Brenden_aaronson_-_asn_top_-__isi_-_usmnt_vs._costa_rica_-_john_dorton_-_6-9-21 John Dorton/ISI Photos
USMNT analysis

Aaronson, Dike, & Musah spark the USMNT to 4-0 win over Ticos

The USMNT wrapped up a successful June with a comfortable 4-0 win over Costa Rica in Utah. The squad was heavily rotated from the win over Mexico, but Berhalter's team showcased its depth in a game where no one played poorly. The result didn't count for anything but it was a useful momentum boost heading into World Cup qualifying. ASN's Brian Sciaretta offers up his thoughts. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
June 10, 2021
8:00 AM

THE UNITED STATES national team capped off its May-June camp in style on Wednesday with a very comfortable 4-0 win over Costa Rica – which came on the heels of its epic win over Mexico in the Nations League final on Sunday.

As expected, U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter rotated his squad heavily from the team that started the win over Mexico with Mark McKenzie and Tim Ream being the only players to remain in the starting lineup for both games. Antonee Robinson and Reggie Cannon were the team’s fullbacks. Sebastian Lletget, Yunus Musah, and Tyler Adams made up the midfield. Tim Weah, Brenden Aaronson, and Daryl Dike earned the start up top.

Costa Rica came into this game after a fourth-place finish in the Nations League. That disappointing finish, however, doesn’t reflect how close things were as both losses – to Mexico in the semifinal and to Honduras in the third-place game – were on penalties. In this game, the players looked as if they were ready for a break.

The U.S. team dominated from the start and took the lead in the 8th minute. Lletget started the play with a well-played ball that split the midfield line and sent Robinson down the left side. The Fulham left-back hit a low cross to Dike who briefly lost the ball – which instead rolled to Aaronson who finished in the top of the goal.


In the 41st minute, the U.S. national team put the game out of reach when Mark McKenzie hit a very nice pass to spring Dike alone in on goal. The former Barnsley and current Orlando City striker calmly sent low shot past Leonel Moreira for a 2-0 lead. It was Dike’s first international goal for the United States at any level.


The United States kept up the pressure in the second half and put the game firmly out of reach after he forced a Costa Rica turnover, moved into the box and hit a low, left-footed shot past Moreira in the 52nd minute.


The intensity in the game evaporated following Cannon’s goal but the U.S. added another when substitute Gio Reyna drew a penalty in the 76th minute and converted the ensuing kick to finish a 4-0 victory.


The initial takeaway is that no one in the U.S. team’s starting XI played poorly. It was a dominant effort where everyone executed their roles – which helped to make for a comfortable game. The last 40 minutes consisted of just playing out the stretch without much intensity – and that was handled well. Overall, it was a nice end to a strong run.


Here are my thoughts


McKenzie’s start


While pundits and fans tend to spend a lot of time analyzing a manager’s tactics and squad selection, sometimes the most important jobs managers make are in man management.

As opposed to any tactical decision, the most important decision Berhalter made in this game was to start Mark McKenzie. After McKenzie started the last three games – including going 120 minutes against Mexico – it would have been completely justified to give McKenzie a night off and play the newly-called up Walker Zimmerman to finish out the friendly.

But McKenzie was coming off a tough game vs. Mexico where his mistake gifted Mexico the opening goal. He was later called for a penalty after a handball in the box deep into extra time (which wasn’t really his fault, but is something that could weight on a young player’s mind). On top of that, there is the brutal news of him suffering racial abuse online. 

Since Berhalter views McKenzie as a key young player with a bright future, starting him in this game allowed McKenzie to end camp on a personal bright spot – and put more distance between him and the errors in the Mexico game. He will now get to head into his offseason fresh off a positive experience and he should arrive with Genk, and with the USMNT again in the fall, in a more confident mindset.

McKenzie only played the first half but he did very well. It was a great bit of man management from Berhalter and it shows that he is well aware of the youth on his roster and the need to make decisions, when possible, that build their confidence.


Aaronson MOTM


Brenden Aaronson was named the official MOTM for the win over Costa Rica and he was consistently involved in dangerous chances for the United States – beyond scoring the opening goal.

Playing as a winger, he was strong in every single facet of the game. He had on incomplete pass all game. He won a huge percentage of his duels. He was successful in all but one of his six dribbles – a huge number. He drew four fouls.


Aaronson reflects the best part of the U.S. team right now – depth in the attack. If Pulisic or Reyna can’t go on the wing, Aaronson is ready to contribute at a high level. That is saying something given that he is much more comfortable as No. 10 than as a winger.

Given that the U.S. will need to rotate squads heavily in World Cup qualifying, Aaronson’s quality shows that the U.S. team can still send a very strong lineup out there even without a few key players.


Flawless midfield

While Aaronson might have been the MOTM for this game, the United States won the game because of a flawless performance from its midfield trio of Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, and Sebastian Lletget.

Adams returned to the lineup in his normal No. 6 role and it was his first game starting in any game since April. Like any manager of Adams knows, when he gets a lot of touches, his team controls the game. Tonight, Adams had 82 touches over just 62 minutes of action. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. team had a 3-0 by the time he was subbed out. Adams simply didn’t lose the ball and won his duels.


Lletget, meanwhile, was fresh after playing as just a sub against Mexico. While he played deeper than he typically does, Lletget was effective offensively early in the game. His pass opened up the play that led to the first goal. Midway through the first half, his looping pass into the box nearly found Dike for a dangerous header close to the goal.

Lletget didn’t win the duel percentage of Adams and Musah, but his passing was spot on and it was a huge asset in the possession edge – and it allowing the U.S. team to wait for the right moment to pick apart the Costa Rican defense.

  •         90 minutes
  •         80 touches
  •         0 key passes
  •         0 shots
  •         63/66 passing
  •         6/14 duels won
  •         3/4 tackles


Musah, meanwhile, came into this game with a lot of attention after being the only field player on the U.S. team to not play in the two recent Nations League. In this game, Musah was a true difference maker – despite not scoring or assisting. Two key passes, 5/5 in dribbles, and two shots. The most eye-opening stat from Musah in this game, however, is duels – which he won a staggering 15 of 17 attempts. That alone helped the U.S. team not just win maintain or win possession, but also to do so in dangerous offensive areas on a regular basis.



The bottom line is that when your starting midfield trio completes 167/180 of its passes, you’re probably going to win comfortable.


Costa Rica didn’t come to play


As mentioned, Costa Rica came into this game on the heels of two losses in Nations League – both on penalties. While the U.S. team wanted to treat the friendly as an important test to replicated the cadence of the new World Cup qualifying format, it is not really guaranteed that Costa Rica wanted to do so. For long stretches, they looked like they wanted to be elsewhere.

It is certainly understandable. Costa Rica is still one of the tough teams of this region but it does not have the depth the United States or Mexico has. While they can compete, to handle three games in a week, they will have to rotate its squad to a point where it will have a huge drop off in quality (whereas the U.S. can rotate in players of Aaronson, Dike, and Musah, none of whom played in the win over Mexico) or will have to play its main group of players to the point they are super fatigued.

The deeper teams are far more poised for success in this new CONCACAF qualifying format.


Dike’s builds case


Daryl Dike was not part of the Nations League roster but had a very nice game against Costa Rica – where he scored his first international goal. Having just returned to Orlando City following a successful loan to Barnsley, Dike will now enter into an interesting summer.

In this game, Dike, 20, looked like a confident forward and he built his case to perhaps be a starter for World Cup qualifying. Jordan Pefok (formerly Jordan Siebatcheu), meanwhile looked to have picked up a knee injury and could be set to miss time. That makes Dike even more important.

Dike was a menace in this game for Costa Rica and he looked every bit the challenging forward the U.S. team needs. Regardless, both Pefok and Dike both pushed Sargent in this window and have likely now forced Sargent into a situation where he will need to respond with goals.

Another big takeaway is that in this game, Dike played much better than he did for Barnsley. Barnsley simply wanted Dike to use his size and strength to win duels and pick up scrappy goals. For anyone who has watched Dike at Orlando, it is obvious the Oklahoma native is capable of much more. His passing at Barnsley was less than 50%. With Orlando, he completed over 75% of his passes. He has a far more complete skillset than he showed just at Barnsley.

Fortunately for Dike, the U.S. team looks to be utilizing Dike’s complete skillset.

In this game, Dike played 75 minutes, had 22 touches, completed 11/14 of his passes (with one key pass), won 4/7 of his duels, scored a goal, and moved very well.

In other words, Dike looked ready to help this team and any talk of Pefok being far ahead of him is premature.


Player Ratings


The starting lineup


Ethan Horvath - Rating: 5.5

Reggie Cannon - Rating: 7.5

Mark McKenzie - Rating: 7.0

Tim Ream - Rating: 6.5

Antonee Robinson - Rating: 6.0

Tyler Adams - Rating: 7.0

Yunus Musah - Rating: 7.5

Sebastian Lletget - Rating: 6.5

Tim Weah - Rating: 6.0

Brenden Aaronson - Rating: 8.5

Daryl Dike - Rating: 7.5


The Substitutes


Walker Zimmerman - Rating: 6.0

Jackson Yueill - Rating: 5.5

Gio Reyna - Rating: 6.5

Kellyn Acosta - Rating: 5.5

Jordan Pefok - Rating: 5.5

 Sergino Dest - Rating: NR

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