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Loss to Japan is a reminder that replacing Yunus Musah in the USMNT midfield isn’t as easy as you think

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Depth is a beautiful thing to have, but it can also leave you with a false sense of security.

Take the U.S. men’s national team midfield for example. When Yunus Musah was ruled out of the September friendlies due to injury there was little thought put into what his absence might mean for the USMNT midfield. Instead, it was easy enough to consider alternatives and the exciting prospect of having a place to put an in-form Brenden Aaronson, who is looking more and more like a must-start player.

What became clear on Friday in the loss to Japan was just how difficult Musah is to replace, and the reality is there isn’t another player like him in the pool. It would be easy to chalk off the struggles of the USMNT midfield on Friday to Gregg Berhalter’s decision to start Aaronson on the wing in place of the injured Christian Pulisic — which then led him to start Luca De La Torre in Musah’s spot — but playing Aaronson centrally would not have accounted for what was missing in Musah’s absence.

No player in the USMNT pool can hold the ball up under pressure like Musah, who also excels at being an active link between defense and attack. Japan pressed the USMNT into mistake after mistake and it was glaringly obvious the Americans were in desperate need of a reliable outlet that could not only be counted on to be in good positions, but also be able to slow the game down against a relentless opponent.

Perhaps the more than three-month break since the last USMNT match made it easy for many to forget that it was Musah who was the team’s best player the last time they had played, in the Concacaf Nations League draw in El Salvador on June 14. Musah was dominant that day overcoming the terrible field conditions and chippy defending from the opposition to deliver what was arguably his best game in a USMNT uniform.

Without Musah’s presence in midfield to relieve pressure and bring some stability to the game on Friday against Japan, the USMNT struggled like a drowning man in deep waters, flailing away desperately and losing all sense of control. De La Torre tried his best to be active, but he did nothing to slow the game down, and Weston McKennie played one of his worst matches in a USMNT uniform in part because of the frantic style the USMNT fell into with nobody to provide a stabilizing presence in the middle.

The USMNT setup is even more reliant on Musah’s presence because of the players Berhalter has built his defense around. Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long don’t rank highly among USMNT central defenders when it comes to quality on the ball, and as much as Zimmerman has shown improvements in his passing, the reality is there is no calming presence in central defense capable of consistently handling pressure in possession.

That is the tradeoff Berhalter made when he cast aside superior passers in John Brooks and Tim Ream, who are both defensive liabilities in the USMNT’s high-line setup due to their lack of speed, but who are both seasoned veterans who are excellent passers.

When asked about the passing abilities of his current top-choice centerbacks on Thursday, Berhalter pointed out that neither Zimmerman or Long are asked to pass the ball very much for their club teams. That is true, but that doesn’t mean either is secretly hiding masterful passing and possession skills. We were reminded of that on Friday against Japan, when both players looked shaky with their passes and possession under pressure.

Does that mean Zimmerman and Long can’t function well in the USMNT setup? Not necessarily, but it does mean there is an even greater need for midfielders who are adept at putting themselves in good positions to receive passes from the centerbacks, and also good at being able to keep the ball under pressure.

And what if Musah isn’t available for the World Cup, or has to miss a match at some point? Aaronson makes the most sense as a replacement from a talent standpoint, but it will take a group effort to better handle opponents that like to press. That means better possession from the centerbacks, which could mean the integration of players like Chris Richards and Cameron Carter-Vickers, and it means needing better decision-making from McKennie.

Above all, it’s time to start listing Musah on any list of most important and most irreplaceable USMNT players alongside Tyler Adams and Antonee Robinson, because Friday’s loss to Japan made it very clear just how important he is to the USMNT setup and any hope the team has of having a successful World Cup.

Comments

  1. Guys,

    I have read this whole board.

