The United States Men’s National Team get back at it tomorrow night in Houston as they take on Chile in friendly action. After a terrific defensive performance against Ecuador, resulting in a 1-0 victory, they will take on the 2-time defending South American champions, who are coming off an up-and-down series of performances after not making the 2018 World Cup. Can the USMNT continue to defend under Gregg Berhalter’s system to put another clean sheet in the books? Or, will the test of La Roja be too much?
W (1-0) - Ecuador - Friendly
W (2-0) - Costa Rica - Friendly
W (3-0) - Panama - Friendly
L (0-1) - Italy - Friendly
L (0-3) - England - Friendly
L (1-3) - Mexico - Friendly
W (4-1) - Honduras - Friendly
L (2-3) - Costa Rica - Friendly
W (1-0) - Mexico - Friendly
L (0-3) - Peru - Friendly
What To Watch For
Offensive aggressiveness. Against Ecuador, the USMNT had only 5 shots and 2 on target, with Gyasi Zardes’ deflected goal being the only one to find the back of the net. That’s down from the two matches during January Camp against Panama and Costa Rica, where the USMNT had a combined 29 shots and 10 on frame. The USMNT needs to create their chances and take them when they materialize. If they spread out Chile’s defense, there will be lanes to attack. Go at them, get off the shots, get goals. Easier said than done, but aggressiveness is the key.
Defensive communication. The communication on defense against Ecuador was great, as there was a clear plan and the team executed it to perfection. They only allowed 1 shot (0 on target), which is a testament to the work they did to keep Ecuador at bay. Chile is a better test defensively for the Americans, however. They’ll need to continue to talk, especially as the hybrid 4-3-3 formation shifts, so that no one is caught in a bad position.
Can the left side hold? Much of Ecuador’s attack centered on trying to exploit the left side of the American defense, but they held strong. Seldom did they get beat by an Ecuadorian player with the ball. That will be an even bigger point of focus tomorrow, with Weston McKennie out and not able to provide cover on that side in the midfield and tracking back on defense. If the USMNT come out with a victory, it will be because the left side was able to stay together and keep the Chileans in front of them.
Gregg Berhalter stated after the match Thursday night that there would be “some changes” to the lineup. Weston McKennie suffered what is believed to be an ankle sprain Thursday night after falling awkwardly after jumping for a header. Tyler Adams was sent back to RB Leipzig, and Jesse Gonzalez is back in camp after returning to FC Dallas for a weekend match. Wil Trapp also subbed off early with what looked on field level to be a knock. So, with 23 players in camp and 2 of them injured, Berhalter will likely shift some players around in his lineup.
In goal, expect Ethan Horvath to get the start against the Chileans. Sean Johnson didn’t have much to do against Ecuador, but Horvath may have to make some saves tomorrow night. On defense, with Adams gone, Nick Lima assumes the right back/defensive midfielder hybrid role, one he had during January Camp. He understands the responsibility, and Berhalter trusts him with that position. On the left, Daniel Lovitz will be in charge. As the only natural left back on the roster, he will have a lot of ground to cover. In the middle, we could see a centerback pairing of John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who did not dress against Ecuador, is the surprise addition to camp, and Berhalter will likely give him a chance. Brooks performed well against Ecuador and he will be able to help Lovitz on the left side.
The midfielders will be Michael Bradley on the right, Cristian Roldan on the left (who will have license to move up), and Christian Pulisic in the middle serving as more of an attack midfielder. Bradley will sometimes shift to the left as Roldan moves forward, allowing Lima to slot into the right side of the central midfield. Sebastian Lletget will be available as a substitute and expect to see him come on for Pulisic sometime in the 2nd half.
Up top, look for DeAndre Yedlin to be on the right. He was effective on that side in his substitute appearance Thursday night, and he will be responsible for also helping out on defense. On the left, we’ll see Paul Arriola again, but expect Jonathan Lewis and Corey Baird to come in early as well to get some playing time. In the middle, Christian Ramirez, who also did not dress against Ecuador, could get the start as Berhalter looks to evaluate the depth at that forward position.
If there’s a match where the back line will have to deal with some adversity, it will be this one. Chile may not be the Chile of a few years ago, but they’re still really good. The USMNT get a goal, but they give one up as well. In the end, they walk out of there with a 1-1 draw.