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Three things we learned from USMNT’s defeat in Dublin

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The U.S. men’s national team fell to defeat at the hands of Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, and it was a mostly abysmal performances on all levels of the field. Three thoughts and/or lessons to take away…

[ MORE: USMNT throws away HT lead, loses 2-1 in Dublin ]

Miazga, CCV struggle

Cameron Carter-Vickers has all the physical tools needed — size, strength, quickness, aerial presence — to develop into one of the best defenders the U.S. has ever seen, but his inability to read the game quickly and make the right decisions on instincts which plagued him not only last year when he made his USMNT debut (at 19) and a handful of appearances for Tottenham Hotspur in early-round cup games, but continued to do so on Saturday against Ireland.

Being overly aggressive is something that can be tempered and controlled as a player’s career unfolds — teaching players to be more aggressive when it doesn’t come naturally for them; not so much — but following a pair of half-season loan spells to the Championship, one would have hoped to have seen a bit of progression in that department. Alas, Saturday saw more of the same mistakes: over-committing into midfield without making the challenge or tackle; not recognizing runners in the channels.

Matt Miazga, who by all accounts had a brilliant season on loan to Vitesse — it’s the Dutch league, after all — struggled as well, but in fairness to him, much of his difficulties on the day stemmed from CCV’s shortcomings alongside him. Miazga getting torched by James McClean, however, was all on the former New York Red Bulls and current Chelsea man.

Directionless midfield

With Christian Pulisic, the USMNT’s de facto no. 10 these days, departing camp and heading for (a much-needed) summer vacation after the win over Bolivia, interim head coach Dave Sarachan opted for a three-man midfield of Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.

Some thoughts: that’s a whole lot of industry and work rate; that’s a ton of energy; that’s a ton of ball-hawking instincts.

A question: who’s supposed to harness all of that unbridled energy and youth?

Answer: there wasn’t anyone, and the first half looked like a trio of chickens running 60 yards up and down the field with their heads cut off.

Adams and McKennie have blindingly bright futures ahead of them, which they’ll come much closer to realizing during a run of games playing directly behind the focal point that is Pulisic.

Yedlin a continuous bright spot

DeAndre Yedlin is perhaps the best sterling example of what moving to Europe at a young-ish age can do for American players developed in MLS. When he moved from Seattle Sounders to Tottenham at the age of 21, he did exactly two things well: run fast and overlap to stretch the field.

Now, following years of tutelage under a defensive brute like Sam Allardyce, and a tactical mastermind of Rafa Benitez‘s caliber, Yedlin is only just entering the prime of his career (he’ll turn 25 next month) after undergoing a three-year transformation which has seen him come out the other side a genuinely passable right-sided defender on top of the threat he brings going forward.

After nearly a decade where right back was pretty clearly the USMNT’s greatest weakness along the backline, Yedlin now has the spot locked down for another World Cup cycle… if not two.

Young USMNT squad benefits from chemistry in Paraguay win

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CARY, NC — Plenty has been made about how young the USMNT squad is of late, with the team planning for the long-term after missing out on the 2018 World Cup. What’s not been talked about as much is the group’s prior experience together, and that shone through as the United States topped Paraguay 1-0 in Cary, NC on Tuesday.

The central defensive partnership between Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers looked polished and unfazed even under pressure, while the midfield trio of Wil Trapp, Marky Delgado, and Tyler Adams linked up well. There was a disconnect between the midfield and attack, but against the high-press of Paraguay, that wasn’t as detrimental as it may have been to a more possession-dominant style of play.

[ RECAP: USMNT tops Paraguay 1-0 in Cary, NC ]

“We really at the end of the day had five really hard training sessions,” head coach Dave Sarachan said after the game. “When you only have five days in bringing guys together, you try to make as much headway into making the group become cohesive and work together. Some of them have the advantage of having played before, but it’s like a crash course in communicating, and I thought the guys did an excellent job.”

In particular, the play of Trapp stood out, keeping the team’s shape and locking down the Paraguay attack led by dangerous Atlanta forward Miguel Almiron.

“He made sure that we were organized, he talked,” Sarachan said. “He communicated, he played out of pressure, he was able to pick his spots in terms of playing long and short, and I just thought overall with and without the ball he was really steady today.”

[ MORE: 3 things we learned in USMNT win over Paraguay ]

The players echoed their coach, admitting they believe things are progressing well. “That’s one of the things I try to bring to the team,” Trapp said. “A guy like Marky it’s his start, his first cap, Tyler who is growing in confidence every game it seems like whether it’s with the Red Bulls or the national team. So for me it’s easy to organize those guys and put them in a good position to win the game.”

“It’s always a process and you have to trust it as much as you can, and just continue every time you’re in camp to build chemistry and show it on the field.”

The back line also linked up well and defended with both force and precision. There were no communication breakdowns, and the only big chance Paraguay had off a defensive turnover was when goalkeeper Zack Steffen looked to play out of the back under pressure.

