USMNT qualifying takeaways: Another step back as Pulisic needs support and Berhalter needs to act fast

Written by on September 6, 2021

The United States men’s national team dropped points yet again in Concacaf World Cup qualifying on Sunday, settling for a 1-1 draw against Canada as the road to Qatar 2022 gets a little trickier. The U.S. had the chances they needed to win the game, but they almost came up with nothing in a match that was open and back and forth in the second half. Brenden Aaronson scored for the Americans early in the second half before Cyle Larin’s equalizer moments later, set up by Alphonso Davies.

Sitting on two points after two games, this isn’t the start anybody envisioned for the United States. Next up is another touch matchup away from home at Honduras (Paramount+) to close out the September international window. With Sunday’s underwhelming result in the books, here are three takeaways to digest ahead of Matchday 3.

1. This result was much worse than El Salvador

Drawing against El Salvador wasn’t ideal, but it’s hard to win anywhere, especially on the road, in Concacaf. This result, failing to win at home against Canada, was by far worse. While the play may have been a bit more encouraging going forward, it was still extremely below average. There continues to be a disconnect in the team, the lack of veteran presence means we’ve got what seems like eight to 10 kids running around out there at times struggling to stay within the system. Having Sebastian Lletget slide into the starting lineup helped a bit, but there are just way too many questions. Now, to be fair, not having Weston McKennie (suspended) and Gio Reyna (hamstring) didn’t help things, but there is still no creator in this side that makes them look threatening. It’s time for some serious changes to the formation and the system. 

2. Pulisic needs somebody to provide him the ball 

Christian Pulisic, who made his long-awaited return on Sunday, is not being used properly, as he’s getting too deep into the middle and continually getting fouled far away from goal. You can’t blame him because he’s got little-to-no help. It makes sense sometimes to have him drop to get the ball, but when he is being hacked down time and time again, something has to be done, and it didn’t happen. 

Numbers wise, he had a decent night with three shots, an xG of 0.56, three chances created and an xA of 0.29. But he still needs to stay higher, have somebody get him the ball out wide and let him go to work. 

3. Where the subs, Berhalter?

In what was another familiar scene, U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter waited too long to make changes to the squad. First, he didn’t even use all five subs allowed, and three of the four he made entered the match after the 80th minute. The first was because of Sergino Dest’s injury. Why wait so long? It’s one thing if your team is on the front foot and looks capable of winning. It’s another thing when your team looks like it may just let a point slip. It’s inexcusable and just baffling. Maybe the options off the bench aren’t ideal, but get some fresh legs in their and give somebody a shot. 

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