Eric Lichaj

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Four burning questions regarding Berhalter’s plans for USMNT

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New USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter has a lot to consider regarding the player pool of his squad, and we’ve got a lot to consider about him.

[ MORE: Adams off to RB Leipzig ]

There’s little doubt that Berhalter is a heck of a coach, and there’s reason to believe he’ll thrive with the team.

But what does he really think about the quality of the stars in MLS, and overseas? And does his work with the Crew tip his hand at all in terms of how he’ll line up the Yanks.


Personnel will dictate what he sticks with, but what formation gets first dibs?

Berhalter operated in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 for most of this season, switching to the latter for the last 10 starting lineups of the regular season and three MLS Cup Playoff games.

Part of that 4-3-3 was very much akin to a 4-2-3-1, with Federico Higuain operating atop a midfield pyramid.

It’s worth noting that no teams beat Berhalter’s Crew more often than Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls (7). It’s not a stretch to say he’ll have respected impressions of Tyler Adams, Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Aaron Long, and their peers (Altidore, for example, has five goals and an assist in seven games against Berhalter).

Who has caught his eye abroad, aside from Pulisic, McKennie, etc? And is this an MLS litmus test?

When you consider the men from outside MLS set to star for the USMNT in future seasons, there’s little doubt about the new guard of Christian Pulisic, Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and John Brooks, but who else might Berhalter have admired in studying those who followed his career path and spent most of the careers abroad?

Experienced hands who could be in line for another or deeper run with the USMNT are Alfredo Morales, Eric Lichaj, Geoff Cameron, Lynden Gooch, and Emerson Hyndman.

A deeper look, though, raises the question of how many MLS players will get continued, deep assessments given how many USMNT players or prospects are in top European environments. For example, you could call up a 23-man roster based entirely on the continent and feel confident you’ve made few errors (assuming a transfer Steffen happens).

This isn’t a shot at MLS, who developed many of these players (I’ll denote that with a *). It’s rationality, and a compliment.

Goalkeepers (3): Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Zack Steffen* (Columbus->Man City – reportedly), Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha Berlin)

Defenders (8) : John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Matt Miazga* (Nantes), DeAndre Yedlin* (Newcastle United), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Swansea City), Shaq Moore (Reus), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Erik Palmer-Brown* (NAC Breda),

Midfielders (8): Geoff Cameron* (QPR), Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Weston McKennie* (Schalke), Tyler Adams* (RB Leipzig), Kenny Saief (Anderlecht), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Romain Gall* (Malmo)

Forwards (4): Bobby Wood (Hannover 96), Tim Weah (PSG), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen), Haji Wright (Schalke)

SCOTLAND — Emerson Hyndman of Hibernian (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

How big of a day is this for Wil Trapp?

The Columbus Crew defensive midfielder has already captained the USMNT eight times under Dave Sarachan. That’s 8-of-11 caps for a 25-year-old, and it’s been whispered that his continued inclusion may’ve been a sign Berhalter was coming for some time.

But is that simply connecting too many dots? Yes, Trapp was a mainstay for Berhalter with the Crew, but he’s often struggled to star when given the chance in a U.S. shirt at a time when few other players had the opportunity.

Trapp was the 12th-rated American defensive midfielder with more than 10 appearances in MLS this season, according to WhoScored. Taking away anyone not rated strictly as a holding or DCM, Trapp is behind six players: Russell Canouse, Sean Davis, Cristian Roldan, Tyler Adams, Jeff Larentowicz, and Benny Feilhaber. The first four are the same age or younger than Trapp, and 18-year-old Chris Durkin wasn’t far behind the Crew man.

Another thing to keep in mind, which is completely coincidental and speculation, is that Transfermarkt compares two American players to Artur, Berhalter’s preferred midfield mate for Trapp with the Crew: 23-year-old Kellyn Acosta of the Colorado Rapids and 21-year-old Keaton Parks of Benfica.

Will any other Crew players get a chance to shine?

Gyasi Zardes, 27, scored 20 goals while leading the Crew in minutes this season, but Berhalter has had success with any number of strikers in his system. Ola Kamara and Kei Kamara each had prolific seasons for Columbus.

