With the Copa Oro underway, the US Men’s National Team is getting a chance to have their first competitive games in nearly two years. While the team struggled in friendlies recently, a 4-0 win against Guyana was a promising result that the team can build on as the competition gets tougher from here on out.
Manager Gregg Berhalter has brought a new style and a new mindset to the team. His focus is much more on possession and attacking tactics based off of that. At times the team has had uneven performances as they try to implement these ideas but the win to open the tournament should give the men momentum toward making a run in the competition.
Another team is also getting their first true competitive test playing with new tactics. The US Women’s National Team has tried to re-focus their strategy after a disappointing showing in 2016. Failing to medal in the Olympics that year came after winning the World Cup, a tournament that the team won mixing the old whack it to Wambach style of direct and physical soccer with a more fluid attacking approach. After losing to Sweden in the Olympics, Jill Ellis has worked on possession based tactics that has the team holding a 3-0 record with 18 goals scored and zero allowed in the World Cup.
Asked his thoughts about how the women play, Gregg Berhalter told reporters before the men’s match against Trinidad & Tobago in Cleveland, “I think it’s a very dynamic attack, I like how intent they are at getting forward, playing forward, a lot of forward momentum in their game.”
Interestingly, both the men’s and women’s teams are deploying similar tactics and the play of the inverted fullbacks has a similar issue. Against Sweden, attacking midfielder Crystal Dunn was started as a left back who would push centrally going forward. Dunn is a familiar face at left back for the WNT, but she had an uneven game and wasn’t as effective joining the buildup in possession and at times the cover on the left was lacking if she was far upfield. As a result of her more central positioning, the US had a more narrow shape when they lost possession. Sweden would have had room to create from Dunn’s side of the pitch, but they were seldom able to get the ball to an attacker to exploit the space.
The USMNT have tried something similar on the right with Tyler Adams or Nick Lima pushing into the middle. So far, the effect hasn’t quite been realized with the right backs still working on how to get the tactics right.
As far as the next match in the Tour de Four, Berhalter told reporters, “its’ been fun to watch, I’m really excited to see the game against Spain and I’m wishing them a lot of good luck. We’re following them closely.”
The US Men will have another chance to take a step forward against Trinidad & Tobago. While there’s the obvious narrative heading into the game, it will also be a chance for the MNT to show they can breakdown an opponent who will likely try to sit back defensively and cede possession as the side builds on their win against Guyana.