Gyasi Zardes

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Big takeaways, winners, losers from USMNT friendlies

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For the first time in a long time, I did not have any writing responsibilities during a United States men’s national team camp. That gave me the opportunity to ask a friend to meet me out at the local soccer pub here in Buffalo and just kinda take in the match without obsessing over the player rating of each player to don a U.S. kit.

[ MORE: Recap | Player ratings ]

What that allowed was a more free appraisal of how I felt about the USMNT, and frankly it was a bit surprising to see what registered in this maniacal mind.

What’s the future for the January guys who earned time in this camp?

The answer to the heading, if we’re honest, is a mixed bag.

I’ve been the first to question whether Gyasi Zardes would be called into U.S. camp with a good look at starting atop the formation for any other coach than Berhalter, who relied on him with Columbus, but the industrious if touch-trouble forward was very good for large parts of both March friendlies and played a role in both goals.

Aaron Long continues to impress at center back, to the point where it would not have been surprising if he earned another start in front of Matt Miazga.

It was less happy for Corey Baird, who at 23 still has some time to season but has not shown the requisite finishing touch to meet his fantastic engine. Nick Lima and Christian Ramirez did not feature while Jonathan Lewis only got a token call. Daniel Lovitz was good in his cameo.

We’re not in the wilderness, but a Golden Generation isn’t guaranteed

There are so many reasons to be excited as a USMNT supporter, especially if you can ignore the fact that Mexico is somehow the first and second best team in CONCACAF. Christian Pulisic is a generational player, and the side has two other 20-year-old central midfielders who are key components to their Bundesliga clubs in Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.

Beyond that is a strong center back in John Brooks, as well as some serious competitors to start next to him in Chelsea property Matt Miazga and the Red Bulls’ Aaron Long.

With apologies to Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin, new Man City backstop Zack Steffen, and exciting teen talents Josh Sargent and Tim Weah, it dips off a bit after that in terms of guarantees (And Weah and Sargent still have a bit to go to reach the level of even Jozy Altidore). Djordje Mihailovic, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Jaylin Lindsey, and Ulysses Lainez are exciting prospects, but little more than that now.

If we’re being honest, QPR’s Geoff Cameron is probably still the best partner for Brooks. And whether you hate or love Michael Bradley — more on him in a minute — you cannot say that any player has done anything to claim his place in the midfield (Hey USSF, remember Jonathan Gonzalez? Great work!).

Assuming he sticks with Adams as a right back, these is almost unquestionably the most hopeful team for 2022 given Berhalter’s formation preference. And there is A LOT of hope in hopeful given the inclusion of Weah and Sargent.

Steffen

Adams — Brooks — Long??? — Lovitz???

Bradley

McKennie — Pulisic

Weah — Altidore — Sargent

Michael freaking Bradley

This is the sixth season since Michael Bradley returned from Europe to make some big dollars in Major League Soccer, and it’s mostly been rather triumphant for Toronto FC’s captain.

The exceptions are big ones: Toronto FC failed to build on its treble-winning 2017 in MLS, spectacularly failing to make the playoffs and using Bradley as a center back for a quarter of the season, and the USMNT failing to get a draw out of Trinidad and Tobago and breaking its long streak of going to the World Cup (which is a pretty cool soccer tournament, team).

Bradley’s been quite good for TFC early this season, and Gregg Berhalter has him looking back at his best in a USMNT shirt. While Tuesday’s performance against Chile wasn’t perfect, the veteran showed a terrific range of passing including a downright ethereal bomb that Corey Baird couldn’t handle in the first half. And he did it against a midfield that included Europe-based stars Arturo Vidal and Charles Aranguiz.

Berhalter’s plan for his deep-lying center midfielder fits Bradley to a T, and allows both Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie to take care of the “be everywhere” role that Jurgen Klinsmann expected from the No. 4 (and perhaps we should go back to credit MB90 for not lighting the coach on fire a bit more often). Wil Trapp is a solid 5.5 years younger than Bradley, but not everyone has the same level of class as the TFC man. Berhalter will be wise to consider that old Bradley in 2022 might be a step up from a second-tier holding midfielder in Qatar (or just try someone who isn’t Trapp. That could also be a thing).

