The final camp for the US men’s national team was never supposed to be easy before qualifying for the World Cup begins in September. Four games in 11 days, transatlantic travel, training and play at altitude – it’s all designed to strengthen a young American team that is still trying to find its competitive feet.
And so it began with a test Sunday that ended disappointingly, but which coach Gregg Berhalter hopes will be beneficial in the long run. The USA’s friendly 2-1 loss to Switzerland in St. Gallen ended a nine-game unbeaten streak dating back to November 2019. It also offered the opportunity to compete against seasoned and seasoned opponents who were far superior to some. of the US regional middleweights has played in recent months. These are the kind of games that improve young teams.
Sunday’s display was the last set-up before the United States competes in the final four of the Concacaf Nations League next week. The Americans will face Honduras in Thursday’s semifinal in Denver, play the consolation game or final the following Sunday and then face Costa Rica in another friendly on June 9 outside Salt Lake City. It will be a glove. It’s supposed to be.
Berhalter faced an opponent ranked 13th in the world on Sunday, opting for what was probably the strongest lineup available in America (or at least very close to it). UEFA Champions League finalists Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen will not join the team until Monday night, and midfielder Tyler Adams is still getting back in shape after a back injury. But otherwise, depending on how you feel about midfielder Sebastian Lletget and backup Yunus Musah, this was arguably the best American XI available.
It’s a lot to ask of players to train at altitude and play for a strong team immediately after a long club campaign, all before flying 5,000 miles for three more games in quick succession. Sunday’s friendly was not about experimentation, it was about preparation, preparation for the competitive games to come and then for the qualifying routine.
“We have been looking at this carefully and what we are seeing is that it is going to replicate the cadence of a player who plays for his club team on the weekend, who flies across the ocean and then prepares for a three-game block. in World Cup Qualification ”, Berhalter this calendar week.
“It will be difficult. It is going to be a challenge. But what it gives us is information, and I think that information will be valuable, ”continued the coach. “Who can go to three games? Who do you have to rest? What does the third game look like? There are a number of different variables that we can obtain information about. “
So the friendly in St. Gallen represented the “club [game] the weekend, ”and the subsequent journey, recovery and decisions in the days leading up to Thursday’s semi-final will serve as a dress rehearsal for the transition to qualifying this fall. It was important, then, that Berhalter started asking those questions of his first-choice players, as well as getting them some valuable time together. Your response and recovery will be a vital part of the process.
Selecting LA Galaxy’s Lletget over Musah as one of two attacking players in the US three-man midfield seemed like the right move from the start. Switzerland were in the lead in the opening moments, but in the fifth minute, the Americans took the lead on Lletget’s fifth international goal in his last six games. Forward Gio Reyna had all day to take a cross from the right corner of the penalty area, and a Swiss defender cleared it directly at Lletget. The ball bounced off to Brenden Aaronson, who returned the touch to Lletget for a good shot from about 10 yards.
From then on, the United States was the best team for much of the half. Switzerland had a couple of good moments, however, and that was enough to tie in the 10th minute and then almost take the lead before the break. Five minutes after Lletget’s goal, the United States were caught in transition and Xherdan Shaqiri had room to run in midfield. He chose right-back Silvan Widmer, who changed the play to Ricardo Rodríguez on the left. The Torino defender’s shot bounced off the heel of American right-back Reggie Cannon and past a defenseless Ethan Horvath.
At 40, American left-back Sergiño Dest was whistled for a hand in the penalty area. He had an uneven day, but there was probably not much the Barcelona defender could do on a play at such close range. However, Rodriguez granted a clemency to Dest and his teammates, who hit his shot from point of view.
Those incidents aside, the American starters played quite well against a Swiss team that also fielded many of their first-choice players, led by Shaqiri, captain Granit Xhaka, forwards Haris Seferović and Breel Embolo, midfielder Denis Zakaria and more. . The American press was tall, robust and generally disciplined, generating several turnovers that produced promising opportunities. Lletget hit the side net in the 28th minute, Aaronson saw his return shot saved a couple minutes later and after a United States corner kick in the 36th, Dest maneuvered through traffic and hit a strong shot at the near post. that was rejected. While the US was lucky not to lag behind at halftime, Switzerland could have felt the same way.
“It was very positive,” Berhalter said of the way his team started. “Just to have the attitude of how we want to play and the positioning and the intention to be very aggressive, push a lot, hold them … that’s what I imagine this group will be able to do.”
However, like most friendlies, Sunday changed dramatically as substitutions began to flow. A triple substitution by Berhalter preceded Switzerland’s winning goal, which came in the 62nd minute. Dest and newly introduced center-back Tim Ream were unable to clear a loose ball, and Swiss midfielder Steven Zuber was able to dodge Horvath.
Mistakes were signs of trouble ahead. Hosts responded much better than the US as the staff and landscape changed, and visitors increasingly lacked the structure they benefited from during the first half. The final score could easily have been a lot less flattering for Berhalter’s side, who were lucky enough to lose by just one goal at the end.
“We definitely lost compactness in the second half,” Berhalter said, “I’m very happy with the effort of our guys and the willingness to keep pushing and keep pushing and keep trying to impose our game on them, but at the end of the day, in the second half, I think we fell a little short. “
However, if several days of tough conditions, fatigue and a lack of experience or chemistry affected the Americans in the second half, that will likely be acceptable to the coach. They are among the obstacles your team will have to overcome on its way to the World Cup.
“I don’t love the result,” Berhalter said. “But the guys put in a lot of effort. It’s a great yardstick. This is a team that has been playing together for a long time. It’s the same group that Switzerland has had for the last four years, five years. So it’s a Mature team group. It’s an older group than us, and our guys can see that as what this team could be in the future. “
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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.