    1) there is a lot of over-reaction
    2) Japan double-teamed Adams. This means a CB has to take responsibility to help break the double team… you are 3 vs. 2. Neither did, they looked ponderous, slow, and out of sorts.
    3) no one else got a chance to look good because of that major disaster at CB. All other comments and evaluations are worthless b/c the CB were unable to break the TA4 doubleteam.
    4) when McKenzie came on, he stepped up to break the press, force a MF to come to him, and lay the ball off into Wes/aaronson. From that point forward, the game was roughly even (pace a torn groin by Cannon).

    I’m not Gregg’s biggest fan. but if he leaves Long at home then there is a lesson learned.

    Everything else is panic at the disco.

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  2. JR

    “to scrap the game plan when Pulisic gets hurt 12 hrs before the match. If these guys had ACLs or Achilles and you knew they were out for November that would be different but everyone of the injured except Miles Robinson are expected to recover.”

    This was a practice right?
    You’re missing vital parts of your A team.
    You know or should know that Japan is pretty decent.
    team.

    So this is a good chance to see if the understudy’s can handle the normal team A game plan. Part of his job, the last 3-4 years, is to prepare the team for circumstances just like this.

    Turns out the scrubs ain’t ready.

    And were pretty spectacular about their inability. That should concern you.

    “did you want him to change everything around to win a friendly?”

    Not necessarily to win but to show that he knows how to do that.

    Once it became apparent that the A team plan wouldn’t work, I wanted to see if he could make adjustments to stop a game that was going south at warp speed from going even further south.

    Not win. Just stop it from getting out of hand. Maybe tell Vines to go over the half line every once in a while.. I don’t think he did that. I’m surprised it wasn’t 4 -0 or 5-0.

    Gregg hasn’t done such a great job overall that he can expect the benefit of the doubt when his team puts in such a cavalier, devil may care performance at any time, friendly or not .

    Lose, okay.
    Not play well, okay.
    But have the entire team look like they just got home from an all night bender and were doing the walk of shame? Like they did not give a shit because most of them are in Qatar for certain? However good or bad Long was, he certainly wasn’t getting a lot of help from his Qatar bound for- sure- teammates.

    Gregg should not be surprised at the ton of shit he is going to get for this game.

    I expect them to come back and blast Saudi Arabia.
    And that will be equally “meaningless”.

    Reply
    • What scrubs? Reyna has been a starter, Aaronson has been a starter, Dest starter, Zimmerman starter, Long has been a starter, Adams starter, McKennie starter, Ferreira starter, Turner starter, Vines has been a starter. The only real bench player was De La Torre. So what scrubs? We were Missing Musah, Pulisic, and Jedi. Which two of those( Jedi, Musah) 3 have been in and out of the starting 11 on many occasions under Berhalter.

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      • I think he’s implying the guys that stepped in no matter their pedigree. Long was a fixture in 2018-19, but has looked average to poor for NT since his injury (the claims he’s been bad for Red Bulls is false he’ll win Comeback Player of the Year). Vines has never played on a first team roster, Luca has played primarily against weaker opponents, Vacqui is probably including Ferreira as well.
        ——————————-
        Jedi played in 13 of 14 qualifiers the only one he didn’t play was at Panama to avoid quarantine upon his return to England. Led US in minutes in qualifying with 1060, 84% of the minutes.

      • 2tone,

        Don’t like the term scrubs? Another terminology issue?

        Okay.

        How about I refer to them as guys that a neutral third party might not have expected to play well for a variety of reasons? And therefore not have started them or even played them.

        Reyna hasn’t played serious ball in almost a year and is well away from starter form for either BVB or the USMNT. I didn’t really worry too much about it but he’s far away from what he should be.

        Dest has had a rough year with his club situation and not been in his best starter form for his clubs or for the USMNT recently. And it’s a long time since he’s impressed in a USMNT shirt.

