Sam's Soccer Safe Space for Stoolies
Yeah yeah, international breaks generally suck. But look at the bright side: we at least have a pretty damn strong USMNT group to watch, judge and discuss. So sit back, relax and let’s get up to speed on how things went on Thursday against Jamaica and what to look for today against Northern Ireland…
USMNT 4-1 Jamaica – Player Grades
That was a pretty solid XI we threw out there, so anything less than a multi-goal win would have been a pretty big disappointment against a Reggae Boyz squad that was missing most of their difference maker (and have yet to be joined by a half-dozen dual-national converts).
Grades for the starting XI:
Zack Steffen: B- – great save on a late chance but also looked unsure with the ball at his feet and probably didn’t need to come off his line on Jamaica’s goal.
Sergino Dest: A+ – take away the 25-yard BOMB into the side-netting and he was STILL the best player on the field (and it wasn’t particularly close).
John Brooks: B- – still likely our first-choice CB but his passing was off and positioning not great leading to a couple of unnecessary half-chances.
Aaron Long: B – one bad giveaway and felt a little like Brooks’ off game put him in a tough spot a couple times but generally did well when called upon (only played first 45’)
Reggie Cannon: D+ – just plain forgettable performance from the Boavista man, who hustled his balls off but made a bunch of poor decisions on the ball and didn’t close down on the goal… thankfully these games are just learning experience and I am sure he will bounce back.
Kellyn Acosta: C – quiet but did what was asked of him at DM
Gio Reyna: B – one of the most difficult performances to judge because he put himself in a TON of dangerous positions over and over and over… but last touch (whether it be pass or finish) was missing. It will come. Kid is the real deal.
Yunus Musah: B+ – tough not to love watching him play. Always willing to turn and go at (usually past) people.
Sebastian Lletget: A – good game all-around highlighted by two finishes that he made look a lot easier than they were. Perhaps it will convince the haters to tone it down a little bit (but I doubt it).
Christian Pulisic: B- – not a “bad” outing but grade is reflective of the expectations I have for him, which is to do more than look kinda dangerous on a handful of runs that ultimately come to nothing. Him and Dest together on the left (if that is where Dest ends up staying – TBD on that) could be a huge problem.
Josh Sargent: B – great turn and pass to set up the second goal but (a) doubt that works against a better defensive unit and (b) didn’t do enough with some other chances he had.
And a couple shout-outs from off the bench:
Brenden Aaronson: A – kid was EVERYWHERE in the second half and got a well-deserved goal to show for his efforts.
Luca de la Torre: B+ – only got 15’ off the bench but was constantly looking to make things happen
Chris Richards: C+ – I wouldn’t be against giving him some starting minutes but he made one bad booboo letting a cross roll through forcing Steffen to come up with a big save late on (albeit with the game pretty much over)
USMNT vs Northern Ireland (11am CT)
Things to keep in mind heading into the game:
- Brooks and Cannon (who went 90’ vs Jamaica), along with Nicolas Gioacchini (who did fine after being subbed on in 70’), all headed back to their respective clubs.
- Don’t be surprised if Berhalter looks to get guys like MF Christian Cappis and RB Bryan Reynolds their first caps, and possibly Chituru Odunze
- Just announced that Daryl Dike headed back to Barnsley with a small injury… which is too bad given his recent form
- REMINDER: Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams were not made available due to injury/quarantine issues
Not exactly sure what the formation is but giving 33yo Tim Ream – as part of a back three? As a wing midfielder????? – time over Chris Richards is 50% dumb and 50% stupid and 100% a mistake.
Also, I would have liked to see Owen Otasowie rather than Kellyn Acosta.
Other than that the team seems about as expected.
Northern Ireland is in the midst of an 11-game winless streak. Not great! But keep in mind they are playing teams like Italy, Austria and Norway on the regular instead of Trinidad and/or Tobago. They play a defense-first style so expect guys like Musah, Reyna and Pulisic to see a LOT of the ball. The team has a lot of guys who will be immediately recognizable to Premier League fans, perhaps most notably Jonny "Dipshit" Evans (Lester) and Stuart Dallas (Leeds). Really the only other thing to keep in mind is Evans' tendency to seriously injure people… if he so much as looks wrong at someone like Pulisic or Musah, so help me soccergod, these babyhands will be at his neck (on social media)
Prediction: USMNT win 2-0
So there we have it. U23s play a CRITICAL game against Honduras (winner qualifies for this summer's Olympics) at 4pm CT this afternoon. Huge game. Fox Sports 1. You should watch.
Other than that we got another week-long break until the Premier League (and Champions League) returns… stay tuned!