[ MORE: Player ratings from USMNT win over Paraguay ]

“Outstanding,” coach Sarachan said of the defensive partnership. “Carter-Vickers didn’t put a foot wrong, and neither did Matt in my opinion. Obviously they know one another. I thought they played with confidence, played with physicality…just a pairing that looked like they’d been there before for a young two-some.”

It wasn’t exactly pretty, and it never is with the United States, especially against North and South American opposition. But the spark was there, with players who had some prior experience together.

So what does this mean for the long-term health of the team? There’s plenty of hurdles to clear, but for the young guns who may contribute down the road, the bright lights certainly didn’t phase them. Wil Trapp looks like to have the potential to take over for Michael Bradley in midfield, and he may even fit the holding role better than his predecessor. A lockdown defensive partnership is something that the United States has missed, and more importantly one that plays together on a consistent basis. All of these things are just speculative at this point, but seeing the proof in the pudding is about as much as anyone can ask at this point in the process.

Three things we learned from USMNT 1-0 Paraguay

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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.

[ MORE: Recap | Player ratings ]

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.

[ MORE: Tyler Adams shines the brightest as USA defeats Paraguay ]

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.

[ MORE: Young team’s chemistry surprisingly good in Paraguay win ]

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.

USMNT Player Ratings from a 1-0 win over Paraguay

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The United States’ young XI showed plenty of inspired work in a 1-0 win over Paraguay on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things ]

Here’s how Dave Sarachan’s men fared in Cary, North Carolina.

Starting XI

Zack Steffen — 7 — The breakout star of last season’s late MLS run, Columbus’ backstop has not lost anything since returning from Europe.

DeAndre Yedlin — 6 — Showed spunk in collecting his 50th cap.

Matt Miazga — 7 — Combined well with CCV to do what U.S. center back pairs should almost always do well against equal or lesser competition: win most balls in the air.

Cameron Carter-Vickers — 7 — We haven’t seen much of the Spurs prospect thanks to loans to Sheffield United and Ipswich Town, but he looked composed for a player who won’t turn 21 until New Year’s Eve.

Jorge Villafana — 6 — Very active and promising in the first 15 minutes, but otherwise simply solid. Part of a unit that limited Almiron.

Wil Trapp — 8 — Steady and calm in a performance that delivered on his promise as Columbus’ holding midfielder extraordinaire.

Darlington Nagbe (Off 90+1′) — 6 — One really creative run down the left wing but nothing special on the day. Average stuff.

Marky Delgado (Off 86′) — 7 — Delightful would-be assist on the Adams-won penalty, and it’s easy to forget he’s only 22 since he debuted at 17 for Chivas USA. Composed, and a coup for Toronto FC.

Tyler Adams — 8 — A Man of the Match caliber performance from the New York Red Bulls midfielder, Adams won a penalty kick and was ever-present. One of those “Did he leave the screen?” performances.

Kenny Saief (Off 67′) — 6 — Had some very dangerous moments on the left and it’s hard to imagine the Anderlecht man doesn’t have a future playing serious matches for the U.S.

Bobby Wood (Off 77′) — 7 — Ran his proverbial socks off, and coolly converted his penalty. Missed on what should’ve been a goal from the run of play before petering out from a lack of game action.

Substitutes

Rubio Rubin (On 67′) — 7 — Great cutback in vision during his 89th minute set-up of Weah for what became a dangerous free kick.

Andriya Novakovich (On 77′) — The Belgian-based striker is one of the Yanks’ most promising center forwards, and nearly found his way onto the score sheet on debut.

Tim Weah (On 86′) — 7 — Usually wouldn’t get a rating for eight minutes of work, but you know you want one. Plus he kinda deserves one: Won a dangerous free kick and stole a ball that nearly set Novakovich up for a goal on debut.

Cristian Roldan (On 90+1′) — N/A

Twenty-three* thoughts from MLS Week 1

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At regular intervals during the 2018 Major League Soccer season, we’ll provide one thought for every MLS team.

[ MORE: MLS teams in CCL quarters ]

An asterisk is needed this week, with three sides yet to debut (Chicago, New York Red Bulls, Colorado). Here’s what we picked up from the 20 debuts.

Atlanta United: Just. Throw. The. Game. Tape. Out. The. Window.

Columbus Crew: Winning on the road is tough, and winning at BMO Field has been darn near impossible for teams not named Toronto FC. Columbus made it two teams in two years by getting stuck into 50/50 challenges and getting the ball the heck out of dodge as often as possible. While Toronto (See below) whiffed on several chance to pick up a point, the Crew sent a message that whatever’s happening off the field, there are a number of players left who danced this team deep into the playoffs.

[ MORE: All #SaveTheCrew news ]

Wil Trapp was special for Columbus, completing almost 96 percent of his passes over 90 minutes. That includes three key passes and six successful long balls.

And, oh yeah, #SaveTheCrew.