        “McKennie starter”

        Weston shouldn’t be. Not if Gregg wants the team to play the way Gregg wants. Weston is a bull in a china, the shop being located in the opponents final third. Set pieces, he’s a terror. Winning the ball , okay. But linking up midfield play, showing for a pass, all that build up stuff. That’s for guys like Yunus, Tyler, Luca, Pulisic,Reyna, etc. Guys who actually have ” a first touch” guys with ball control. Not Weston. A wonderful weapon to have but not a regular starter, not in a system that Gregg allegedly wants to play. Also, we all know when Weston is not 100% hair on fire motivated that he can be sloppy.

        If Gregg was being honest the job ( aerial superiority in the box) you all want to give to Pefok is done partially by Weston. Which may be why Pefok is on a bubble.

        Aaronson looked exactly like what he is, a guy who always goes 100% for 90 minutes and might be, just might be, OVERUSED. The kid needs a rest.

        Sam Vines starter?? Yes he’s a CONCACAF and friendlies starter. But not when things get serious. Right now he’s the new Daniel Lovitz.

        That’s 5 guys I can make a case for not starting in this game. 50% of the outfield players.

        I was not a fan of the timing of these two games.

        Eval games should be done by now. Warm up, get to know you, attempt to look like you actually know what the other guy is going to do, games?

        They should be after whatever pre-WC camp a team has. But none of that may be possible for this WC due to the schedule.

  3. The 2002 team took qualifying to the final weekend. Going 0-4 against European opponents in friendlies that year with two European teams in our group. Your play in final friendlies doesn’t matter. 2014 Costa Rica finished behind US got blasted by Japan 3-1, ten days before WC and won their group and made quarters. 2018 France drew a bunch of teenagers from US in warmup and still won the whole thing. Relax people relax.

    Reply
  4. I really don’t think it has anything to do with Musah. We have a lot of guys who are just not fit/form right now. Dest, McKennie, Christian, Luca are all out of form and it shows. I would consider that the main factor but how many times have we played that exact game against Japan, where we control the ball and have barely any decent attacks? We’ve played that exact game over and over. This is who we are. We can’t play out of the back.

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  5. personally i think we have it exactly backwards. i think we should have the technical players central — pulisic, reyna — and the athletes wide — musah, weah. you get more technical players in the midfield — and the good technical guys, not the second rate LDLT types — and your inability to build goes away. you then have an offense the other team has to respect rather than sloppy players they think they can exploit.

    that being said, what musah offers that was missing the other day was slightly more technicality but definitely more physicality. if japan tried to muscle him off the ball it wouldn’t have worked the same as LDLT. i also think he’s more direct to goal with the ball than mckennie, who i think long term is a sub, whose primary value to me is box crashing or deadballs, which are not normal, 90 minute starter stuff.

    i see part of the problem here as some american fans (and the coach to some extent) are stuck a year or two back which is a bad idea with a young team. a young team like this should be constant competition. GB to me wants to treat this like a veteran team with a clear pecking order when i think few positions should be settled and we should be promoting the best players in the US shirt.

    Reply
    • “i see part of the problem here as some american fans (and the coach to some extent) are stuck a year or two back which is a bad idea with a young team.”

      Another way to look at it is that Gregg and many of the fans see the USMNT as if it were a club team playing in a league.

      Many have this rather fanciful idea that you can maintain cohesion and team work when you play two games and then don’t see each other for months.

      And are not well coached or well organized in the first place

      And are mostly young comparatively inexperienced professionals who may be required to play maybe not their best position. Don’t like it? Then don’t play for your country, it’s optional.

      Or are experienced professionals who aren’t that good such as Long and Ariolla. Those two have a lot of international experience playing for bad to mediocre US teams. Ariolla was crap in Couva. I question the value of that experience. Winning the Gold Cup does not prepare you for top flight competition.

      That was okay back in, for example, 2002 when the team had a lot of hard bitten tough pros, a couple of sharp kids , and a fairly simple tactical scheme. Great goalkeeping, aerial superiority, hit everything that moves, hard, clog the middle, force them to the wings, hit them on the counter. They could get right back into it pretty quickly.

