Hey, soccer fans, we’ve got USMNT soccer! And we’ve got a young, MLS based roster for Gregg Berhalter and the red, white, and blue. 21 of 23 roster spots are filled by MLS-based players. The USMNT will also showcase young talent. Most of the roster has only a handful of caps, if any at all. Given those factors, the quickly scheduled game, and Covid, what should we expect? I want to see three things from this game:
1. Play the System
We know GGG implemented a very particular system when he took over as manager of the USMNT. He used it to perform better than his talent with the Columbus Crew, and he’s used it to some success at the international level. If the players on the roster want a future with the USMNT, they’ll need to demonstrate their understanding of GGG’s tactics.
What does this mean? On offense, the defenders will need to play with composure out of the back, the midfielders will need to control possession – and find those long, diagonal passes when able – and the strikers will need to link up to break down the El Salvador back line. Defensively: keep shape, disrupt passing lanes, and don’t give up set-piece goals..
2. Build Depth
This roster is not even close to the USMNT best eleven. The only player on it with a chance to start in World Cup Qualifying is Walker Zimmerman. This game is about building depth. I’ll be watching for Paul Arriola and Aaron Long to prove they belong or play themselves off of GGG’s roster.
The most open spot for a young player is striker. Altidore is no longer a viable starter (injury, attitude), so Zardes is the next best option (form, experience, system knowledge). Sargent still has some growing, so the spot is open for emerging MLS stars Ayo Akinola and Daryl Dike. Akinola’s finishing ability and Dike’s size and hold-up play stand out. The USMNT needs a pure striker, and these two could fill that role.
The USMNT needs to re-establish a winning culture, and to do that, they need to win. Despite this roster looking like the USMNT’s “C” team, they still have the talent to beat an El Salvador team ranked 70th by FIFA – the 6th best team in Concacaf as of the November rankings. They also need to consistently beat Concacaf opponents. There should be no doubt the USMNT will walk off the field with a victory when facing other confederation teams. Back-to-back wins vs. Panama and El Salvador would go a long way to re-establishing the USMNT as the premier Concacaf nation, especially with this roster.
Get excited, USMNT fans! We’ve got international soccer and a Concacaf opponent. As you watch, look out for which players fit the system, who can fill senior roster depth, and cheer for the win.
The Sons of a Pitch: An American Soccer Podcast
And be sure to tune in to The Sons of a Pitch YouTube channel for our USMNT vs. El Salvador watch-along, featuring live commentary and love chat. Coverage of USMNT vs. El Salvador begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN News, UniMás and TUDN.