With World Cup in sight, USMNT still have doubts about goalkeepers and forwards

With World Cup in sight, USMNT still have doubts about goalkeepers and forwards

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Jeff Dean/AP

A mixed bag of June matches ended Tuesday with a 1-1 draw against El Salvador as USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter continued his preparations for the World Cup.

The window opened with two useful friendlies against nations en route to the World Cup – a morale-boosting 3-0 win against Morocco and a resilient and at times fluid scoreless draw with a slightly Uruguayan side. superior.

Then came the imposition of two Concacaf Nations League matches: a virtually meaningless 5-0 victory over Grenada and Tuesday’s visit to soggy San Salvador, during which a Jordan Morris header in the additional time saved American blushes – and illustrated American resolve.

A spirited second-half display was the main bright spot for the United States, as Yunus Musah delivered a kinetic star turn. Substitute Paul Arriola was sent off for a slot and El Salvador also finished the game with 10 men. It was a feverish, bad-tempered, VAR-less Concacaf archetype on a dreadful surface, a backdrop that will bear little resemblance to Group B games in Qatar against Wales, England and Iran. You hope.

Here are some takeaways from the final games of the round.

Ferreira in front

France won the 1998 World Cup with a goal-averse striker turned swimming pool salesman, Stéphane Guivarc’h, in the lead. It shouldn’t be beyond the United States to go out of their group without a top-class No. 9. The wingers are a threat, the midfield has dynamism, and it’s not as if the centre-backs contributed much to open play in successful qualifying. country.

Right now, the best option seems to be FC Dallas’ Jesús Ferreira. The in-form 21-year-old moves the ball well and scored four goals against Grenada in Austin last Friday. Surely you could fit the entire adult population of Grenada into the 108,000 capacity Michigan Stadium. But given the modest caliber of the opposition and his quiet performances against Uruguay and Morocco, the pressure was on Ferreira to fill his boots and he did, with three fine finishes and a tap-in.

Related: America’s next best striker: Who will be Berhalter’s first choice in Qatar?

Antalyaspor’s Haji Wright made his first start in the United States against El Salvador but received little service and there wasn’t much to note other than a decent chance the player from 24 year old ruled out. He was withdrawn at half-time and replaced by Ferreira, but it was another substitute, the pugnacious Morris, who equalized from close range.

Horvath Horror Show

Nottingham Forest backup keeper Ethan Horvath had his chance on Tuesday on a pitch apparently imported from the Glastonbury Festival. His feet appeared stuck in the mud in the 35th minute as he watched Alexander Larin’s cross/shot fly into the net. Rain won’t be a problem in Qatar, but the goal – El Salvador’s only shot on target – was the kind of cruel moment that can doom an international career.

Matt Turner was solid in goal against Morocco and failed to face a shot on target against Grenada, while Sean Johnson excelled against Uruguay, the toughest opponent the United States have faced this month. With Zack Steffen not in the squad, Turner and Johnson bolstered their cases to be chosen ahead of Manchester City’s error-prone reserve. Turner may now be the favorite to start in Qatar, although he won’t see much first-team action at Arsenal next season.

Tuesday’s monstrous strike was the only goal conceded by the United States in the four games. The fearsome Aaron Long partnered with Cameron Carter-Vickers at centre-back against El Salvador and deserves the edge over the Celtic defender as Berhalter decides who will fit in alongside first-choice Walker Zimmerman.

Two games to play

Gregg Berhalter is yet to choose his final XI for the World Cup. Photograph: Scott Wachter/USA Today Sports

The United States have only 180 minutes left before the World Cup. Come autumn and September’s pair of climatic friendlies in Europe, Berhalter will have to decide how much importance he places on the club’s current form versus what he has witnessed longer term in the camps. training and international matches.

It’s a calculation for any manager before a World Cup, of course. But this time, the finals take place in November and December, less than halfway through the European season. Not to mention the large number of American players who could be away this summer – or who have already changed clubs, like Brenden Aaronson. Athletic have listed 14 who could soon change employers, including key men such as Christian Pulisic, Sergiño Dest and Weston McKennie.

Perhaps they thrive in a cool environment; maybe they have trouble adapting. Berhalter’s best-laid plans may end up needing a major last-minute overhaul, even without injury.

leave it late

For one thing, the fewer people who see Pulisic’s latest hairstyle, the better. On the other, the lack of buzz around the June window was a shame. Five months from kick-off against Wales in Qatar, the matches did not look like a series of send-offs. But US Soccer’s policy of playing in small MLS stadiums and late kick-off times for games broadcast on a niche channel carousel do nothing to promote the product to casual watchers.

Of course, Friday’s Game 4 of the NBA Finals generated more interest for the average American sports fan than a Nations League walk in a Texas sweatbox against the 170th-ranked team. global. But was Grenada’s game scheduled to kick off on a Friday night at 10 p.m. ET and be broadcast in English on the cavernous ESPN+ subscription streaming service, where viewers may have been distracted by alternative delights such as the La Lacrosse Loggers vs. Bismarck Larks in the Northwoods Baseball League?

Related: Pulisic is unhappy with USMNT fans. But the price rather than the passion is to blame

Tuesday’s showdown in San Salvador, on FS1, Univision and TUDN, also kicked off at 10 p.m. ET as the USMNT continued its war against people who had to get up early the next morning. The game even clashed with a rescheduled home MLS game for one of the continent’s most popular clubs, as Seattle hosted Vancouver. This on the day MLS announced a lucrative and comprehensive deal with Apple TV; Compare and nuance.

Thoughts turn to 2026

As hosts of the biennial Gold Cup, the United States has the chance to play many games at home. The usual motion sickness – their only away win in the octagon was against by far the worst team Honduras – doesn’t bode well for Qatar, but it won’t be a problem four years from now.

Fifa finally unveils the identity of the host cities for the 2026 World Cup on Thursday. Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara are safe bets, but there are intrigues concerning American and Canadian cities. Kansas City ahead of Baltimore/Washington? Houston but not Boston? There are rumors that Fifa will snub Edmonton, leaving Canada with only Toronto and Vancouver.

Then there’s the question of who won the best games, with the New York and Dallas regions vying for the final. Los Angeles too, although the ground of the SoFi Stadium is too narrow for the taste of Fifa. It’s true: Stan Kroenke – the owner of Arsenal and the Colorado Rapids – built a $5.5 billion stadium with football as an afterthought.