It says something about the USA men’s team that the members were disappointed by the 1-1 draw in qualifying for the World Cup on Tuesday in Jamaica. Points are hard to come by on the road at Concacaf, but this young team has no limits on their confidence, expectations or ambition.
“I felt like we could have won every game so far in qualifying,” said de facto midfielder and captain Tyler Adams in Kingston.
But it also says something about Americans they haven’t done: that they struggled to prevail in a less talented Reggae Boyz squad and that they may have been lucky enough to get away with a point. Although the USA took an early lead with a Tim Weah goal, the hosts responded with an impressive shot by West Ham United’s Michail Antonio, then successfully passed the US press with a series of long balls beforehand. of nearly winning the game with a late header that was ruled out by the referee.
Qualifying is a roller coaster ride, coach Gregg Berhalter said. So was the draw at Kingston and the November window overall, which began with Mexico’s 2-0 dismantling last week in Cincinnati. That’s not just talking about the coach. It is an accurate assessment. The USA is just past the midpoint of Concacaf’s Octagonal, which will send the top three finishers straight to the Qatar World Cup and an additional team to an intercontinental tiebreaker.
It has been almost all ups and downs, from the lows of the frustrating home draw with Canada, the suspension of Weston McKennie in September and the terrible night of the entire team in Panama, to the all-time highs of that brilliant second half in Honduras, the comeback against Costa Rica and then the next generation “Dos a Cero” in Cincinnati. Regardless, Berhalter has started 30 different players and given 26 his debut in qualifying for the World Cup. It has been a struggle at times, and the 4-1-3 record could, and perhaps should, be better. But it is also a great achievement for a young team that is learning as it goes. Add in the fact that the Americans so often go out onto the field without many of their most high-profile players (Gio Reyna and Sergiño Dest missed this month’s games and a recovering Christian Pulisic was a second-half substitute), And there are many reasons to be optimistic, or at least satisfied, with the performance so far.
The United States is in second place with six qualifiers remaining, and is on track to reach Qatar.
“I think we are on the right track,” Berhalter said in Kingston. “[We’re] basically having to get the guys experience on the go. We play against a team of Olympic age. The median age was again eligible for the Olympics: 22 [and 341 days]. He’s really learning as he goes, and the guys have done a great job adapting to that. We have had very good home performances. We have already scored five points on the road, in four games.
“We will use the winter and spring of the 22nd to hopefully get through to qualification, but the guys have been great,” the coach continued. “When I look at the year 21 in general, you know that we raised two trophies. We are in the position where we want to be (in) qualifying for the World Cup. We have already won 16 games [tying the single-year U.S. record]. The guy has done a great job. It all depends on them and their commitment to the program. “
But like the response to Tuesday’s tie, there should be a bit of concern woven into the optimistic outlook. The second place is good. It is also somewhat treacherous. Although there is now some separation between the top four and bottom four in the Octagonal, the USA is only one point above fourth place, which would mean a tiebreaker at home and at home against a team from South America, Asia. or Oceania. The worst case scenario of a trip to somewhere like Tokyo or Montevideo with a World Cup spot at stake looms on the horizon.
Among the six games left for the United States are the three that are arguably the toughest on the Octagonal calendar: in Canada on January 30, and then in Mexico (March 24) and in Costa Rica (March 30). The Canadians have vastly improved and unbeaten in qualifying, and the difficulty of winning in Mexico City and San José is long established. The United States is 0-21-4 combined in the World Cup qualifiers in those two inhospitable cities. And so the margin for error at home is practically gone, and a point or two on the road may also be necessary. There is still a lot of work to do.
“When we look at the table, obviously we’re still in a good position with games to play,” Adams said. “We have a lot of home games to come. So in this next window, it will be very important that we continue to win our games at home and get points on the road when we can. But yeah, we just have to keep winning as many games as possible. “
The location of those three qualifiers at home is yet to be determined. The plan for the January / February window depends on Canada and where it chooses to host the match that is in the middle of the three games. Berhalter and US Soccer want to minimize travel, especially for European-based players, so they would prefer to bundle home games against El Salvador and Honduras as close to the Canadian game as possible. But there is no official information yet on whether Canada plans to push the United States west to Vancouver or Edmonton (the site of Tuesday’s frigid victory over Mexico), or whether it will opt for the Toronto / Hamilton area.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that Camp Tim Hortons of Hamilton was the top candidate. If that’s the case, the US will likely stay in the center / southeast of the country for both of your dates of origin. The United States Soccer Federation has a plan A and B. The choice is up to Canada. Illustrated Sports is awaiting clarification from Concacaf on what deadline, if any, the Canadian Football Association must meet.
Before that, Berhalter and the group of players will be busy. It may seem like it’s time to breathe out with the Octagonal’s midpoint reached, the holidays upon us, and the next qualifying window two months from now. But there is no real break. As the European seasons continue, Berhalter will bring a collection of national players to Southern California for a December 5-18 camp that will conclude with a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina at the LA Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park. It will be a chance for established national team players like Walker Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, Matt Turner, Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, Cristian Roldan, MLS Young Player of the Year Ricardo Pepi and others to stay fit and fresh. . It will also give Berhalter the opportunity to expand the group by 2022 with players like DC United’s Kevin Paredes, New York Red Bulls ‘Caden Clark, San Jose Earthquakes’ Cade Cowell and Louisville City’s Jonathan Gomez among the youngsters who could. check out.
Shortly after the New Year, the United States will be back together for another MLS camp, perhaps in the Phoenix area (site has not been confirmed). When the qualifying window opens towards the end of January, MLS men who are not part of Berhalter’s Octagonal plans will make way for players arriving from Europe. Obviously, it’s hard to tell what the U.S. roster will look like at the time, largely because the health and availability of the players has been so unpredictable. The good news for Berhalter is that additional talent has emerged over the past three months. It wasn’t long ago that Robinson, Pepi, Yunus Musah, Brenden Aaronson, and Tim Weah, for example, were either untested or closer to the periphery of the rankings. They are now central players.
Berhalter has lined up eight different starting lineups in the eight qualifiers so far. It is not an easy task to establish a foundation, gain the necessary experience and see who is up to the task of qualification while everything is happening. Some hiccups are to be expected. Knowing that, and even while grieving, the United States is largely satisfied with its situation.
“The first window was a great learning experience for us, in terms of how to mentally prepare for these three games and get through the journey and everything; we needed that window. And we got five points, we were undefeated. But we fell below two points per game, and then in the next two windows we kept the ratio of two points per game and that’s pretty good. That’s pretty good, man, when you think about the youth of this group, the inexperience of this group in the Concacaf qualifying, ”Berhalter explained.
“There are ups and downs in qualifying. We talk about the roller coaster that it is,” he continued. “But we keep going up slowly and steadily. I’ve been happy with most of the home shows, or the last few home shows. We’ve done really well. Our touring record is pretty much as expected. We would have loved to have that point. in Panama. But we have been resilient and this group has character. It is a very fun group to work with and we ‘are on the right track. “
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.