The last time we saw the USMNT they were having a tough go of playing well against Uzbekistan and then bounced back against Oman by hammering the 73rd ranked team in the world 4-0. It was whelming. These matches followed a series of friendlies under interim managers that were at least fun.
For a team whose manager and players now constantly talk about changing how the world perceives American soccer, the trend has been over promising and underdelivering. It is time for the team to start making good on these ambitious proclamations and the games against Germany and Ghana are a perfect chance to see the team do just that.
At this point the Gregg Berhalter tenure is entering its 5th year with the current core of the team together for much of that time. So far, Berhalter has been inconsistent as a manager. Sometimes he gets things right but others he seems plagued by indecision or makes a choice that totally misses the mark.
Meanwhile, the players have matched their manager’s inconsistency. It’s time for them to step up and start executing and if they aren’t up to the task, the egg turns back into a chicken and it’s up to Berhalter to change tactics.
Up to now under Berhalter, things have been fine and the team has largely met expectations. It will need to start exceeding them if 2026 is to be a success because nobody expects the USA to make a deep run in the World Cup much less win it. That will require the team to win games against good opponents and do so convincingly.
Germany is a good test because they’re scary because they’re Germany but right now they aren’t that good. The team failed to get out of the group in Qatar and so far in seven friendlies in 2023, Germany is 2-1-4. Die Mannschaft is even ranked below the USA in the FIFA rankings. They’ve even typically had a tough time beating the USA. Despite their struggles, Germany is loaded with talent. Their squad represents teams that make deep runs in the Champions League or are expected to win it and compete to be league champions also. A lot can happen in a soccer match, but to win the USA will need to execute against Germany.
Then there’s Ghana, a team that played a significant role in three World Cups but has since failed to qualify in 2018 and been sent home after the group stage in 2022. Their most recent showing in the African Cup of Nations saw them exit in the group as well, so internationally they have struggled. At 60th in the World they hover somewhere around the Oman rankings so the USA should dispatch the Black Stars with ease.
At home friendlies against struggling teams need to result in quality wins for the USMNT. It’s been a while since the USA got a win that was legitimately surprising. Beating Mexico is absolutely a positive result and it’s positive that the Stars and Stripes are beating El Tri regularly. However, it has been 14 years since the USA beat Spain in what was arguably the most recent competitive win against a world class opponent; twice as long as it was between the 2002 World Cup and 2009 Confederations Cup. The team needs to start putting the pieces in place and building a mood around winning rather than face doubt and uncertainty as 2026 approaches.