The day finally came and the USMNT began the final stage of Concacaf World Cup qualifying with a 0-0 road draw against El Salvador. The point earned could prove valuable down the road for the Americans but once again the USMNT did not live up to expectations as fans witnessed a less than fluid attack and on and off performances from some of the team’s key players.
Despite starting the match in control and having early chances, Gregg Berhalter’s men could not capitalize on those chances which later were reduced to the U.S. swing crosses into the box hoping for a header. A statistic that stood out most was the USMNT had nine players making their qualifying debut, a very high number considering the stage in qualification the team is in. The jitters of those first timers showed as the team could not fluidly create chances and whatever chances were created seemed to be “dirty” with erratic passing and outside shots or headers that usually went wide.
While fan expectation is through the roof, qualifying is about just that, getting to the World Cup, and if one takes a look at the table only Mexico was able to earn three points, but in the dying minutes, against Jamaica at home. Everyone else drew and while the performance may have been forgettable the point earned is important, as the USMNT will now return home against Canada and may have their star player, Christian Pulisic back in the lineup, if he is cleared to play. Here are 5 takeaways from the USMNT draw against El Salvador.
1. The lost generation shows up in games like this
The USMNT has a boat load of young talent, but in tough and gritty games like these, those 25–32-year-old players that could have gone to the last World Cup and provided much needed experience were missing from the roster. The most experienced players on the squad were Tim Ream, DeAndre Yedlin, and John Brooks (who did not play). Only Ream can claim an above average performance in the match, but a Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley leader he is not, and that young talent is missing that player.
Sure Adams, Reyna, Pulisic, and McKennie will grow into their leadership roles and at times they come out like in the Nations League final, but for many of them this was their first true meaningful away game with the USMNT in the rough waters of Concacaf.
2. Gio Reyna needs time, but he can become a midfield general
It’s in his blood, Reyna has the talent to be what his father, at times, was for the USMNT. Reyna was not great last night but showed flashes of what he will be for the USMNT. Reyna almost had an assist on a McKennie header and took a few shots on goal. Like mostly every important player on the USMNT squad, he is young, both at the club level and international level and there will be good games, okay games, and stinkers. Last night Reyna got a passing grade and showed his talent, but it was not enough for a win, still playing alongside Pulisic will open up better spaces for Reyna.
3. What’s up with Sergiño Dest?
Sergiño Dest had a poor first season with Barcelona, and if you want to be kind a “learning curve” at Barcelona last year. Well, this season it seems to be more of the same for Dest. Last night with the USMNT Dest was completely ineffective on the flanks, played out of his natural position neither Yedlin nor Dest gave the U.S. much out the back.
Dest needs to show his talent, at this point no one can cry if Dest is benched at Barcelona or the USMNT, he might have all the talent in the world, but Dest clearly needs to grow up and play to his strengths, which at this point is hard to identify. Dest’s standard is Dani Alves at Barcelona, and Barcelona player is his standard on the USMNT, in both cases he has failed to live up to his hype. It would help if he played in his natural position by the way Gregg.
4. Tim Ream’s redemption
In a move that shocked many, John Brooks did not start in central defense for the USMNT, instead Tim Ream got the nod much to the dismay of USMNT Twitter. Ream put in a very good shift and showed that he can still be key for the yanks in a filler or emergency role. The Fulham defender was solid against a El Salvador side which did little in attack, but in World Cup qualifying a shutout on the road is key.
5. Fan expectation is out of this world and the older fan base need to step up
Outside the field I noticed a Twitter bombardment of how the team “failed”, usually from bot accounts or first-time fans. As an older soccer fan, the number of national teams that did not make the World Cup with players at Juventus, Chelsea, AC Milan is countless. Playing for great clubs does not guarantee anything. Deeming a road draw in World Cup qualifying a failure for a squad that had 9, NINE, players playing their first qualifier ON THE ROAD is ridiculous.
France, the World Champions, drew with Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-1 at home. Does that mean the World champs are a failure? No. Anyone who has been through this before knows World Cup qualifying will produce historic victories, gut wrenching come from behind wins, unexpected losses, and nights like El Salvador a draw in a game the USMNT should have won. Seeing reporters and media personalities take to the hysteria shows that these personalities are more interested in retweets and likes than speaking the truth. Did the USMNT play badly yesterday, yes, are they a failure, no. Get a grip fans.
Bouns track USMNT starting lineup against Canada.
With forward being the issue let’s give Pefok a chance to shine here is my eleven against Canada.
Dest (at RB)