The USMNT kicked off its 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 0-0 draw in El Salvador on Thursday, as the Yanks struggled to consistently create scoring chances and retain meaningful possession of the ball.
[ MORE: USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule ]
Still, “three points at home and one point on the road” remains a (more than) viable path to World Cup qualification, even after the switch from the hexagonal to the octagonal format.
The result? Totally fine. Some of the performances? Less fine.
Here’s a look at who stood out (for better or for worse) for Gregg Berhalter’s side, with some special bonus commentary (of the dissenting variety) from PST’s Nicholas Mendola (italicized)…
GK – Matt Turner: 6 (7) – Didn’t face his first shot on target until the 57th minute, when he was quick to read and react in a nearly nervy moment; didn’t face another shot the rest of the night. As uber-competitive baptisms go, this one was incredibly mild.
Made one critical save — and one comically flubbed pass — but most important, he claimed every ball he went for, even if the aggression was questionable at times.
RB – DeAndre Yedlin: 6 (6) – Hey, remember Yedlin? He started this game at right back after quite some time out of the first-team picture, and was pretty solid. Yedlin surely benefited from the vacant acreage down the left side of El Salvador’s midfield, so he did lots of carrying the ball past midfield. He remains a solid backup option with 19 more USMNT caps than anyone else on the roster.
CB – Miles Robinson: 6 (6) – For 71 minutes, the USMNT’s best scoring chance was Robinson’s errant header in the 9th minute. A bit of a set-piece specialist, part of the point of picking Robinson for this particular game — a dogged away battle in Central America — is his ability to score on set pieces. The plan proved possible, if unsuccessful.
CB – Tim Ream: 6 (6) – Listen, everyone. Tim Ream is fine. He’s going to be one of the four center backs on the roster for the World Cup (assuming health and fitness), and rightly so. The fact he started the very first qualifier was down to John Brooks playing 90 minutes on Sunday, traveling from Germany to Nashville on Monday, then Nashville to El Salvador on Wednesday. He was never going to play all three games anyway.
LB – Sergiño Dest: 4.5 (5) – In theory, playing Dest as an inverted left back gives the USMNT an extra central midfielder. In practice, especially against counter-attacking sides, Dest wanders too far upfield, where he’s not particularly brilliant on the ball, and far too often gives it away with acres of space ready to be attacked in behind him. The Dest-on-the-left experiment is, perhaps, running short on time.
I don’t have excuses for Dest, but I don’t understand starting on his non-preferred side of left back (again) in favor of… DeAndre Yedlin?!
DM – Tyler Adams: 7 (7) – Long seen as the most important/irreplaceable player in the USMNT pool, Adams took the captain’s armband and assumed full control of the midfield. He’s a brave firefighter on one end of the field and a daring line-splitter headed toward the other. When he’s healthy, the USMNT is better. Simple as that.
He made Robinson and Ream better behind him, bailed our Dest a few times and allowed McKennie to forage upfield in search of attacking opportunities. A worthwhile performance from the youngest USMNT captain in World Cup qualifying history.
CM – Weston McKennie: 6.5 (5) – McKennie had the USMNT best scoring chance post-71st minute (another header from close range), and, like Robinson before him, couldn’t put it on target. Still, McKennie ensured the USMNT wasn’t overrun in midfield so that absolutely everything El Salvador did in possession had to come down the wings. There’s huge value in making an opponent one-dimensional.
Passion and leadership? That all checked out, but he was missing his usual decisive passing and shooting. Sent one shot back to North America.
CM – Brenden Aaronson: 5.5 (5) – He will have a long and productive career for the USMNT, but Aaronson looks shaky — both in possession and defensively — when the game gets frantic, and if there’s anything we know about CONCACAF with absolute certainty, it’s that the games are always frantic.
RW – Gio Reyna: 6.5 (6.5) – Highly influential in the game’s opening 15 minutes, Reyna slipped a pair of passes in behind for Josh Sargent which ultimately amounted to very little danger. After that, like the rest of the attack, Reyna’s influence faded.
Not quite a seven, but regardless of where he went the Yanks struggled to find him with the ball. Service was good and he played his part well enough to set up chances amid the late chaos.
LW – Konrad de la Fuente: 5 (4.5) – Konrad got something of a rude awakening in his first competitive fixture for the USMNT, though he’s hardly to blame after being thrust into the fire with Christian Pulisic and Timothy Weah both unavailable.
CF – Josh Sargent: 5 (5) – Two things frustrated while watching Sargent lead the line: 1) he’s a center forward who almost appears shot-averse, and 2) he often takes three or four or five touches, while retreating 10 or 15 or 20 yards back toward midfield, when he drops in to hold the ball up. It’s maddening. Other than that, Sargent continues to show flashes on the counter. He is quite clearly the No. 1 option for Berhalter at this point.