Reyna has to get the start at right wing since we’re definitely going to need his creativity and skill on the ball to break down that D. I’d sub in Luca de la Torre for Acosta at one of the 8-spots for exactly that reason too.

      Also, I know Gregg’s already decided Pefok’s going to start against Panama because he’s telegraphed exactly that…but why? Pepi seemed to find his feet and play his way into the game against Mexico the longer it went on…no, he wasn’t awesome but he was OK and Pefok showed once again he’s a limited guy with a limited skillset and he’s already 26 so the upside isn’t there, whereas the sky’s seemingly the limit for Pepi. Use him. Trust him. ‘Cause, well, you ain’t GOT no one else right now, Gregg.

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      • Yeah not feeling Pefok either, what a shank on the gorgeous play from both Acosta and Reyna. I am fine with Pepi and agree he seemed to get better as the game went on, but wonder if Ferrera might get a shot, he at least is scoring for his club team and is coming straight off a hat trick game. But more important both Pepi and Ferrera are so much better combining and setting up our truly dangerous players in Pulisic and Reyna.

      • I feel like he should have started Ferreira who’s been starting at the striker position at FC Dallas with former USMNT assistant coach who is implementing a system similar to Berhalter’s. Plus he was coming off of a Hat Trick this past weekend.

      • Sorry, your math is a little off. We currently sit three points above the ticos. If we sit three points above the ticos come Sunday night, after the results, Costa Rica will have to win against USA and make up the goal difference, which currently sits at 7. Meaning Costa Rica would have to win by 4. I think USA is going to throttle Panama on Sunday, but I’m not sure what rica is gonna do down in El Salvador. A point last night was huge!

      • I’m not sure we’re going to see much more in the way of low blocks for the rest of the year. Both Panama and Costa Rica will need to go for the win against us — a draw no longer has any value for either team.
        ************************************
        Def agree on Pefok. Very, very unremarkable showing. Low energy for a “supersub”, and an epic miss. Personally I’d prefer to see Ferreira get a look.

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