Just finished watching for the third time...
I don't follow USMNT as much as I should and am very much a bandwagoner. Maybe a lot of this will be obvious to the folks that watch more regularly. My observations:
- Weston McKinnie either isn't healthy or isn't fully fit after recovering from his injury. I've watched him a lot with Juventus. His first step is slow and he looked hesitant to challenge on either side of the ball. He has all of the tools to be one of the US's best players and I'll love watching him grow into the box to box role. He's made a habit of popping up in the attacking area and scoring important goals. I wish he had one in him yesterday.
- Matt Turner is such a throwback, old-school shot stopper. The US has a tradition of producing guys like him. It's great to have such a solid presence at the back. He doesn't have the ability with the ball at his feet that we see from the world class guys, but I'll trade that for the stability and confidence it gives a defense to know the last line of defense is rock-solid.
- Dest is oozing confidence right now and has a swagger about him that's clearly contagious. It reminds me a bit of how Dempsey carried himself and how his teammates reacted to that presence.
- Pulisic's service yesterday was dreadful and possibly a key difference in the match. He was able to find dangerous pockets and put himself in great positions but the final ball kept letting him down. A more active tactical manager probably pulls him off set piece duty partway through.
- Somebody mentioned it in the game thread, but the substitutions destroyed the cohesion. The team on the field to close out the match had no chance of breaking down a low block.
- Somebody (apologies for a lot of indirect citation) mentioned that it was MLS players coming on. I'd like to think that's coincidence and not predictive. The MLS I've watched of late has drastically improved over even a few years ago. Is the gulf still that wide?
1. Yes, McKennie is clearly not 100% but he got a knock a few weeks ago and stands a chance of being better in games 2 and 3 as he gets past it. We have absolutely nobody who can do his role at anything close to his level, so we'll go as far as he takes us.
3. Dest is 100% hot sauce, and loves dribbling through guys. He has a ton of swagger but his role yesterday didn't really take advantage of that. All our other RBs are stay-at-home, defense-first RBs, although Scally is young enough that he has the chance to become more than that. But Dest is another level of players and good management will draw that out of him, as he had with Koeman at Barcelona.
4. Yeah Pulisic is best when cutting inside, you want Jedi (Antonee Robinson) overlapping and providing the wide service. If Pulisic takes those driving runs through the middle 10 times per game, we'll get great chances out of 2-3 of them. That's usually what Berhalter's system drives him to do, and one of the reasons we don't put Reyna in the McKennie role, because he likes to go to the same places as Pulisic does.
5. The MLS gulf is wide but it's very player- and position-specific. Turner is still basically an MLS goalie with a handful of Europa League starts, and Johnson is a very serviceable goalie too, even if nobody will confuse him with De Gea. Zimmerman is a great defender, but isn't at a top-league level with his on-ball technique. Ferreira has great attack assets as a false-9 or second striker, doesn't do great as a target man, could probably make more abroad but Dallas backed up the brinks truck for him. But other than him, Morris, [Arriola] and Roldan are as close as you get to elite American attacking talent in MLS, and they're just very clearly well below the level needed. Moore as a backup FB was in the Segunda until this summer and looked great at Nashville this fall. Acosta is a serviceable MLS CM who is the closest to our destroyer model of CDM in Adams. Yedlin has always been a good defensive RB speed merchant who could get downfield and put in a cross, but has lost a bunch of his bite over the last few years and the fact that he's in MLS (as said above) has little to do with it. There are a few young guys just breaking out in MLS (much as Aaronson, Adams and Pepi did), who might get a call-up while still state-side, but their future is likely in Europe.
I think the bottom line with MLS is that other than goalies, nobody who is still there in their prime should be regarded as a decent candidate to start for the USMNT. It's a good dev league, and the best MLS lifers will be peripheral to our pool, but it needs another decade or two of growth (which, to give it credit, has been steady over the last 15 years) before it can really retain players of the talent level that's starting for the USA. If Ferreira starts (probably vs Iran), you'll see that statement put to the test.