Usmnt_-_colombia_-_asn_top_-_isi_-_50-50_ball_with_wood_-_oct_2018_-_roy_miller Roy K Miller/ISI Photos
USMNT analysis

Four thoughts as young Yanks fall to Colombia in Florida

The United States suffered a 4-2 loss to Colombia in a game it actually led in the second half. These games are all about learning for the team's young core and Jamie Hill is here to breakdown the game with his four thoughts.
BY Jamie Hill Posted
October 11, 2018
6:45 PM
THE LOSS TO Colombia does not technically mean anything given it was a friendly. These games are played to give the players a chance to grow together and learn so that the team will be better in the years ahead. 

But what is there to take away from this 4-2 loss. Here are my four thoughts. 

Best Defense Is A Well-Balanced Lineup

Dave Sarachan has been fond of playing as many central midfielders as possible, often favoring the dour, defensive 4-1-4-1. Tonight he broke with that tradition and rolled out an honest-to-goodness 4-2-3-1. The attack didn’t click in the first half.

Kenny Saief struggled one-on-one against athletically superior Colombian defenders, Julian Green was too slow to press the US advantage in rare attacking moments, and Bobby Wood has never found success when asked to be a linking target man.

The attack found its stride in the second half and a quick double-fire gave the US a very short-lived lead. However, the replacement of Timothy Weah with a central midfielder, Marky Delgado, reduced the number of US attackers to three.

Historically speaking, the US is almost always terrible with only three attackers on the field and tonight was no exception — the brief American renaissance was washed away by wave after wave of Colombian attackers, resulting in two additional goals.

The US defense is not good enough, either individually or as a collective unit, to absorb the pressure that comes with a lineup that doesn’t have enough attackers to keep the other team honest and occupied.

Open Tryouts Continue

The eternally unsettled left back position continued to pose problems for the US. Antonee Robinson was targeted by Colombia early and often, a situation that led to a very long night for the Wigan Athletic youngster.

Robinson’s naiveté in defensive positioning was badly exposed against Colombia’s top-notch attack, which found acres of space in behind the left back all night. Robinson was a bit unfortunate to face the full fury of a team the caliber of Colombia and he didn’t get the best defensive support from the US wingers, but there’s no denying it was a game to forget for him.

The empty cupboard at left back ensures that Robinson will get chances to work through his growing pains.

Kenny Saief played a quiet 60 minutes on the wing. Saief did not distinguish himself, although his game is one that relies on a familiarity with his teammates rather than his individual 1v1 ability.

The relative paucity of attacking options for the US means he’ll have more auditions, but Saief will need to show more to become a permanent member of the squad.

Midfield Machinations

The expected midfield configuration for the US was thrown into turmoil over the last two weeks as Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams were lost to minor injuries.

Michael Bradley made his return to the US lineup, approximately one year after the catastrophe in Couva, while Kellyn Acosta finally got a chance to play his natural box-to-box midfield role. Acosta had an active game, including his very nice late run into the box for the US’ first goal. Bradley was steady in possession.

It is difficult to say, however, that either staked a claim to a starting job at CM ahead of Adams and McKennie, whose collective intensity, defensive bite, and field coverage are unmatched in the US pool — and missed against a very tough Colombia team that won too many 50/50 balls.

Growing Into The Attack

The US program is not just reeling from missing the 2018 World Cup, but from missing an entire generation of players. The dearth of quality among players born in the early 1990s means that the US is currently very light on talent among the mid-to-late 20s age group — or in other words, the cohort of players expected to lead a team.

The good news is that the US player pool should continue to improve steadily over the next two World Cup cycles, as few key players will age out of the pool.

As it has all year, the US’ performance has suffered greatly in the absence of Christian Pulisic. Just as US fans must be patient in waiting for the return of the US’ best player, they must also be patient in waiting for the development of new attacking talent like Josh Sargent and Timothy Weah, who were able to create some danger tonight including an assist from the latter.

Players like Saief, Green, and Picault could have a part to play in the US depth chart, but when taking the long term view, all have the unmistakable feel of role players and stopgaps.

Sarachan chose not to dress Nordsjælland’s explosive winger Jonathan Amon, but a lower-key game against Peru next week will be an ideal opportunity to blood the teenager.

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