USMNT closed a June camp that went better than anyone might have expected. The team’s last outing was a 4-0 win over a weak and tired Costa Rican side, but the result has always served as an exclamation point over a two-week streak that we will likely see as a turning point in the tenure of Gregg Berhalter. :
- The team won a trophy (League of Nations)
- They beat their rival to do it
- The United States have won three of the four games played (all against future World Cup qualifying opponents)
- They’ve shown they can win ugly: in different ways and under different circumstances
- All players except third-row goalie David Ochoa got minutes
But above all, the leaders of this young American team finally appropriated it. It took them all at camp together – Christian Pulisic (22), Weston McKennie (22), Tyler Adams (22) and Gio Reyna (18) – and then also the main reason the States United have won games that really mattered. All four played a major role against Mexico.
“We have told the rest of CONCACAF that we are here and that we are winning games the way we are, and that we are here to stay a while,” Brenden Aaronson, 20, told media after Costa’s victory Rica. “It’s great for the group.
Of course, the story would have been much different if Honduras had scored first in the semi-finals. But it turns out that the USMNT is rolling again and it has also reconnected with its fans and rekindled their passion for a team that let it down so much when it failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. It has taken a while to restore that faith, but there is a real feeling that it is finally back. That enthusiasm is only expected to continue to develop with more meaningful matches ahead – Gold Cup in July, then 14 World Cup qualifiers – ahead of the 2022 World Cup in 18 months.
“What I think [connects with fans] plays meaningful games, ”Berhalter said earlier this week. “More importantly is that the fans get to know the guys better by seeing them play and that they really understand that these guys are competitive. This is the youngest group US Soccer has ever played in the final [vs. Mexico], but they are still able to make their way through games and win games. And that is what is important.
The USMNT camp also delivered five important verdicts on how the team will be managed and built going forward:
1. The center-forward competition is launched: It’s a three-way race right now: Josh Sargent, Jordan Siebatcheu and Daryl Dike. Berhalter said it after Costa Rica. It will depend on the form and style of individual play as to which of the three will start the matches. That’s why the clubs Sargent and Dike join next season (if they move) will have a huge impact on what their next 18 months look like.
2. Mark McKenzie won the starting center-back position: He started all four matches and overall his play was reliable aside from the most glaring mistake which will undoubtedly serve as a learning experience for the future. With Aaron Long absent, the role of right center-back should be McKenzie’s job.
3. Tyler Adams is the deep starting midfielder: He does things in that position that no one else in the player pool can do and it has a domino effect on the rest of the team’s play. And if it’s not Adams, starting with Jackson Yueill and Kellyn Acosta together is the next best alternative.
4. Brenden Aaronson is a lock on this team: The Philadelphia product might not start every game, but he’s definitely earned his spot on every game list as long as he’s healthy. He offers so much to this team, whether as a starter or off the bench.
5. Ethan Horvath is No. 2 behind Zack Steffen: This is not an overreaction to Horvath’s game against Mexico. He’s always been sure of himself and unfazed between the pipes, and that has served him well in the League of Nations. Now he just needs a club that will make him a starter. New England’s Matt Turner, an obvious No.3 pick, will continue to make his case at the Gold Cup.
USA vs Costa Rica player ratings
Ethan Horvath: 6
Except for the odd back pass or a desperate Costa Rican shot or two, the birthday boy really didn’t have much to do. After the night he had against Mexico, it’s probably deserved.
Antonée Robinson: 6
He was aggressive going up and down that left flank. The final product wasn’t there that day, but it showed the kind of desire and energy you’d expect from your left back.
Tim Ream: 6
Tidy performance, mostly in possession. He kept the ball moving and even chose a few long, diagonal balls to stretch the Costa Rican defense.
Mark McKenzie: 7
On his fourth straight start at this camp, it was another intelligent and composed performance from McKenzie, which lasted 45 minutes. Even the yellow card he received was a smart play. But the highlight was Dike’s sensational pass on America’s second goal.
Reggie Cannon: 6.5
Solid work in the first half to help defend and shut down the players. Then he picked it up on the offensive side after the half-time break, scoring his first American goal (with his left foot!), And joining in several offensive moves.
Tyler Adams: 7
It’s like everything is perfect again with Adams ahead of the last four. The captain was the ubiquitous and versatile central midfielder this team relies on. This Costa Rican side didn’t challenge him, but he still showed how important he is for defense and team building.
Sébastien Lletget: 6.5
There might not have been a single memorable piece that you associate with Lletget’s performance, but that’s kind of the point with him. He does the right thing and he does it at a high standard, seemingly without tiring. His temperament, leadership and general disposition on the pitch suit this young team perfectly.
Yunus Musah: 6
This match was an example of (a) why there is a segment of American fans pushing for it to start, and (b) also why it does not start. His skill, control and dribbling are exceptional, but his decision making, movements and playing games were sometimes turned off. He’s drifted in and out of the game, but he’s only 18 and has plenty of time to shape his game.
Brenden Aaronson: 7
Similar to the first half against Switzerland, his pace of work, his sprints, his pressure and his general desire to make things happen are all qualities that make the difference. He attacks spaces and his goal came from one of those instinctive races. He lost some of his intensity in the second half, just like the rest of the team given the ball score, but he was still good.
Tim Weah: 6.5
He was electric. But it wasn’t just about the energy he brought when he was on the ball. He was determined and decisive in his movements, whether central or wide. There was an advantage in his game that day which allowed him to be involved and productive.
Daryl Digue: 6.5
He was probably eager to start after being ruled out of the League of Nations roster and staying in the camp the entire time. But he played in himself and let the game come to him. He made the plays he needed to make, including a cool finish on a run that thwarted the offside trap for his first American goal. One area for improvement, according to his trainer: his in-the-box runs must be better.
Walker Zimmerman: 6
He may have only arrived at camp the day before (replacing Matt Miazga), but he didn’t hold back when he entered at halftime. He brought his usual fierce defense, never afraid to give up his body when necessary.
Jackson Yueill: 6
The Earthquakes midfielder can leave camp on an optimistic note, coming in for the final half hour with the result in hand.
Jordan Siebatcheu: N / A
The United States had lowered their intensity a few notches by the time he entered the center of the front. It was a cameo marred with a right knee injury that he tried to cross, but ultimately forced him to leave.
Gio Reyna: N / A
Came in for a bit of a run. He got and scored a penalty three minutes after entering the game, but the game demanded nothing more.
Kellyn Acosta: N / A
There was little to highlight about Acosta’s appearance, especially with the United States relinquishing possession to Costa Rica for the home stretch of the game.