USA 1, CHILE 1

5 thoughts on the U.S. Men's National soccer team

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Not all matches are created equally; a friendly in soccer can very often be overlooked. The history of exhibition games in other sports may lead the casual fan to believe that a friendly in soccer is just that.

In a span of five days, the US Men's National team hosted two exhibition matches vs. top South American competition; which to a team riding a new identity is very much needed for self-evaluation.

1 Nation, 1 Team is the new slogan; unity will be required at all levels to fulfill that.

Timing

The moment in which things happen in life isn't always predictable. In the sports realm, that truth holds much more weight with the uncertainty behind the day to day happenings within that world. After being named the new manager in December, Gregg Berhalter's timing couldn't have come at a better time. A team searching for an identity, not from a talent standpoint but more from a tactical aspect as skill and youth is spread all around this roster.

I love what he brings to the USMNT as he isn't afraid to experiment and put players where he truly believes he can get the best of them. Undefeated in his first four games as manager (3-0-1), the impressive number has to be 289, the minutes the team went without conceding a goal under Berhalter before finally surrendering one to Chile.


Youth

I mentioned the youthfulness of this current roster and that's something you hear with a voice of optimism when looking at the present state of the National Team. 26 years, 7 days was the average age of the starting eleven vs. Chile. The average age on the last US squad to qualify for the World Cup in 2014 was 27 years-296 days, over a 1.5-year-old difference. But what stands out from that team are some of the leaders were much older at that moment with DaMarcus Beasley, Jermaine Jones, and Clint Dempsey all in their early 30's.

The Golden Child

Speaking of youth, Christian Pulisic became the fastest USMNT player to reach ten goals at 20 years, 189 days. The party was short lived as a right quad injury forced him to leave the game, but not before leaving an imprint on the scoreboard. When he was on the field, things seem to operate more fluidly as his first touch and ability to turn up the field and go is what motors this team. The German Bundesliga has served him well as you can see how it reflects in his game play. He loves to get the ball in space and make defenders chase, sometimes hurting his final touch. Chelsea agreed to pay Dortmund 64 million euros for the American phenom but loaned him back to the German side for the remainder of the season. A move to the English Premier League might be best for Pulisic but staying on the field is still a significant concern. He's been limited this season after tearing a calf muscle late last year and a then a thigh injury in February. Berhalter has shown some concern over the reoccurring injuries, ''I think you look into the why, and you do an inquiry as to why it's happening, and you make adjustments,'' Berhalter said. "I think he's at a top club and going to a top club. We have very high-level medical personnel on our side, and we'll get it right.''

Passing the Test

In Berhalter's first few matches the team faced off vs. Panama and Costa Rica, netting five goals and keeping two clean sheets in the process. Many wanted to see a bigger sample size against perhaps slightly better competition. The CONMEBOL is known for a more physical type of play, and the tactics teams bring combined with the number of foreign players and skill sets are a step ahead of the CONCACAF. Ecuador is currently ranked 58th in the FIFA world rankings while Chile is 13th in the world. Against Ecuador, the game plan would be different as they faced a team they knew they could take possession from and ended up doing just that dominating 62% of the ball while having five goal attempts compared to the South American's 38% with one shot on goal. The USMNT would go on to win 1-0.The next test came with a quick turnaround facing a tough Chilean squad that brings a pressing style of football. They press high and make your defenders play out from the back or clear it turning over possession frequently. The US was out dominated on ball possession 34-66%, but much of that was expected with the manager making seven changes. In the press conference, Berhalter expressed the confidence gained in his players to be able to adapt quickly and learn to play with each other with different tactics and minimal practices in between.

Grade: B+

Overall, with the feel and attitude, the manager had in the post-game conference, I consider the overall performance in the two matches a success. Not only on the scoreboard, which won't be remembered but more of the ability to play vs. tougher opponents in short periods, something that will come in handy in International tournaments where you have to adapt to foes in short periods of time. The team still lacks some things I would like to see slightly different, for example vs. Chile much of the balls were played out wide down the flanks, mostly the left side but I notice a lack of size outside of a couple of players to play that way so often. Operating this way, Gyasi Zardez was forced to make runs into the box while having to beat multiple defenders to the spot through the air, on balls that never got there. Resulting in wasted energy on pointless runs.
After the match, both coaches and players were exhausted in the locker rooms. Many commented on the first half taking a ton of energy from both teams explaining why the 2nd half was so close and tight leading to minimal scoring chances.

