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USA vs. Uruguay, 2019 friendly: What we learned

It was a better performance, but the USMNT needs to continue to learn on the job.

SOCCER: SEP 10 Uruguay v USA Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team were able to muster a 1-1 draw last night against Uruguay in St. Louis. It was overall a much better performance than the 3-0 shellacking the USMNT took last Friday against Mexico, but there was still some things that the team can learn from. Let’s examine what we can take from this friendly draw.

The USMNT still haven’t learned how to play out of the back well. This is a proper concern because most of head coach Gregg Berhalter’s playing style revolves around playing out of the back. Uruguay was focused more on maintaining their shape and setting up counter attacks, and it lead to the USMNT having 60% of the possession in the match. They had 536 passes with 87% pass accuracy, which are all up from the Mexico debacle. However, in the defending third, their decision making is shaky, their passes are precarious, and their shape seems to be unsteady and disorganized.

This will obviously take some time to work on, but it’s the kind of thing that will only improve if players work on it with their clubs. However, if their clubs don’t play under that philosophy, then they won’t be able to really work on it enough for it to work on the national team on a consistent basis. This will be the part that takes a lot of time to work on, and with it being such a central part of the playing style that Berhalter wants, this will make fans the most nervous. This has to improve quickly for some of the other things that the USMNT want to do can progress as well, but on its face, it appears to be the one thing that is coming along the slowest. Is it time to abandon that style? Maybe not. Is it time to re-evaluate whether it’s the best system for the USMNT and how they can make the most of it using the players in the system? Absolutely.

The defensive transition was apathetic once again. Uruguay wanted to create quick counterattacks by getting the ball out of their defensive third and then making swift pases through the USMNT’s defense. However, the transition for the Americans was beyond slow each time. On La Celeste’s lone goal, Cristian Roldan was shielded from the ball as Uruguay tried to clear it out of their defensive zone. Once they were able to do that, the attack was on, with wide open spaces as several Americans were lazy running back. Because of that, the Uruguayans were able to run free on the break, Fernando Valverde running with the ball as no one challenged him directly, and it ended with Brian Rodriguez doing Aaron Long dirty and firing a ball near post past Brad Guzan.

Being caught on the counter is something that’s going to happen when you press forward to try and get a goal. It’s especially likely if you send several defenders and or midfielders forward. What you can’t do is be caught flat-footed, and you especially can’t be caught tracking back lethargically. Pride has to be exhibited when that occurs, racing back to get bodies in front of the ball and then going right at the attackers to either slow down their counter or force them into a mistake. Too many times, Uruguay ran wild on the counter and our defensive transition was nowhere to be found, and that played right into their hands. The USMNT need to do better in this area to slow down their opponent and also reorganize on defense.

It’s time to learn from these lessons. Most of us would think there’s not a lot of positives we can take from this international window. As we enter CONCACAF Nations League play next month, the time is now for the USMNT to learn these lessons and get ready to apply them next month when the games count. Take the positives and the negatives and work on improvement. Work on continuing to get better playing out of the back and maintaining possession. Work on a more spirited response to a counter attack. Finally, work on finishing inside the attacking third. Next month, we host Cuba and then head to Canada in CONCACAF Nations League play. There’s plenty the team can do to get better and put this tumultuous week in the rearview.

What did you learn from last night’s USMNT draw against Uruguay? Hit the comments to provide your positives and your negatives.