The final camp of the US men’s national team of first choice before the start of the World Cup qualification in September should never be easy. Four games in eleven days, transatlantic travel, training and playing at heights – it’s all designed to empower a young American squad still trying to find their competitive feet.
And so it started on Sunday with a test that ended disappointingly but hopes coach Gregg Berhalter will be an advantage in the long run. The USA’s 2-1 defeat against Switzerland in St. Gallen ended an unbeaten series of nine games since November 2019. It also offered the opportunity to compete against experienced and experienced opponents who were far superior to the regional middleweights of the USA in the last months. These types of games make young teams better.
Sunday’s exhibition was the last vote before the US contest the Concacaf Nations League final next week. The Americans meet Honduras in the semifinals on Thursday in Denver, play the consolation game or the final the following Sunday and meet Costa Rica in another friendly outside Salt Lake City on June 9th. It will be a glove. It should be.
Berhalter met an opponent in 13th place in the world on Sunday and opted for what is probably the strongest US line-up available (or at least very close to it). UEFA Champions League finalists Christian Pulisic and Zack Steffen won’t join the squad until late Monday, and midfielder Tyler Adams is fit again after a back injury. But other than that, this was arguably the best American XI around, depending on how you feel about midfielder Sebastian Lletget and substitute Yunus Musah.
It’s a lot to ask players to train at altitude and play a strong team immediately after a long club campaign before flying 5,000 miles for three more games in quick succession. The friendly game on Sunday wasn’t about experiments, but about preparation – preparing for the upcoming competitive games and then for qualifying.
“We looked at that closely and saw that this will emulate the cadence of a player who plays for his club team on the weekend, flies across the ocean and then prepares for a block of three games to qualify for the World Cup,” Berhalter said this week .
“It will be difficult. It will be a challenge. But it gives us information and I think information will be valuable,” continued the coach. “Who can play three games? Who do you need to rest? How does the third game look ? There are several variables we can get information about. “
The friendly game in St. Gallen thus represented the “Club [game] on the weekend ”and the subsequent journey, relaxation and decisions in the days before the semi-finals on Thursday will serve as a dress rehearsal for the transition to qualifying, which will take place in autumn. It was therefore important for Berhalter to ask these questions of his first choice players and to buy them valuable time together. Your response and recovery will be an integral part of the process.
The selection of the LA Galaxy Lletget against Musah as one of two attacking players in the US three-man midfield seemed the right move early on. Switzerland were up there in the first few moments, but in the fifth minute the Americans took the lead over Lletget’s fifth international goal in their last six games. Striker Gio Reyna had all day to pull a cross from the right corner of the box and a Swiss defender cleared it right on Lletget. The ball bounced to Brenden Aaronson, who touched it back to Lletget to get a hit from about 10 yards.
From then on, the US was the better team for a large part of the half. However, Switzerland had a few good moments and that was enough to equalize in the 10th minute and then almost take the lead before half-time. Five minutes after Lletget’s goal, the US was in transition and Xherdan Shaqiri was in midfield. He selected Silvan Widmer in the back right, who switched the game to a wide-open Ricardo Rodríguez on the left. The Turin defender’s shot from Reggie Cannon’s heel shot past a helpless Ethan Horvath.
In the 40th minute, US left-back Sergiño Dest was whistled for a handball in the box – he’s had an uneven day but the Barcelona defender was unlikely to be able to do much in a close-range match. Dest and his teammates, however, were granted a respite by Rodríguez who blocked his free kick.
Aside from these incidents, the US starters played pretty well against a Swiss team that also fielded many of their first choice players, led by Shaqiri, captain Granit Xhaka, strikers Haris Seferović and Breel Embolo, midfielder Denis Zakaria and others. The American press was high, resilient, and usually disciplined, with multiple sales showing promising opportunities. Lletget hit the side net in the 28th minute, Aaronson saw his turn-around shot saved a few minutes later, and after a US corner kick in the 36th minute Dest maneuvered through traffic and hit a hard shot parried post nearby. While the US was lucky enough not to go into halftime, Switzerland may have felt the same way.
“It was very positive,” said Berhalter about the start of his team. “Just to have the mindset of how we want to play and the positioning and the intention to be very aggressive to push very high and hold on … that’s what I can think of this group to be.”
However, like most friendlies, Sunday changed dramatically as substitutions began to flow. A three-time change from Berhalter preceded the Swiss game winner, who came in the 62nd minute. Dest and newly introduced center-back Tim Ream failed to clear a loose ball and Swiss midfielder Steven Zuber – one of three newcomers at halftime along with Remo Freuler from Atalanta and Manuel Akanji from Dortmund – managed to steer him past Horvath.
The mistakes were signs of future problems. The hosts reacted far better than the USA, as the staff and landscape changed and the visitors in the first half of the year increasingly lacked the structure from which they benefited. The end result could easily have been less flattering for Berhalter, who was lucky enough to end up losing just one goal.
“We definitely lost our compactness in the second half,” said Berhalter. “I am very pleased with the effort our guys made and the willingness to go ahead and keep putting pressure and trying to force our game on them, but in the end.” On the day in the second half, we probably came up short. “
If the Americans caught up with several days of harsh conditions, fatigue and a lack of experience or chemistry in the second half, it will likely be acceptable to the coach. They are one of the hurdles his team has to overcome on the way to the World Cup.
“I don’t like the result,” said Berhalter. “But the boys went to great lengths. It’s a great measuring stick. This is a team that has played together for a very long time. It’s the same group that Switzerland has had for four or five years. So it’s mature.” Group. It’s an older group than us and our boys can see that for what this team could be in the future. “
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