They did what they had to do.
Full marks the United States men’s national team, who used a Friday visit from an undermanned and overwhelmed opponent to tune up for Tuesday’s big CONCACAF Nations League trip to Canada.
Gregg Berhalter used the right mix of stars and reserves to keep his men reasonably fresh for the Canucks, getting a hat trick from Weston McKennie and three assists from Jordan Morris in a convincing win.
Berhalter’s plan followed against short-handed Cuba, stars get rest
Make no mistake about it: Christian Pulisic‘s place on the wing was meant to torture a Cuban side which had lost numerous players to defections over the last few months. Jordan Morris, Reggie Cannon, and the Yanks assortment of speedsters made sure the wide places were miserable places to operate.
The United States overran the Cubans on the flanks, scoring near identical goals in the first four minutes as Reggie Cannon sent Jordan Morris down the right for a cutback to Weston McKennie for the goal.
Morris soon joined the score sheet himself and forced Cuba into an own goal after McKennie’s back heel through ball.
Berhalter knew that McKennie, Jackson Yueill, and Cristian Roldan would supply enough industry and athleticism for the midfield to operate as three against a minnow like Cuba, and they delivered in spades (Roldan wasn’t terrific, but he ran his shorts off as designed).
And he got probable Tuesday starters McKennie and Morris out at halftime, Pulisic after the hour, and did not have to use Michael Bradley or DeAndre Yedlin. Pretty much perfect.
Yueill makes his case
Jackson Yueill has been ahead of his American MLS peers in passing, and took the opportunity presented to him by Cuba’s befuddled back line.
Yueill has been a regular fixture for San Jose but is just starting to get his chances under Berhalter, who has given Columbus protegee Trapp myriad chances to lay claim to the holding midfielder role which has long belonged to Michael Bradley.
It still does, for now, but Yueill has given Berhalter plenty to chew on. Now can he channel this performance against a non-existent Cuban midfield into consistent playmaking performances for his country, something he hasn’t done on a week-to-week basis in MLS?
In any event, his performance on Friday should finally relegate Wil Trapp behind him in the pecking order.
Weston runs wild
Given some freedom to attack in the midfield, Schalke mainstay Weston McKennie went absolutely nuts.
Yes, of course, consider the competition, but McKennie registered three goals and an assist in the first 13 minutes, and adding a scintillating assist on the own goal that made it 5-0.
After 45 minutes, Berhalter didn’t need to see any more.
“I took advantage of our style of play,” McKennie said on FS1 after the game. “One of my strengths is getting in the box and getting to the right place at the right time. … As a team we’ve been in camps pretty often and we’re getting familiar with each other. The whole team, the chemistry and connection on and off the field is unbelievable.”
McKennie has been solid for club and country the last two seasons, but saw a minor dip early in this season for Schalke (though that hasn’t stopped David Wagner from trotting him out regularly in the Bundesliga).
The offensive fireworks display will have been noticed here and abroad, and further laid clear that McKennie and still-injured Tyler Adams should be staples of the American midfield for the better part of the next decade.
I mean, look: