Heading into this week’s CONCACAF Nations League Final in Denver and, more importantly, qualifying for the World Cup in the fall, which is what the United States Men’s National Team needed more than anything, it was a step forward in the competition. Its nine-game unbeaten streak over the past 18 months was at least in part a product of the quality of the opposition, which made Sunday’s road game against Switzerland, the world’s No.13 team, a valuable barometer for the coach. Gregg Berhalter.
The results have been mixed. After a strong first-half performance in which Sebastian Lletget scored the opening goal, the Americans passed out after half-time as they played aloft in a 2-1 loss.
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Berhalter has said all week that part of the goal of this game – from its location to the day of the week – is to emulate the schedule of what the team will face in the unusual qualifying windows of the World Cup three games ahead. Playing in Switzerland essentially replicates the last club game that players based in Europe will have before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to face opposition from CONCACAF.
All the benefits of the programming exercise will only pay off in the fall, but playing against a strong Switzerland has provided good insight into the team’s position, albeit without three key players: Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen , due to their involvement in the Champions on Saturday. League final and midfielder Tyler Adams, who is recovering from a back injury.
In the first half, the United States were the better team overall. They created the most dangerous scoring chances, were patient and played efficiently behind the back and gave Switzerland some mistakes in the final third. Sergino Dest was effective on the left side, where Brenden Aaronson – who impressed the last window and since his transfer to Austrian champions FC Salzburg in January – was also a forceful presence.
Without Adams, Berhalter gave Jackson Yueill a start, and he mostly acquitted himself well, falling deep to serve as an option for center-backs John Brooks and Mark McKenzie.
“I think it was an interesting game for Jackson, it looked like he gave [Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri] having a hard time with that move and he opened up and got the ball in good positions, ”Berhalter said. “There were a few times he lost the ball, but he felt the play. I think his diagonal pass could have been a little more precise, but overall happy with his effort.”
Yueil was replaced by Kellyn Acosta in the second half, and both players should be in the mix to see playing time in the Nations League with Adams’ status still uncertain. Berhalter said he would receive an update on Adams’ status on Monday, following the team’s trip to the United States.
It was a tough game for forward Josh Sargent, who wasn’t able to make much of an impact before being replaced by Jordan Siebatcheu in the 72nd minute. Sargent has always had a reputation for being a talented player who should get good over time, but as other options for his position have emerged over the past year or so, it’s fair to wonder what the board should look like. deep at his post. Daryl Dike finished the season on fire with Barnsley, while Siebatcheu scored 15 goals in all competitions for the Swiss champion Young Boys. Siebatcheu didn’t necessarily improve his standings on Sunday either, but the idea that Sargent deserves the benefit of the doubt has become less convincing as he advances without being a constant threat to the score.
Despite Sargent’s minimal impact in front of goal, Berhalter praised the work he did in other aspects of the game.
“I think he had a game where he gave everything. He fought,” said Berhalter. “I think he played a good game, except to score a goal, because that’s what we want our striker to do. But other than that, very active, very engaged.”
Darryl Dike is not on the Nations League roster, but he is with the squad at this camp and is expected to play against Costa Rica on June 9. Timothy Weah has mainly trained as a winger with the squad, but this is another option Berhalter could experiment with in place of No.9, having played some there with France champion Lille.
The United States had a few good times to start the second half, but it didn’t take long for Switzerland to tip the scales in their favor after going from a 3-4-1-2 formation. to a 5-3-2 formation. By using a central midfielder behind US pressing No.9, Switzerland played more easily in the press, resulting in several good chances – goalkeeper Ethan Horvath came out on top a few times to keep the score at hand.
Switzerland’s match winner came almost immediately after the United States took off Lletget, Yueill and center-back John Brooks, with Acosta, Tim Ream and Yunus Musah coming. A stray touch from Dest and a defending suspect in the box allowed the ball to rebound before Steven Zuber beat Horvath.
“It’s a great measuring instrument,” Berhalter said. “It’s a team that has been playing together for a very long time. It’s the same group Switzerland has had for four years, five years. It’s a mature group, it’s older than us and our guys can see it as that … what this team could be in the future. “
Berhalter did not fully state what to expect in the starting line-up against Honduras in the Nations League semi-final on Thursday, but indicated that Pulisic was firmly in the plans.
“Try to tell Christian he won’t play on Thursday,” he said. “It will be very difficult after you win the Champions League, come into the game and make an impact in this game. He is ready to go.”