Reggie Cannon

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What did we learn about USMNT during Nations League?

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The inaugural Nations League group stage is complete, and the U.S. men’s national team managed to finish top of Group A (on the final day of play) and secure its place in the semifinals next June.

[ MORE: USMNT cruises past Cuba to reach Nations League semis ]

So, what did we learn from the final four (semi-competitive) games of 2019?

No matter the competition, the chance creation isn’t there

Inevitably, eventually, the USMNT ends up attacking its opponents in one of two ways: with long, direct balls up to the forward line, or exclusively through wide attackers and constant crosses into the box. In beating Canada and Cuba by a combined score of 8-1 during this international window, Gregg Berhalter’s team relied almost exclusively on these “tactics.” Predictably, it’s also the default setting when facing tougher competition, such as Mexico and Uruguay earlier in 2019.

Neither of those plans are bad plans, per se, only neither of those plans are what the federation has pursued as its stated goal for the last decade: possession-based soccer featuring ample chance creation from midfield.

Five coaches have taken charge of the USMNT this decade, all with varying levels of promising the above stylistic improvements. Upon completing the USMNT’s final game of the decade, it’s fair to say that all five failed.

The worst part of all is that the presence of Christian Pulisic hardly cures anything. Sure, he’s the craftiest attacking player the U.S. has ever produced, but even a primary playmaker like Pulisic requires a stable midfield behind him to filter the ball upfield and give him a stage on which to perform. Weston McKennie was stellar against Canada on Friday, but he’s proven that, at just 21 years old, he can’t be counted on to that degree game in and game out.

The good news: they’re both 21 years old and have north of 50 caps between them. One day — and it could come soon — everything should click for each of them, at which point we could see them move to operate at a totally different level.


The full backs are suddenly a bright spot

Perhaps it’s a tad hasty to claim the full backs are trending positively, but the current crop of right backs sure looks deeper and more talented than ever before. Sergiño Dest chose to play for the USMNT and is now cap-tied, Reggie Cannon is coming along nicely, and DeAndre Yedlin has proven himself, at the very least, a non-problem plenty of times.

That’s three more reliable full backs than the USMNT has had since Steve Cherundolo retired in 2012. Unfortunately, they all play on the same side of the field.

Tim Ream and Daniel Lovitz, who started at left back  don’t inspire the most confidence or excitement at left back, but perhaps a defense-first option is the way to go given the attacking instincts of all three players on the opposite side.

If Berhalter has truly settled on John Brooks and one of Aaron Long or Matt Mizaga as his starting center backs, then the USMNT heads into 2020 with a relatively stable, non-fluid situation along the backline since… maybe the 2010 World Cup.

Small victories, but victories nonetheless.

MLS Playoffs: 5 Key Battles in 1st Round

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It’s playoff time! With the new MLS postseason format, featuring single-elimination matches, the margins between victory and defeat are razor thin. Winning individual battles, or a battle to control a zone in the field, are more important than ever.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at five key battles ahead of the start of the 2019 MLS playoffs.

5. Wayne Rooney v. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC CB’s

At this point of the season, every game could be Wayne Rooney’s last in a D.C. United uniform. Along with Luciano Acosta and Paul Arriola, Rooney is clearly the key man to D.C. United’s attack. The ball will flow through him as D.C. gets going, and it will be on TFC to mark him tightly and make sure he has no space to turn and strike the ball, or get on the end of a cross into the box.

Michael Bradley, at 32-years old, is no spring chicken. Especially late in the season, it will be interesting to see how he does marking Rooney when Rooney drops into the space between TFC’s backline, or whether he can pass him off to Omar Gonzalez or Chris Mavinga in the center of defense.

4. Union central midfield v. Red Bulls central midfield

The Philadelphia Union have enjoyed an outstanding season, and a large part of that has been the play in central midfield of Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin. The two veterans are adept on both sides of the ball, can play a pass, intercept passes, and control the tempo of the match. If they’re put off their game, with some pressure as soon as they receive the ball, the New York Red Bulls have a chance to win.

