CARY, NC — The United States topped Paraguay 1-0 at WakeMed Field in Cary, NC on a goal by Bobby Wood, but that’s not where tonight’s story lies.
On a night of youthful energy, the United States was far from pretty, but the performance sparked plenty of promise. Here are the three most notable talking points we can take from the victory.
1. Tyler Adams can ball
MLS fans (more specifically, Red Bulls fans) knew this already, but tonight the full national fan-base got to experience it. Tyler Adams was a force in the first 20 minutes, and he threatened throughout with freedom in the middle. When Paraguay began to build he lost influence, but the 19-year-old showed plenty of promise. He scythed up the Paraguay midfield in the opening 15 minutes for the best early US chance, and he popped up all over the field.
Then, just before halftime, he absolutely ROASTED the high Paraguay line. We’re talking a burst of speed that forced all 10,000 at WakeMed Park to audibly gasp. Usain Bolt would be proud. It led to the US goal just before the break as he tried to round the keeper and was taken down.
A smart player who utilized space well, Adams isn’t your true #10 but instead more like a #8 with an intelligence on and off the ball. He played very well next to Marky Delgado, who sat deeper (and also had a quality game himself).
2. Wil Trapp could be a long-term answer at holding midfield
The position that has plagued the United States for the longest, the USMNT may have found a holding midfielder. Wil Trapp played his position perfectly, forcing Paraguay’s attack out wide which resulted in gobs of crosses which Carter-Vickers and Miazga were able to guard effectively. He dropped between the center-back pairing consistently as the opponent pushed forward, and he quieted the press with calm distribution. His tackling was of high-quality as well, poking the ball free numerous times and clattering Nestor Camacho legally to stop a late first-half break. Then, on the hour mark, he guarded Oscar Romero in a dangerous position at the top of the box, muscling him off the ball to guide the Paraguay attack wide, where it fizzled.
Michael Bradley’s international career has been defined by his inability to find a best position, and often was pidgeonholed in the holding midfield role with no freedom to roam or space to provide his trademark through-ball. Could Wil Trapp be the answer the United States needs at that position? He might only have one World Cup cycle in him – two at best – at 25 years old, but he looked the part tonight.
3. It’s still hard to tell if U.S. Soccer has a clear direction
One of the most puzzling things after the final whistle was Dave Sarachan’s use of substitutes. He had six available to make, and used one until there was 13 minutes to go. He used 3 in regulation, and left 2 of them in his pocket altogether. With so many young players to take a look at, it left many wondering what the point of the game was if the maximum amount of players were not tested in a match setting. The U.S. setup has done many puzzling things with player selection and development over the years, giving opponents of the current regime plenty of fodder. This did nothing to quiet those fears.
Tim Weah, a promising 18-year-old attacker who just earned a call-up to the PSG first-team, got five minutes. Bobby Wood playing 77 minutes until relative unknown Andrija Novakovich was brought on. Erik Palmer-Brown was not tested in defense. Zack Steffan played the whole way in goal. This doesn’t make much sense given the ultimate goal of the game meant to evaluate young talent in a true international match setting, especially with only one friendly scheduled in this window instead of the usual two.
For all U.S. Soccer fed fans before these most recent friendlies about getting a good look at players for the future, this match didn’t do that to the fullest extent.