      And in those days everybody in the world was not taking American soccer seriously. We beat Spain and Portugal in big time games in great part because both of them forgot to show up until it was too late.

      Nowadays, we are more “talented” and “accomplished” but so are our opponents. The overall level of most every team is much higher and the USMNT is not surprising anyone.

      And while the 2022 USMNT player pool is arguably more talented overall, than the our 2002 player pool, that is only on paper and in relation to each other. By that I mean , the USMNT isn’t going to play the 2002 USMNT, so these comparisons are irrelevant..

      2022 USMNT do have to play teams like 2022 England who are ridiculously superior, on paper, in every imaginable way. On paper, does anyone really think Long and Zimmerman won’t get eaten alive by Rashford, Kane and Sterling? Of that the English defense won’t push him around and beat Ferreira to a pulp?

      The 2002 USMNT keeper was better, their defense was tighter and tougher, McBride makes Ferreira look like a college player, Landon and DMB were playing free and without fear and Gio’s dad and JOB knew exactly what they had to do and were incomparably better midfielders than anything the 2022 USMNT can send out there. The 2002 team had a heart and a core and knew what they had to do

      The 2022 team has none of that. Gregg couldn’t lead these guys out of the restroom.

      Gregg has been around since December of 2018. And most of that time has been wasted. This team looks like he’s been in charge for little over a year or less for as organized as they look.

      During those first three years Gregg should have developed and learned how to be an international manager. I’m guessing the idea was after three years of him learning himself on the job he would figure out this here player pool and figure out how to make the best possible team out of them.

      But Gregg doesn’t seem built that way. He’s a better manager than he was and the player pool and selection are much improved.

      But it’s not good enough. He’s too slow a learner. He’s an inflexible control freak w/o without good game day instincts . He doesn’t have those instincts in part because he’s not a very experienced manager in general.

      So he doesn’t trust his players. And in some cases he shouldn’t.
      The result is he trusts tactics he puts in place more than he trust his players.

      And that’s the argument the USSF will use to retain him. That 4 years from now he will have finally figured it out.

      That’s okay if you are managing France or Brazil, etc. and have players who can probably make anything work. But that ain’t these guys.

      Gregg has done a decent job of assembling a unit out of the Couva wreckage but I thought that they should have replaced him about a year ago and brought in a more experienced manager to tune up his machine.

      Now it may be too late, though I’d fire him tomorrow. Why risk the disruption you ask?

      Because I don’t trust him anymore.

      1. You shouldn’t give up on a World Cup even this late.

      2. It ought to shake up the team who are by and large very complacent. This is the World Cup not the freaking Nation’s League

      3. And finally, even the best I’ve seen Gregg’s team play.(Uruguay?), isn’t good enough to get them through this group. They need more than what he has shown he can give them.

      Reply
    • You’ve talking “gotta get stuck in” all week and now your going to put two guys that don’t put in tackles as your CMs? The truth is you have no answers so you pick things you know will never happen so you can’t ever be wrong.

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  6. the fundamental flaw in GB’s ideas is you don’t change how players play — how do they advance the ball, do they get stuck in, are they sloppy or technical, athletic or not — with tactical orders. you can tell them to try to be man city or barca but you either have city’s or barca’s roster to do it or not. guess whether we do? so we want to play out of the back with our best keeper and defenders not suited to it, play through a sloppy midfield technically without swapping for more technical players, and cross balls in all night without selecting a target striker.

    i bring this in because my personal experience on a hard tackling select team was that was achieved somewhat through training — over extended periods of time — but primarily by selection. you want people to get stuck in, the hardcore get kept and the softies get cut or benched. if you are trying to change how we play just by telling them to be more intense — good luck with that. you can tell a fish to run harder but maybe work on its swimming skills instead.

