“But Adam,” I can already here you say in your nasally voice, breaths coming raggedly from the gaping void of your mouth, “we actually won, and Tyler Adams played really well, and Tim Weah got on the field, and did you seeeeee that pass from Marky Delgado? That game was pretty good!”
That game was not good, my dear reader, partly because it actually wasn’t good and partly because nothing is ever good. That’s how Toxic Talk works.
First, let’s talk about it: yeah, I did see that Marky Delgao pass. And yes, it was pure sex.
This ball from @MarkyDelgado tho— U.S. Soccer MNT (@ussoccer_mnt) March 28, 2018
First #USMNT cap for the 22-year-old, and he finds @tyler_adams14 streaking. pic.twitter.com/g3RZr1xFHi
Ugh, and that slight drag of the foot to ensure the penalty from my son Tyler Adams (me and Rob have joint-custody it’s not really a big deal)? This sequence made me yell. It was, without qualifier, good.
The rest of the game was not really that good, because the U.S. were sent out to contain Paraguay, and specifically Migel Almiron, and then hope someone on their team could eventually figure it out in the final third. They got some hero ball from Marky Delgado in addition to a few bright passes from Darlington Nagbe, but otherwise the attack was lost. Kenny Saief turned some defenders, but looked out of sync with left-side partner Jorge Villafana all night. Bobby Wood reprised his role as Bobby Wouldn’t, despite his penalty goal. The U.S. completed a grand total of 0 passes inside of Zone 14, the space in the middle of the field directly in front of the penalty box, and guess what gang? That’s not exactly what you want to see in a game that means nothing!
We finished with 16 crosses and 0 completed forward passes in Zone 14. #USMNT pic.twitter.com/gJmldqresf— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) March 28, 2018
I shouldn’t say that game meant nothing, because all games mean something. The Paraguay game, as has been the case with all games since World Cup Qualifying ended, should have been about introducing new players. It should have been trying fun stuff. It should have been about inspiring some hope and passion in a disillusioned fanbase.
But it wasn’t about those things. It was about winning, from the second the team sheets came out and it became clear Dave Sarachan was running three defensive midfielders in a 4-1-4-1.
Loading the field with defensive midfielders is a classic tradition in USMNT history. Bruce Arena famously used the tactic in 2002. Jurgen Klinsmann dabbled with it. Bora Milutinovic got in on the act, although his formations tended to be even more heavy with defenders. It’s something the U.S. men have learned how to do over the years: defend tooth and nail, and then hope for a moment of brilliance or two on the counter. Sometimes it works! Sometimes it doesn’t.
It worked against Paraguay, and that’s the problem. The formation did exactly what it was supposed to do. Frustrate, muddy the play, and keep the game close. It did not do anything of real long-term value to the USMNT. As Paraguay began fouling more and more, Sarachan began treating the game more and more like a competitive game; a “big boy game” for all of his wonderful big boys.
Head coach Dave Sarachan on the ️ after the W:— U.S. Soccer MNT (@ussoccer_mnt) March 28, 2018
"This game became a real big boy game and these guys kept their composure when things started to fly. Winning is good and it's another step forward for this group."
Meanwhile, Sarachan’s subs, the ones who will be more important to this team come 2022 than Darlington Nagbe, Bobby Wood, and Jorge Villafana, sat on the bench. And sat. And sat some more. Because winning was all of a sudden important, which is funny, considering how unimportant it seemed to the USMNT in the back half of 2017.
Sarachan used 4 of 6 subs in a meaningless game, and 3 of the subs he did make got less than 15 minutes of playing time. And am I going to kill him over some subs in a meaningless game? I absolutely am, because if the USMNT continues to elevate results over process the way Sarachan did on Tuesday night, nothing will change. The USMNT will be middling and that’s all. And that’s not what I want for this team. I think it has some real players at its disposal in the coming years. And I don’t want to see them wasted on another hack stuck on knowing the “American game.”
On Tuesday night, Dave Sarachan went back to what the U.S. knows best. And if that’s all there is to this program, I want out.
- Zlatan Zlatans So Hard -
This is probably the billionth time you’ve seen this and I don’t caaaare.
Zlatan told LA "You're welcome."— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 31, 2018
This is why. pic.twitter.com/ekZEYxr4g7
#ComeOn. But I do wonder if this guy ever switched back.
When the Galaxy are already down 2-0 in the first LA Derby...Wait for it— COPA90 US (@COPA90US) March 31, 2018
via @_eizzo pic.twitter.com/hCA6M1h9My
- Let’s see how Mal Pugh is adjusting to pro life -
@MalPugh skills! #NWSL pic.twitter.com/CBQHBXNxZu— WoSo Comps (@WoSoComps) March 25, 2018
- Speaking of skill checks -
We see you @darlingtonnagbe pic.twitter.com/xwSDXRcFlz— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 28, 2018
For the record: I thought Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams, Darlington Nagbe, Marky Delgado, and Matt Miazga were bright spots. Tim Weah and Andrija Novakovich looked green but promising in their limited time.
- Christian Eriksen tries to get Antonio Conte free of his contract for the USMNT -
Bask in the greatness of Christian Eriksen pic.twitter.com/5fV7QgbzY2— Jake. (@YedIin) April 1, 2018
- It is better to be feared than to be loved -
Or, something like that, according to Rory Dames.
Chicago Red Stars head coach Rory Dames on last night's goals against: pic.twitter.com/nfbG4QvuS6— John D. Halloran (@JohnDHalloran) April 1, 2018
That locker room is about to get interesting.
- The Week in Mo Salah -
Liverpool fans after Mo Salah’s late winner at Crystal Palace yesterday. #LFC pic.twitter.com/YJXEDWXD7A— Football Away Days (@AwayDays_) April 1, 2018
He’s 2 goals off the record for a 38 game season and 5 off for the old 42 game season the Premier League had in the early 90s...with 6 games left to play.
I’m thinking he’ll do it.