DC United: Yamil Asad got his debut goal for DC, who was better defensively than expected. There’s a lot of men with motors in the Black-and-Red, and Ben Olsen’s unit is going to be a tough out every week. The biggest difference maker? Probably defender Frederic Brillant.

FC Dallas: Eighteen shots, and FCD’s only goal in a 1-1 home draw was courtesy the other team. Max Urruti and Michael Barrios combined for nine shots. Throw in Mauro Diaz and it climbs to 12. It could’ve been worse.

Houston Dynamo: Wilmer Cabrera might still be grinning ear-to-ear after hanging a 4-0 on Tata freaking Martino’s Atlanta United. Alberth Elis was everywhere and he’ll need to continue that presence. Also, DYK Philippe Senderos scored a goal? Yes, that Philippe Senderos from Fulham and Arsenal who’s played 31 total times for four teams since the start of 2014-15.

LAFC: Bob Bradley knows how to coach, but we’re thinking LAFC supporters would do well to relish the good vibes of Diego Rossi’s 11th minute opener (from Carlos Vela) and a quality win over Seattle. Who knows what’s next, but this looks nice.

LA Galaxy: Carson, California, saw a home win and an attack which feels like it could cue Ola Kamara up for a goal or more per game. It’s just one game, but amazing what a solid defensive midfielder can do to shore up a back line. Perry Kitchen’s back, team.

Minnesota United: 

End of last season: “Hey Minnesota, fix your leaky defense.”

Minnesota: “Okay. We’ll try the backup goalkeeper.”

Start of this season, after a 3-2 loss to San Jose: “See our end of last season thoughts, please.”

Montreal Impact: Remi Garde has to press the reset button on an ugly debut against Vancouver. And, yes, it’s early, but maybe do the same on the idea of a 4-1-4-1.

New England Revolution: Brad Freidel may turn out to be a heck of a manager, but if he does it with this group he’s a hero of the highest order and we’ll all be working on our unique accents. It’s just one match, on the road, with a red card, but New England’s best hope is its steady vets playing steely ball.

New York City FC: David Villa turned 36 in December, and he didn’t look it on Sunday. The Spaniard managed six shots and an assist in the 2-0 win over Sporting KC. The five-man midfield was especially fun to watch. Not like-for-like but Jesus Medina and Yangel Herrera are among the players who could ease the worries of Jack Harrison’s exit.

Orlando City: It feels a little like that first gift you get at Christmas, watching Justin Meram and Orlando play without suspended Sacha Kljestan. Santa Mustache is coming soon, though, and the 1-1 draw with DC United is acceptable enough given 49 minutes down a man.

Philadelphia Union: How will David Accam and CJ Sapong co-exist? Just fine if Opening Day is any indication. Not a bad night for Haris Medunjanin in the middle of the park, either, as Philly takes advantage of New England on their schedule.

Portland Timbers: Gio Savarese’s baptism by fire came at the hands of LA’s talented attack, but don’t sleep on the Timbers’ response to going down 2-0. Away from home is a beast in MLS — even despite LA’s 2017 in Carson — and the Timbers finished the game with more attempts than the Galaxy and put seven on target to LA’s three. Sometimes it’s just about bounces.

Real Salt Lake: Outshot by double, the Utah-based visitors still came within five minutes and an own goal of getting Mike Petke a quality road win in Texas. Real also won 80 of 128 duels with FCD. There’s enough to like from a 1-1 draw.

San Jose Earthquakes: I was one to say Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili was being used poorly by last year’s coaches. One goal and two assists later, even against defensively-challenged Minnesota, I’m feeling good about that opinion being closer to fact. Mikael Stahre was an intriguing hire as coach, and is off to a winning start.

Seattle Sounders: Outshot LAFC 22-5 in a 1-0 loss. If there was ever a time to relax, it’s now. Things will be fine in Washington, especially once Magnus Wolff Eikrem becomes more than a sub. Nicolas Lodeiro led the league in passes with 106, seven more than his closest competitor. He also paced MLS in key passes with eight and crosses delivered with five.

Sporting KC: A match to forget against a very talented team, we learned that playmaking spots are up for grabs in Kansas City. Diego Rubio and Yohan Croizet both came off with around a half hour to play, with Daniel Salloi and Gerso Fernandes entering the fray. Young Salloi made a couple of chances, and gives a little hope to an otherwise moribund home loss.

Toronto FC: Losing at home is a rarity for TFC, and maybe they needed a dose of humility after waltzing past Colorado in the CONCACAF Champions League and winning everything in sight last season. The Reds now turn to a tricky tie with UANL Tigres in the CCL quarters, and Greg Vanney’s tactics will be important as ever. Lineup selection will be something to monitor moving forward, as newcomer Ager Aketke is an intoxicating talent but there are only so many ways to organize him with Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio…

Vancouver Whitecaps: Alphonso Davies won’t be here for long, so let’s enjoy him. No player in MLS had a better rating from WhoScored this weekend.

By the way, something to bookmark: Kei Kamara looked okay.