USA-France Takeaways: Green goal rewards gritty U.S. display

The Americans finished up a three-game run of friendlies Saturday by grinding out a 1-1 tie with European heavyweight France in Lyon.

A 1-0 lead provided by a Julian Green goal – his first for the U.S. in 20 months – boosted the Americans, who scrambled to contain the potent French attack and relied on the sharp work of keeper Zack Steffen. He was finally beaten by a Kylian Mbappe goal in the 78th minute to save the French a very embarrassing result in their World Cup send-off match.



Here are three takeaways from a spirited encounter watched by a crowd of 58,241 that fluttered French flags throughout the match:
 
1. Green needs games. Somewhere, somehow.

It’s been nearly four years since Julian Green scored against Belgium in the World Cup. The youngest (19) player to score at that tournament has managed just four club goals – three in Bundesliga 2 this past season for Greuther Furth – since stunning the world with his goal in Salvador.

He provided a 1-0 lead against France by pouncing on a deflected pass to fire a shot that glanced off defender Djibril Sidibe and befuddled keeper Hugo Lloris. Green hadn’t scored for the U.S. since he bagged one against New Zealand in October, 2016. That game was also his last start for the USA.

To date, his record of 25 goals in 51 games for the Bayern second team and that magical moment against Belgium highlight his otherwise mundane career. Green is 23, just two years younger and much further down the depth chart than Bobby Wood, his partner up front against France.

Wood wandered offside repeatedly and lost a goal when the flag went up as his shot crossed the goal line. He’s been alternately brilliant and benign for years. He’ll always be in the mix but he can’t be counted as an automatic starter.

A mark of three goals in 24 second-division games during a relegation battle probably won’t ratchet up Green’s value. It’s unknown what parent club Stuttgart, to which he moved after failing to break into the rugged roster of Bayern Munich, has in mind for him next season.

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This transition phase for the USA team is a grand opportunity for players like Green to break through, but without a steady diet of solid club performances at a good level, that opportunity will dissipate.
 
2. Steffen the star, others not so much.

After a disturbing display against Ireland by Bill Hamid, Steffen seemed certain to start in Lyon, and the Crew SC keeper showed the same mix of agility and poise he regularly churns out in MLS (and also did for the U.S. U-20s).

A wonderful double save in the final moments preserved the tie and he’d already been called upon in several situations as the Americans labored to contain one of top attacking units in the world. Like many positions, the starting keeper’s job is not guaranteed to Brad Guzan or anyone else, and on this huge, bright stage Steffen did more than enough to take a few bows.

A back line of five defenders won some duels and lost a few. Matt Miazga and Tim Parker were probably best of the bunch, though Miazga had to depart early after suffering a head gash in a frightening collision with French striker and Chelsea teammate Olivier Giroud.

None of the three starting midfielders – Wil Trapp, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams – could hold the ball and pass it effectively, though they dug into tackles and did what they could to harrass their talented opponents. Playing three against a four-man French midfield required more work from the defenders and forwards to balance out the numbers, but the USA seldom moved quickly and cohesively enough to cope. This was a learning game as to what a top-flight national team can do, even in a friendly: smother you to get the ball and then cut you into little pieces. 
 
3. Sarachan deserves thanks and an extension.

As a new regime headed by president Carlos Cordeiro invoked changes after the USSF election in February, the federation gave interim head coach Dave Sarachan a contract extension that expires at the end of this month.

In six games under Sarachan, the U.S. compiled a 2-1-3 (W-L-T) record, but that is almost irrelevant in evaluating his performance, or rather, that of the teams he selected and prepared. He brought in a fleet of younger players, which was expected, and as expected the displays ranged from encouraging (1-1 ties with Portugal and France) to disappointing (2-1 loss to Ireland,).

One can quibble some choices and his failure to use the six-sub maximum in each of the six games, but the players responded to the environment and culture he created in very uncertain circumstances.

