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USMNT Attack Must Develop Killer Instinct Despite Late CNL Victory

Jordan Siebatcheu

EDITORIAL – It took 89 minutes but the USMNT advanced to the Concacaf Nations League final. A win by the slimmest of margins against Honduras was all it took as Jordan Siebatcheu headed in the winner. More is needed from the USMNT attack if they want to win the final on Sunday.

USMNT Attack Needs Killer Instinct Despite Late CNL Victory

On the whole, it was deserved, Gregg Berhalter’s side had the better chances throughout. The first golden opportunity was nearly the goal of the summer. Giovanni Reyna collected the ball at the edge of the box, skipped past once challenge then another only to see his effort go wide. It should’ve been a sign of bigger things to come from a dynamic attack with Christian Pulisic and Josh Sargent up front.

But instead, the U.S. made more work of the game than it needed to be. Honduras went for it, having the best chance of the first half off a free kick. Sargent made a wonderful effort to head the possible opener out of the goal line. Zack Steffen should’ve done better with his positioning in order to not make a near mess of the situation. Los Catrachos used practically every trick in the book, from taking half-decent shots at goal to fouling and even giving the stretcher crew multiple trips.

But as mentioned before, the USMNT as a whole could’ve killed the game off earlier. Berhalter deployed Pulisic, Sargent, Reyna, Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, etc. That’s a lot of quality attacking talent that tried to accentuate themselves in the contest. Ultimately, neither got on the scoresheet. Alberth Elis was Honduras’ only hope in attack and came close a few times. A reminder the U.S. that these Concacaf contests are going to be more competitive going forward.

“We wanted to score more, but that’s not reality. You see a lot of difficult results in this federation,” Berhalter said. “We played the second youngest roster in competitive play, guys needed this experience.”

And that’s where the killer instinct comes in. With 10 shots, 65% possession and way more xG (expected goals), the USMNT should’ve won this game by more 3 goals or more. It is a young squad of course, and this group of players do need more games together. However, this is a team that still has questions at key positions heading into the CONCACAF Nations League final and the Gold Cup next month.

So far, Sargent didn’t score bringing his selection more into question. Even with his goal-saving effort, he’s got to score goals and make himself a threat which he lacked against Honduras. Siebatcheu scoring the winner will give him more favor to start the final. Even with Timothy Weah also pining for game time, the striker department is getting crowded. It’ll be interesting to see moving forward with Daryl Dike having a say to be selected and play in the Gold Cup.

The midfield at the No. 6 position also brings its questions. With Tyler Adams not fit yet, Jackson Yueill has been tasked with keeping things tidy at that spot. The San Jose Earthquake has been shaky at times against Honduras and Switzerland. The spacing as a whole has slowed the build-up in a big way. Kellyn Acosta came on late to replace. Balance in midfield is key for this young group and will be interesting to see how Berhalter tinkers with this going into the final.

He also had mentioned post-game about wanting to get Pulisic isolated out wide, but the recent Champions League winner found himself drifting towards the middle to receive the ball. It wasn’t an easy game for anyone involved, except for maybe Siebatcheu.

One fine positive was John Brooks asserting his physicality and sweet range of passing. It was his service in the box that led to the 1-0 victory. Whoever partners him at the back will find life a bit easy with Brooks doing the heavy lifting at times. Mark McKenzie carried that responsibility and was really good. It’s a key performance in making sure goalkeeper Zack Steffen doesn’t overdo anything.

“I think Mark and John did well in front of me. I think we all could have done better, individually and as a team”, said Zack Steffen. “I’m proud of John and his composure on the ball. He definitely helps with his experience.” Matt Miazga was a late substitution as he and Tim Ream make up the other key figures at center back.

“We advanced to a final so we’re happy. This game is exactly what we needed”, says Berhalter. “Some of the guys have never seen that before. The mental side, to keep grinding. Not enough balance, but for the guys to have to dig and compete, they did a fantastic job.”

All in all, it’s important that a young team wins ugly. That was the case against Honduras, but it’s also fair to demand a bit more of a team that has a lot of skill. That killer instinct, it’s what’ll be required against rivals Costa Rica or Mexico. More will also be required of Berhalter, who’s been on the hot seat since he took the job. In Concacaf, this USMNT squad will earn it the hard way.

Photo Credit: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB


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