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, 23, is already entrenched in the USMNT plans, whether he can outplay Ethan Horvath or not.

Aside from Trapp and the two above, there are not many other Americans under 30 who’ve seen many minutes under Berhalter since Ethan Finlay left town in 2017.

It’s also probably bad news for Kekuta Manneh, who washed out of Columbus and has yet to score for St. Gallen in Switzerland.

So who is the USMNT’s Best XI right now?

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There was, let’s say, consternation in USMNT circles when Tyler Adams was not included in the Starting XI against England, and more when the Yanks fell 3-0 at Wembley to England’s second-choice stars.

Interim coach Dave Sarachan, who’s done a fine job all things considered, deprived U.S. supporters of the chance to watch key pieces Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Adams together in their senior shirts.

[ MORE: Netherlands wins, Germany relegated ]

It probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Adams was decent in his limited action, but Wil Trapp wasn’t a nightmare in captaining the squad. But it does show that the side still has a question of who fits in their peak 11.

Let’s start with the “no one’s debating this unless they’re Bruce Arena” aspect of this: Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Adams, John Brooks, and Zack Steffen are no doubters. DeAndre Yedlin is very close to a no-doubter despite bad performances in his last two caps, and Bobby Wood makes the cut because Josh Sargent is yet to get any real first team experience at Werder Bremen and Jozy Altidore‘s just completed an injury-riddled 2018.

Zack Steffen

DeAndre Yedlin — XX — John Brooks — XX

Christian Pulisic — Weston McKennie — Tyler Adams — XX

XX — Bobby Wood

Who fills those spots?

CB2 — Geoff Cameron is still probably the best America has aside from Brooks, though Aaron Long has impressed and Matt Miazga has put in more good performances than bad for the club and country. Walker Zimmerman is on the up, too.

LB — Haha. Haha. Hahahahahaha. The endless question of American soccer purgatory. There’s hope that Antonee Robinson will continue to progress at Everton (currently on loan at Wigan) but the only other options are sincerely veteran: Eric Lichaj, Justin Morrow, and believe it or not Edgar Castillo (I am conveniently leaving out sueno, Jorge Villafana, in that he’s rarely impressed me at the international level).

Maybe we need to go to a back three.

LM — Neither Julian Green, Kenny Saief, nor Tim Weah have shown the diligence in tracking/marking to outwardly lay claim to this, and there aren’t a ton of true left midfielders who could lay claim to this. Could we cheat a little and use Kellyn Acosta here? Maybe…

ST2 — Is Josmer healthy? This is still Altidore, then, but the best beyond him are either young and unproven or also injured (Jordan Morris, Sargent, Andriya Novakovich). Weah could also be played here if he’s not used at left mid.

Have your answers? Cool, well we are taking our own advice and going for a back three. Let’s fill those blanks after this photo of Harry Winks and Tim Weah.

 (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Zack Steffen

John Brooks — Matt Miazga — Aaron Long

DeAndre Yedlin — Weston McKennie — Tyler Adams — Kellyn Acosta

Christian Pulisic — Bobby Wood — Tim Weah

Bench: Ethan Horvath, Danny Williams, Wil Trapp, Josh Sargent, Kenny Saief, Walker Zimmerman, Eric Lichaj.

Is that squad qualifying for a World Cup? Yes. Is it hanging with Mexico? Probably not, but that’s why we lean on the hope in room for growth in a young team.

Now since we’ve gotten to the meat of it, let’s then imagine the USMNT’s XI should the side not have embarrassed itself by not qualifying for the World Cup. How many names would be different?

In that instance, it would not have totally torn itself up over the past 13 months. Yes, it would’ve given the kids a chance, but names like Geoff Cameron and Jozy Altidore would not have been largely ignored by whoever’s been in charges. Wins would’ve still mattered quite a bit.

So while all these men wouldn’t have necessarily been called up this week to face England and Italy, here’s an XI of players who are likely the Yanks’ very best chance of winning a do-or-die match right now (And yes, we know Geoff Cameron is playing center mid for QPR at the moment. And don’t laugh: 30-year-old winger Fabian Johnson is contributing fairly regularly for the No. 2 team in the Bundesliga).

I’ll save you the everpresent comment of “Oh, man, (insert Jozy or Bradley here), enough with that. It’s over.” There, I said it for you. Now let’s get back to theoretical, right now, win or go home match.

Zack Steffen

DeAndre Yedlin — Geoff Cameron — John Brooks — Justin Morrow

Danny Williams — Michael Bradley

Christian Pulisic — Weston McKennie — Fabian Johnson

Jozy Altidore

Adams hands USMNT win over Mexico

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Tyler Adams was born on Valentine’s Day, and Tuesday might be the day he made USMNT supporters fall in love.

Following a decent performance against Brazil, Adams scored a second half goal as a young USMNT beat a young Mexico 1-0 in Nashville.

The USMNT next faces Peru and Colombia on Oct. 11 and 16, respectively.

[ MORE: 3 things | Player ratings ]

El Tri weathered early U.S. possession on a wet field, with the most notable battle that of USMNT left back Eric Lichaj and all comers on his side of the pitch.

The Yanks had some trouble clearing a dangerous 14th minute free kick. A corner kick soon followed, and Zack Steffen acted quickly to slap Edson Alvarez’s header over the bar and collect the second corner. He’d corral a header five minutes later.

Gyasi Zardes drew a free kick on the edge of the Mexico 18 in the 27th minute, and Kellyn Acosta had two cracks at it but missed the second wide of the near post.

Steffen gave away a free kick on the right edge with a risky effort to collect a long ball, but Diego Lainez’s low shot was easily turned away by the wall. Lainez then set up Alvarado with a shimmy past Wil Trapp, but Alvarado was unable to get much on his in-tight shot to Steffen.

The Yanks got a rare bit of attack in the 40th minute, but Weah’s penalty shout was denied before he lashed over the bar moments later. An injury to McKennie then gave way to Julian Green.

Zardes laid off for Weah in the 42nd minute, and the PSG teen forced Hugo Gonzalez into a low save.

[ MORE: Richarlison scores beauty for Brazil ]

Weah and Green were especially energetic in the second half, and a Zardes hustle play won the Yanks a 61st minute corner.

Zardes then lunged but couldn’t reach substitute Antonee Robinson‘s inviting cross to the near post.

Matt Miazga then went chest-to-chest with the much smaller Lainez, and there was a meeting between 18-20 of the players on the field as the Nantes center back gestured his difference in height.

Moments later, Mexico took it over the edge. Angel Zaldivar went studs-up with a sliding tackle to Trapp’s ankle and earned a sending off.

Adams then put the Yanks ahead, darting into the box to get his first USMNT goal. There was a bit of redemption for Robinson, too, who earned the assist as a sub after a tough Friday against Brazil.

USMNT player ratings vs. El Tri

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The United States got interim head coach Dave Sarachan a win over Mexico, something any American soccer mind will celebrate as long as they’re on this mortal coil.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things ]

Who shone for Sarachan, and who didn’t? Read on.

Starting XI

Zack Steffen  — 7 — Very good aside from a dicey adventure at the edge of his 18. Clearly the No. 1 at age 23, although a new coach may challenge that.

Eric Lichaj  (Off 56′) — 7 — Very physical and committed performance from the veteran Hull City defender despite playing out-of-position as a right-footed left back. His future is an intriguing one given his age (33) at the next World Cup.

Matt Miazga  — 8 — Perhaps the man of the match, along with his partner and Steffen during a first half where the back line was often left under pressure.

Cameron Carter-Vickers — 7 — Strong night for the Tottenham Hotspur youngster, who was especially busy from minutes nine to 40.

Shaq Moore (Off 85′) — 6 — Improved as the game went on, and had a few standout moments. He needs to play well when given the chance given the amount of right back prospects behind him (and No. 1 DeAndre Yedlin).

Wil Trapp — 5 — A step back from a rock solid job against Brazil. Probably wasn’t a great call to have him as the lone CDM in a 4-1-4-1, although three of the four attack-minded mids are CDMs by trade.

Tim Weah (Off, 90′) — 8 — Bring me Weah with a healthy Christian Pulisic, McKennie, and Adams in the same XI, please and thank you.

