My 3 Thoughts on USMNT-Saudi Arabia
The injured Yunus Musah was in attendance and saw that the U.S. needs Yunus Musah in a 0-0 tie against the World Cup-bound Saudis.
MURCIA, Spain — The U.S. men’s national team tied Saudi Arabia 0-0 on Tuesday in the last game before the World Cup starts in November. Here are my three thoughts on the game:
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• This was better than the ugly Japan loss, but the U.S. still isn’t where it should be so close to the World Cup. The U.S. had to make an improvement over that performance against the Japanese, and they did, showing more poise and a bit more energy against a not-full-strength Saudi Arabia starting 11. Weston McKennie and especially Tyler Adams had better performances over Friday in the midfield, and central defenders Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman didn’t lose their composure this time. (They even looked for some line-breaking passes over the top.) It was good to see Christian Pulisic back on the field, and the U.S. looked decent on the handful of occasions when Pulisic showed flashes of creativity on the ball in the attack. But Pulisic still didn’t have a signature moment that could have really gotten him going again amid his club issues. Meanwhile, the U.S. still didn’t create many scoring chances and had just two shots on goal against a Saudi team that was well-organized by the veteran coach Hervé Renard. The Saudis don’t concede many goals (they tied fellow World Cup entrant Ecuador 0-0 here on Friday), and the U.S. didn’t do enough to find holes in the defense. Playing at left back, Sergiño Dest remains an enigma, a player capable on this night of some brutal unforced errors but also of a couple piercing runs forward. Simply put: It has to getter from the U.S. before the World Cup opener against Wales if the Americans are going to put three points on the board in that game.
• The U.S. really needs Yunus Musah. The 19-year-old Valencia midfielder could have made a huge difference in this game had he been on the field instead of missing with an injury. Musah actually came down the coast and watched the game in the stadium, and what he saw was a U.S. team that doesn’t have anyone quite like him who can carry the ball forward on the dribble in the midfield and threaten opposing defenses. Musah has a real chance to be the breakout player of the World Cup for the United States. Give Gregg Berhalter credit for recognizing early that Musah can be dangerous in a central role instead of the wide role that his club played him at until Rino Gattuso decided to do so this season. But is it a concern that the U.S. doesn’t seem to have anyone else who can do what Musah does? You bet it is. Which is why it’s so important that Musah gets healthy and stays that way through November.
• Gio Reyna can’t buy a break health-wise. The 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund attacker has been plagued by injuries for the past year, and he recreated an all-too-familiar scene in the 30th minute when he touched the ball out of play and walked off the field through the tunnel (with Gregg Berhalter following behind). U.S. Soccer said Reyna had muscle tightness and came out as a precaution. Reyna, who still seems better-suited to a central midfield than a winger spot with the U.S., hadn’t made a major mark in these two international games, but it was good just to see him start two games in a row as he tries to get back to full fitness for club and country. It has almost become a meme at this point to see a distressed Reyna walking off the field through the tunnel, and you have to hope that it isn’t an injury that will set him back as he tries to become a regular contributor for the U.S. and for Dortmund. There’s a psychological element to how Reyna processes his injuries, and it’s something you never want a player so young to have to deal with on a regular basis.
What are your thoughts on the game? You can join the discussion in the comments below.
It's amazing how quickly I went from looking forward to November to dreading November. The team we saw this week will have trouble getting any points in the group stage.
Well, what a great way to blow any excitement for the World Cup. Can Berhalter be fired and try to build some momentum and excitement. Most talented US Team in history and least exciting. No, I don't blame the players for the lack of excitement. Hard to get excited or be enthusiastic on the field when you know you're playing for a terrible coach. Grant, does he legitimately have the players support or do they just give lip service for interviews?