After a promising start to the months and years long work in progress that the USMNT has embarked upon leading up to the 2022 World Cup in their first full-team friendly against Ecuador, the USA drew 1-1 against Chile.
The match would feature a lineup that was perhaps more cupcake flavored after the injury to Weston McKennie and departure of Tyler Adams. The team also took a different approach with DeAndre Yedlin taking more of a traditional role at right back, Michael Bradley playing at central midfield, and Berhalter rolling out the welcome mat for Omar Gonzalez.
It paid dividends early as a hopeful long ball was booted up field by Ethan Horvath to Gyasi Zardes who took a deft touch and flicked a pass into the path of a streaking Christian Pulisic - the youngster made no mistake and floated a shot over the Chilean keeper to put the USA ahead 1-0.
The lead wouldn’t last as the US displayed shambolic defense, featuring an impressive dummy by Paul Arriola, and failed to clear their lines eventually giving Oscar Opazo a free shot at goal. He made no mistake to even the score.
(WARNING, VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC DEPICTIONS OF HORRIBLE DEFENDING)
It took about 20 minutes, but Chile seemed to figure the US out. The team began pressing the Americans, disrupting possession and taking more control of the game. Chile effectively pinned the Stars and Stripes back at times leaving the US to play more in transition to find chances. The US weathered several assaults poised by La Roja and in the 32nd minute, Gonzalez played a long ball that made it to Pulisic who played a nice exchange with Zardes and Arriola to nearly put the US back ahead.
That would be the last highlight for Pulisic in the match who was subbed as a precaution in the 36th minute for Sebastian Lletget. Without their talisman, any danger that the US had posed seemed to evaporate and some terrible mistakes from the home side nearly led to a second goal for Chile. Still, a long diagonal ball from Bradley was sent on target by Corey Baird, though he should have done better with it, but the US clearly had some work to do headed into halftime.
The second 45 began with Chile being all over the US. The team in red patiently tested the US defense and created several chances. For the home side, attacking opportunities were few and far between, but in the 55th minute, Zardes fought for a loose ball bouncing inside the Chile 18 - his shot went over the bar, but it showed impressive awareness from the striker.
Just a minute later, Berhalter would make a tactical sub bringing Daniel Lovitz on for Corey Baird, moving Tim Ream to play as a third center back. He would again go to the bench taking Arriola out for Wil Trapp, the move pushed Cristian Roldan into a right attacking role as Trapp assumed a central role next to Bradley. The change to the three man backline gave the US more stability in defense and with some of the pressure taken off, their possession also became more effective.
After an effective pair of starts for the US in this international break, Zardes made way for Jordan Morris in the 79th minute followed by Roldan coming off for Jonathan Lewis four minutes later. Both teams pushed for a game winner, but it wouldn’t come as the match would end 1-1.
Overall, the US was dominated in terms of possession and chances by a more physical Chile team and the result may very well have been kind to the home side. That said, the US had some good chances that were missed and this is a friendly and part of Gregg Berhalter working to get the players to understand and implement his tactics.
It’s perhaps also a chance for him to find out that international soccer isn’t MLS. There is no salary cap and no parity against a team like Chile and the tactics that worked against Panama, Costa Rica, and a bus parking Ecuador will not be effective against more talented teams with players who operate just a step faster than American players tend to. Berhalter eventually made a tactical change that was effective at slowing Chile down and giving the US more chances to go forward, but Chile was in control for most of the match.