Whether it’s Sean Davis, Christian Caceres, Mark Rzatkowski, or Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra (who is coming off a goal for Paraguay during the international break), their work in the middle of the park will be crucial to determining which team controls the tempo, possession, and ultimately, who creates the most chances. Otherwise, Medunjanin and Bedoya will pick out Brenden Aaronson, Marco Fabian or Kacper Przybyłko and be off to the races.

3. Julian Gressel v. Jalil Anibaba

It’s a direct rematch of the last week of the season, where Atlanta United triumphed over the New England Revolution with a 3-1 win to close out a strong regular season campaign. While there’s plenty of focus on Josef Martinez, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez – who didn’t play in the season finale – and Ezequiel Barco, the real difference-maker in the attack for Atlanta United is Julian Gressel. The German-born wing back has plenty of marauding runs forward, is always available to receive a pass and can deliver quality crosses too. He ended up with two assists in the season finale and Anibaba was eventually substituted, though it may have been more to give the Revs some offensive punch with Juan Aguedlo coming on. It will be up to either Anibaba, or someone on the Revs to shut him down, cutting off one supply line of balls into the box for Josef Martinez to rifle home.

2. Jordan Morris v. Reggie Cannon

It’s a battle of two U.S. Men’s National Team regulars. Jordan Morris has had a resurgent second half of the season and appears to be in the best form of his life. On the other side, Cannon’s parlayed his terrific form for FC Dallas, despite his young age, into a starting role for the USMNT.

Morris in recent weeks has proven he still has his game-changing pace, as well as an improved left-footed touch. It’s going to be up to Cannon to stay with Morris down the wing, or pass him off to a teammate such as Reto Zeigler should Morris cut inside and not leave space open behind Cannon for a runner down the left wing.

1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic v. Ike Opara

One of the league’s best strikers against the reigning MLS Defender of the Year. 6-foot-5 (Zlatan) against 6-foot-2 (Ike Opara). When Ibrahimovic and Opara meet, it will be one of MLS’s duels of the ages. Zlatan has been nearly impossible for defenders to contain in MLS, as he not only uses his incredible size and tactical nous to win headers, but his technical ability on the ball ain’t bad. However, if there’s one player who can push around Zlatan, it might be Opara.

Opara has been a revelation to Minnesota United and could single-handedly be the reason they’re hosting a home game in the playoffs this year, rather than hitting the road or watching from home. He’s also part of the reason Sporting KC has been a complete mess this season.

If history is to be used as a precursor, the only meeting between Opara and Ibrahimovic this season ended in a scoreless draw. We’ll see if Opara can notch another win over Ibrahimovic this weekend as well.

USMNT player ratings from 7-0 defeat of Cuba

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The USMNT’s first ever match CONCACAF Nations League match was always supposed to be a straight-forward win, but this was something else.

The Yanks smashed Friday’s visitors to Audi Field by a 7-0 margin, scoring six first half goals and riding a right-sided master class from Weston McKennie, Reggie Cannon and Jordan Morris to victory.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

Here are the individual ratings from a comprehensive-enough win.

Starting XI

Brad Guzan — 6 — Didn’t do anything wrong. Also didn’t really need to be there. Hopefully someone brought him snacks.

Daniel Lovitz — 6 — Drew the penalty with a cross, but otherwise didn’t have a ton to do.

Matt Miazga — 6 — Befuddled by a Tim Ream mistake and nearly allowed a shot, but again, three of the backs and their keeper had very little to do all night.

Tim Ream — 5 — Two dicey plays including a poor giveaway around the hour mark, but a good safety valve at the back when the Yanks allowed a long ball counter in the 73rd.

Reggie Cannon — 8 — Sensational pace and industry, and it the energy never left him. Instrumental in the first two goals as Berhalter asked his right back to do his best Trent Alexander-Arnold impression. It wasn’t a bad one.

Jackson Yueill — 8 — Exactly one blip in 90 quality minutes. Begging to be considered as the fourth midfielder behind Tyler Adams, McKennie, and Michael Bradley.

Cristian Roldan — 6 — One nice play in the second half and worked hard on the night, but a poor giveaway in the first half could’ve soiled a great start if the opposition was up to it.

Weston McKennie (Off HT) — 10 — Electric. Industrious. Fun. This was an emerging midfielder from a semi-regular European-qualifying club showing what it looks like when the opposition takes several steps down in quality. A joy to watch.

