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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 —

USMNT-Ecuador preview: Competition level rises

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Gregg Berhalter’s United States men’s national team has never allowed a goal, albeit with a bevy of MLS players in the USMNT shirt going against domestic-based players from Panama and Costa Rica.

Thursday’s opponent is Ecuador, and this is a proper international break. No, La Tricolor won’t present the same challenge as Chile, who visits Houston on March 26, but Antonio Valencia and Enner Valencia are a step up from the CONCACAF visitors of January and February.

[ MORE: Top 12 signings of PL season ]

The U.S. is unbeaten in its last three matches against Ecuador, winning two and drawing one. The last meeting was during Jurgen Klinsmann’s remarkable Copa America Centenario, as the Yanks navigated Jermaine Jones’ 52nd minute red card and both sides played most of the second half with 10 men in a 2-1, Clint Dempsey-inspired win.

Berhalter’s USMNT isn’t as young this go-round, with Michael Bradley, Tim Ream, and Gyasi Zardes among those who’ve featured for several American coaches.

It’s also the first time U.S. fans will see Christian Pulisic since his sale to Chelsea and loan back to Dortmund, likely playing attacking center midfield as the most important piece of the Yanks’ XI (with apologies to John Brooks).

What will be second-most in focus for U.S. fans is Tyler Adams as right back, a move which makes sense in Berhalter’s possession system where the RB is stationed as a center mid, but takes the 20-year-old out of the center of the park when the opposition has the ball.

This most likely says that Berhalter is unwilling to take Bradley out of his lineup just yet, because Schalke’s Weston McKennie is likely to start as is Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic. And it also isn’t a ringing endorsement of Newcastle’s DeAndre Yedlin, who Berhalter is calling a winger despite a distinct problem with his finishing touch.

But GB knows his stuff, and in some ways the Ecuador match is a logical progression towards a Chile which will put Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz, and a back line with more than 300 combined caps on the pitch next week. So handle Ecuador, and move forward.

Need to Know: What went down on MLS opening day

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The 2019 MLS season got underway on Saturday, and did so with a flurry of action — and goals — across the campaign’s first 10 games…

[ MORE: Rapinoe, Heath lead USWNT back to draw England (video) ]

If you missed the day’s action, here are four of the biggest stories, outcomes, debuts or revelations you need to know…

Michael Bradley Revenge Tour – 2019

First things first, 2019 is a contract year for Michael Bradley, Toronto FC’s $6.5-million-per-year midfield engine. While the one-time (and maybe still) U.S. men’s national team captain can hardly ever be accused of prioritizing money over all else in his career, it’s the whole “getting paid” part that makes him a professional. Beyond the cash he stands to make or lose on a potential next contract, Bradley must first prove he’s got enough left in the tank to warrant the Reds extending an offer in the first place.

Fine, have a season-opening brace in a 3-1 victory away to the Philadelphia Union, one of the Eastern Conference’s six playoff teams from a year ago. What happened to TFC in 2019 was no doubt an embarrassment and an affront for a player of Bradley’s standard.

Taking into account the above two factors, no one should be at all surprised when Bradley turns in Herculean performance after Herculean performance in 2019, shutting up his longtime haters and reminding those who might have jumped ship that he’s far from finished.


Meet the future of the Galaxy, Efrain Alvarez

Efrain Alvarez is a 16-year-old Mexican-American superstar in the making, and he already looks like he’ll be MLS’s next great teenage export to Europe. Making his MLS debut on Saturday, the Los Angeles-born Mexican youth international (he switch from the U.S. to Mexico at the U-15 level, in 2016) needed just eight minutes to make his mark and spark the Galaxy’s comeback.

Paging U.S. Soccer: let’s get on this, ASAP…

As for the Galaxy’s 2019 prospects, the only thing I feel comfortable saying with absolute certainty is this: they will be very fun to watch, and equal parts maddening, probably during the course of one every game. The best thing I can say for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side on his MLS coaching debut is this: after falling behind on a comically atrocious mistake that gift-wrapped Chicago’s opening goal, they knew how to play from behind without handing the Fire a second and/or third goal. Oh, yeah, and he’s already willing to play the Galaxy’s (considerably talented) academy kids.


Keep an eye on Minnesota

Minnesota United appear headed for respectability and a — dare I say it — push for a playoff place in 2019. Finally, after struggling defensively for two seasons, the Loons went out and make a trio of signings that might just prove franchise-altering in very short order: Osvaldo Alonso, Ike Opara and Jan Gregus.

While you’re undoubtedly familiar with the work of Alonso and Opara, Gregus probably has you thinking to yourself, Who? Who, indeed, but the 28-year-old Slovak international proved in Saturday’s 3-2 win away to the Vancouver Whitecaps that he is the midfield anchor Minnesota had been missing. Signed from Copenhagen this winter, Gregus was extremely tidy in possession (he completed 93 percent of the 84 passes he attempted) and provided solid cover for a backline that knew no such thing prior to his arrival.

Darwin Quintero remains one of the league’s biggest game-changers (one goal and two assists), which might not go to waste yet again now that the rest of the roster has a bit more quality and experience.


Orange ball alert

It is with great pleasure that I inform the masses that the Colorado Rapids were forced to break out the orange ball on the opening day of the season, thanks to near white-out conditions at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and the coldest game in MLS history (18 degrees at kickoff).

What did we learn about the Rapids or their opponents, the defending Western Conference champion Portland Timbers, on this day? Other than the fact that 3-3 draws and 94th-minute equalizers in heavy snow are tons of fun to watch, of course? Not a single thing, thanks to said weather conditions turning the game into a glorified Thanksgiving day pickup game in the backyard.

Full MLS scoreboard

Seattle Sounders 4-1 FC Cincinnati
LA Galaxy 2-1 Chicago Fire
Philadelphia Union 1-3 Toronto FC
Vancouver Whitecaps 2-3 Minnesota United
Colorado Rapids 3-3 Portland Timbers
Orlando City SC 2-2 New York City FC
Columbus Crew SC 1-1 New York Red Bulls
Houston Dynamo 1-1 Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Montreal Impact
FC Dallas 1-1 New England Revolution

Stock up/stock down: USMNT January friendlies

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Given the impressive group of USMNT players and prospects abroad, this January camp was of monumental importance for the all-MLS squad assembled by Gregg Berhalter.

Aside from goalkeeper Zack Steffen, himself headed to Manchester City in the summer, and perhaps LAFC’s Walker Zimmerman, everyone had something to prove to Berhalter and his staff: Even former longtime captain and 143-times capped Michael Bradley.

[ MORE: USMNT 2-0 Costa Rica | Player ratings ]

Consider this list of players not called into January’s camp and wins over the mostly “B teams” of Panama and Costa Rica.

Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Matt Miazga, John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin, “Timo” Weah, Josh Sargent, Bobby Wood, Ethan Horvath.

And those are just the “must” call-ups for March’s visits from Ecuador and Chile.

So keeping in mind the staff had a dozen non-friendly chances to evaluate the players on a myriad of levels, here are those who raised or lowered their stock in the matches versus Panama and Costa Rica.

Stock up

Jonathan Lewis, New York City FC (21) — Personal anecdote: I watched Akron play the University at Buffalo a couple of  times during Lewis’ lone season with the Zips, and Lewis’ electric talent leapt off the pitch. That’s a nearly essential sign if a college star has an international future.

Lewis was an impact sub for Berhalter in a similar fashion. In addition to the unteachable pace he possesses, Lewis stood up a cross that Sebastian Lletget finished for the difference-making goal against Costa Rica.

But Lewis’ pro career has been a slow burn (Dominic Torrent deployed him much more than Patrick Vieira, but still zero starts). Even with David Villa leaving NYCFC, Lewis is behind Jesus Medina, reported $9 million buy Alex Mitrita and 2018 revelation Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. He needs an outlet, and maybe former (ages ago) Akron coach and current Columbus boss Caleb Porter would be up for it?

Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy (26) — Lletget left the United States for West Ham United in 2009, so we saw very little of his development. He became, in fact, a curiosity thanks to his making just one senior appearance in West London.

Upon his MLS debut with LA, though, it became clear there was something very good here. Lletget scored for the USMNT in his third cap before suffering a Lisfranc injury and missing 18 months. He scored on Saturday — in the same venue in which he was hurt — and was perhaps the most composed player in a U.S. jersey.

His ability to play anywhere in the midfield is huge, and Berhalter will love what he’s seen from the veteran.