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  7. The loss to Japan just shows the lack of preparation, thorough understanding, discipline and enthusiasm of our playing style / strategy by our players……AND COACHING STAFF
    They just exposed the USMNT, as not being well prepared, match ready and properly coached. Japan has less talent on their team than we do, yet their team was still able to get it done and looked sharp doing it through teamwork, short passing and technical excellence. Their roster doesn’t have any big headlines names, yet their unity completely shut down GB’s game day strategy. Unlike the USMNT, they have developed their own kind of system AND IT WORKS!!!!!
    One player should not disable a team and based on the poor strategy we came to execute Jedi, Weah, Musah and Pulisic would not have mattered. We had enough talent to get the job done. We were just simply out played and out coach by a team inferior to us on paper.
    Our next game is Saudi Arabia, a team that Japan beat 2-0. Soooooo, if we can’t win convincingly, with good possession, excellent defensive posture and well coordinated attacks……then that’s a loss in my book (especially with this group!!!!)

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    • I have to disagree on Japan having less talent. Seems to me their team is full of guys playing in strong Euro leagues, with more experience to boot.

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    • “The loss to Japan just shows the lack of preparation, thorough understanding, discipline and enthusiasm of our playing style / strategy by our players……AND COACHING STAFF”

      That’s debatable. Japan and Saudi Arabia games are scrimmages.

      The USMNT staff weren’t necessarily looking for the same things you as a fan were looking for. Of course they weren’t looking to get humiliated either.

      Hopefully, the inferior USMNT will learn from this humiliation.

      “One player should not disable a team and based on the poor strategy we came to execute Jedi, Weah, Musah and Pulisic would not have mattered.”

      That tells us something that has been obvious for a long time now. This this is not a very well put together team and cannot tolerate disruption. That maybe Gregg’s tactical nous isn’t quite as up to it as it needs to be.

      “We had enough talent to get the job done.”

      Do you? You mean enough talent on paper? They didn’t get the job done so, for now, that means nothing.

      ” We were just simply out played and out coach by a team inferior to us on paper.”

      Is that all? Well now that’s what the losing team always says. I’m sure Japan will be very happy to be ” inferior on paper” if it means they beat you in the real world. Why were you surprised by Japan outcoaching Gregg ?

      This USMNT, up till now, has been a paper tiger. They’ve been making their rep by trying to bully low rent crap teams in low rent crap competitions. The Gold Cup? Are you kidding me?

      We’ll find out soon enough if they are frauds or if they can actually ever amount to anything respectable.

      Right now they are a joke.

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    • France, Spain, Scottish Champions, 2 Germany, Portugal, EPL and Championship. Most of those guys aren’t the biggest stars on their team but if they were Americans we’d be hyping them. Kamada is the starting #10 for the Europa League Champs and has 4g 3a in 6 Bundesliga matches this season. Mitoma hasn’t broken in much yet with Brighton but he had 7g last year in Belgium. Maeda is not well not but he had 6g in 16 matches last season for Celtic he’s had 2 forty-five min app in CL this season. Yoshida anchors the backline with over 220 combined appearances in EPL and SerieA. Tomiyasu has been a regular sub for Arsenal, not huge minutes but more than Luca or Chris Richards. You warned everyone about Japan now your turning on them.
      ———————————
      How Gregg would have lined up isn’t known but those 4 make a huge difference here’s why. In the 2nd half Vines pushed further forward which opened a little more space making things marginally better but Morris was his partner. Now put Jedi in their pushed up from the start combing with Pulisic and Japan must respect our left flank. I’m not sure how many times Long has played with Jedi but they likely would have been more on the same page. The biggest difference however I think is Weah. First he provides the player to play over the top to. Giving Ferreira space to drop in and freeing up the right side 8. That likely would have been Aaronson or Reyna. With the explosiveness of a Dest, Aaronson, Weah right side and Jedi/Puli left side they would have had to either unclog the middle or allow freedom for the US to bomb up and down. The elephant in the room is if we also had Yunus who starts Yunus or Wes. That’s a lot of if everything goes right thinking but the full lineup allows us to attack from anywhere with pace. Fridays group was in each other’s way and boxed in. Take the last 3 Mexico matches with our full team. After Weah comes on in the 2nd half of NL they couldn’t press us his speed opened up that match. The two qualifiers they couldn’t press us either because of Weah wide and Musah driving through them. Maybe Mexico isn’t as great of pressing team as Japan but they’re the best in Concacaf and we’ve handled them the last few matches.