Christian Pulisic — 7 — Solid enough for the Chelsea man, who captained the squad and didn’t put a foot wrong. Scored his penalty and otherwise was content to let the others drive the bus for once.

Jordan Morris (Off HT) — 9 — The extra touch that made the fifth goal a Cuban own goal instead of an outright finish stops us from giving him a 10, but really it’s just nice to be picky and positive for once. Morris has found his home as a wing in Berhalter’s system.

Josh Sargent — 6 — Nice to see him get the start, but does that mean it’ll be Gyasi Zardes against Cuba? He was “in and around” the goal all night, and his goal was very well taken. Sliced a good chance over the bar in the 90th after producing the chance with a takeaway.

Substitutions

Tyler Boyd (On HT) — 6 — Flashed some good moves. Had a great steal outside the 18 but was stepped on and effectively limped out of the fray.

Paul Arriola (On HT) — 6 — An okay night for one of Berhalter’s mainstays.

Sebastian Lletget (On 68′) — 6 — A moment or two off the bench for the Galaxy man.

USMNT hangs 7 on overwhelmed Cuba

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The United States men’s national team made its CONCACAF Nations League debut in style, riding a six-goal first half to a 7-0 demolition of Cuba at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Weston McKennie had three goals and an assist in a stellar first half, while Jordan Morris had a goal and three assists.

Josh Sargent buried a chance, Christian Pulisic converted a penalty, and Cuba scored an own goal to round out the scoring in our nation’s capital.


Cuba’s defense saw the the Yanks blaze down the right side to open the scoring, Reggie Cannon playing Jordan Morris down the right flank and theSeattle Sounders man drove into the box before cutting back toward a sea of players in the box.

Christian Pulisic couldn’t reach the pass, which was good because McKennie may’ve been the intended target.

The Schalke man collected the ball with his first touch and lashed into the yawning cage as the clock hit :30

He didn’t need to wait long for the second, and Cannon again played Morris into the box to cross for McKennie’s finish.

McKennie then set up Morris for 3-0 in the ninth minute, with a hockey assist to Josh Sargent, before Morris and Cannon again cued up McKennie. Hat trick. 4-0. 13 minutes.

Jackson Yueill was lively, and spotted McKennie who in turn cued Pulisic up for an arrow just over the bar. Moments later Yueill found McKennie but one extra touch saw his shot blocked over the bar for a corner kick.

McKennie made a sensational touch to set up the fifth goal, which will go down as an own goal after Morris’ shot was saved off a defender’s face and into the goal.

Sargent made it 6-0 as Cuba’s midfield was nowhere to be found as Morris dropped a pass for a calm Sargent finish.

The Yanks won a penalty in the 61st minute, and Pulisic snapped up the ball and slotted it down the middle for his 14th international goal.

Roldan had a vicious deflected shot saved for a corner kick in the 79th.

WATCH: USMNT’s McKennie with 3 goals, assist in 13 minutes

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Weston McKennie needed just over 12 minutes to score a hat trick, with an assist to boot, as the United States men’s national team is letting loose on Cuba on Friday at Audi Field in Washington, D.C.

The first came after 30 seconds of the nation’s first CONCACAF Nations League match.

[ MORE: Ranieri finds new job ]

Cuba’s defense saw the the Yanks blaze down the right side, Reggie Cannon playing Jordan Morris down the right flank.

The Seattle Sounders man drove into the box before cutting back toward a sea of players in the box.

Christian Pulisic couldn’t reach the pass, which was good because McKennie may’ve been the intended target.

The Schalke man collected the ball with his first touch and lashed into the yawning cage as the clock hit :30.

It was 2-0 within 220 seconds, and the goal was strikingly similar to the first. Cannon led Morris down the right, and McKennie or his mark punched the cross into an empty goal.

The third goal came when Josh Sargent turned the ball and found McKennie, who returned the favor to Morris for 3-0 in the ninth minute.

It was Morris, Cannon, and McKennie again in the 13th minute, with a slight variation. This time Morris sent Cannon into the box for a cross which the Schalke man finished for 4-0.