I love where this team seems to be headed at the moment. Change is sometimes needed to bring out the best of peoples abilities, with Berhalter, I believe we got just that.

Houston Dash defender Amber Brooks was honored before the season opener for becoming the 22nd player to feature in 100 league matches. (Photo credit: Jose Castellanos)

The National Women's Soccer League kicked off a historic 7th season and the European competitions got one step closer to crowning their champions in this week's soccer happenings. As always, skip down to the end of this article for a schedule of the top upcoming matches.

Top stories:

  • UEFA Champions League semifinalists to be decided Tuesday and Wednesday
  • UEFA Europa League semifinalists to be decided Thursday
  • MLS opens newest soccer-only stadium in Minnesota
  • Houston Dynamo look to remain unbeaten Friday at LA Galaxy
  • Houston Dash open season with 1-1 draw, play away on Saturday
  • Groups announced for this summer's Gold Cup and African Cup of Nations

UEFA Champions League

After this week, only four teams will remain in the hunt for the title of European Champion. Last Tuesday, Tottenham picked up a narrow 1-0 win over City in the first UCL match at the new Spurs Stadium while Liverpool handled Porto with a 2-0 win at Anfield. On Wednesday, Barcelona came away with a 1-0 win at Manchester United while Juventus drew 1-1 at Ajax.


UEFA Europa League

Arsenal, Chelsea and Valencia all picked up key wins in their search for this year's Europa League trophy and the coveted Champions League qualification that comes with it. The talk of the week, however, was about 19-year-old Portuguese forward João Félix who scored a hat-trick in Benfica's 4-2 win over Frankfurt.

Benfica 4-2 Eintracht Frankfurt: Europa League Recap with Highlights, Goals and Best Moments www.youtube.com


English Premier League

Top six: 1. Liverpool (85), 2. Manchester City (83), 3. Tottenham (67), 4. Arsenal (66), 5. Chelsea (66), 6. Manchester United (64)

Scoring leader: 19 - Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) / Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Assists leader: 12 - Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) / Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC)

Spain's La Liga

Top six: 1. FC Barcelona (74), 2. Atlético Madrid (65), 3. Real Madrid (61), 4. Sevilla (52), 5. Getafe (51), 6. Valencia (49)

Scoring leader: 33 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

Assists leader: 12 - Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)

German Bundesliga

Top six: 1. Bayern Munich (67), 2. Dortmund (66), 3. RB Leipzig (58), 4. Eintracht Frankfurt (52), 5. Monchengladbach (51), 6. Hoffenheim (47)

Scoring leader: 21 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 13 - Jadon Sancho (Dortumund)

Italian Serie A

Top six: 1. Juventus (84), 2. Napoli (67), 3. Inter Milan (60), 4. Milan (55), 5. Roma (54), 6. Atalanta (53)

Scoring leader: 22 - Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)

Assists leader: 10 - Dries Mertens (Napoli)

French Ligue 1

PSG's 2-2 draw against Strasbourg means the defending champions will have to wait one more match to celebrate their newest league championship.

Top six: 1. PSG (81), 2. Lille (64), 3. Lyon (56), 4. Saint-Étienne (53), 5. Marseille (51), 6. Montpellier (48)

Scoring leader: 27 - Kylian Mbappé (PSG)

Assists leader: 11 - Nicolas Pepe (Lille) / Teji Savanier (Nimes)

Dutch Eredivisie

Top three: 1. Ajax (74), 2. PSV Eindhoven (74), 3. Feyenoord (56)

Belgian First Division A

Championship Round: 1. Genk (41), 2. Club Brugge (37), 3. Antwerp (34), 4. Standard Liege (31), 5. Anderlecht (26), 6. Gent (25)

Portuguese Primeira Liga

Top three: 1. Benfica (69), 2. Porto (69), 3. Sporting CP (61)

Scottish Premier League

Top three: 1. Celtic (77), 2. Rangers (66), 3. Kilmarnock (58)

------

Concacaf Champions League

Liga MX top spenders, and crosstown rivals, Tigres UANL and Monterrey will face off later this month in the final series to determine the new club champion of Concacaf.