Unless the head-coach search whips up a hire about a month after general manager Earnie Stewart officially takes over Aug. 1, the U.S. will need a head coach for friendlies in September (Mexico and opponent to be confirmed). And if a quick hire is made, he might not be immediately available. What happens in many cases is that the current -- in this case interim -- head coach stays on as the new man gets up to speed.

At the very least, Sarachan, 64, should get another extension to the end of September or the end of the year. He played professionally and has been coaching for more than 40 years. He’s a long-time servant to the federation who has worked with young players as well as experienced pros and at the college level, and in MLS as well as for the federation. He’s got value going forward.
 
June 9 in Decines
France 1 USA 1. Goals: Green 44; Mbappé 78.
France – Lloris; Mendy (Hernandez 66), Sidibé (Pavard 74), Umtiti, Varane; Kante, Matuidi (Tolisso 58), Pogba; Giroud (Dembele 58), Griezmann (Fekir 69), Mbappe (Lemar 87).
USA --  Steffen; Moore (Yedlin, 74), Carter-Vickers, Miazga (Palmer-Brown 57), Parker, Robinson (Villafana 82); Adams, Trapp, McKennie; Green (Corona 70), Wood (Sargent 74).
Yellow cards: USA – Moore 68, McKennie 79. France – None.
Referee: William Collum (Scotland).
Att.: 58,241.

Stats: USA / FRA

Shots: 2 / 19
Shots on Goal: 1 / 8
Saves: 7 / 0
Corner Kicks: 9 / 2
Fouls: 4 / 14
Offside: 0 / 4

8 comments about "USA-France Takeaways: Green goal rewards gritty U.S. display".
  1. beautiful game, June 10, 2018 at 10:53 a.m.

    One goal and Green is anointed. 

  2. Kent James replied, June 10, 2018 at 12:28 p.m.

    Ridge is certainly not annoiting him.  He's basically making the argument the Green has done little since he showed promise in the last world cup (or is that the goal to which you refer?), and he needs to prove himself at the club level or his chance will pass him by.  Potential at some point needs to turn into reality.

  3. Nick Gabris, June 10, 2018 at 11:41 a.m.

    Do not want to be negative, but, B. Wood reminds me too much of J. Altidore, otherwise good effort against a world cup favorite by our group of youngsters. They will just get better with tougher competition. 

  4. Greg Milton replied, June 10, 2018 at 12:18 p.m.

    Amen Wood ..Altidore..big boys ..run fast, n kick the ball ugly to watch n for certain there are better players in tge usa..hopefukky this coach will continue to give opps to young n new players...i agree

  5. Bob Ashpole, June 10, 2018 at 6:15 p.m.

    Wood didn't wander offside, although a certain amount of offsides is to be expected from closely timed runs, but most of these were Wood being schooled by the French back line. Except for the mistake leading to the US goal, they were excellent. It is difficult playing an isolated 9, which may not have been the game plan, but that is what happened. 

  6. Bob Ashpole, June 10, 2018 at 6:24 p.m.

    While Sarachan is experienced, I don't expect Sarachan will be experienced in the style of play that (I hope) the new GM intends. The issue is will we try to relive 2002 or move forward in a new direction. If that is so, it is counterproductive to keep him on.

    While the USSF board and its required "hiring process" may delay a hiring decision, I expect that Stewart will have identified his choice by 1 August. 

  7. frank schoon replied, June 11, 2018 at 10:18 a.m.

    Bob,  totally agree. 

  8. frank schoon, June 11, 2018 at 10:24 a.m.

    There shouldn't be any criticism on Dave Sarachan. He was the caretaker which is a very unappreciative job. I'm glad he chose the young players to give them experience. But now we have  to change direction in our overall development and in style of soccer and I hope our future GM understands that fully. We have got to change tracks and leave the old ways...not only on the field but also on the commentating part that should focus more on teaching the viewer about the insights of the game, instead of entertaining with lots of nonsense talk...

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