With the 2019 Gold Cup set to kick off in five days — and the U.S. men’s national team’s first game in nine — there are far more questions than answer for Gregg Berhalter’s team.
The list of pressing queries includes, but is not limited to, the following…
How is the midfield this bad?
Put another way, in statement form: it’s time to just build the midfield around Tyler Adams.
While the defending left plenty to be desired in the Yanks’ 3-0 defeat to Venezuela on Sunday, the likes of Aaron Long and Matt Miazga were done no favors whatsoever by the pressure applied (or lack thereof) by the midfield. Considering Wil Trapp, Weston McKennie and Cristian Roldan comprised the starting midfield trio, the lack of pressure in the field’s middle third is hardly surprising. Come to think of it, Tyler Adams is the only pressing artist in the entire player pool, but head coach Gregg Berhalter has been pretty insistent on playing him at right back.
Central midfield will almost certainly be Adams’ long-term positional home, so why not stop wasting time and delaying the inevitable: turning the keys to the midfield — and, by extension, the team — to Adams? Without a press that opponents at least have to respect, opposing midfielders will continue to pick the USMNT apart with loads of time to pick a pass.
Why not just start Altidore?
Put another way: why isn’t Josh Sargent on this team again?
Sure, Berhalter wanted a bit more positional versatility with his final roster spot, but that came at the expense of arguably the most promising center forward prospect the U.S. has ever had. That seems… short-sighted (more on that in a moment).
If there is even a chance that Sargent becomes the starter at any point during his career, he should be on the roster for the first tournament of the new coach’s tenure. Full stop. Seeing how he isn’t on the roster, we’ll stick to debating the players at Berhalter’s disposal.
Jozy Altidore should be starting, for a number of different reasons:
- We have no idea whether or not he can play in Berhalter’s system, thus we need to find out.
- Playing without a capable center forward makes it difficult, if not impossible, to analyze the performances of any number of young attackers currently breaking into the team.
- His age when the 2022 World Cup kicks off: 33.
If we’re not going to see Sargent alongside the other attackers he’ll likely play with the next decade, let’s at least give them a functional environment in which to operate and develop.
What’s the USMNT’s goal for this Gold Cup?
Put another way: what exactly would you say we’re doing here?
Are we trying to win this particular tournament — in the year 2019 — or are we still focusing on the development of the next generation which will (hopefully) take us to the 2022 World Cup in 41 months? Of course, if you were to ask Berhalter that very question, he would give some variation of the following answer: “I see them as one and the same. We’re a young team, we need to gain tournament experience and learn how to win together.”
That’s all true, and we’ll see how strictly he sticks to that idea as the Gold Cup kicks off and wears on, particularly when he’s allowed to make a handful of changes to the roster between the group stage and the knockout rounds (assuming they advance, of course).