Major League Soccer

East top seven: 1. D.C. United (14), 2. Columbus (13), 3. Montreal (11), 4. Toronto (10), 5. Philadelphia (10), 6. Orlando (8), 7. Cincinnati (8)

West top seven: 1. LAFC (19), 2. Seattle (16), 3. LA Galaxy (15), 4. Houston (13), 5. FC Dallas (13), 6. Minnesota (10), 7. Sporting KC (9)

Scoring leader: 8 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Assists leader: 5 - Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Liga MX

Top eight: 1. Leon (35), 2. Tigres UANL (32), 3. Monterrey (26), 4. Necaxa (24), 5. Pachuca (24), 6. Club America (23), 7. Cruz Azul (23), 8. Tijuana(22)


Scoring leader: 12 - Angel Mena (Leon)

Assists leader: 9 - Angel Mena (Leon)

------

National Women's Soccer League

Standings: 1. Portland Thorns (3), 2. Washington Spirit (3), 3. Chicago Red Stars (1), 4. Seattle Reign (1), 5. Houston Dash (1), 6. North Carolina Courage (1), 7. Utah Royals (0), 8. Orlando Pride (0), 9. Sky Blue FC (0)

------

African Cup of Nations


Concacaf Gold Cup



------

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Tuesday, Apr. 16

1:45 p.m. - [Premier League] Brighton vs. Cardiff (NBC Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] FC Barcelona vs. Manchester United (TNT, UniMas/Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Juventus vs. Ajax (B/R Live, Galavision)

Wednesday, Apr. 17

12:00 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Nantes vs. PSG (beIN Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Manchester City vs. Tottenham (TNT, UniMas/Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Champions League] Porto vs. Liverpool (B/R Live, Galavision)

9:00 p.m. - [MLS] Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. LAFC (ESPN+)

Thursday, Apr. 18

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Napoli vs. Arsenal (B/R Live, Univision Deportes)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Chelsea vs. Slavia Prague (B/R Live, Galavision)

2:00 p.m. - [UEFA Europa League] Valencia vs. Villarreal (B/R Live, UniMas)

Friday, Apr. 19

2:00 p.m. - [La Liga] Alaves vs. Valladolid (beIN Sports)

1:45 p.m. - [Ligue 1] Nantes vs. Lyon (beIN Sports)

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Leicester City vs. Newcastle (NBC Sports)

10:00 p.m. - [MLS] LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo (Twitter, UniMas)

Saturday, Apr. 20

6:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Manchester City vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] Bayern Munich vs. Werder Bremen (FS1, Univision Deportes)

9:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Bournemouth vs. Fulham (NBC Sports)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Eibar vs. Atletico Madrid (beIN Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Newcastle vs. Southampton (NBC Sports)

11:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. RB Leipzig 05 (FS1)

1:45 p.m. - [La Liga] Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad (beIN Sports)

3:00 p.m. - [MLS] Atlanta United vs. FC Dallas (ESPN)

5:00 p.m. - [NWSL] Sky Blue FC vs. Houston Dash (YahooSports.com)

7:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Cruz Azul vs. Pumas (Univision)

9:00 p.m. - [Liga MX] Chivas vs. Puebla (Univision)

Sunday, Apr. 21

7:30 a.m. - [Premier League] Everton vs. Manchester United (NBC Sports)

8:30 a.m. - [Budesliga] Freiburg vs. Dortmund (FS1, Univision Deportes)

9:15 a.m. - [La Liga] Real Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao (beIN Sports)

10:00 a.m. - [Premier League] Cardiff vs. Liverpool (NBC Sports)

3:00 p.m. - [MLS] D.C. United vs. New York City FC (ESPN)

6:00 p.m. - [MLS] LAFC vs. Seattle Sounders FC (FS1)

Monday, Apr. 22

2:00 p.m. - [Premier League] Chelsea vs. Burnley (NBC Sports)

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome