This was the worst performance of the Gregg Berhalter era, albeit with most stars missing from the U.S. roster.
Zack Steffen — 5 — Wasn’t going to do anything on the goal, but what was with the cavalier play to start the match?
Tim Ream (Off 59′) — 5 — Fighting to rediscover his form following a miserable season at Fulham.
Matt Miazga (Off 72′) — 6 — Bailed his men out a few times.
Omar Gonzalez — 7 — If Wednesday was any sign, Toronto FC is getting a wise, fit center back.
Antonee Robinson (Off 80′) — 6 — Ran out of gas in the second half, but buzzed up and down the left in the first half.
Cristian Roldan (Off 66′) — 4 — More of the same in an U.S. shirt, lots of industry but little in threat.
Wil Trapp — 4 — He was out there. We promise. After 15 caps, what’s his standout performance to date?
Jackson Yueill (Off 59′) — 5 — Unspectacular, but there had to be a lot of nerves on debut. Glad to see the Quakes man get the chance.
Paul Arriola (Off 72′) — 4 — As rough a match as you’ll see from a player of his experience and quality.
Djordje Mihailovic — 4 — His heavy touch in the box at the death was endemic of his team’s night.
Josh Sargent — 4 — Credit to him for battling to the final whistle, but this was very much a night for learning from and growing through struggles for the 19-year-old.
Nick Lima (On 59′) — 6 — The USMNT was better when he stepped into the fray.
Jonathan Amon (On 59′) — 6 — Lively on the left.
Duane Holmes (On 66′) — 7 — If there were really three Gold Cup roster slots available and Holmes didn’t have a hold on one already, he should now. Dynamic, clean, great vision. Could’ve had two assists.
Joe Gyau (On 72′) — n/a — Good to see him back out there.
The 30-year-old defender will be eligible to make his TFC debut after July 9, when the league’s secondary transfer window opens. Gonzalez is currently in Gregg Berhalter’s pre-CONCACAF Gold Cup camp, with the final set to be played on July 7.
TFC used the top slot in the league’s allocation order, acquired from expansion side FC Cincinnati for $300,000 in allocation money (both general and targeted) in exchange for defender Nick Hagglund in January, to acquire Gonzalez.
Playing alongside Laurent Ciman, who won the MLS Defender of the Year award in 2015, Gonzalez, the 2011 honoree, will give TFC one of the league’s best duos in central defense. Assuming that all three of Ciman, Chris Mavinga and Drew Moor remain on the roster through the end of the season, head coach Greg Vanney has an abundance of MLS veterans at his disposal less than a year after running out of center backs due to a rash of injuries last summer.
Gonzalez’s return to MLS comes after two and a half seasons with Liga MX side Pachuca, where he won the Clausura in 2016 and the CONCACAF Champions League in 2017, followed by the most recent season on loan to Atlas. The 49-times capped U.S. men’s national team defender moved to Pachuca in December 2015, after beginning his professional career with seven trophy-filled seasons as a member of the LA Galaxy, where he won three MLS Cups, in 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Despite his own goal and a still bewildered disappointment in his voice, the Liga MX center back says he’ll be watching and cheering for fellow CONCACAF nations when the tournament starts next week in Russia.
“I am Mexican, I’ve lived there now for three years and I have friends on the team, some of my teammates are on the team,” said Gonzalez, who was born in Texas to Mexican parents.
“I have a friend who plays for Costa Rica, so I’m definitely not bitter. I’ll be cheering them on and I hope they represent CONCACAF well. I’m looking forward to seeing Mexico hopefully get past the group stage and see how far they can go. My teammate Erick Gutierrez and my former teammate Chucky Lozano, I’m really pulling for them and I hope they have a good tournament.”
Gonzalez was speaking to ProSoccerTalk on behalf of Clamato and their promotion of a michelada, a drink made when the tomato and clam juice drink is mixed with beer and spices (Gonzalez suggests hot sauce).
Like many of his veteran USMNT teammates, Gonzalez has not been called into national team camp since that fateful night at Ato Boldon Stadium. That evening saw him produce an own goal and the United States end a seven tournament run as World Cup participants.
Gonzalez is hoping things calm down a bit around the team.
“I think that we’re in good hands,” he said of the Stewart hire. “Everyone knows that change was needed. Change has happened, and now it’s about moving forward.”
As for his hopes of returning to the team — 29 is not old for a center back — Gonzalez looks forward to a chance for redemption, but is not expecting anything. What he would like to see is a little more organization, hunger, and commitment from the men who are called into the team.
“I just like for things to be running smoothly and when guys go into camps, they are there for the team, to wear their jersey with pride and get along with everyone. It doesn’t happen all the time, but knowing what’s happened with not qualifying and all the things that went wrong, it’s in everyone’s best interest to put everything behind themselves. When they do get together, it has to be all about the team and how they can come together to get the results they need to get.
“I’m liking the changes that are happening with the GM, and looking forward to a new coach, and seeing the direction they takes. I’m happy they are giving these young guys opportunity. I’m think they are moving in the right direction and I’m interested in seeing how it all comes to fruition, and I hope to still be a part of the group and do what I can to help the program and help the young guys if that’s what I have to do, just whatever it takes.”
Is he hopeful of a return to national team duty? Yes, but he’s not necessarily expecting it.
“I’m at the point where I’m just hoping it does come at some point, but if it doesn’t, I’m totally fine with that. I have to focus on my club play and get better every day. If I do happen to get a call-up, I’ll be super excited and ready to go in and join the team. Until it happens, it’s not going through my mind.”
It so happened that our conversation took place hours after a reported agreement to send Gonzalez from Pachuca to Atlas. Gonzalez says “nothing’s done yet” regarding the proposed transfer.
“It’s been all over the Internet, but either I’m going or I’m staying at Pachuca. Nothing is official.”
A product of Maryland, Gonzalez was the third overall pick of the LA Galaxy in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. He was Rookie of the Year, won three MLS Cups and two Supporters Shields, and was in the league’s Best XI in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014.
He transferred to Pachuca in 2016, winning the Clausura in his first season and then the CONCACAF Champions League in 2017.
The split season is the biggest difference between MLS and Liga MX, Gonzalez says, adding that the desperation is consistent.
“Both leagues are very competitive but the biggest difference for me is that every game is really tough,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes in MLS, the season is long and there are some games, you hate to say, but that don’t really matter. You hit that period in May and April and the games just aren’t that interesting. For Liga MX, there are two short seasons, two playoffs, you only have 17 games, and there’s that stress that goes along with losing a couple of games and feeling the pressure from everywhere. Every game matters, and every game is a big game.”
Would he like to see that in MLS?
“It could be fun to have that implemented but it’s difficult because how big the U.S. is and the differences in how cold it can get and how hot it can get.”
As for the World Cup, Gonzalez thinks the winner won’t be coming from UEFA for the first time in more than a decade.
“I’ve been saying I want Brazil to win it. I feel really bad the way it ended in Brazil in 2014. They have a great team, and I think they can make a final and maybe finish this one off.”
Through 30 minutes of Bruce Arena’s side’s Hexagonal finale, it’s not gone according to plan. After failing to control the game through possession whatsoever, the USMNT went a goal down when Omar Gonzalez looped the ball high over the head of Tim Howard and into the back of the Yanks’ goal in the 17th minute.
Almost as badly as they needed a result and the accompanying three points, the U.S. national team needed to put forth a performance that once again inspired confidence — not only for USMNT fans, but for themselves as well.
GK — Tim Howard: 6 — Asked to make only two saves on the night, but he did so with relative (to the 2014 game against Belgium, at least), and staked his claim to the no. 1 shirt after being selected ahead of Brad Guzan once again. It might just be a godsend the Colorado Rapids won’t sniff the MLS playoffs this year, as he’ll be 39 before next summer’s tournament kicks off.
RB — DeAndre Yedlin: 7 — So that’s what it’s like to have a right back who’s meant to be playing right back. I’ve defended Graham Zusi, Right Back, on a number of occasions (and I’ll continue to do so), but there’s no two ways about it: Yedlin, at age 24, is the right back of the present and the future. In a game that got a little too stretched for most Americans’ liking, his recovery speed snuffed out would-be chances before they could be taken on a number of occasions.
