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The U.S. men’s national team has its first win since Trinidad. It got it Tuesday night in North Carolina, in a somewhat drab – and definitely scrappy – 1-0 victory over a Paraguay B-plus team.
It was a good result. It was not a great performance. But it wasn’t a disastrous one, either. It was much better than the dull 0-0 draw with Bosnia in January. And it featured a few – though not enough – youngsters who appear to have promising USMNT futures.
Here are five takeaways from that performance:
1. Tyler Adams continues to look very promising
Tyler Adams came into the game as the most exciting player on the U.S. matchday roster – Weston McKennie was sidelined by a nagging injury – and did nothing to discourage the excitement.
He played as one of the two more advanced central midfielders in a 4-1-4-1 – the same positions Kellyn Acosta and McKennie played against Portugal four months ago – and he performed all the duties that position requires well. He was on the back of Paraguay’s central midfielders when they received the ball. He made himself available in possession. He was confident and clean on the ball.
Perhaps he didn’t quite get forward as much as some would have liked, but he did on at least one occasion. That occasion was the U.S. goal. Adams, from midfield, burst in behind the Paraguay defense to latch onto Delgado’s through-ball. He showed off his pace, and won a penalty:
Tyler Adams draws the penalty, Bobby Wood converts it!
USA leads Paraguay 1-0 at halftime. pic.twitter.com/LtTNv8BNg3
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 28, 2018
In that Portugal game back in November, Adams looked like a kid. It was impressive that he merely held his own as a right midfielder. This time, he looked like one of the better players on the field – no caveats about his age (19) necessary.
2. Bobby Wood continues to struggle
Wood has had an awful season for Hamburg in the German Bundesliga. He’s battled injuries, and he’s been out of form – without a goal since August. That form came with him to the national team.
Wood’s movement is often good, or at least solid, and was on Tuesday. But, as is also often the case, he rarely had a clue on the ball. His first touches were poor. His decisions in possession were rarely correct. His head-down, direct style was rarely, if ever, effective. Framkly, he looked in over his head – which is a shocking indictment of one of the more experienced players on the field.
Wood converted the penalty, and perhaps that will provide a desperately needed confidence boost. But he contributed more negatives than positives from open play. For now, he can’t really be counted on as a lone striker with few creative players around him.
3. The midfield lacked creativity
Wil Trapp, who captained the side in the defensive midfield role, was quite good. Delgado provided the assist. Adams, as discussed above, was impressive.
But other than the one Delgado through-ball and one splitting pass from Trapp to Jorge Villafana down the left, there was very little playmaking. The lineup didn’t feature a No. 10, and it showed. The pace of passing and off-ball movement wasn’t good enough to get Delgado or Adams in playmaking positions often enough. And the decision to play Darlington Nagbe – a right-footer – on the right and Kenny Saief – a left-footer – on the left didn’t help. Neither influenced the game enough from their wide midfield positions.
The result was a big black hole in between Wood and midfield.
#USMNT completed 86 passes in final third, but only 3 completed into the box and 0 completed into Zone 14. Also 0 crosses completed from run of play. Most of their possession wasn't dangerous, and the struggle to create chances continues–no matter who is in the lineup. #USAvPAR pic.twitter.com/OKjobpVJLN
— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) March 28, 2018
The 4-1-4-1 looked good against Portugal, but against a poor Paraguay team that invited the U.S. to attack, the Yanks didn’t really have the attacking talent (or attacking system) to successfully oblige.
4. It was a mostly uneventful night for the center backs, which …
… is a good thing. Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers played 90 minutes together at the back, and were solid. Were there a few shaky moments? Yeah, especially when they and goalkeeper Zack Steffen tried to play out of the back and gifted Paraguay a good chance. But that’s fine. That they were even attempting to play out of the back is even encouraging.
Miazga in particular carried himself like a veteran. He is, in reality, only 22, and has a chance to establish himself as a national team regular for years to come with more performances like Tuesday’s.
5. Dave Sarachan didn’t play the kids
Tim Weah got his U.S. debut, but only got five minutes. There was no Shaq Moore. No Antonee Robinson. No Erik Palmer-Brown. Boo.
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