USMNT vs. Morocco instant reaction: 5 questions, 5 answers

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

Let’s talk about USMNT 3-0 Morocco, shall we? We’re trying out a new format here where I’ll share some of my quick thoughts on the game in the form of answers to five specific questions. There will also be a more detailed piece on this game and what it told us about the U.S. men’s national team out soon.

Here we go!

What’s your one sentence reaction to that game?

The U.S. passed a test against a good team – and they even get some extra credit from me for messing with the tactics a little bit.

Can you give me a little more than that?

I say “the U.S. passed a test” in this game against Morocco not just because they won (although that does certainly help), but because they did these three things:

  1. Got their healthy core players on the field together
  2. Tried out some new faces in the second half
  3. Added another tactical look to make it more difficult for opposing teams to scout them ahead of the World Cup

With so little time before that World Cup, getting players like Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Jesus Ferreira, Yunus Musah, Tyler Adams, and Antonee “Jedi” Robinson on the field together is huge. Those players need reps and they need reps together.

At the same time, after taking a 2-0 lead in the first half, Gregg Berhatler made a trio of halftime substitutes to get a slightly more extended look at Haji Wright, Malik Tillman, and Joe Scally. Those are all fringe players at this point, but part of the point of this June window is to give those fringe players some run.

Then – and finally – I’m a big fan of how Berhalter set up the U.S. tactically in this game. Speaking of tactics…

Did Berhalter make any tactical changes?

Yes, yes he did.

Defensively, the U.S. used that 4-3-3 press that we’ve become so accustomed to seeing. That wasn’t anything crazy.

In possession, though, that 4-3-3 became a 3-2-5 as Reggie Cannon joined the two center backs to form a back three. The back three, along with an Adams/Musah double pivot, provided the platform for a flexible front five with a relatively good balance of depth and width. 

Once the U.S. lost the ball, it was back to the 4-3-3.

Now, the 3-2-5 possession shape isn’t new: Berhalter has used it a number of times in the past. The fullback-to-center back shift during the run of play isn’t new, either. But, to my knowledge, we haven’t seen the U.S. cycle back and forth between the aggressive 4-3-3 defensive shape to the 3-2-5 possession shape in the same game. 

It wasn’t perfect, but it was something different. And it was also good enough to get the United States a 3-0 win. 

Who impressed the most?

This is a boring answer, but I thought Tyler Adams was excellent in possession. He pushed the game forward with his passing more than I can remember him doing for the USMNT in quite some time. 

Other players who impressed me: Ferreira, Brenden Aaronson,  Haji Wright, and Luca de la Torre.

Who struggled?

I don’t think many U.S. players truly struggled in this game, to be totally honest. But I will say, Cameron Carter-Vickers got toasted on a cross in the 53rd minute. His defensive awareness is a concern.

Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman weren’t great on the ball, but that’s not surprising. Pulisic drifted into central midfield a bit too much for my liking. 

Really though, I think CCV might be the one guy who hurt his stock a bit in this one. I wouldn’t count him out, but I don’t think he seized his opportunity, either.