Usmnt_-_asn_top_-_lineup_photo_vs_paraguay_-_march_27__2018_-_john_dorton John Dorton/ISI
USMNT Analysis

Final USMNT takeaways from Cary

The international break is over and the players have all returned to their clubs. So what were the final takeaways from the USMNT's win over Paraguay? ASN's Brian Sciaretta rewatched the game and put together his list of what he thinks about the team moving forward in 2018
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
March 28, 2018
12:00 PM
Last night’s 1-0 win over Paraguay was an important learning experience for the United States team. A lot of was positive but some of it showed where there was needed improvement.

Instead of doing a series of instant hot takes, here are some thoughts after a second viewing.

The need for more No. 10's

Christian Pulisic is the U.S. team’s best player but as of now he is even more valuable than his skillset indicates. While Pulisic can play on the wing or the No. 10, he is most likely the No. 10 for the U.S. team. The problem is that there really is no back-up to Pulisic in this role. Other players who can play the position, like Kelyn Rowe, are inexperienced.

The U.S. team is loaded with young and upcoming No. 6 and No. 8 midfielders like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Keaton Parks, Marco Delgado, and Cristian Roldan. There are few No. 10s.

That is a problem if a system is built around Puliisic as a No.10. If the Hershey teenager is not able to go, the whole system must be scrapped. It would be far better in a situation where Pulisic couldn’t go that a suitable back-up be in place. Even if they’re not at the level of Pulisic, the system could stay.

Of course there are ways to attack effectively without a No. 10. Aggressive play from the fullbacks and wingers along with dynamic forwards are typically the alternative. Last night the U.S. team went without a No. 10 and while it’s outside midfielders in Darlington Nagbe and Kenny Saief showed skill, the final ball wasn’t there and neither brought pace to the game. Bobby Wood, for the most part, was ineffective in the run of play.

All wasn’t lost. The U.S. played a decent possession game to go along with a very good defensive effort to keep Paraguay off the board and win. The lineup didn’t generate many scoring chances but on an individual level, the players all did well. It wasn’t an exciting game formation and style, but it was well-executed.

But it does make you wonder how the loss of Pulisic affects this team. Of course you lose his quality but there doesn’t seem to be a real system in place yet that can generate offense in his absence.

Showing why a GM is needed

As far as an opportunity to learn about the player pool, last night’s game could have been better. Certainly a lot of good happened. Wil Trapp had his best U.S. national team game so far in his career. Tyler Adams lived up to high expectations, Marky Delgado was useful, and the young central defense duo of Matt Miazga and Cameron Carter-Vickers could be first-rate in the years ahead.

But the decision use such few substitutions was a huge missed opportunity. Why not give Tim Weah a longer opportunity to show what he could do? Or let Antonee Robinson make his debut and give him a chance to impress? Jorge Villafana had a very good game but he proved that over 75 minutes. There was an opportunity to give Robinson a chance to get his feet wet internationally.

Last night’s sub patterns in a friendly matched those of a gameplan designed to get a win instead of using the minutes to learn about the player pool. The U.S. had six subs and only used four - with Roldan coming on in stopplage time and Weah coming on in the 85th minute.

The U.S. men’s national team needs a general manager for a lot of reasons and one of the reasons is to set a long-term philosophy. Managers run the team and the game but often times in friendlies, substitution patterns are prearranged. On those types of decisions, a GM can work with the manager to ensure the game is run with a long-term approach under a unified vision set by the GM. 

Adams looks ready

Upon a second viewing, Adams was just as good as he looked live. When the Red Bulls teenager is on his game, it looks as if there are three of him on the field. He has a ways to go before being the finished product but there is a lot to like about where he is now. He can play simple passes, make explosive runs, and be disruptive defensively with tackles, interceptions, and clearances.

The most memorable moment from the game was the run from Adams that drew the penalty. But Adams did a lot more than that.

Moving forward, it will be a challenge for the next coach to find a set position and role for Adams that doesn't disrupt the formation and the shape of the team. It is similar situation to Jermaine Jones in his prime. Adams has quality but he’s tricky to find a spot for because he’s all over the field. He’s a project but one with a huge upside.

Trapp & Delgado exceeded expectations

Wil Trapp had his best international game by far last night. Not typically a physical player, Trapp was still effective deep in the midfield blocking shots, closing passing lanes, and stopping Paraguay’s possessions before they became dangerous. His passing was an important link between the defense and the offense. 

Prior to the penalty Adams won, Trapp started the U.S. team’s most dangerous chance when his pass up the left side played Villafana into a dangerous position. In the end Trapp most likely did enough to earn a call-up in May.

The same could be said for Delgado who showed a lot of chemistry with Adams in a dual No. 8 formation. Adams plays with a lot of freedom and his possession is tough to pin down but it was able to work because Delgado was smart in being where Adam’s wasn’t. The two worked in unison well.

Saief looks like a USMNT starter

Making his first U.S. national team start, Kenny Saief improved as the game went along. Over the course of his time on the field he showed a lot of skill and a very high soccer IQ. He can really help dictate the pace of a game. He can slow the game down, or he can speed it up. He can hit a game-changing pass or he can take a defender on the dribble. He doesn’t lose the ball a lot and is solid in possession.

It makes sense that Sarachan has said that 2018 is about sorting through the player pool and opening the door for new players. But when all is said and done, it is very easy to see Kenny Saief starting at left midfield for the important games during the cycle ahead.

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