Breaking down the U.S. team's 2-1 friendly loss to Switzerland in St. Gallen
May 30, 2021
THE UNITED STATES dropped a 2-1 decision to Switzerland in St. Gallen in its only tune-up friendly ahead of the final rounds of the 2021 Nations League – which will open on Thursday against Honduras in a semifinal in Denver. After six friendlies against either CONCACAF or lower-level European oppositions, this marked a bigger challenge for Gregg Berhalter’s team.
Berhalter fielded a strong lineup that used most of the top players that were available to him. Tyler Adams and Antonee Robinson were out carrying injuries while Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen were involved in the Champions League final.
USMNT XI vs Switzerland— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 30, 2021
The United States actually opened up on the front foot and was the better team for long stretches. The U.S. took the lead in the 5th minute when Sebastian Lletget took advantage of a sloppy clearance from Switzerland to put the team ahead.
But from there, Switzerland was able to claw its way back. In the 10th minute, the U.S. team left too much space on a counter attack and a cross-field pass found Torino’s Ricardo Rodriguez who was wide open. His shot deflected off Reggie Cannon and past Ethan Horvath – who had no chance – for an equalizer.
Just before halftime, Switzerland was awarded a penalty after a handball call on Sergino Dest. On the ensuing kick, however, Rodriguez missed the net with a low shot to the right. Horvath guessed correctly but the shot missed the target.
In the second half, Switzerland changed formation and the U.S. the advantage of play it had from the first half. Steven Zuber gave the Swiss the lead in the 63rd minute after a botched set of clearances – that was magnified by an error from Dest.
“We definitely lost compactness in the second half,” Berhalter said. “It became difficult to press. They changed their shape to a 5-3-2, having a central midfielder behind their pressing forward - and we didn't solve that well. It started to open up space, it gave them time on the ball. It forced our backline to move back a bit. That created even more space in the midfield. When they dropped one of their strikers down, also, they started creating numbers there. We didn't do the best job dealing with it.”
“I was really happy with the effort of the guys - the will, and the effort to keep going, keep pressing, keep trying to impose our game on them,” he added. “But in the end of the day, in the second half, I think we came up a little short.”
Switzerland was able to see out the victory and the U.S. team lost its ability to aggressively pressure the Swiss defense.
Here are my thoughts on the game:
U.S. midfield/attack started strong
The U.S. team started off strong and Berhalter was quick to complement this area of the team. He liked the wing play from Aaronson and Reyna while also indicating Josh Sargent’s hold-up play was effective.
In the midfield, Lletget was effective and it wasn’t just his goal. He completed 93% of his passing, and won a solid percentage of his duels..
Sebastian Lletget's raw # vs. Switzerland— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 30, 2021
4 shots (2 on target)
1 key pass
41/44 passing (93%)
1/1 long balls
5/7 duels won
0 aerial attempts
- Good numbers. He played well.
Meanwhile, Weston McKenie covered ground, brought energy, and helped with the team’s passing range. Jackson Yueill, meanwhile, was good with the ball and his passing was pretty good. His defense was mixed. He read the game to break up passing lanes and pick up inceptions but he didn’t close down on defenders quick enough. That will need to improve for him to maintain the Tyler Adams backup No. 6 role. Still, he was pretty good overall.
The second half was far more disjointed but this shows that the team will need to be flexible to adjust to different looks from opponents.
You could easily tell that Switzerland was a veteran team that had played together for years and was comfortable changing approaches while maintain chemistry. The U.S. team, for all its talent, is still new to each other and is in the process of learning a system under Berhalter.
“It was very positive to go away, and just have the attitude of how we want to play and the positioning and the intention to be very aggressive, very high pressing, pinning them in, being very aggressive with balls that came out,” Berhalter said. “That's what I envision this group of being able to do. Over the course of 90 minutes, we lost a bit of that power to be able to do it. Overall, I think the guys did a great job. The game plan was there, we were able to move the ball, create the goal-scoring opportunities and really put them in a bunch of trouble. To me, it's positive. I don't love the result.”
“It's a great measuring stick,” he added. “This is a team that has been playing together for a really long time. It's the same group Switzerland has had for the last four years or five years. It's a mature group. It's an older group than our guys. We can look at it as what this team could be in the future.”
The U.S. team is still building, and it won’t get there overnight. The Swiss team is the finished product and their ability to change approaches on the fly is one of the benefits of that.
Transition defense needs to improve
The U.S. team needs to adjust to getting into better defensive positioning after a turnover, or when the opponent is on a counter attack. That has been a problem in recent games and was a bigger problem against Switzerland.
On Switzerland’s first goal, the U.S. team simply allowed way too much space on the far side of the field. A well-executed long pass across the field opened up the play and the U.S. team was forced into emergency defending.
The U.S. is an aggressive team. Its fullbacks like to push forward, Weston McKennie likes to push forward. There are times when it is vulnerable when possession changes quickly. Good teams like Switzerland will make them pay.
Dest & Defense struggled in the second half
Sergino Dest is easily one of the most talented American players and there is a good reason why he deservedly starts for Barcelona. Today was not one of his better days – and this is granting the penalty as unfortunate accident that could have happened to any defender.
There were a few times when Dest showed his elite quality and was part of good chances. But defensively he was careless at a few important moments and was also dispossessed a few other moments.
He’s been so good for the team that it makes some subpar games understandable but this was simply a game where he was off.
As for the rest of the defense, it was out of synch too often. John Brooks had a lot of work to do with Dest typically looking to get further up the field. Unfortunately, Brooks was unable to always stay with the players he was guarding. McKenzie had more success given that he had more defensive help from Cannon, the fullback, on his side.
Ethan Horvath: 6.5: The Colorado keeper was put in touch situations by his defense but did a decent job. He couldn’t have done anything for either goal.
Reggie Cannon: 5.5: No major mistakes from Cannon and he was pretty good at the limited moments he pressed forward.
John Brooks: 4.5: Struggled in several 1v1 situations and in emergency defending. He is definitely capable of more.
Mark McKenzie: 5.5: Benefited from having a more defensive fullback on his side but also was the team’s best defender on the day.
Sergino Dest: 4.5: Tough day for Dest who showed a lot of quality but also made some key mistakes that were costly.
Jackson Yueill: 5.5: The San Jose defensive midfielder was good with the ball but also needed to close down on space better:
Weston McKennie: 6.0: The Juventus midfielder brought energy to the game on both sides of the ball. The game would have been worse for the U.S. team without McKennie.
Sebastian Lletget: 6.5: The Bay Area native was the best U.S. field player on the day. He took a lot of shots, was good with his passing, and deserved the goal. His aggression helped.
Giovani Reyna: 6.5: While Reyna was frustrated on the day, he was also one of the few American players who had a good day at the office. He was also involved in most of whatever dangerous plays the U.S. team had.
Brenden Aaronson: 5.5: The Salzburg attacker is playing on the wing but is a better central attacking midfielder. He started off the game playing well but tired in the second half.
Josh Sargent: 5.5: It was good hold up play from Sargent but he still wasn’t able to threaten too much.
Kellyn Acosta: 5.5: Acosta completed a perfect 14/14 of his passes.
Tim Ream: 5.0: Got away with one mistake in a play with Dest.
Yunus Musah: 5.5: Brought some energy into the midfield but wasn’t a part of anything dangerous.
Jordan Siebatcheu: 4.5: Just three touches in 18 minutes. He needs to get more involved.
Tim Weah: 5.0: Was part of one half-dangerous chance in his 18 minutes of action.
DeAndre Yedlin: NR: Played nine minutes, but wasn’t part of anything significant.