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.

The U.S. Women's National Team look to defend their FIFA Women's World Cup title and become back-to-back champs.

The Summer of Soccer is underway with the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, UEFA Nations League and international friendlies all part of the schedule this past weekend. The action is about to kick into another gear with the start of the Concacaf Gold Cup and South America's Copa America this week. Here is the week in soccer:

FIFA Women's World Cup

The premier women's international soccer competition kicked off in France with a 4-0 win by the hosts last Friday to open the competition. France is one of the favorites, and pressured to win, due to their role as the home team. The French women are also looking to match their male counterparts that became World Cup champions last summer at Russia 2018.

Germany, another of the favorites, opened their campaign with a 1-0 win over China while 2011 Champions and 2015 Runners-up Japan were held to a scoreless draw against what could be a Cinderella team in Argentina. England and Scotland faced off for the first time at the World Cup, men or women's, with the Lionesses winning 2-1 while potential dark horse Canada picked up a 1-0 win over Cameroon.

The defending champion United States joins the fray on Tuesday (2:00 p.m. CT, FOX) in what will likely be a multiple goal clinic against Thailand. For all the basics on the Women's World Cup, check out this article.

UEFA Nations League

The first ever Nations League, an attempt to get rid of "meaningless" international friendlies, looks to have been a rousing success and it could not have finished in a better way in terms of garnering media attention. European football's golden boy Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal, the current European champions, to a second European title in three years with a 1-0 win over the Netherlands.

Concacaf Gold Cup

The biannual tournament to determine the champion of North America, Central America and the Caribbean - the region governed by Concacaf - kicks off on Saturday. The United States enter as the defending champions but it is Mexico, the nation with the most titles in the competition, who enter as the favorites to win it all.

Mexico fared well with a 3-1 friendly win over Venezuela in Atlanta on Wednesday followed by a 3-2 win over Ecuador on Sunday up in Arlington, TX. The United States enter with doubts after a 0-1 loss to Jamaica in Washington D.C. and a 0-3 loss to Venezuela in Cincinnati.

CONMEBOL Copa America

South America also has a tournament kicking off this weekend in the revered Copa America. Hosts Brazil are always in the spotlight because of their star-studded squad and will be expected to win despite losing Neymar to injury this past week. Of course, as it has been for several editions now, the main storyline will be if Lionel Messi can finally lift a trophy with Argentina. With what many consider as the best in the world (and best all-time by others) in his prime, the time seems now or never for Messi to conquer the quadrennial tournament as well of the hearts of his country - and what a story it would be to do it on rival turf.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome