Our long national nightmare is one step closer to ending. That doesn’t mean that another one isn’t in the works or that the federation has any more of a clue as to what it needs to do to take the USMNT and make it better, so ending may not have been the right word. In any case, it probably can’t get any worse in 2018 for the national team than it did against England. To the extent that there was anything worth taking away from that game, here are the lessons from a dismal day.
America needs another striker
Bobby Wood was underwhelming and if we’re being honest he has been for a while for the national team. Josh Sargent was dropped from the roster with an injury and as far as strikers, the depth chart is pretty shallow. Without an option that can use movement to create space for other attackers or stay onside - much less, you know, score goals - Pulisic will keep trying to do everything on his own and that isn’t going to cut it against World Cup semi-finalists.
America needs a coach
What was the US gameplan in this match? Whatever it was the team was out played and out coached in the game. Even though American Manager Dave Sarachan has the interim tag in front of his title, his second to last time leading the team was easily its worst showing. There hasn’t been noticeable growth, no direction, and aside from a draw to France, few impressive performances. This has largely been a lost year for the US and for a program that needs to catch up to the rest of the world, being stagnant is as good as taking a step backwards.
America has a decent, if disjointed, young core
If there’s a positive from the last year it is that young players are emerging who look like they could help the program take a step forward. Along with Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams should be a solid foundation to build around. The missing piece is any kind of overarching framework or consistent tactical basis for them to work in. This is where not having a manager who knows their future and process that doesn’t seem to care about that really hurts the team and the players.
America’s “A-ish” team can’t hang with Dele Ali, Jesse Lingard, and some dudes
Sure, the US was missing Gyasi Zardes and Josh Sargent and Tyler Adams got rested because he had played the same number of minutes as Wil Trapp, but this was a decent looking lineup. Even with a talented lineup the team’s best chances came from Christian Pulisic running past the entire England defense and a shot from a corner. Otherwise, the team settled on crosses as they lacked players who could breakdown the England defense.
When England had the ball the Stars and Stripes failed to pressure their opponents and the result was giving up 60% of possession to the Three Lions. The result was three pretty terrible goals for the US to give up - one where Christian Pulisic got caught unsure of who to defend leaving Lingard open for a shot on goal, the second with Tim Weah completely falling asleep and letting Trent Alexander-Arnold run past him on the way to scoring the second goal, and the third seeing John Brooks leave his feet while trying to hero defend after Callum Wilson darted in front of him.
It was an overall poor showing and one that the US will need to bounce back from against Italy.