Michael Bradley, Toronto FC (31) — The short- and long-term future of the midfield runs through Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie, but Bradley’s performance against Panama — as poor as Los Canaleros were — shows he’s going to be someone who has in him at least another World Cup cycle as a contributor. Think a rich man’s “Kyle Beckerman in the 2018 qualification cycle.” Even if he is not starting, his experience and engine combine to make for a tremendous asset.

Bonus positives: Djordje Mihailovic, Chicago Fire (20). Steffen (23).

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Stock questionable?

Let’s first put a list of players who, unless there were unreported injuries, couldn’t get many minutes, if any, for Berhalter: Reggie Cannon, Auston Trusty, Marky Delgado, Mark McKenzie, Keegan Rosenberry, Justen Glad, Kellyn Acosta, Tyler Miller.

Most of this bunch is quite young, so it’s hard to say they aren’t for the future. Delgado, Acosta, and Rosenberry are the biggest eyebrow-raisers given their age and importance to their current clubs.

Stock down

Corey Baird, Real Salt Lake (23) — A lot of astute soccer minds love Baird because he’s very good positionially, and that’s true, but this is also a player who was the 18th rated Real Salt Lake player last season despite producing eight goals and five assists. It’s one of those “arguments against analytics,” but he has to get goals and assists against this opposition. Instead, he was just okay. You could easily argue that the team Panama put out there would finish dead last in MLS. I need my wingers to feast on that.

Gyasi Zardes, Columbus Crew (27) — I hate the idea of piling on, and it’s silly to write off such a tantalizing and industrious talent when so many coaches have failed to do so, but Zardes just isn’t on the level and hasn’t been for some time outside of MLS.

While thriving in MLS usually is a gateway to torture CONCACAF, Zardes hasn’t scored in his last 13 caps. Eight of those caps were 45 minutes or more, so it’s not like he hasn’t a chance to score (He has pitched in an assist). As a center forward, hold up play is important but not as much as goals. Jozy Altidore will need to get a chance to show he should be in the group with Josh Sargent, Timothy Weah, Bobby Wood, and even Andrija Novakovich (and Jordan Morris). Not good for Gyasi.

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

USMNT player ratings in 3-0 win over Panama

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The United States began the Gregg Berhalter era in winning fashion, topping Panama 3-0 to end January camp. The squad comprised entirely of domestically-based players as is usually the case in winter camp, and they performed well against a weak opponent.

All the positives taken from Sunday night must be put into perspective, which tonight was the incredibly poor quality of the opponent. Panama really struggled to create anything dangerous, and were poor in possession, losing the ball in bad areas that allowed the United States to create build-up opportunities. Still, a number of players stood out for the hosts, and it’s worth pointing out who performed well.

Zack Steffan – 7

Steffan had almost nothing to do the entire first half, but he was there to provide a big save in the 55th minute after Zimmerman lost his man at the far post.

Nick Lima – 8

Lima was the focal point of the most interesting Berhalter tactical approach, as the right-back tucked into the midfield for a solid portion of the match. Lima popped up everywhere, and created problems for the Panamanians. He wasn’t jumping off the field in the first half, but he was utilized well in the unique role. When Berhalter began chopping and changing after the hour mark, he left Lima on for a reason, and it paid off, winning the ball with a huge tackle with 10 minutes to go and delivering the assist for Zimmerman’s goal. That was the biggest moment of the match, as Panama was breaking with an eye towards an equalizer, and he flipped it to a second goal. Massive moment in a massive performance.

Aaron Long – 6

While Long was less positive on the ball than his central defensive partner Zimmerman, the captain was clean at the back, and while he didn’t have much to do for long stretches, he was never caught out of position. He also made 6 ball recoveries, while Zimmerman had just one.

Walker Zimmerman – 6

In a game where the defenders weren’t under a ton of pressure, the big moments stand out even more. Zimmerman was at fault for the 55th minute Panama chance that was only snuffed out by a big Steffan save. He lost his man, and when a deflection saw the ball come to Edson Samms, Zimmerman was late to recover. Zimmerman was solid in possession, advancing the ball forward more effectively than his center-back partner Long, but Zimmerman’s brief national team career has been blighted by glaring mistakes at the back, and today proved that in the moments under pressure, he still has work to do. His 2nd half goal saved him from a 5 rating, showing once again his imposing presence in the air, but his defensive continuity still needs lots of work.

