Five thoughts on the USMNT win over Bolivia
What are the takeaways from the United States national team's win over Bolivia. Admittedly, it's tough to read too much into a game against a bad opponent but still, some players stood out and now have momentum to start the cycle. Brian Sciaretta explains.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedALL A TEAM CAN do is play the team in front of it. An undermanned Bolivian was the opponent for a youthful U.S team that dominated the game from the opening minutes.
May 28, 2018
May 28, 2018
Bolivia is typically one of the worst teams in South America. In Philadelphia, Bolivia’s roster consisted of domestic players from the weaker teams not still involved in the league’s playoffs. Bolivia had to even send a makeshift coaching staff for this team. So the game had little chance of being competitive.
But the U.S. team is not preparing for the World Cup or any meaningful games. So the team’s young players are trying to make a case that they belong. So even with a bad opponent, it was an important opportunity for individual players. Some players stepped up, others didn’t.
Robinson was the big winner
In his first national team cap, Antonee Robinson looked full of promise at the left back position. The English-born Robinson flew up and down the end line and gave the U.S. team a real attacking boost from the wide left area of the field.
It wasn’t perfect. He was out of position at times defensively. But he used his explosive speed to get back into position and break up chances. These are things he will learn over time but he looked eager and confident to make a statement and his positives vastly outweighed his negative in his first cap.
His assist to Weah for the team’s final goal was the offensive play of the night. It is going to be a lot of fun to watch the U.S. team with a fullback tandem of Yedlin and Robinson in the upcoming years. That speed, combined with a nice group of young midfielders, will create chances.
Weston McKennie had a strong performance against Bolivia and he was put in a good position to succeed. His passing is generally effective but what makes him standout is his ability to play effective defense on top of it.
When he is on, he can shut the opponent out of the middle of the field, force turnovers, and quickly get the ball into the attack. With time, he can hit a decisive pass to set up a chance.
Against Bolivia, he set the tone early and Bolivia had nothing up the middle of the field. McKennie was everywhere in the middle of the field and was more than enough to frustrate a bad opponent from the opening minutes.
Impressive central defense competition
Walker Zimmerman scored the opening goal off a nice header and showed why he can dominate in the air. But even aside from that goal, Zimmerman had a very good game. Bolivia did not create many opportunities but Zimmerman broke up whatever came his way.
But the best part of Zimmerman’s game on Monday was his passing out of the back. He was often able to play his midfielders into good positions to create chances.
Zimmerman had a really nice night distributing the ball, even when moving it vertically pic.twitter.com/CKCkzUJIL8— Kevin Minkus (@kevinminkus) May 29, 2018
Zimmerman deserves more call-ups but the competition in central defense will be the most intense on the national team in the coming years. John Brooks, Matt Miazga, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Cameron Carter-Vickers standout as the likely first four.
But those four will be pushed hard because the next group is also good with Zimmerman, Tim Parker, Justen Glad, as well as others will represent a challenge that could sneak into the top four. The bottom line is that it should make everyone better.
Pulisic checked out
U.S. Soccer did a lot of publicize Pulisic’s involvement in this friendly. There were headlines on the website and tweets along the lines of: “He’s back!”
Did U.S. Soccer want him in Philadelphia to sell tickets and generate interest in a game that is a tough sell? Did Pulisic want to play in this game because it was a short drive from his hometown thereby giving his family a rare opportunity to watch him play close to home? Who knows?
But Pulisic shouldn’t have played. He was not good in this game. He looked completely spent from a tough season at Dortmund that was made difficult with coaching changes with different philosophies. Pulisic played over 2300 minutes – which is rare for a teenager in the top leagues. He wasn’t as good at the end of the season as he was in midseason. He was also still deflated at the international level from the World Cup qualifying debacle.
Now with Dortmund playing in the ICC preseason tournament, he needs a rest and he must focus on getting back his form that he displayed in 2017.
Sargent & Weah lift offense
If this game is remembered for anything, it will be the first international goals for Josh Sargent and Tim Weah. The U.S. team needs new blood at this position with Jozy Altidore seemingly always injured, Bobby Wood having a terrible season, and Clint Dempsey now old.
Weah and Sargent will now have momentum to start the cycle. Sargent’s goal was mostly due to a goalkeeping blunder but the St. Louis native finished well. Aside from the goal, Sargent was effective. He will now head into a crucial preseason at Werder Bremen. He has talent, but he will likely need regular Bundesliga minutes to play consistently for the U.S. team.
The same can be said for Weah. Against Bolivia he looked very talented but very raw. He was always on the ball but sometimes his final pass or shot wasn’t there. Regular professional minutes could see him develop very quickly. A cameo or two at PSG isn’t enough and nor is training there. Hopefully he can possibly go on loan to a place where he can play on a weekly basis.
Sargent and Weah had performances that reminded everyone why they are top prospects. Now the pressure is on both to have good preseasons and find weekly minutes. If they can, the U.S. team’s attack is in great shape.