In a few days, the next round of Champions League greatness will have come and gone. A few days past that, Major League conference finals will commence. And then …
What a treat it will be for domestic sports fans, who can watch some truly intoxicating regional drama – all viewed from a safe distance.
While the United States will test itself with friendlies in Scotland and Austria, neighboring Mexico will be on white knuckle, squeaky bum, edge-of-seat, shear sporting terror alert. El Tri, a real mess for the last few months, plays in that home-and-away thriller against New Zealand, a World Cup berth in the balance.
The teams play Nov. 13 in Mexico’s once-fabled Azteca (I mean, it’s not really fabled anymore, now is it?) and in Wellington on Nov. 20.
The price for missing out on next year’s World Cup was originally set at $600 million. That’s lost TV revenue, merchandising, sponsor dollars, etc.
But that’s not what resounds from Tuesday’s match, as we once against confirmed that the U.S. is producing some fine young attackers.
Teenage trio grows into game, puts U.S. ahead
These friendlies provide good chances for players to express themselves individually, and there’s reason to be excited by three young Americans attackers.
Yes, there were plenty of sloppy moments for Josh Sargent (18) and Jonathan Amon (19), but those came early and both European-based players seemed to relax as the match wore into the second half.
Sargent in particular showed flair with one-touch flicks and dynamite touch passes even before he scored his opener. Amon misplaced a looping outside of the foot pass in the first half, but swept a ball over the top of the defense to cue up Sargent in the second half.
And while Tim Weah misfired on that chance, the Paris Saint-Germain man is as exciting as any American teenager on the scene.
Moving forward, it’s all about the attack (and that is exciting)
This isn’t to say that Weston McKennie, Matt Miazga, Tyler Adams, and a few other intriguing young players can’t buoy the hopes of the U.S. heading into the Gold Cup and then World Cup qualifying, but what’s so exciting about this team is a new wealth of attacking options (most of it now growing overseas).
Sargent, Weah, and Amon are 19 or younger. Christian Pulisic is the most important national team talent in a generation, and just turned 20. That’s the same age as Weston McKennie, whose played everywhere from CDM to CB to CAM at his club.
All are playing for clubs whose senior teams are competing for places in Europe. Sargent has yet to play for Werder Bremen’s senior team and Weah sparingly for PSG, but the other three are key pieces for Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, and Nordsjælland.
That’s why it’s key the new U.S. coach knows how to push down on the gas pedal.
Let’s hear it from the long-term caretaker
Dave Sarachan may’ve just coached the final match of his long-term interim run as USMNT boss, and the Rochester-born 64-year-old deserves a lot of credit for Tuesday’s performance.
While his late substitution of DeAndre Yedlin for a thriving Reggie Cannon led to Peru’s equalizer, no one should blame him for thinking an every week Premier League starter would be able to mark a back post.
Sarachan drew up a short free kick from Kellyn Acosta that led to a Josh Sargent goal, and coaxed a strong performance from first time center back mates Cameron Carter-Vickers and Aaron Long.
The longtime assistant’s record as USMNT boss sits at 3-3-3 despite a very tricky schedule. He’s earned draws against three World Cup nations: Portugal, France, and Peru. He also has the distinction of being 1-0 against Mexico, never a bad thing.
In another climate, Sarachan would have earned something close to a full-time gig. And Bruce Arena’s assistant will surely be involved with the USMNT program in some capacity. But coming off a World Cup qualifying failure, it was always going to be time for fresh blood.
Brad Guzan — 6 — You’d like him to do better on the goal, but he made a big stop on a crazy free kick in stoppage time to save the draw.
Ben Sweat — 5 — Struggled in the first half but put in a solid second 45.
Aaron Long — 7 — A decent performance from an unfamiliar center back pairing, and Long was the better of the two.
Cameron Carter-Vickers — 6.5 — Needs to get more playing time at club level to work out his propensity for making spectacular plays… but also occasionally looking like he’s unsure of his responsibilities. Both happened Tuesday.
Reggie Cannon (Off 83′) — 6 — Not a bad debut at all, as the FC Dallas man was involved from minute No. 1. He almost drew a penalty in the first 10 minutes, and had a few gutsy tackles.
Wil Trapp — 6 — Some good interventions, but not a major factor moving forward. Is the 25-year-old capable of raising his game to the international level.
Jonathan Amon (Off 55′) — 6 — The 19-year-old Nordsjælland winger fought his touch early but showed good vision and an ability to try the daring pass.
Kellyn Acosta (Off 78′) — 7 — Dangerous for sure, but his touch betrayed him on a number of solid moves. Executed the short free kick to Sargent to perfection.
Marky Delgado — 6 — Composed and technical, if unspectacular on the night.
Timothy Weah (Off 90+2′) — 8 — Just looks to have that extra special something, to go with a competitor’s mentality. The future is very bright when the USMNT can put him on one wing and Christian Pulisic on the other.
Josh Sargent — 8 — Like Amon, he looked a little rattled early but also showed a number of clever flicks and tricks in his arsenal. A goal is a goal, but his lay off for Weah moments earlier was the stuff of promise (even if you maybe like him to tear into a shot there).
Julian Green (On 55′) — 5 — For all of his offensive gifts, he does not in the slightest get stuck in as a midfielder. Timid.
Bobby Wood (On 69′) — 6 — Followed up his goal against Colombia with an industrious 20 or so minutes.
Michael Bradley (On 78′) — 6 — Moves into third all-time in USMNT caps.
DeAndre Yedlin (On 84′) — 4 — Maybe he wasn’t prepared to come off the bench, but quite simply the reason Flores was able to equalize. He won’t want Rafa Benitez to see the tape.
Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra did his best not to comment on the report in a Tuesday radio appearances, saying the Five Stripes have been having “ongoing discussions” with Martino.
“It’s all good. There’s all kind of rumors, for our coach, for our players, for everything. I guess that means we’re relevant in the soccer world at the moment, which is a good thing. We’ve been having ongoing discussions. We can’t control what goes on in the rumor mill but we’re doing our job. Tata’s our manager, and going forward we’re looking to get into the playoffs with the Supporters’ Shield under our belt and that’s about as much as it is right now.”
As for how hard it would be to replace Martino? Bocanegra seems to think it won’t be as difficult as some fear.
“Each coach has a unique style. We have a philosophy and a way of playing as a club. Within that, you try to put people in place that fit that style, fit that philosophy. That’s where Tata fit nicely. Each coach out there will put his own spin on things but it’s the club that has the long-term vision, playing the younger players.”