      Reply
      • JR,

        “The elephant in the room is if we also had Yunus who starts Yunus or Wes.”

        Easy answer. Yunus starts.

        My obnoxious NFL analogy:

        He’s the offensive line. the long snapper and the holder.

        Wes is the field goal kicker.

        Just how good do you think even Justin Tucker is without his line, his long snapper and his holder?

        The USMNT will win a lot more games without Wes than they will without Yunus.

        I love Weston but he’s expendable.

        Yunus, seemingly, is a lot less expendable.

    • they reminded me of 2010 US. hard work and technical enough when it matters. focused on the result instead of aesthetics. for political, snobby reasons, we are trying to play an aesthetic style the talent is not ready for — a sloppy team trying to dominate possession. either change to second rate technical players and stick to the system — no — or come up with a system that fits the best tools on hand. the skill level has actually continued to improve, but not such that we can abandon organization, defense, speed downfield, and other traditional foci. the work they want to do at a “tactical” senior level needs to instead be taking place at a “developmental” youth level.

      most NT are not picking tactics aspirationally — i wish we were — they are picking tactics pragmatically — this is what we are. canada and japan look like we used to when we were pragmatic and oriented to countering good teams as opposed to soft and ideological. and my experience the teams going around lecturing the rest of the league about the right way to play soccer don’t really win the league.

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      • IV,

        “canada and japan look like we used to when we were pragmatic and oriented to countering good teams as opposed to soft and ideological.”

        I don’t think the USMNT ever looked like Japan did the other night And I’ve seen all their big games against good teams for many years now.

        ” and my experience the teams going around lecturing the rest of the league about the right way to play soccer don’t really win the league.”

        I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of teams lecturing other teams in their league about the right way to play soccer.

        Surely you are projecting?

        Maybe fans or paid pundits of those teams but not , for example, Pep or Klopp. I’ve heard managers talk about how THEIR own teams need to play and I’ve heard guys like Wenger complain about other teams playing “anti” football but that is mostly sour grapes or bitch whining, not lecturing the other team on how to play.

  8. About 30 years ago, it was Bradley’s belief that 3 4 3 was the best formation for developing youth players, it makes the 3 in back take responsibility, it gives 5 players (the 3 forwards and the 2 outside mids) the chance to attack, the 3 forwards a chance to successful press the opponents back line and the midfielders the job of winning the ball. When asked why not a 4-4-2 like most national teams played in the recent WC, he said the goal of developing players is much different than the goal of avoiding a loss at all cost in the ultimate elimination tournament.
    I would add the goal of most professional teams is a balance between getting results and playing attractive attacking soccer to keep the fans entertained. I worry that GB is worried about entertainment rather that results.
    Hence I think a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 would have been a better choice with the players he had available.

    Reply
    • Dennis, if you go to any sport do you see champion teams using the preferred tactic of 30 or 40 years ago? Sports change, tactics change. Not many NFL and college teams running the wishbone or even an I formation. How many NBA teams playing with 2 post players on the block. MLB is about defensive shifts (being outlawed) and launch angle home run ball. Most teams are using a 4-3-3 these days but what you do from that formation varies.

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      • I think the point is more that World Cup teams tend to be more defensive in their starting points and in how they approach the game. Italy is a prime example, even recently. The few teams who try to be attack-oriented either have the outstanding players needed to pull it off, or they fail to get results. In the last 8 Euro Cups, three were won by teams who were primarily defensive (Denmark, Greece and Italy) all beating teams who I think had better talent. The last 8 World Cups have been won more often by attacking teams,. Still most teams do not take that approach, knowing full well that not conceding goals is essential to their success since few have Mbappe, Messi, or Lewendoski with the requisite supporting cast to go count on scoring multiple goals.