It’s easy to forget that Bradley is an all-time American soccer legend given what happened in Couva; The 31-year-old has 144 caps and he’s got a solid shot to become the States’ all-time leader by the time he hangs up his boots. Bradley is 20 caps back of Cobi Jones and 13 shy of Landon Donovan’s second place spot. In the words of The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, we should “forget where we differ, and get big picture.”

In other words, find me the player champing at the bit to take the place of a former Serie A starter who then led the best team in MLS history? He’s not there right now.

What’s the Best XI of players Berhalter has yet to call into camp?

Every manager has guys he serially overlooks, or at least is accused of overlooking, and critics of Jurgen Klinsmann were quick to shout the names Benny Feilhaber and Sacha Kljestan from the rooftops on occasion.

No one’s clamoring for those two this go ’round, and that’s more a generational thing than anything else, but there are still some guys who’ve been on the outside looking in (and not at U-23 or U-20 camp).

Here’s a halfway-promising (or experienced) XI to consider:

Brad Guzan

Shaq Moore — Palmer-Brown — Carter-Vickers — Kyle Duncan

Russell Canouse

Darlington Nagbe  — Memo Rodriguez

Lynden Gooch — Andrija Novakovich — Kenny Saief

USMNT Player Ratings from win over Ecuador

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Gregg Berhalter’s United States men’s national team extended its clean sheet run to 180 minutes under the new coach with a 1-0 defeat of Ecuador in Orlando on Thursday.

[ RECAP: USMNT 1-0 Ecuador ]

The longtime Columbus Crew coach handed notable chances to several MLS mainstays who stood out in January camp, but also re-introduced Christian Pulisic to the fold.

The results were mixed, but the win was deserved as the U.S. did not allow much danger to reach Sean Johnson’s cage.

LINEUPS

Sean Johnson — 6.5 — Had to catch, what, one ball? Still, nice for him to get a clean sheet.

Tim Ream — 7 — A couple of dicey moments, sure, but the man with the captain’s band stood out at left back not just for his assist but his aggression in pressing high up the left flank.

John Brooks — 6.5 — Not much to do, but effective when needed with a win-saving stop. Here’s hope the thigh injury isn’t a notable one. Intelligent and accurate in his passing out of the back.

Aaron Long — 6 — His passing was a bit off early, and that will need to be better at the back of Berhalter’s defense, but overall he was composed and well-drilled.

Tyler Adams — 7.5 — Given he was playing an unusual position with immense responsibility (right), Adams deserves a lot of credit for keeping his motor high over 90 minutes. He only attempted two dribbles, staying in his shoes and venturing wide and forward on occasion. A very promising sign for an ambitious move by Berhalter. That’s a lot of green over there, and green is good —>

Wil Trapp (Off 59′) — 5.5 — He’s not supposed to be the guy who stands out in a game, and should be known for doing the little things, but he’s still not standing out from the pack as someone who should keep Michael Bradley or Tyler Adams from the center of the park.

Weston McKennie (Off 68′) — 5 — Potentially scary injury aside, he will have much better days for the U.S. than this and certainly didn’t show chemistry with Trapp. Second guessing is easy, but flipping McKennie and Adams might’ve been the play.

Paul Arriola (Off 77′) — 6 — An energetic, productive night on the wing takes a hit due to his inability to finish the match’s best scoring chance (even if the save was legit).

Christian Pulisic (Off 62′) — 7 — Not at his sharpest, but still quite lively in producing many American attacks. Had an memorable moment working over Antonio Valencia near the end line.

Jordan Morris (Off 68′) — 6 — Still learning how to be a winger, but a decent and industrious effort for the Seattle Sounders man.

Gyasi Zardes — 7 — It was the goal that did the trick for him over 90 minutes, and it was good to see the Columbus Crew man score a USMNT for the first time since 2016.

Subs

Michael Bradley (On 59′) — 6.5 — Quick decisions and possession-aiding passes with precious few mistakes (See Opta chalkboard from MLSSocccer.com at right).

Sebastian Lletget (On 62′) — 6 — Has to be a bit more careful in his own half, but we’d like to see him get a start against Chile.

