We were warned after Couva that perhaps, somehow, the United States men’s national team still had some ways to go before really hitting rock bottom.
It seemed absurd, but after 10 months of the Gregg Berhalter era, which followed the least interesting manager search of all-time, perhaps the warning was needed and should’ve been heeded.
The USMNT had no answers and no options on Tuesday in Canada, showing no urgency and getting bossed off the pitch against a team which may not qualify for the Hex.
Time for a change? It’s not insane to consider it. The team Berhalter rolled out, with several players who aren’t even standouts in MLS, was inept in Ontario.
Either the plan or players the problem, and both point one way
Canada’s John Herdman and his desperate team were ready for a fight, and the visitors apparently thought their talent and reputation would win the day.
The book on Canada was electric attackers and suspect defense, so what did Gregg Berhalter spring for his opening salvo? No pressing on the back line and two plodding center backs. Tim Ream could work with an athlete like Matt Miazga. Aaron Long, too, but Berhalter put both players together (Long certainly grew into the game).
The result was that Alphonso Davies was shifted mainly to the side of the field with Daniel Lovitz, and man did he run wild.
So did Canada’s midfield who out-worked the Yanks up-and-down the center of the park. It was sad, and littered the match with doubt heading into the break.
Granted the U.S. is short several injured players and lost Jozy Altidore just before the international break, but Berhalter had no answers on his bench, or at least couldn’t manufacture one.
And that’s a huge part of the issue here. If you don’t have any sugar, might wanna prepare something other than cookies.
He removed Christian Pulisic at the hour mark, who had been poor and reportedly sick (see below) but still represents the best playmaker in his pool. Aside from the Chelsea man’s missed 1v1 duel with Borjan, there were no real attacking moments.
This was so bad, and absolutely according to plan by Herdman. No, not Tata Martino this time… John Herdman.
There is every reason to doubt Berhalter right now, and just as many to think that U.S. Soccer hierarchy wouldn’t consider remedying the situation on account of pride.
Given the way national team soccer works, it would not be off-color if the federation pulled the chute on Berhalter. The only possible excuse is injury, but Berhalter knew what he had in this camp and still rolled this plan out there in Toronto.
Pulisic frustrated, off-color, sick, and subbed?
Christian Pulisic didn’t have to do much in Friday’s demolition of Cuba, and he couldn’t do much of anything on Tuesday when asked to carry the team.
The Yanks were absolutely bamboozled in the first half which often had the match asking Pulisic to run wild once the ball actually found its way to him.
But he was dispossessed too often in any event, and missed a necessary goal when Jordan Morris sent him alone 1v1 with Milan Borjan. Yeah, that’s a Champions League goalkeeper with Milan Borjan, but this is the pride and joy of the program and it’s best product maybe ever.
Still, for Berhalter to pull him after 60 minutes begs the question of whether there’s an injury here. If not, well, there are a lot more questions than answers.
EDIT: Berhalter said after the game that Pulisic had been struggling with flu-like symptoms.
Gregg Berhalter said Christian Pulisic was struggling with flu-like symptoms. That was why he was subbed. Added that Pulisic wanted to continue. #usmnt
— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) October 16, 2019
Davies roars, Steffen saves USMNT from blowout
While the Yanks’ best players wasn’t in rhythm, Canada’s was borderline symphonic.
Former Vancouver Whitecaps phenom and current Bayern Munich youngster Alphonso Davies was a problem for the Americans from Moment No. 1, and the only thing that could slow him was a 53rd minute leg injury.
Davies had the U.S. back line on its toes all night, and cooked Tim Ream early in the match before doing the same to Aaron Long on a play the Red Bulls man did very well to recover and slide to safety.
Fortunately for Gregg Berhalter, Zack Steffen is used to being put in bad positions due to his starring stint on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf. The goalkeeper made a phenomenal 1v1 stop on Davies in the first half and was often forced to command his box under duress.