A tale of two strikers: looking at how Haji Wright and Jesus Ferreira have performed in June

Quick
Hits
  • Jesus Ferreira and Haji Wright have both played real minutes for the USMNT so far in the June window
  • Ferreira’s movement has been valuable for the United States, while Wright has shown some flashes of brilliance up top
Jun 1, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; United States forward Haji Wright (19) celebrates his goal with teammates during an International friendly soccer match against the Morocco at TQL Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

An interesting development for the U.S. men’s national team in the June camp games so far has been the relatively even split in minutes at center forward, the most available starting position for the USMNT at the moment. 

Jesus Ferreira started against both Morocco and Uruguay, and Haji Wright came on at halftime against Morocco and came on again around the 60th minute against Uruguay. I think there’s been some promise in both strikers’ play. But I also don’t think either has done enough to say they’ve successfully nudged ahead of the other.

Looking at Ferreira, Wright

On Ferreira’s side of things, he looks like one of the first U.S. forwards in a long time who actually knows how to get out of the way and drag defenders away from the middle when Christian Pulisic moves inside and towards the top of the box. When Pulisic drove inside over the past year, Zone 14 often looked like an L.A. highway at 4:45 pm. Crucially, Ferreira has also been popping up in places that lead directly to high-quality chances to score goals. Perhaps just as crucially, he’s yet to finish one of those chances.

Haji Wright does have a goal, albeit a penalty. I like the initiative to ask Pulisic for it, however, and I really liked this passage of play against Morocco. 

It’s a great play by Wright to find the little looping ball to Pulisic in the middle with a man on his back – and I’ll never fault a striker for taking the shot there where he did, even though it looked like there might have been a small window for Wright to lay it off to Weah for a tap-in. With his combination of size and speed, Wright has the potential to be a more dynamic forward. Ferreira, on the other hand, will always play the position sort of like a forward and sort of like a false 9, trying to float between lines.

Unfortunately, Wright really didn’t see the ball very much at all against Uruguay. Part of that can probably be chalked up to the U.S. losing their attacking verve in the second half when certain substitutions were made in the midfield and out wide. Part of that may be on Wright, too. Finding the game and the ball is about service, yes, but it’s also about finding the right spaces to make yourself available.

And that’s where we stand at the moment: the attack looks like it functions really well (and perhaps generates more chances) with Ferreira in at forward, while Wright looks like he’s usually good for a couple moments of brilliance when given the chance. He might not be as consistent in how influential he can be in a game, though.

Looking ahead to the next couple games, where the level gets turned down a bit, I want to see Wright get a chance to start at least once with something akin to a first-choice attack. I want to see if he can get a few more touches and change the game a bit more. Ferreira? I want him to finish his chances. 

I think there’s room for both of these players on this team at the moment. But neither of them, in my mind, has edged ahead of the other in a truly meaningful way based on their performances so far. We’ll see if the last two games of this window change that.