The rest of the attack, though? Not so much. The defense was solid and only conceded from a seemingly impossible strike. Balancing those two facts will not be easy for USMNT fans, especially now that World Cup qualifying goes on hiatus for two months.
Here’s a look at who stood out (for better or for worse) for Gregg Berhalter’s side, with some special bonus commentary from not onnly PST’s Nicholas Mendola (italicized), but also PST’s honorary American (for a night, or until the USMNT plays England in the World Cup again), Joe Prince-Wright (also italicized)…
GK – Zack Steffen: 6 (6.5) – So, Steffen is the no. 1 goalkeeper again, just like that? There was plenty of uproar last month when Matt Turner kept the starting place when Steffen returned to the team, but it doesn’t appear to have nuked the USMNT’s chemistry or confidence, as some believed it would. Having two trustworthy goalkeepers is a luxury, not a problem. And no, there’s no way Turner (or probably any other goalkeeper in the world) gets to the lightning bolt that came out of Michail Antonio’s foot (WATCH HERE – Jamaica’s only shot on target for 75 minutes).
When it comes to Antonio’s goal, could he have saved it/broken his hand? It’s a slim possibility, but I have a hard time faulting the Manchester City keeper for not getting to the vicious shot from distance. With the dodgy pitch, his footwork was important. (NM)
RB – DeAndre Yedlin: 6 (5.5) – Sergiño Dest remains the starter at right back (when healthy), but the November international window made it quite clear that Yedlin is the firmly entrenched backup.
Didn’t get close enough on multiple occasions to stop crosses and should have been punished when Bobby Decordova-Reid missed a sitter. Some poor crosses in the final third, too. Very much Sergino Dest’s backup. (JPW)
CB – Chris Richards: 6.5 (6.5) – This was a tough spot for Richards to step into, especially after watching the Miles Robinson-Walker Zimmerman partnership blossom as World Cup qualifying wore on, but Richards never looked out of his depth while battling for 90 minutes against one of the world’s most in-form strikers at the moment. This was a big test, and he passed.
A tough outing for the young center back, but he did OK. Tried to step high on Antonio as much as he could. Couldn’t get on the ball (usually a huge strength of his) as much as he would have liked, but stood tall. (JPW)
CB – Walker Zimmerman: 7 (7) – With Robinson unavailable due to suspension, the responsibility of organizing the defense fell solely on Zimmerman. Typically, it’s Robinson who waits behind as Zimmerman surges forward to break up play ahead of the backline, but Zimmerman pulled double-duty to ease the 21-year-old into a tough spot. He did it well, as evidenced by Jamaica’s paltry attacking output.
At times he was exposed for pace by Antonio, but the West Ham man does that to a lot of defenders. Calm, composed, and a big part of keeping the Yanks organized. The question isn’t whether he’s one of America’s top two center backs, but how much of a problem that will be against more explosive center forwards at a World Cup. (NM)
LB – Antonee Robinson: 5 – It’s hard to remember Robinson doing anything other than squaring the ball for Decordova-Reid inside the USMNT’s six-yard box. He’s been great in recent outings, but it wasn’t his finest moment.
DM – Tyler Adams: 6.5 (6) – For a second straight game, Adams’ impact was limited by opponents’ plan to deny him easy possession of the ball and simply harass him at every turn when that didn’t work. This is the new reality for the USMNT and Adams, the Yanks’ most important and influential player, as he continues to ascend to the next level. Good news: Adams and Berhalter are smart enough to adjust when World Cup qualifying resumes in January.
Solid and steady throughout, but could he have done more to stop Antonio cutting inside and driving toward goal on his stunning strike? Probably. Getting caught on the wrong side of forwards cutting in from the left is one weakness in his game that he must work on. The captain dug deep alongside Busio and Musah, but the USMNT definitely missed Weston McKennie (suspension) in midfield alongside Adams. (JPW)
CM – Gianluca Busio: 6 (7) – Speaking of tough spots, Busio was likely selected to replace McKennie with the aforementioned anti-Adams gameplan in mind. With Adams unable to get on the ball as often as Berhalter would like, having a pair of ball-carrying shuttlers one line ahead would, in theory, fix the USMNT’s supply chain issues. It’s a big change, on the fly, with limited training time, and so on and so forth. The inexperience of Busio and Yunus Musah fell short of what the USMNT needed from its central midfield duo, though neither individual struggled by any means.
It was a night with precious few standout performances from the USMNT, but Busio was the new piece in the puzzle, and I thought the Venezia youngster showed the composure of a much older player (being pro since you’re a kid at Sporting KC helps that maturity along). He was very good in tight spaces and even found himself into shooting position for what would’ve been a marvelous second goal. (NM)
Gianluca Busio got close 👀 pic.twitter.com/ItBqGpXFQj
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 16, 2021
CM – Yunus Musah: 6 – See, above: Busio, Gianluca.
[ MORE: USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule ]
RW – Tim Weah: 7.5 (7.5) – This game featured Weah’s best moment to date in a USMNT shirt, even if not his best overall performance. Heck, it wasn’t even his best outing during this international window. It wasn’t so long ago that Weah looked like he might fall considerably short of the lofty hopes and dreams of USMNT fans, but he has clearly hit a massive development upswing in the last 6-12 months, and the USMNT is benefitting in big ways.
No one’s taking this one away!
Weah from @Ricardo_Pepi9, 1-0 🇺🇸
— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) November 16, 2021
Start him at a 7 for the goal alone, a wonderful finish that showcased physicality, power, and a quality finish. Weah is daring Berhalter to play anyone else opposite of Christian Pulisic, and honestly he may be next man up if Ricardo Pepi continues to run cold. (NM)
LW – Brenden Aaronson: 5.5 – An anonymous game from arguably the most consistent attacking player through the first two windows (six games). The physicality of the Jamaican challenges made it plenty difficult for Aaronson to remain upright.
CF – Ricardo Pepi: 5.5 (5) – The 18-year-old was unlucky to not score the USMNT’s second goal shortly after the first, but that was about it from Pepi. The problematic position remains problematic. Countdown to World Cup: 12 months, at which point he’ll (hopefully) be a street-wise veteran.
Hardly had a kick, but kept on working up top. Involved in build-up to Weah’s goal. Some hefty challenges on him early in the game seemed to unsettle the FC Dallas forward. After his fine start to qualifying, the teenager is a marked man. He’s playing like a player who knows they have a lot of big European clubs watching them. Everything seems a little rigid and forced right now. (JPW)
Sub – Christian Pulisic: 5.5 – A fully fit, full-of-confidence Pulisic doesn’t do this, but goodness was it frustrating to watch on Tuesday, and I’m glad someone else noticed it. The USMNT needs more from its most accomplished attacker, and hopefully it will come with fitness and playing time.
When Pulisic is playing on the left he *never* stretches the field. Just waits for Robinson to get to him so he can get on the ball and dribble at the defense.
Earned him two fouls tonight but man, he should be doing so much more with that spot.
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) November 16, 2021