I'm back from a very long hiatus, but I am going to cover the USMNT and their journey through the "Ocho." I'm hoping at the end of this series, we can celebrate by buying a ticket to Qatar in the winter of 2022.
Today was a very frustrating day for US fans and the USMNT's World Cup Qualifying campaign. After a disappointing 1-1 draw v. El Salvador, hopes were high in Nashville to see the US beat Canada. The game ended in a lackluster, and pretty poor 1-1 draw. The US were outplayed and outcoached.
I can't say that I didn't expect this result. Canada are pretty darn good in transition and have perhaps the 3rd best collection of attacking talent in CONCACAF. The US were always going to play higher up the pitch and have a bulk of the possession, but in modern international football, possession is meaningless unless you can penetrate. The US are not great at penetration, especially if Pulisic is not on the pitch. I'm not convinced this Canada team will finish in the top 3 in WCQ, because they have a pretty bad defense and I don't know if they are capable of going on the road, in Central America, and getting a win or two. They'll come close though. They do have a real shot at 4th place, which would put them in the inter-continental playoff against one of OFC, AFC or CONMEBOL.
The USMNT's greatest problem is in chance creation. For large parts of the first half, we recycled the ball and could never break lines unless Pulisic dropped deep. We can play a long ball and have success every now and then, especially with McKennie on the field, but in terms of line breaking play and getting into the final third, we struggle. I do believe Paxton Pomykal is a solution, but the man needs to stay healthy, for once. We also need Yunus Musah back as well.
Without Gio Reyna, who I believe is better over the center of the pitch, we were forced to rely on Sebastion Lleget. He was decent on the night, but he's not the answer. He is ultimately a sub-par international player. I'd rather see Pulisic play centrally and see Aaronson on the right and Konrad de la Fuente on the left. The more penetrative players, the better, especially if we can get two of McKennie, Adams or Acosta on the field. The US has to be more adventurous if we are to break down teams that have no intention of going forward. We will see a lot more of this, especially when teams like Honduras come to town. Brendan Aaronson had a quote more or less saying that Canada came to sit deep and not play. This needs to be expected. Outside of Mexico, no one is going to come to U.S. soil and look to "play." Canada, however, did a pretty good job of creating some good chances and pretty much had an equal xG compared to the USMNT.
Speaking of Honduras, we can beat them on Wednesday. Our roster is infinitely better and deeper, but it won't be easy. They will come forward for the first 20 minutes or so, be hyper physical and be very organized when they do go into their shell. The first goal, similar to this game, will be key. Unlike how the U.S. failed to hold the lead against Canada, I would expect the U.S. to sit deeper if they do end up going ahead. If you thought the Canada bunker was tough, wait until Honduras go up 1-0. It will be brutal to break. Set pieces will be key in that game. I don't care what COVID-19 protocol McKennie broke, he needs to be on the pitch from the first minute.
Christian Pulisic said something interesting after the game. "After we scored our first goal, we need to be able to win a game like that 1-0 at times...I think whether that's making adjustments or sometimes even having to defend a bit more. … it's important in games like this, tough games, to just grind it out.”
This is true. After we scored, the team looked so far from organized. If you replay the game-tying goal, you'll see a very unorganized U.S. team. This would not happen to an Italy or Brazil in a massive WCQ home game. This is 100% on Berhalter and his coaching staff. They never calmed the game after the goal, even after Canada showed a pretty decent response to going down. Naive.
Against Honduras I would switch to a 3-5-2, especially if Dest is ready to go. Dest was awful once again, in CONCACAF, in a big game. I'm still not sure he is a legitimate right-back. His defensive ability has not really improved and I don't know if it will ever truly improve, but his offensive talent is immense. His ability to beat defenders on the dribble and combine is special. I'll take this to my grave, but I do believe he is better as a right-winger or wing-back than as a RB. The U.S. only truly have Pulisic who can take a defender on 1 v. 1 and beat him. I do believe Konrad de la Fuente can do this, but we have yet to see it for the senior team. I really want to see Konrad play against Hondras. We'll need his ability to break their bunker.
I'm not sure if the U.S. will beat Honduras, but I also would be shocked if they lose. The game is setting up to be a draw. The last time we played in San Pedro Sula in WCQ, we earned the ugliest draw I've ever seen with a late Bobby Wood goal. Last cycle each road game was a sloberknocker, this time around, I have enough confidence that we can earn a point or even win based on pure talent alone. I didn't have that belief four years ago.
Things I want to see v. Hondruas:
I want to see a 3-5-2, especially if Dest is healthy.
2. I want to see Sargent start. His defensive ability is key here.
Pulisic's hamstrings be damned. He needs to go 60 minutes.
McKennie from minute 1.
A more defensive and deep sitting USMNT. Let us bring Honduras forward...for once.
Konrad de la Fuente to play at least 30 minutes.
A win. I don't care how they do it. They have to find a way over the 90. Yeah,
Honduras are an organized, veteran and physical team, but just get the job done.
There is a reason why 99% of their roster plays in Honduras and why they are
still relying on players such as a soon-to-be 38-years-old Boniek Garcia and 38-year-old
Also: This Honduras team struggles to score goals. Their top goal scorer is CF Montreal's Romel Quito who has never scored more than 8 goals in an MLS season. Ok. This isn't Spain with Morata here or Norway with Halaand, this is Quito with Hondras. Let us not lose sight of our opponent. If we had to name the top 20 players between the US and Honduras, they'd all be US players. This would NOT have been the case v. Canada. If we had to rank Quito in terms of MLS forwards, he sure as hell wouldn't be in the top 20. Perspective.
Win, or perhaps it is time to think about a managerial change. No joke.
And if Pulisic does play, he needs some G+A. I know its hard without Lukaku, Mount or Reus or the incredible amount of talented players he is used to playing with, but he needs to get on the score sheet asap.
One more thing: Pepi should have played as a sub v. Canada. Just saying...