The U.S. Men’s National Team finished the October FIFA international slate with a somewhat demoralizing loss and an uplifting draw, if there is such a thing.
The young U.S. core continues to show flashes of great talent, but overall the team still seems to be stuttering along under caretaker manager Dave Sarachan, who just managed his 10th game and could likely finish out the calendar year as USMNT boss.
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Below is a look at the key takeaways from the USMNT’s October friendlies:
The USMNT is still far from elite
The next generation of USMNT stars is likely the most hyped since the 1999 U.S. U-17s produced Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onyewu and of course, Kyle Beckerman. But as seen in the match against Colombia, they’re still far from the level it takes to make a deep run at a World Cup.
Colombia’s precise decision making and lightning-quick counter attacks caught the U.S. off guard and out of position on multiple times in the second half, leading to the lopsided 4-2 scoreline. Colombia, a World Cup quarterfinalist in 2014, would have made the quarterfinals again had it beaten England in penalty kicks. James Rodriguez, truly a World Class talent, also showed the difference between he and say, Timothy Weah or Kellyn Acosta at the moment with his wonderful goal. In just a split second, Rodriguez turned inside the box, saw a glimmer of an opening and curled home a perfect strike. None of the USMNT players are at the mental level to do that right now. Perhaps they will in the future.
Of course, it doesn’t matter if the USMNT isn’t at a top-ten level right now. It matters more that they progress every year and make it to that level by 2022. But the match against Colombia was a reminder of still how much farther the U.S. has to go to make up the gap.
Young Attack Has Serious Promise
We’re not far off from a front three of Josh Sargent in between Christian Pulisic on the left and Timothy Weah on the right. The former and latter starred at times over the two matches against Colombia and Peru, with Weah setting up a goal against Colombia with a perfectly-weighted pass on the break and Sargent scoring the USMNT’s lone goal against Peru.
Even more importantly, the two players made mistakes and showed the mental fortitude to overcome them. Sargent looked nervy at the start of the match against Peru, but found his composure after 10 minutes and seemed to play at a speed that was faster than the rest of his teammates. Weah meanwhile continues to show great soccer IQ, showing great defensive positional awareness and a desire to track back and put pressure on the opponents. The exact lack of pressure shown by Kenny Saief was one reason that gave Rodriguez his chance in the corner of the box last week.
Should Weah and Sargent find more first team minutes and improve, the USMNT’s attack in four years could be a very scary sight to opponents.
Outside back continues to be a problem
Again and again, individual errors from outside backs have led to goals conceded for the U.S., and the trend didn’t stop during the October internationals. Robinson struggled once again – though to be fair Colombia overloaded his side of the field – leaving the left back position up in the air for perhaps the seventh-straight year. Meanwhile, Yedlin had poor moments in both matches, especially failing to man-mark Edison Flores, which gave Peru its goal on Tuesday evening.
Yedlin is still the presumed favorite moving forward, but with Cannon’s success in MLS, there could be an open position battle coming.