Daniel Lovitz – 7

The Pennsylvania product was dangerous throughout the first half, and while the U.S. was unable to reprise its wide proficiency as well in the second half, it was enough to open eyes. With Ebobisse fading down the left, Lovitz was a positive on the overlap. He also provided strength in defense, with two successful tackles and six recoveries. A very solid showing for a player who could potentially make noise at a position of need.

Michael Bradley – 7

For those who want the United States to hit the full-on reset button, know this: based on tonight’s game flow, Michael Bradley isn’t going anywhere. Berhalter gave the team clear tactical instruction to flow every build-up through the USMNT veteran, and he was the engine for the hosts in every sense. While he was still somewhat locked into a deep-lying midfield role, and he wasn’t tested on the defensive end, what he showed was promising as the United States will need a leader and a rock as they steam towards the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying.

Corey Baird – 6

While he was less effective than Lovitz on the wing and struggled in one-on-one play, Baird was a good presence along the right and helped the U.S. attack with width in the first half. He’ll be happy with his debut appearance for the national team.

Djordje Mihailovic – 8

Mihailovic scored the opening goal, and of course gets big marks for that, but his game was so much more than the goal. The 21-year-old Chicago Fire academy product popped up all over the field, and created a whopping four chances in the first half. Three of those were from corners, but it was important nonetheless. He was creative and unique, using his body to move the ball in innovative ways to keep the U.S. in possession. He nearly had a second on a powerful was blocked, before coming off on the hour mark for Sebastian Lletget.

Christian Roldan – 5

Christian Roldan was one of the few disappointments on the field for the United States amid a mostly positive first half. While Mihailovic and Baird were impressive in the U.S. build-up, Roldan was mostly invisible. His flubbed his one big chance in the first half, shooting from 28 yards out instead of threading through for Baird who had made a run clean on goal. Roldan seemingly picked things up in the second half and proved influential down the right flank, but was dispossessed badly on what nearly led to a Panama breakaway before Lima saved it on the second U.S. goal.

Jeremy Ebobisse – 5

The Portland Timbers youngster was spry from the opening kickoff, but he faded quickly after a clash of heads required lengthy treatment to tape up an open wound. Overall, he will be happy to have earned his debut, but there was little else to cling to before coming off after 66 minutes.

Gyasi Zardes – 5

Zardes was influential at the start of the match, switching between target man and left winger with Ebobisse, but mainly staying up front. He was strong up front, with good hold-up play and laying off for midfielders to take charging shots, and his wide play was dangerous. Still, he missed with both big opportunities with his head, the first a glaring miss with acres of space on the doorstep. If Zardes is going to play up front, he has to take those chances, and he should have had the U.S. up big in the first half. He failed again on a tough chance from a tight angle midway through the second half on the break, firing at the goalkeeper and then putting the rebound miles over the bar. He then faded completely in the second half.

Gregg Berhalter – 8

Maybe it’s an overreaction based solely on the lack of a clear plan over the past few years, but it was refreshing to see an obvious tactical layout before our eyes, and one that was executed to perfection. Berhalter had everything working for him: a month to prepare, a massive group of domestic players in the middle of an offseason, and an opposition that provided little resistance. Still, you can only play who’s in front of you, and in that sense, Berhalter passed the test with flying colors. This positive performance gives fans hope as to what Berhalter will do with the full player pool at his disposal.

Subs

Sean Johnson – 6; Had almost nothing to do.

Sebastian Lletget – 5; whiffed with his big chance in the 77th minute, and struggled to make an impact. Coming on as one of a host of substitutes in a friendly is a

Jonathan Lewis – 6; With a half-hour to show, on for Ebobisse, he was positive at times on the left, and did great work to produce Ramirez’s goal at the death.

Paul Arriola – 5; Only 15 minutes to make an impact, but didn’t have much to do down the right.

Christian Ramirez – 6; Didn’t have much time to make an impact, coming on in the 84th minute, but grabbed a tap-in goal anyways to maximize his stint on the field.

Wil Trapp – N/A; had just 6 minutes on the field, hardly time for a midfielder to show much of anything.