The US Men’s National Team followed their 3-0 loss at a football stadium in New Jersey, played in front of a crowd that overwhelmingly supported the visiting team, by playing on a temporary surface at a baseball stadium. Uruguay tried out defensive tactics for half of the game before coming forward in the second 45 and the US took what they were given while missing basically all of their best players. The result was a 1-1 draw and an overall match that had “friendly played in a baseball stadium” written all over it.
Uruguay was content to play the match as a friendly. With Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin, and Luis Suarez, it seemed like the team was much more focused on keeping their defensive shape and setting up attacking sequences that their stars may have done better with in a low-tempo effort... at least through the first half. The second 45 saw a much livelier, at times, La Celeste push forward earn a well deserved lead in the 50th minute. Despite giving up the lead, the team will probably walk away more or less satisfied that they tried some things and did score a solid goal for their trouble.
Following the return of several players to their clubs, Gregg Berhalter changed things up and the Americans lined up in a 4-3-3:
In addition to the changes, it would be a chance for US Soccer to showcase one of the marquee soccer stadiums in the country as the team looked to somehow improve on a performance the manager was happy with against Mexico. The result was a decent showing given the roster options and how Uruguay approached the match. Still, the US dominated possession and had trouble creating dangerous chances and all of the runners that were left stranded in scoring position
sent this one to extras led to a 1-1 draw.
Gifs of things and bad jokes about baseball
As opposed to the match against Mexico, Uruguay took a less aggressive strategy into the game. Rather than relentless pressing, the South Americans seemed content to let the US have its share of the ball. When not in possession La Celeste focused on stepping to the American in with the ball while keeping a tight and cohesive shape in a 5-4-1. They’d then try to break on the counter, playing short, incisive passes to create space. Though, when they did counter it seemed fairly effortless for their entire team to converge in the final third of the US.
Aside from a cross that was out of the reach of Josh Sargent’s head and a freekick from Tyler Boyd that was easily gathered by the right fielder, there wasn’t much that the US had to show for dominating possession. The team did come to life though when Jordan Morris slapped a cross to Boyd, but Matias Vina did just enough to disrupt his timing and a threatening chance was just another stranded runner once again around the 25 minute mark.
By about the third inning, the game took on a familiar pallor seen during the Gold Cup. The US did well to keep possession, worked the ball into the final third, but the home run swing was lacking. That didn’t really hurt the Americans in the regional tournament until the final, but the mystery of the match would turn on the question of if the US would breakdown their opponents or if Uruguay would get through on a counter first. Despite out hitting the team in blue, and possibly having a penalty shout before the half ended, the Stars and Stripes went into the dugouts with the score at 0-0 in a true pitchers duel through 45.
As the second half got underway, the match seemed to open up. The US tried to be savages in the box and pushed more numbers into the attack as the team searched for a goal. The South Americans also seemed to realize that if they wanted to, they could just run past the entire US midfield and backline. Just after the 50th minute, Uruguay did just that and would strike first when Brian Rodriguez ate the best centerback in MLS like he was the moon if it was made out of BBQ spare-ribs and launched a ball that looked like it would fly so far it would need a flight attendant into the net.
The US was able to adjust somewhat to the higher tempo effort from Uruguay, but the passing seemed more rushed, the possession had less intent, and the result was much the same regardless. However, near the hour mark, Jordan Morris, typically a long relief specialist but who got the start this time, managed a flying header that was saved by Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera.
In an effort to inject some life into the game, Berhalter went to the bench to bring on the best one v. one defender in MLS (see video above) Miles Robinson and Corey Baird taking off Aaron Long and Tyler Boyd. It was an off-night after an anonymous performance against El Tri for the Besiktas man who was perhaps understandably wondering why everyone in the stands kept yelling for him to sacrifice himself to move the runner from second to third.
Since it was a friendly, the US made a bunch of other subs to bring in Daniel Lovitz for Sergino Dest, Nick Lima for Reggie Cannon, and Gyasi Zardes for Josh Sargent between the 65th and 75th minutes, just in time for the 7th inning stretch.
The Americans finally scored thanks to a tried and true, never fail, totally planned tactical innovation - a deflection.
Still, I guess give Morris credit for being at the right place to score and not leave a fat fastball hanging over the plate like that.
Wanting a left-lefty matchup, Berhalter once again made a sub taking off Morris for Paxton Pomykal with five minutes left in the match as the US looked for a win in the city of the best ever showing for an American men’s soccer team in history. Alas, it would not be enough time for the home team to eat their Cracker-Jacks and in the end the Yanks just didn’t run out enough grounders to make a difference in the result.
I’ll just leave this here: