The following lessons were bestowed upon us during the U.S. national team’s 3-0 victory over Nicaragua on Saturday…
The left back search continues
This was Jorge Villafaña’s chance; it was to be his Gold Cup; it was supposed to be his coming-out party; it was his audition for next summer’s World Cup — the one where he needed to step up and say, “I am the left back,” thus solving the USMNT’s biggest, longest-running problem. After starting the first and the third games of the group, we’re no closer to having found a full-time starter. It would have been nice, but at this point, we all knew better.
Villafaña’s weaknesses are, simply put, 1) he’s wasteful and unimaginative when overlapping on the attacking, and 2) he’s a second- (or third-) best in every two-man foot race. In the modern game, especially with two eyes focused on the World Cup 11 months from now, those are fatal flaws in considering the world-class talent he’d be up against in Russia.
At this point, either Greg Garza fills the superhero cape Villafaña so admirably tried, but failed, to fill, or DaMarcus Beasley is heading to his fifth World Cup.
Joe Corona… not a no. 10
Here’s what I wrote about Corona in my player ratings: “Scored a goal, missed a penalty, killed the majority of attacking movements during which he touched the ball. Business as usual.” Those are very bad qualities for a player deployed, on multiple occasions, as a no. 10. Do you know who’s proven quite effective in that de facto role, and is on this same roster?
Best-case scenario: Kelyn Rowe is a no. 10. Worst-case scenario: he’s a better no. 10 than Corona, even if still slightly miscast. He’s not a brilliant chance creator, like a traditional no. 10, but he’s an effective circulator of the ball, something he does with good tempo and security. Unfortunately, he’ll either be released from camp this week, or find himself buried on the depth chart once the first-teamers make their way aboard for the knockout rounds.
The wings are, uh, also a problem
This isn’t a lesson from Saturday, per se — more so of the last few months — but other than left back, the player pool is most shallow on the wings.
If Christian Pulisic’s ultimate home is as a no. 10 for the USMNT (many, including myself, think it is), we’re picking two from the following group of non-winger wingers: Fabian Johnson (true position unknown), Darlington Nagbe (central midfielder), Bobby Wood (center forward) and Jordan Morris (center forward).
Watching Chris Pontius on Saturday, following wide shifts from Paul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes over the last two weeks, I suddenly feel very unwell when faced with the prospects of attempting to score goals next summer.