ICYMI, Gregg Berhalter began his USMNT reign with a win over a weakened Panama side Sunday night in Glendale, Ariz.
In front of a crowd of just over 9,000 fans (inside the 63,000 capacity State Farm Stadium), the U.S. men’s national team looked cohesive as their squad of players entirely from the MLS were hungry following their January camp.
The USMNT’s first goal came from debutant Djorde Mihailovic, who timed his run into the box perfectly and finished off a cross from another debutant, Corey Baird. It was a smooth move from the U.S. and a sign of things to come.
[ MORE: Gregg Berhalter reacts to win ]
Walker Zimmerman then powered home a header for the second, as the brilliant Nick Lima whipped in a perfect cross for the center back to attack. Lima was named man of the match as the right back has come from nowhere to make a name for himself during the January camp.
Another debutant, Christian Ramirez from LA FC, finished off the scoring as he tapped home after wonderful work from, you guessed it, another debutant in Jonathan Lewis.
But, what did we learn about this new-look, MLS centric USMNT squad?
- Berhalter will be pleased to see plenty of debutants deliver: Youngster Nick Lima and Djorde Mihailovic both impressed, while the likes of Jonathan Lewis and Christian Ramirez did themselves no harm whatsoever after jumping off the bench. Berhalter is keen to promote players from the U.S. youth teams, but we will see if that’s the case once he can select the European based players.
- Veteran central midfielder Michael Bradley put in a commanding display: Many will say his days with the USMNT should be over, but it’s clear that Berhalter believes Toronto FC’s skipper has an important role to play in the coming years to help get this team back on track. Bradley is 31 years old and showed he is still easily among the USMNT’s best central midfield options.
- Aaron Long excelled at center back as the new skipper: Long’s rise from the USL to being the USMNT skipper in less than 18 months has been remarkable, and his partnership alongside Walker Zimmerman is promising. Considering the struggles of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga for consistent minutes in Europe, the MLS duo are proving their worth at the international level.
- This was a very poor Panama side: With only two regulars included in an 18-man squad made up entirely of those playing in the Panamanian leagues, it is tough to get too excited about the USMNT. Berhalter will know that, and he won’t get too carried away if the U.S. beat a similarly weakened Costa Rica on Saturday too. That said, this is far from the USA’s strongest lineup too. Perspective is needed, and this process of getting the U.S. back on track is going to be an arduous one.
- How many European based players would start in this USMNT team?: Christian Pulisic, DeAndre Yedlin, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, Bobby Wood and John Brooks look like they will be regulars, but apart from that there are plenty of places up for grabs. When you look at the options Berhalter will have for the friendly against Chile in March, it will be tricky for him to whittle this squad down to 23 players.
The above has certainly given Berhalter plenty of food for thought as he edges towards that game against Chile where he can select all of his European based players for the first time.
Below we take a look at the video highlights of the 3-0 win.