Many different people could take Man of the Match for the U.S. in their 1-1 draw against Portugal. Matt Miazga played a smart, tough game, quieting a bit of doubt as to the fate of the U.S. defender pool that looked so old and weak in qualifying. Tyler Adams’s energy on the wing was infectious, as was Kellyn Acosta’s, who played his best game in a U.S. shirt since the 1-1 draw at the Azteca. CJ Sapong did a whole lot of dirty work, got himself an assist, and could well have had a couple others with some better finishing.
But there’s no denying Weston McKennie his proper honors in his debut match with the senior national team. The goalscorer played a comprehensive match for the U.S., and placed himself firmly in the conversation when talking about who should be starting for the U.S. in the midfield.
His goal is enough reason to see what the hype is all about. McKennie deftly navigates space, and uses slight shifts of his hips and shoulders to create a window for himself in the box, before clinically finishing at the near post with Portuguese keeper Beto cheating towards his far post.
It was a clinical piece of work from McKennie, as well as Acosta and Sapong in the build-up to the goal. But it was also a result of the high press the United States employed throughout much of the first half, which McKennie was also instrumental in. Lined up in a 4-1-4-1 with Danny Williams sitting in the hole and McKennie and Acosta in front of him, the U.S. midfield pressured Portugal early and often, with help from Sapong up top and Adams and Juan Agudelo on the wings. McKennie closed down defenders, won tackles, and knew when to rotate back into space if Williams pushed up further on the field. It felt like he was everywhere. And, looking at the stats, he pretty much was:
In a team with no fewer than 4 players that can play as a holding midfielder, McKennie was the metronome counting time for the U.S. all over the field. It’s easy for a goal to build hype; this was a complete performance from the teenager. Hopefully it’s the first of many.