        Bradley’s point was that for youth teams encouraging attacking play and real responsibilities on defense are much more important that results achieved by well organized and numerous defenders.

        The US is not yet one of those teams that can expect great success in the WC without greater emphasis on defense.

      • If you think Italy was playing defensively you weren’t watching the last Euros. They were using a 4-3-3 formation with 2 attacking MF and a regista style DM in Jorginho. Mancini was brought in specifically to “modernize” Italy’s attack. I’m also not really sure the 2004 Euros is still relevant and definitely not Denmark in ‘92.

      • I made those comments before Denmark, admitedly in a 4-3-3, but they played quite defensively, beat France with Mbappe et al. Much of the game, it looked like Denmark had 5 or 6 players who were in the back line taking care of business, not throwing many into the attack. Denmark did not, however, fare too poorly in the possession stats, so it is hard to say they just sat back and booted the ball upfield.

        It will always be true that teams without recognized attacking players, sorry Erickson, will defend first and foremost to accomplish what Denmark did today.

      • JR and Mueller,

        Even with the big boys it still comes down to who you have available and what system suits the collective the best given that preparation is limited by the comparative lack of game and practice time.

        It is unrealistic to expect national teams to have anywhere near the kind of fluidity and cohesion that a Man. City or other top 5 team has. Simply not enough games and practice together

        If a 4-4- 2 suits your guys and your circumstance and it works then who cares about fashion? France won their latest World Cup with a variation of the 4-4-2

        Most of the big boys have the advantage of having many of their players play in the same leagues and in some cases on the same teams ( Bayern, Barca, Real Madrid, the Manchesters, etc.). Finding a system that works for them is therefore simplified.

        This is not true for the USMNT which has players scattered quite literally all over the world.

        And despite the recent invasion of massive amounts of world class USMNT players into the top 5 leagues, the USMNT still needs more players playing in the systems they use in those top leagues. The USMNT needs more Tyler- Brenden situations. Leeds should buy Weston or Pefok

        “The US is not yet one of those teams that can expect great success in the WC without greater emphasis on defense.”

        They need greater emphasis on producing more quality players playing on quality teams. In spite of all the hype and hoopla, the USMNT still needs more quality players in all positions.

        Of our 6 most talented players, Pulisic, Tyler, Weston, Gio, Dest, Weah only 2, Gio and Tyler are guaranteed regular starters when healthy.

        That won’t do it.

  9. Replacing a player of Musah’s caliber is a difficult task for the USMNT. The task becomes even more difficult when we have a manager who lacks the ability to realize the necessity to change formation/tactics at times. The match against Japan is a prime example of where Gregg should have made a formation change to off-set the abscesses of Musah, Jedi, Pulisic, and Weah. The situation screamed for a different approach, yet Gregg went with his patented 4-3-3 with inferior players which lead to poor performances across the board.
    For the most part the players yesterday looked uninterested and uninspired. While that is on the players, it is also a reflection on the manager and coaches. The game yesterday was winnable with the players we had at our disposal if we’d only had a decent coach.

    Reply
    • So did you want him to change everything around to win a friendly and we’d still have questions. Like would parking the bus and winning 1-0 in Gio Reyna slalom run counter have proved anything? Winning was not Gregg’s priority yesterday, it was getting an evaluation of players for the 26 and the starting 11. That got thrown off on Thursday with CP out because I don’t think Luca would have started.
      ————————
      Wes said at the presser Th. he hadn’t really watched much Japan. If that was across the team that showed. Also, that indicates that the team was focused on what they wanted to accomplish and not on winning, which as a fan stinks but as a coach when I take teams to scrimmages I don’t care about winning as much as I do about learning and getting better.

