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USMNT analysis

USMNT optimistic as camp opens; Araujo completes switch to Mexico

The USMNT camp is in full swing ahead of three big qualifiers starting Thursday in Texas against Jamaica. ASN's Brian Sciaretta offers up his first prematch report. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
October 03, 2021
11:05 PM

THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL TEAM is currently in Austin, Texas training ahead of Thursday’s big World Cup qualifier at home against Jamaica.

The team as already been forced to make two roster changes with the removal of Tim Ream (family reasons) and John Brooks (back) with the lone replacement being Walker Zimmerman.

The U.S. team currently sits in third place in CONCACAF and are looking for a solid window to put themselves into a good position and perhaps separate themselves from the pack.

Like the U.S. team without Reyna or Pulisic, the Jamaican roster has been dealt a pair of serious blows. Aston Villa's Leon Bailey is unable to participate due to an injury and West Ham star forward Michail Antonio will not make the trip from England. Despite these loses, Jamiaca won’t be an easy opponent for the United States either as there are still several players who have solid resumes. Kemar Roofe has 17 goals in 31 appearances for Rangers in Scotland. Ethan Pinnock starts for Brentford in the Premier League. Bobby Decordova-Reid has been a long-time starter for Fulham. Daniel Johnson has played 239 Championship games for Preston North End. Other players have plenty of experience throughout England.

Ahead of this game, a different set of themes have come about. In terms of off the field, the team isn’t setting goals for a nine or seven point window. Instead, it is game by game.


Growing from September


There is the general belief and hope among the group of players that after September saw so many of the team’s players make their qualifying debut, the team would be more prepared for the October games.

“Last camp was obviously a great experience for us all. A lot of us, our first taste of what World Cup qualifying was going to be like. For us, the most important thing coming into this camp now is to take each and every game, game by game, not focus on saying: OK, let's get nine points. I mean, I remember even myself, I previously said: let's get nine points in the window. Let's focus on each game and what we need to do in order to win each game. And then I think that's going to set us up for the for the best success.”

“I think that coming into last camp, maybe we were just a little bit naive and, we didn't really know what to expect,” Adams added. “That's why we had to use those first three games as a learning process. And now you can already see, it's been one training, but at the end of the day, you can tell that the group is focused and we know what our ambitions are, of course. But again, it's just that game by game mentality now.”

Veteran Paul Arriola, who was not part of the September games due to injury, agreed.

“We have to take it one game at a time and focus,” Arriola said.  “It's on the players, it's on the staff, for us to really be able to manage every moment. This is this is what it's about. This is how we get to where we want. It really is one play at a time - not get ahead of ourselves, not get too down, try and stay as level as possible. It comes with experience. A lot of these guys played in the last in the last round of games. They have some experience. They know what to expect. They know, well, way games look like they know what the home games look like.”




There is also the emphasis on the team playing with more verticality – with hopes that it will improve the offense. This has been cited in some of the roster decisions – such as the decision to call in Gyasi Zardes over Jordan Pefok. 

Adams spoke in detail about his goal of boosting the team’s offense, even from a deeper position.

“I just need to try and get the ball in areas where I'm able to break lines more effectively and just get to that guys and in attacking positions the ball more often,” Adams explained. “I think that the last camp, we had a tendency for our attacking players to come a little bit deeper and try to find the ball…When they don't feel like they can get the ball, then they have to come back and get the ball. If we're just a little bit more efficient and we're able to get them the ball in better positions, and I think that that's going to obviously have a big effect on the team putting them in more dangerous spots.”

While Arriola was not involved in the last camp, he has played regularly with the national team under Berhalter and knows his role coming into Texas. 

“Gregg had mentioned about verticality and being able to get in behind and really create havoc for back lines. Obviously, that's something that Greg really likes about me and the way that I play and the willingness to get in behind with and without the ball. And obviously, for me, that's my job. And I've always known that coming into the national team with Greg as he's always emphasized that the wingers get in behind. It's extremely important to find our attacking midfielders in pockets to be able to turn and look forward and then be able to play wingers in behind. Coming into camp, I know my role, even if Gregg hasn't touched on it yet. I 100% percent know my role and what I'm here to do, and that's obviously get him behind and be able to press and just be a havoc. And really, really provide a lot of energy going forward.”


New Players in Camp


While this group is now more experienced, there are new players called up – along with other key players not in camp. Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna are not the roster as both have been ruled out for injures.

Yunus Musah, Gianluca Busio, Matthew Hoppe, Chris Richards, Shaq Moore, and Luca de la Torre are just some of the players who are additions from last month. Arriola and Zardes are veterans although this will be their first qualifiers of this cycle. Busio and Hoppe were last with the team this past summer for the successful Gold Cup winning effort.

Adams knows most of the players having played in MLS with Busio, in Germany against Richards, and with the U.S. U-17 World Cup team with de la Torre.

“Yunus is someone that I'm familiar with,” Adams said. “I've had a couple of camps with him now, Luca de la Torre, I grew up with and know him and how skillful he is and how hard he's worked for his own path. And to see him striving now and making his own strides in and Netherlands is great to see. Gianluca Busio. I remember playing some preseason games against him when I was at New York and he was at KC. To see the strides he's made is unbelievable. I'm really excited for him. Hopefully, they all get opportunities. We're going to need everyone in this camp. In terms of picking up the slack, I think that they all have their own their own qualities, but I think that they're going to be able to make a big impact with the team.”

Arriola also is optimistic with some of the new group.

“As far as Busio and Hoppe, I played with them in the Gold Cup,” Arriola said. “They were great. They're gamers, they're great guys, good kids with a really bright future. I think they're going to have to experience World Cup qualifying for themselves. At the same time , we're hoping that they'll have they'll have an impact on these games, just like everyone that's on this roster.”


Araujo switches to Mexico


Julian Araujo officially announced that he had decided to leave the U.S. setup and his switch of associations was granted by FIFA to play for Mexico.

The LA Galaxy right back has shown a lot of promise in recent years and could be one that could fetch the club a nice sum for a transfer.

Araujo, 20, has been given many chances within the U.S. system. He was a member of the United States U-20 World Cup team in 2019 where he was playing up a cycle but behind Sergino Dest (Araujo had played in the U-20 World Cup qualifying tournament). He was also a member of the U.S. U-23 Olympic qualifying team in March (also playing up a cycle) and in December 2020 he played for the full national team in a friendly win over El Salvador.

It remains to be seen if this is a big loss for the U.S. program. It certainly might be. After Dest, the right back situation has a lot of options, although none are settled. DeAndre Yedlin will be older next cycle. Reggie Cannon is in a poor club situation and Bryan Reynolds made the move to Roma after only a few months as the FC Dallas starter. He will likely need a loan to get the next step of his career going. Joe Scally has shown enormous progress at Borussia Monchengladbach – but it is still a small sample size of seven games.

Araujo has shown to be a promising right back and as Berhalter said a few months ago is a player he viewed as a potential future starter.

It might turn around Araujo will be a big loss or the current options might prove to be better. Time will reveal the answer. But with the uncertainty of the future and the progress Araujo has shown, it would have been better for U.S. Soccer for him to remain with the program.

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