KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The United States men’s national soccer team said it wanted a tough test when it scheduled two World Cup opponents for this international window. On Sunday, the United States got just that in a 0-0 draw against Uruguay.
It is an outcome with which, in some respects, the United States was lucky to get away with it. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson produced a superb reflex save on Mathias Olivera’s close-range effort in the 63rd minute, then the normally lethal Edinson Cavani squandered a clear chance in second-half stoppage time -time.
USA had a few chances as Jesus Ferreira failed to convert a pair of chances in the first half. But overall, even if a draw was deserved given the balance of the game, it could easily have ended in a loss, which would have ended what is now a 25-game unbeaten streak at home. .
Ferreira’s inability to find the back of the net will do little to stop questions about the identity of the team’s starting striker. But it was a game in which Uruguay seemed to overwhelm the home team, and the American attack fizzled as the game wore on.
Some of the American team’s difficulties in attack were due to the quality of Uruguay. Later this year, The Celestial will take part in their sixth consecutive World Cup, and on that day, Uruguay lived up to their reputation as a defensively solid team.
The plethora of changes in the second half didn’t add much to the fluidity either. The fact that Ferreira’s substitute Haji Wright touched the ball four times in 29 minutes of work shows how the American attack struggled in the final third.
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So while American manager Gregg Berhalter called the performance “the band’s “A-plus effort in tough, hot conditions”, the Americans’ end product was lacking, as was the quality of the set pieces deliveries of the team.
“We put the ball in really good positions and we just didn’t take advantage of it,” Berhalter said. “They blocked a few crosses. We got a few corners. The final pass was a bit off.”
It was also not a good day for some players who were hoping to make their point for more first-team minutes. Joe Scally struggled mightily with his defensive positioning in the first half and looked almost overwhelmed. He appeared a little more comfortable after switching to his more usual right-back position midway through the second half, and while he deserves credit for hanging on to it, the search for a replacement for suspected starting left-back Antonee Robinson continues.
Erik Palmer-Brown is another player fans have been clamoring for more playing time. defender Walker Zimmerman to stifle the attack with a critical block on the former LAFC forward’s shot.
Berhalter appeared to speak for all of his recent call-ups when he said of his forwards: “There were times and we ran out of time but we will continue to work with these guys.” He added: “It’s just something to build on. It was the whole idea with team performances, individual performances. We wanted the guys to set a base to keep improving. “
On the plus side, Weston McKennie walked through his 45-minute stint unscathed as he returned from a broken foot he suffered in February.
Another plus was Yunus Musah’s game. The Valencia midfielder has long brought something unique to the American midfield thanks to his ability to dribble the ball on the pitch. But that day he used his passing range more, including linking up with Timothy Weah and DeAndre Yedlin on the right flank.
“Yunus is a guy who blows my mind at his age, what he can do, his crazy talent,” Berhalter said. “We have to work with Yunus on this final, the final product, the final pass, the finish, because he has a huge ceiling.”
Defensively, USA folded but didn’t break, and it seemed like every time a mistake was made, a teammate was there to provide cover.
“I think we followed their races well,” Zimmerman said. “They have smart movement in the box. We had a couple of games where we had to slip and get into good positions to prevent them from good scoring opportunities. So we ended up keeping another zero against the opposition quality, so we can take that as a positive.”
And on those occasions when the back line failed, Johnson was there in goal to come to the rescue. It’s almost mind-boggling to think that Johnson has been involved in the national team program for 11 years. The fact that he has only 10 caps left shows the difficulty he encountered in trying to break through the American formation.
To be clear, Johnson is still battling to be the team’s third goalkeeper at the World Cup later this year, but he hasn’t done his prospects any harm; and as the year progresses, he could end up being the only American guard with consistent playing time. Time will reveal how much it counts for something.
“As a professional player who’s been on the national team for a while, been in this group for a while, the opportunity meant everything,” Johnson said. He later added, “Maintaining a good standard, good form, good pace going into those camps definitely helps, so there’s a smooth transition into the game today.”
The current international window is now entering a new phase, with a pair of CONCACAF Nations League matches against Grenada and El Salvador to come. The competition certainly won’t be as intense, but El Salvador proved to be a tough opponent in World Cup qualifying, and that should provide a decent enough test for players still striving to be more consistent. on the team.