CB — Omar Gonzalez: 5 — I think Gonzalez could be good — I really do — in the right system which features a midfield that sits deep and clogs the space in front of him and beside him. Unfortunately for Omar, a midfield diamond where only one of the four actually plays centrally isn’t that. As an opposing attacker, face him up one-on-one, and enjoy.
CB — Matt Besler: 6 — Didn’t struggle as badly as Gonzalez, mostly because he’s more accustomed to playing in open space, but playing alongside Gonzalez really highlights his most problematic deficiency: a minor lack of pace and athleticism. A healthy Geoff Cameron should complement Besler very well, should the two partner one another between Tuesday and next summer.
LB — Jorge Villafaña: 5.5 — What’s to say about the left back position right now? Villafaña will continue to play there because no better option exists. If the midfield can remain solid in possession as they were in this one, limiting the direct counters thrown at him, he can pretty regularly avoid being a net-negative.
CM — Michael Bradley: 6 — He was asked to do a lot in this one — run the entire middle third of the field as the only truly central midfielder — which he struggled to juggle at times in the first half, but that’s an impossible ask. He doesn’t need to be a 9/10 performer every night for the USMNT succeed. In fact, they need him to play a smaller part more frequently, and allow every one else to carry their own weight. He can still be Superman when it’s asked of him, but it’s not necessary all the time.
CM — Paul Arriola: 7 — Every team needs a Paul Arriola. The defensive cover he provided down the right side allowed Yedlin ample freedom to venture forward and stretch the field. His relentless pressing and winning of 50-50 balls makes for an uneasy evening for any opposition midfielder, and most importantly, takes that responsibility off Bradley’s plate, allowing him to sit deeper, read the game and dictate tempo.
CM — Darlington Nagbe: 6.5 —*checks boxscore* *checks boxscore again* Yup, Nagbe did indeed play on Friday. Nominally deployed as a shuttler in a diamond(-ish) midfield, it’s not the worst thing in the world to go unnoticed. He remains tidy with his passing and forever an outlet when Bradley is harried. You can make the case he’s “too talented” for such a role, but at this point in time, this is his role and he’s done it masterfully.
CM — Christian Pulisic: 9 — 10/10 ratings are reserved for hat tricks (or three goals and assists combined, at the very least), so the wonderboy checks in with a 9/10 for the parts he played in the first (scoring) and second (assisting) goals, plus the attention (and fouls) he now commands are truly game-changing for everyone else in the attacking third.
FW — Bobby Wood: 7 — Wood’s partnership with Altidore has required some kinks be worked out over the course of the last year, but Friday’s game showed what so many thought possible for the duo: Altidore drops into midfield to 1) pulling center backs out of shape; 2) be the playmaker that he is, and Wood capitalizes on that space by running the channels until his lungs explode. Every goal that Wood scores is oh so deserved.
FW — Jozy Altidore: 9 — Also, no 10/10 when one of the three is a penalty. So sorry, Sir Josmer. I’m not really sure what more needs to be said. When healthy, and in the form of his life as he is right now, Altidore is an impossible nightmare.
These next 12 months are Jozy's 12 months. The 12 months we've been waiting for for almost 12 years. I just feel it. #USMNT
SUB — Dax McCarty: 6.5 — Arena brought him on just before the hour mark to 1) save Pulisic’s life; 2) plant someone alongside Bradley at the base of midfield. McCarty accomplished a ton in his 33 minutes on the field, winning the ball back eight times, connecting just about every one of his passes, and threading an inch-perfect through ball to Arriola late in the game.
SUB — Clint Dempsey: 5.5 — The thought of Dempsey as a late-game super-sub next summer should provide all USMNT fans with a wealth of hope and excitement. Provided he remains accepting of the role, he will change one or two games in unbelievably meaningful ways.
SUB — Alejandro Bedoya: 5.5 — Only got 10 minutes, but continues to make his case as a lock-down central midfielder who offers more than most think when he surges forward.