So close… so close to securing the first bit of international silverware for all the young lads in the national squad now. An absolute 0-1 heartbreaking loss in the Gold Cup final against Mexico was a game that the US surely deserved to win, but yet came away empty handed. Not even just empty handed, without a goal to take with them as well. With Altidore spurring a one-on-one chance and several other golden chances from Pulisic and Paul Arriola, the US had threatened so much in the game, primarily in the first half. The United States dictated the game and came out with authority, right off the bat having great chances that put Mexico’s goalkeeper, Ochoa under a great deal of pressure. Ultimately, a Jonathan Dos Santos bar down goal from a backheel service sealed the result and the US came away with no silverware in Gregg Berhalter’s first competitive tournament as USMNT manager. So, let’s look at 3 takeaways from the tournament
Berhalter’s Growing Pains
Berhalter, who was appointed as the USMNT manager from his role with the Columbus Crew took a huge step up in his managerial career. The former USMNT player himself managed below a 35% win percentage in Ohio but his player management skills and tactical prowess were seen as the main reasons for his candidacy, after managing a 2015 MLS Cup Final appearance with Columbus. With a greater role comes greater responsibility… and criticism. Before the tournament even started, Gregg faced huge backlash. Having stripped promising Werder Bremen striker Joshua Sargent from the U20 World Cup in order for him to play in the Gold Cup, TO THEN CUT HIM FROM THE FINAL SQUAD, was a move that made me LIVID (along with everyone else). To ruin one of the most promising USMNT prospects’ summer with no international football was a huge misstep. Opting for veterans like Jozy Altidore, who missed the wide open chance in the final… fans are thinking ‘bet Sargent woulda made that’ (remind you of 2014 World Cup with Wondo selected over Donovan?). Bad camp decisions and unpopular choices all coupled with an undesirable result has acquainted Berhalter with the demands of the role as USMNT manager.
Out with the old, in with the new
If this tournament is anything to go by, it should spell the end for Jozy Altidore and Micheal Bradley at the international level. Legends of their era they may be; however, they should have no place in a team that features the best young stars in the history of American soccer. Same applies to Omar Gonzalez, who I guess came back from the international graveyard to make the final squad… sure, why not? Why in the world would you not select Tottenham rising prospect Cameron Carter-Vickers, who has HIGHLY regarded by his loan employers Swansea City following the end of last season (meanwhile, Gonzalez has been struggling since his first season in Liga MX). Tim Ream should be applauded for playing well in not so much of a favored position but his time must come to an end now too. What sense does it make to cut Antonee Robinson from the squad. As a man looking to break into a Premier League first team with Everton, he certainly needs international tournaments to up his game and stay sharp. How are we doing the future of the USMNT any good by cutting our most promising players. LB has been a problem for the USMNT for a long time now and putting short-term verterans in that slot does no good in the long run. This is the most promising era of American soccer coming upon us, it is time to play the kids.
Weston Mckennie, Christian Pulisic and …
This tournament was the first time we could get an extended look in at a Pulisic-Mckennie midfield tandem. Unfortunately, the young midfielders were paired with an aging and ever so lethargic Michael Bradley, who will not be around for much longer. Now assuming a completely fit roster approaching the most important game of USMNT history.. Who will join them. Obviously one of the first to come to mind is new RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams. Since moving from NYRB in the MLS midseason, he very quickly became a key part of the Bundesliga side’s first team. As a defensively positioned player in the midfield, he also has the ideal blend of attacking prowess and creative ability that can pair extremely well with both Pulisic and Mckennie. This tournament has gotten me and every other fan excited for this young American abroad trio in the heart of midfield.
The Americans come back from the tournament empty handed but it was certainly a learning experience from the young lads and I can only hope this served as a wake-up call to play the youth of this country… they have the talent, let it loose.
Written by Andrew Diefenderfer (@DiefDorf)