USMNT vs. El Salvador instant reaction: 5 questions, 5 answers

Quick
Hit
  • How did the U.S. men’s national team play against El Salvador? Let’s talk about that.

Let’s talk about USMNT 1-1 El Salvador, shall we? 

I’m sharing some of my quick thoughts on the match in the form of answers to five specific questions. We’ll also have a more detailed piece out soon on the June window as a whole.

Here we go.

What’s your one sentence reaction to that game?

I’m thankful for dry clothes and Gregg Berhalter is thankful that none of his players were injured.

How much did the weather impact the game?

A lot. 

If you missed this game, you can already guess from my one sentence reaction that it was raining in El Salvador. It was raining leading up to this game at the Estadio Cuscatlan and then it rained plenty more during the game. And then there was metal on the field in the buildup to this one that was left over from a concert (which I can only assume was featuring at least one metal band)?

The field, uh, didn’t look great before kickoff. It only got worse.

As for the match itself, it looked an awful lot like a game that was played on a wet, choppy field during a downpour. Tyler Adams was covered in mud after five minutes of play. Christian Pulisic was covered in mud after 12 minutes of play. By the end of the first half, almost every U.S. player was at least partially covered in mud. Both teams went down to 10 men in the second half.

Jordan Morris’ late equalizer was a fun moment, but with such poor playing conditions, it’s difficult to take a lot away from this game.

Who impressed?

Yunus Musah was awesome on the ball. He progressed play with his dribbling through central midfield, which is often a relatively safe way to get the ball from Point A to Point B on a bad field. Musah didn’t just dribble, though: he sprinkled in a handful of good forward passes as well. 

For as much as I liked Musah’s play on the ball, he had some brutal defensive moments where he was either oblivious to the play unfolding around him or was simply too slow to track back. 

Anyways, back to the positive.

He only came on at halftime, but Weston McKennie had a couple of the best plays of the entire game. He laced a ball through to Tim Weah in the 47th minute and then followed up that pass with a lovely forward ball to Jesus Ferreira in the 50th minute. McKennie was active and engaged in the midfield, which is a welcome development as he works his way back from that broken foot.

Who struggled?

Ethan Horvath and Reggie Cannon. Horvath gave up the U.S.’s only goal of the window on a shot-cross from Alexander Larin in the 35th minute. He was caught flat footed and, simply put, should’ve done more to close down the angle and prevent the ball from finding the back of the net. Horvath didn’t look totally confident coming off of his line in a moment earlier in the first half, either.

For a goalkeeper that’s fighting for minutes, Horvath hurt his case against El Salvador. 

Looking at Cannon, he turned the ball over too much, was caught out defensively, and generally struggled on the right side. Things got better when Gregg Berhalter moved him out of the right back spot in a 4-2-3-1 and into a right-sided center back role in the second half.

Cannon didn’t do himself any favors with his performance, but I can’t shake the idea that his stock still went up during this window because of his ability to play that fluid right-center back role. 

Did Berhalter make any tactical changes?

Yes he did. The U.S. started in a 4-2-3-1 possession shape in the first half before moving into a 3-5-2ish shape for the second half (before Paul Arriola’s red card). One of the biggest storylines of this window, for me, has been Berhalter’s willingness to adjust his team’s shape at a rate that we just haven’t seen from him before. 

The USMNT didn’t dazzle in either the 4-2-3-1 or the three-at-the-back shape. They were never going to on this field. But Berhalter using a double pivot in possession in three of the four games in this window feels significant ahead of the World Cup.