Camp Cupcake 2017 reached its conclusion on Friday night, as the United States men’s national team defeated Jamaica 1-0 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was a professional, even though not masterful, performance in which the U.S. dominated the run of play but generated few high quality chances against a predictably compact Jamaican defense. It was also an opportunity for numerous new faces to make a final impression on Bruce Arena before World Cup Qualifying resumes in just seven short weeks. Here’s what we learned:
Sebastian Lletget has an NT future... but where?
After logging 135 minutes across this week’s two international friendlies, few players were afforded greater opportunity to make an impression than Sebastian Lletget. On Sunday he played the second half vs. Serbia, and followed that with a full 90 minutes vs. Jamaica.
For the first 60 minutes on Friday, Lletget lined up wide left and put in an impressive showing. He and Jorge Villafaña together seemed to quickly develop a productive partnership down the left flank, and provided some of the first half’s brightest moments. When Michael Bradley and Darlington Nagbe entered with just under 30 minutes to play, Lletget shifted centrally and looked instantly comfortable playing in tandem with Bradley. Finally, for game’s final 15 minutes, Lletget moved wide right, giving way to Alejandro Bedoya’s turn in central midfield, again making a seamless transition.
Bruce Arena is clearly shopping for candidates to fill the suspended Jermaine Jones’ shoes on March 24 vs. Honduras. Lletget had a solid pair of runouts in that role this week. Would Arena thrust him into a starting role in must-win qualifier? Still doubtful. But we do know that versatility is always an asset, especially at the NT level. Lletget will be back, and it may be sooner than expected.
Jorge Villafaña, the People’s Left Back
You spoke, and someone finally listened. At least that’s how we’ll tell the story.
Onetime Portland Timber and current Santos Laguna left back Jorge Villafaña earned a surprise late call into USMNT camp last week. Specializing at a position of perpetual need and succeeding at a high level, Villafaña had become almost conspicuous by his continued absence from Jürgen Klinsmann’s squads. He’s finally gotten his chance this week under Arena.
After playing 21 minutes off the bench on Sunday, Villafaña got a full 90 minute runout vs. Jamaica. He made the most of the unexpected opportunity, impressing on both ends of the field. His crossing ability was showcased in the attack, and didn’t seem to put a foot wrong on the defensive end.
Bruce Arena may have a real, live quality left back on his hands. Good job, everyone!
Benny Feilhaber’s got it, and the USMNT needs it.
Maybe some of us needed to actually see Benny Feilhaber back in a USA kit to remember what he brings to the table. If you’d forgotten, or if you didn’t know, now you know.
The United States’ player pool is greatly lacking for truly creative players. This much is obvious. Benny Feilhaber brought some of that back when he strolled back into the fold, and it was on display Friday night. There’s a definite swagger to his game, but his gift for playmaking is one matched by few current American players. Sometimes all it takes is a single special moment.
Feilhaber came up with one vs. Jamaica. Working a series of quick one-twos with clever movement inside the final third, Benny would spring the perfect finishing pass to Jordan Morris to set up the game’s only goal. It surely wasn’t the only quality moment he produced on the night, but the USMNT only needed one. The ability to create that moment is exactly why we need Benny Feilhaber around.