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      • you’re saying our full time coach who sits around weeks or months between games with nothing to do but prepare — hadn’t prepared his team one iota for what to expect this week? why are we calling first string if this isn’t a dress rehearsal with serious prep work?

        likewise, people adore GB’s emphasis on club form but to me knowing a player’s stats in recent weeks is actually lazy stuff. a fan could check SBI’s weekly trackers or TM’s stats logs and know who plays for what clubs and that “blah blah is on a hot streak.” he doesn’t come across like he watched the games, club games, our old games. even on opponent scouting we seem hit and miss that we are ready for the team that shows up, and often we get the job done second half through subs and adjustments.

      • What good does it do to completely change how we are planning to play in Qatar to win a friendly. Or to scrap the game plan when Pulisic gets hurt 12 hrs before the match. If these guys had ACLs or Achilles and you knew they were out for November that would be different but everyone of the injured except Miles Robinson are expected to recover.

      • “to scrap the game plan when Pulisic gets hurt 12 hrs before the match. If these guys had ACLs or Achilles and you knew they were out for November that would be different but everyone of the injured except Miles Robinson are expected to recover.”

        This was a practice right?
        You’re missing vital parts of your A team.
        You know or should know that Japan is pretty decent.
        team.

        So this is a good chance to see if the understudy’s can handle the normal team A game plan. Part of his job, the last 3-4 years, is to prepare the team for circumstances just like this.

        Turns out the scrubs ain’t ready.

        And were pretty spectacular about their inability. That should concern you.

        “did you want him to change everything around to win a friendly?”

        Not necessarily to win but to show that he knows how to do that.

        Once it became apparent that the A team plan wouldn’t work, I wanted to see if he could make adjustments to stop a game that was going south at warp speed from going even further south.

        Not win. Just stop it from getting out of hand. Maybe tell Vines to go over the half line every once in a while.. I don’t think he did that. I’m surprised it wasn’t 4 -0 or 5-0.

        Gregg hasn’t done such a great job overall that he can expect the benefit of the doubt when his team puts in such a cavalier, devil may care performance at any time, friendly or not .

        Lose, okay.
        Not play well, okay.
        But have the entire team look like they just got home from an all night bender and were doing the walk of shame? Like they did not give a shit because most of them are in Qatar for certain? However good or bad Long was, he certainly wasn’t getting a lot of help from his Qatar bound for- sure- teammates.

        Gregg should not be surprised at the ton of shit he is going to get for this game.

        I expect them to come back and blast Saudi Arabia.
        And that will be equally “meaningless”.

  10. I will be very interested to see Jack Mcglynn fit into this midfield during the 2026 cycle. A player who can unlock defenses with his passing. A player the USMNT needs.

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    • There are a lot of players who will move up in the next 4 years. Feel free to pick your favorite, but predicting the future with accuracy is hard.

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  11. Having come down/picked myself up from yesterday, I agree that this is one of the more reasonable takes. Musah’s ability to turn and play out of a press is what makes this team “USA 2.0.”

    Without him, we better get back to playing like USA 1.0 — work together in defense, lob it up, then press and attack in the final third as a unit. Didn’t happen yesterday.
    Without Musah on the field — and certainly without him in the 26, –we may not need a Plan B so much as an entirely new Plan A. Bunker Bob is dead. Long live Bunker Bob.

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  12. I think it is. You have Reyna or Aaronson to play in the Musah role. In fact I would go as far as saying that McKennie is not a lock starter. Musah, Aaronson combo would be interesting.

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    • Musah isn’t merely creative. He has specific abilities to turn under pressure and progress the ball that no one on the team has. Reyna is closest, but he’s better going forward in tight spaces. Pulisic a little less so. But neither Reyna nor Pulisic can receive the call with their back to defenders in your own third, turn, and take 3 touches up the field before spraying it wide. As long as Musah learns to actually distribute rather than hold onto the ball too long… Ives is correct

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    • And maybe that’s what yesterday was about could the AMT (pronounced amped) midfield group replicate MMA. The answer was a resounding no.

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