Cristian Roldan (On 66′) — 5 — Sloppy with the ball in a short stint.

DeAndre Yedlin (On 66′) — 6 — Busy and ready to produce chances from the right side.

Jonathan Lewis (On 77′) — N/A —

Zardes goal pushes controlling USMNT past Ecuador

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
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  • Yanks have not allowed goal in 3 matches under Berhalter
  • Pulisic returns to USMNT set-up
  • MORE: McKennie stretchered off
  • Zardes scores deflected winner off Ream feed
  • American control ball, but struggle in final third

Gyasi Zardes scored his seventh international goal and first since the Copa America Centenario as the USMNT handed Ecuador a 1-0 defeat at Orlando City Stadium on Thursday.’s

The win marks the third clean sheet victory in three tries for USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, who leads the Yanks against Chile on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

The U.S. came out of the gates flying, connecting passes with their wings and fullbacks sitting very wide to stretch the surface.

When Ecuador did collect the ball, the Yanks pressed very hard and won it back.

Industry and speed was the story of the USMNT game, with Christian Pulisic and Jordan Morris leading the way in forcing the match on Ecuador.

Weston McKennie did some heavy lifting in nice combo play with Pulisic and Gyasi Zardes for a chance that was just missing the finishing touch from Paul Arriola (and got a nice save).

Pulisic was felled by a hard foul just inside the Ecuador half in the 55th minute, but carried on and Paul Arriola took a yellow for fouling Jefferson Orejuela in response.

Michael Bradley entered the match for Trapp in the 59th minute, and Pulisic exited for Sebastian Lletget three minutes later.

McKennie then suffered a painful ankle injury and eventually accepted stretcher help to get to the bench.

Zardes put the U.S. ahead when his powerful strike from atop the 18 took a huge deflection off the calf of Robert Arboleda and looped over the head of a flailing Alexander Dominguez.

The play began when Sebastian Lletget’s pressing pushed a poor Ecuadorian clearance to USMNT left back Tim Ream, who spotted Zardes in the middle of the Ecuador half.

LIVE — Pulisic rejoins USMNT v. Ecuador

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Fulham center back Tim Ream captains the United States men’s national team when Ecuador visits Florida in a much-anticipated test for Gregg Berhalter’s full-strength squad.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: USMNT v. Ecuador ]

New York Red Bulls center back Aaron Long gets a nod next to John Brooks, meaning Ream will be at left back and Tyler Adams on the right.

Wil Trapp, Weston McKennie, Christian Pulisic, and Paul Arriola have midfield duty, with Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes up top.

New York City FC’s Sean Johnson is in goal.

Available off the bench are Ethan Horvath, DeAndre Yedlin, Michael Bradley, Cristian Roldan, Daniel Lovitz, Sebastian Lletget, Jonathan Lewis, Matt Miazga, and Corey Baird.

Who stands to gain or lose the most in USMNT camp?

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The USMNT will convene for Gregg Berhalter’s second camp in charge of the national squad as the international break temporarily brings a halt to most club competitions.

Leading towards international friendlies against Ecuador and Chile five days apart on Thursday and next Tuesday, the camp will provide Berhalter another opportunity to see what the national team talent pool can potentially provide him and get a look at players he will have to make decisions on ahead of more high-leverage matches. There will be experimentation, Berhalter has confirmed, and players will get a chance to make an impression.

With some players involved in aforementioned tinkering while other players sit in precarious club situations, who stands to gain the most this camp, and who could be facing their last chance to make an impression?

Most to gain

1) Tyler Adams

The former New York Red Bull midfielder has enjoyed a positive start to life in the German top flight, and could bring his good form back to the national team camp. That’s not the focus of his national team situation, however.

Gregg Berhalter confirmed that he will experiment with Adams at right-back during this week-long stretch, a curious idea with the possibility of Adams being minimized at his best midfield position in Berhalter’s setup. Many are predicting Berhalter to eventually settle on a 4-3-3 formation, which could force him into a different role. When asked if moving him out wide could minimize his ball-winning strengths, Berhalter didn’t sound terribly convinced of the idea yet, but was hopeful the coaching staff will eventually be rewarded for their creativity.