Weston McKennie (Off 40′) — 5 — Left early due to injury but joined the cluttered midfield in doing little to keep the ball from Mexico. A bright first eight minutes or so.

Tyler Adams — 8 — The night’s goal scorer — yes, from New York on 9/11 — is going to bring in a mint for the New York Red Bulls one day (November to RB Leipzig?). Good hustle.

Kellyn Acosta (Off 85′) — 6 — Not poor considering he was played out of position. That’s not new for him with the USMNT.

Gyasi Zardes (Off 80′) — 6 — Strong in hold up play, a hopeful performance as he looks to get his USMNT career back on track.

Substitutes

Julian Green (On 40′) — 8 — His introduction changed the game, as the daring and energetic Greuther Furth man shows he’s not done growing as a player.

Antonee Robinson (On 56′) — 7 — What a redemption from Friday night’s struggles, showing why the left back is well-regarded at Everton. Nice assist on Adams’ goal.

Bobby Wood (On 80′) — 6 — Feisty and fine.

DeAndre Yedlin (On 85′) — N/A —

Cristian Roldan (On 85′) — N/A —

Marky Delgado (On 90′) — N/A —

Three things from USMNT’s win over Mexico

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The United States got interim head coach Dave Sarachan a win over Mexico, something any American soccer figure will celebrate as long as they’re on this mortal coil.

[ MORE: Recap | Player ratings ]

But there was plenty more to discuss from a feisty, sloppy 90 minutes in Nashville.

The rivalry was, indeed, renewed

Diego Lainez — more on him later — battled hard with Eric Lichaj, and the fouls amplified as the match went on.

Matt Miazga then went chest-to-chest with the much smaller Lainez, gesturing his height advantage as several Mexico players got involved and Zack Steffen held back the Nantes center back, who was on yellow. All told, 18-20 of the game’s combatants came together during the incident.

Moments later, Mexico took it over the edge. Angel Zaldivar went studs-up with a sliding tackle to Trapp’s ankle and earned a sending off.

Yeah, the young Mexicans hate the young Americans (and vice versa). And both looks quite good and deep given their collective lack of experience. Let’s go.

Zack Steffen will need to drop off in a big way to lose the No. 1 shirt

The Columbus Crew backstop is going to be a big part of the USMNT’s return to glory if in fact the Yanks are able to pick up the pieces from the World Cup qualifying disaster.

There was a goofy free kick giveaway, but other than that Steffen was nearly spotless.

It stands to reason that Steffen has a great chance to win the gig if his club coach, Gregg Berhalter gets the full-time job. But even if that doesn’t come true, Steffen has been very good in almost all of his caps.

He shows good control of his box, is decisive, and light on his feet. It’s clear he’s directing the back line effectively, and it’s his gig to lose heading into next summer’s Gold Cup. It will also be interesting to see if he stays in MLS or goes back abroad following a failed stint at Freiburg following a terrific time at the University of Maryland.

Mexico has its own teenage sensation

Lainez was Mexico’s biggest threat on Tuesday, the 18-year-old calling to mind a similar debut from a CONCACAF teenager from the United States.

Yes, Lainez of Club America might be going tit-for-tat against Christian Pulisic for some time.

Just look at what he did to Wil Trapp in cueing up 20-year-old Edson Alvarado for what easily could’ve been 1-0 to Mexico.

This is the game that will push the panic button on the coaching search

While it’s fair to question the players used in his 4-5-1 (or 4-1-4-1), It’s not really Dave Sarachan’s fault that his team is unable to function with attacking efficiency.

That’s not an excuse for Tuesday, as Mexico was also working with a young squad and interim boss, but the dedicated USMNT observer wants to see a philosophy at work when their team is on the field.

And it’s just not there. We know that Earnie Stewart wants an aggressive, industrious team but that needs time and tactics that won’t come as an interim boss tries out new players (though these matches in a World Cup qualifying are ripe for experimentation).

Playing in other clubs’ World Cup warm-ups or entertaining Brazil in a money-making friendly is one thing, but there’s something about seeing Mexico on the other side of the field which will beg for full-time direction.