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SE on Tour: USMNT Edition

Two middleweights stand across the ring trading punches. Through 10 rounds, the American has relied on his athleticism and fitness, primarily staying to the outside; picking his punches methodically in the distinct way of the American fighter. So far this strategy has worked against amateur opponents. Across the ring his opponent, and the smaller fighter, has weathered the American volume and is gaining confidence through every counterpunch, every slip, and tie up. Earlier in the match, the smaller underdog connected with a counter that wounded the big American – knocking him down to one knee – but the punch didn’t put him away. As the final rounds approached, the underdog was ahead on the scorecard, but the American continued to pour on pressure.

Now accustomed to the constant pressure, the underdog timed the American and learned how to get inside of the larger fighter, frustrating him; making him play to the underdog’s strategy. In a final attempt to level the scorecard, the American overextends, opening himself up to the counter. Right on time, the underdog delivers a straight shot right down the middle, breaking the American’s nose and knocking him to the canvas. As the referee conducts the eight count, the final bell rings ending the match. The underdog climbs the ropes and raises his hands. The American, dejected, walks to his corner for solace knowing he has been beaten. The American coach proudly congratulates his fighter, believing he still may have won. However, the American coach is new to professional boxing. In professional boxing, knockdowns are worth more than a volume of lesser-effective punches. As such, the American coach is shocked when the underdog’s hand is raised in victory. The American coach believes the loss was unlucky and vows to continue their strategy in the next fight.. supremely confident that next time, his strategy will certainly lead to victory.

I previously questioned Berhalter's tactics and said that I wasn’t sure what style we (the USMNT), were trying to play. At the time, I felt like I was being a little harsh… being negative during a nice win. However, now I am absolutely CERTAIN that our tactics are either wrong or somehow off. Make no mistake about it – the USMNT were completely outcoached today.

On Thursday we questioned Ferreira up top. Today, we questioned Zardes up top. In fairness to Zardes, he actually played okay holding up the ball, tracking back defensively, and making a few good runs. But is Zardes going to be our starting striker in a World Cup game? No, he will not. So why is he starting in our biggest WCQ game thus far of the cycle? Who is our target striker? Do we have a target striker? These are questions that need to be asked. At this point in WCQ we cannot continue rotating strikers who have different styles of play, strengths, and weaknesses. What is our attacking strategy?

Watching this game, it would seem our strategy was to attack through the wide areas. Typically this results chances being created off of crosses or cutbacks into the box. However, not only were we not putting crosses into the box, but we weren’t set up with the appropriate strikers to target. Statistically, we had 14 crosses, but none of them were particularly dangerous. We spent the majority of the game playing triangles on the boundary of the wide areas of the pitch. When we did get to the center of the pitch, the chemistry just wasn’t there. We were slow, indecisive, and unsure of our movements.

Clearly whatever our strategy was in the first half.. it didn’t work. Frustratingly, we continue the same approach, failing in attack time after time. As Taylor Twellman said, ‘we have no Plan B’. Although I’m not sure if we really have a ‘Plan A’, either.

After the game Berhalter stated the following;

“With that performance, you don’t expect to lose that game" and

“The result hurts, the performance doesn’t hurt”.

This is where Gregg loses me. What does “performance” matter if the end product is a failure? Think of failure as a show or a play…. The lead actor/singer had great vocals, but the set caught on fire and some people got hurt. Nobody remembers the vocals. The show was a complete disaster.

Is this Barcelona where we care about ‘beautiful football’? Or do we care about making our first World Cup since 2014? I struggle to comprehend Gregg’s comments here.

We can make excuses about the turf or the referee… but there’s no excuses. Gregg must certainly be in the host seat on Wednesday. We have too much talent to be in this position.

Lucky for us, Mexico failed to break down Costa Rica at home and spots 2-4 in the table are now a dog fight.

Mexico faces off against Panama on Wednesday, guaranteeing one of them will drop points. As long as we take care of business against Honduras (who is already eliminated), we should be in a good (?) position heading into the final international break.

As much as we deserve to be frustrated, Canada deserve credit as well. A great story, and I think, a legitimately good team. Let’s hope this experience propels us forward.


The Nest Liner

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