“This is the beginning phases and we want to test it and we want to see how it looks and we want to see how he adapts and what it gives our team overall,” Berhalter said. “When you’re looking at the profile of a Michael Bradley or a Wil Trapp – a very controlling player – and you have the dynamic guy next to him in Tyler who can come inside and still be influential from that position, we think it’s exciting and we want to take a look at it. It may not work exactly as we have planned and we have to adapt but in theory it’s something worth trying.”

Adams, therefore, could gain a lot this camp. While he’s already a bright young talent with a clear place on the squad no matter the eventual formation used in games that matter, Adams could stamp his place in a team in a position of weakness should the experiment pay off.

2) Sebastian Lletget

With the comeback from his brutal 2017 injury finally complete having appeared in the last four national team matches off the bench, Sebastian Lletget could be primed for his first national team start in over two years, and this is the perfect chance to show off his usefulness to the new boss. Lletget has started the 2019 MLS season well, a completely dominant force in the Galaxy’s 3-2 win over Minnesota United on Saturday, completing 77/83 passes in a creative attacking role and scoring the eventual winning goal.

Lletget is a perfect fit for the 4-3-3 as a controlling winger who can pinch inside and cause havoc on and off the ball, or use his speed to create space and deliver a cross from the flank. If he performs at a high level this camp – and he should see ample time on the wing given the makeup of the roster – it could be a breakout point for the 26-year-old in the prime of his career during this World Cup cycle.

3) Jordan Morris

Morris has not made an appearance for the USMNT since January of 2018 due to injury, but now he’s back in the fold. It couldn’t come at a better time, with Morris in excellent form to start the 2019 MLS season. The 24-year-old has three goals and an assist through the team’s first three league matches amidst a perfect start for Seattle.

With Josh Sargent and Tim Weah both involved in U-23 Olympic qualifying, this seems the perfect opportunity for Morris to re-insert himself into the USMNT forward conversation in front of the new boss.

Most to lose

1) Tim Ream

With Fulham floundering towards relegation in the Premier League amidst a historic defensive calamity, Tim Ream has been at the center of the Whites’ struggles at the back. At 31 years old and the next World Cup still three years away, it’s possible that this is Ream’s last opportunity to state his case at the national team level. He was Fulham’s best player just a year ago in their promotion campaign, rock solid at the back for essentially the entire season, but as he finds life difficult in the English top flight, anything short of a perfect camp could see Ream flushed out of the setup.

2) DeAndre Yedlin

Anything gained by Tyler Adams in this camp would be DeAndre Yedlin’s loss. The incumbent first-choice right-back suddenly has competition from an experimental adversary, and that could mean Yedlin finds himself in no-man’s land. Berhalter said that they would push Yedlin further up the field into a winger role to accommodate Adams, but a player being moved from his natural position to make way for an experiment is never a good sign.

Yedlin has plenty to gain by performing well in his new role, but he has more to lose should it go poorly and Adams succeeds. The Newcastle defender has worked hard on his defensive abilities over the past few years, to some marketable improvement, and so the experiment is understandable but at the same time somewhat puzzling. Should Adams make the switch with ease, Yedlin could find himself without a clear role in Berhalter’s potential 4-3-3 setup.

3) Gyasi Zardes

Still without a national team goal since 2016 and just one assist in that same timeframe, Gyasi Zardes is slowly slipping down the USMNT pecking order as others continue to step up. He has been deployed out wide continuously at the national level despite finding renewed success in a striker role at Columbus, and it’s clear it’s a weakness for him. It feels like the 27-year-old has reached a breaking point with the USMNT, and if he continues to fire blanks up front and be plagued by poor touches and questionable on-ball decision-making, he won’t be part of the 2022 World Cup conversation for much longer.

SQUAD

GK: Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Sean Johnson (NYCFC), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas).

DEF: John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Omar Gonzalez (Atlas), Nick Lima (San Jose Earthquakes), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Daniel Lovitz (Montreal Impact), Matt Miazga (Reading), Tim Ream (Fulham), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

MIDFIELDERS (7)Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Schalke), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)

FORWARDS (6): Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Corey Baird (Real Salt Lake), Jonathan Lewis (New York City FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Christian Ramirez (LAFC), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC).