USA in crisis: Lost in Toronto

Canada had not scored against the USA in 12 years.

Canada has not beaten the USA in 34 years.

And Canada has not beaten the USA in a competitive match in 39 years.

That all changed Tuesday night when Canada beat the USA, 2-0, in their Concacaf Nations League match in Toronto.

So easily you wondered what Canada's problem was all these years.

The Canadians built up the match as their biggest in a decade -- "a cup final," according to head coach John Herdman -- and they played like it was.

And their foes?

The USA's performance was the worst in a competitive match since the 4-0 loss to Costa Rica in November 2016 -- a week after the presidential election -- that cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job.

The only difference in how the two games played out was that the Ticos finished their chances and the Canadians didn't. They would have won 4-0 but for some poor finishing by their young strikers, Jonathan David and Alfonso Davies.

Like against Costa Rica three years ago, the USA lacked ideas and lacked inspiration against Canada. In a word, it looked lost.

The team that lost to Costa Rica in 2016 was experienced. Ten of the 11 starters -- all but 18-year-old Christian Pulisic -- had been to the World Cup in Brazil.

Just two of the starters against Canada have World Cup experience, though both of them, Michael Bradley and DeAndre Yedlin, along with the U.S. captain, Tim Ream, were all involved in the series of mistakes that gifted Canada its first goal.

The USA was in the sixth year of Klinsmann's tenure and on a downward trajectory for more than a year when it crashed at the Estadio Nacional. It took all of nine months for the USA hit bottom under Gregg Berhalter.

The scary part is that you could see it coming. The same mistakes, the same bursts of frustration, the same deer-in-the-headline looks that have popped up every few months.

Two years on from Couva and the loss to Trinidad & Tobago that eliminated the USA from the 2018 World Cup -- one year with Dave Sarachan and one with Berhalter -- just how much better are the players in the senior team than they were then?

You could probably think of two who are better: Tyler Adams, who has not played in almost five months because of injuries, and Sergino Dest, who might never play for the USA again.

But a good national team should be greater than the individual ability of its players and their form should be better on the national team than at their club level, and the USA has been lacking in both regards.

It took 16 months from the first sign of a serious erosion of form -- at the 2015 Gold Cup -- before Klinsmann was fired. And that was too long.

U.S. Soccer was ready to make a change six months earlier, but its CEO, Dan Flynn, needed heart surgery, and the move was put off. When it was finally made, the USA was in last place in the Hexagonal with no points after two games.

Is Berhalter's job in jeopardy? Not yet. But if the USA has another performance against Canada in the rematch next month in Orlando like in Toronto on Tuesday night? All bets are off.

After all, the next Hex is less than a year away.
42 comments about "USA in crisis: Lost in Toronto".
  1. Ginger Peeler, October 16, 2019 at 7:57 a.m.

    My college American football team got a new coach last year. He changed just about everything that the previous coach had done. Last year, his first year, we lost every league game a coach would talk about how good that was to identify the weaknesses and then work them out in practice. So, this year, we’ve won a couple games against out-of-league (cream puff) teams, but also lost a couple that we should have easily won..and we’ve lost all of our league games. Every single week, coach talks about what we have to work on (as if success is just around the corner). At least the previous coach always said the team’s losses were on him, that he and the other coaches had failed the team. The new coach just says we need to work on this and that and then we’ll win. Every week, after our loses, Berhalter sounds just like the college coach. We’ve got some of the most talented players the US team has ever had this year and they’re not even competitive!!’ The USMNT powers-that-be had lots of time to hire an excellent, experienced soccer coach. After over a year of searching, we got ...Berhalter? Just like my college coach, he talks, every week, about what we have to work on. How about finding a coach like a Tab Ramos or a Hugo Perez (who just recently became unavailable)? Guys who identify the individuals’ skills and then incorporate that talent into a team. GB’s cookie-cutter approach is NOT working. 

  2. Wooden Ships replied, October 16, 2019 at 8:05 a.m.

    Thanks Ginger for spending the time stating what I was thinking. 

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, October 16, 2019 at 10:34 p.m.

    Well Stated Ginger; But Tab and Hugo have yet to Prove they can Win anything... There is One person from that Generation who has won League and Cups... Peter Vermes

  4. Goal Goal, October 16, 2019 at 8:33 a.m.

    All of these players are professional athletes but they don't play like professinals.  Simple things like passing the ball.  Receiving the ball.  Play off the ball.  Knowing where you are supposed to be.  Example:  Sargeant playing up top played midfield defense half the game and didn't do well at that.  Pulisic trying to dribble through everyone on the field and losing it half the time.  Yedlin, I don't even know if he knew he was in the game last night.  Bradley! Why?  We continually have problems with defense.  I don't see a bright future for us getting to the World Cup.  How about anyone else on here.

  5. Wallace Wade, October 16, 2019 at 9:08 a.m.

    It's not just the Coach. Why are the players currently coming out of the DA subpar to players of previous generations? We've taken a huge player pool in this Country and whittled it down to a very small pool of pampered, privileged players. 90% of the players in this Country are never even looked at. You won't find the fierce, talented players that have played in the streets and dirt fields against players 3 or 4 years older than them. It's not working folks

  6. Goal Goal replied, October 16, 2019 at 10:26 a.m.

    Wallace you are right on.  Going to use the U17 NT as an example because they are getting ready for world cup play.  We have a team loaded with MLS academy players and MLS lower team players.  Yes we do have a few who play for European Academy teams but not many.  While we have several U17's playing daily in competitive leagues in Europe including Spain and Dutch and Mexico.  They are starting every game scoring goals regularly playing top notch defense in leagues that are second to none in their age groups and they are left out of the eqauation.  These are kids who have been scouted by these clubs and offered the chance to play based on their skills.  Everyone knows that in these European academies that it is so competitive and whether you play in a game at the end of the week it is based on your efforts through the week.  Lots of expectations, competition and pressure on a daily basis.  Where are these kids.  Left behind??? Not identified by our coaches???  you pick it.  They claim they are loaded with pro's.  MLS pros who either play for a step down team or ride the bench for the prime team.  I would much rather have a player who is playing competitively on a daily basis whether it be in practice or a game.  We better hurry and identify the enemy because the enemy is us.  We keep treading water or falling back.

  7. Bob Ashpole replied, October 16, 2019 at 1:40 p.m.

    Never doubt that USSF will make things worse. They are remaking the WNT program in the image of the failed MNT program and put Earnie Stewart in charge.

  8. James Mcalister, October 16, 2019 at 9:34 a.m.

    Seems to me our youth academies teach sterile passing pattern soccer, No emotions, no passion. Breaking lines, and meaningless possession seem to be the objective. Coaches hide behind the development charge, result based football is a thing of the past., and we wonder why we don't compete? At some point we need to figure out how to win meaningful games. We need to make sure that players are aware that's it's not ok to drop points. 

  9. Philip Carragher, October 16, 2019 at 9:57 a.m.

    Recently I watched Spain, Sweden, Portugal, and Ukraine play and found myself continually amazed at players' ability to escape from what appeared to be sure turnovers. This level of player is phenomenal in 1 v 1 situations, even 1 v 2, and despite the situation, these players have solutions for nearly impossible circumstances. But, for the most part, not US players and not even Canadian players. When I got my coaching license over 30 years ago (from a tremendous teacher, Paul Matick here in IL), the statistic that grabbed me was (and I think this was in Walt Chyzowych's soccer primer used by US Soccer at the time) that if a team won the majority of 1 v 1 duels, that team won over 60% of the time. Seems simple. Make sure the players are proficient 1 v 1. Maybe US players are proficient 1 v 1 versus lesser opponents, but if we really want to play with the best, this part of our game needs serious work. I'm a big believer in team work and passing (and emphasize positional soccer with my 5-8th graders) and in some instances an intelligent passing game can defeat a team with superior talent, but how often?

  10. Amateur Buddha, October 16, 2019 at 10:42 a.m.

    Out of 350 million people, we must have the players. USSF has the challenge that they will likely overlook the best players but even still, the pool is so large (if a little shallow) the USMNT should have an uneventful qualification every four years. You know, like Mexico does. 

    I don't know if it's the DA but young players suffer from "I made it syndrome". There's a lack of drive to make it to the NEXT level. Pulisic, Morris - all the way back to Donovan - they lack the tenacity to say MLS is not enough for them (yes, I know CP isn't in MLS but that's a "yet" - I hope he proves me wrong and fights on at Chelsea but that's looking good especially after he left Dortmund conceding to Sancho). 

    To be harsh: great, you're playing for an MLS team, making $300k a year, life is good, you got an Audi commercial...and that means squat compared to the top leagues in Europe. I recognize it takes a certain character trait (or flaw) to have an internal fire that motivates one to push on. 

    We bash Klinsman, but I think his needling to go to Europe was the right expecation to set. MLS-level players are not going to suffice. Even more so, players content to be MLS-level will not suffice. 

  11. Seth Vieux replied, October 16, 2019 at 2:23 p.m.

    Agree with the sentiment in general, but the fact is that far more talented young Americans are giving it a meaningful go in Europe than ever before. Pulisic at 21 or so has achieved more and demanded more of himself than any previous American by miles. Pulisic, McKennie, Adams, Sargent, and Yedlin from those currently in the pool and so many more at the U23-17 level are also playing overseas. Wasn't long ago that even one or two USMNT players or hopefuls were totally focused on making a career in higher competitions than MLS.

  12. Phil Hardy, October 16, 2019 at 10:52 a.m.

    It seems clear that the problem is one of the below, or a combination of the below:

    1. The players aren't good enough
    2. The players are complacent making their $300k and international duty is now a chore rather than a chance to shine
    3. The players are completely uncomfortable playing in the new system (they certainly can't play out of the back with the skill required)
    4. The players want GB out and quickly

  13. Alfred Randall replied, October 16, 2019 at 11:42 a.m.

    I would vote for number 4.

  14. Seth Vieux replied, October 16, 2019 at 2:27 p.m.

    Think it's all 4, 3 being the biggest problem. 1 compounds this issue as Berhalter's player selection for camps and competitions continues to include so many players not capable of playing in his wonky system even if it made sense to them. I've said from the jump that Berhalter seems more interested in being seen as a  'tactical innovator' than playing a system of play that best suits his player pool. Which in turn wouldn't surprise me if #4 is gaining steam. Gotta think Pulisic is fully on that train if he wasn't already. At this point is there even a 1% chance Dest does with the US?

  15. Sean Guillory replied, October 17, 2019 at 6:04 p.m.

    Everyone, the issue is not our players.  We have talent but it all sits in the ages between 17-22.  Our best players are still young and inconsistent.  We do not have one player in the 26-30 (peak playing ages) range who should be tarting in this team.  The previous teams had a good mix of players.  The DA and MLS academy systems have produced some good players.  Unfortunately, we will have to be patient and wait u til they all come through.  We are the only country to make it to the quarter finals of the last three U-20 world cups.  I like our future.  If we do not qualify for the Olympic, then I think we start to get worried.  The other problem is that Berhalter is arrogant.  He thinks systems win games and not players.  Let’s just call it, Roldan, Lovitz, Trapp and Zardes should not be on the team anymore.  

  16. Kevin Leahy, October 16, 2019 at 11:56 a.m.

    There were as many European players as MLS players on the field last night. Berhalter will not be let go because of nepotism. The USMNT competed better with less talent 30 years ago! Had a feeling in the first 5 minutes that it would all be crap. The players will never talk about it but,
    it sure makes you wonder what is going on in training. Most of the backs the pool have are way too slow footed. The nonchalance shown by a some of the players was disturbing. The leadership from the top of the federation on down is the achilles heel!!

  17. Santiago 1314 replied, October 16, 2019 at 10:42 p.m.

    Yes Kevin; Klinsmann took us Back 30 years... 
    Berhalter has managed to take us back 40 years... He has actually got the Team to play exactly as he wants, and it Sucks..

  18. Christopher Tierney, October 16, 2019 at 12:16 p.m.

    I sure hope that the soccer journalism world is placing calls into a Berhalter not named Gregg today.  I really want to here what Jay Berhalter has to say about all of this.  He has been the architecht of this mess.

  19. Gordon Holt replied, October 16, 2019 at 2:16 p.m.

    You mean there is a soccer press? ..... that is, beyond Soccer America and a few of its  screwball comment-ers?

  20. Wooden Ships replied, October 16, 2019 at 6:07 p.m.

    Hey, I resemble that remark.

  21. Hal Barnes, October 16, 2019 at 12:45 p.m.

    When I saw a dinosaur like Michael Bradley in the lineup, i knew we would lose. Everyone associated with US Soccer except Tab Ramos should be replaced. 

  22. Wooden Ships replied, October 18, 2019 at 3:36 p.m.

    I didn't know for sure that we'd lose with MB out there, but I knew that we would play poorly. It's not his age (dinosaur) that is the problem but his diminished abilities and his presence. I'd keep Tab too, not even sure how many jobs are still vacant. Requiring residence in Chicago is brilliantly stupid. To borrow a contemporary word, the USSF is effectively an impenetrable swamp. 

  23. Inter 76, October 16, 2019 at 1:30 p.m.

    The deer in the headlights was GB. He looked as lost as the team. Although I really don't see world class players on the field. Pulisic sits on the bench at Chelsea. Bradley is way past his time. And the rest including Sargent are just position players on mediocre teams. Maybe just start over. Fire GB. And teach the players to sing our National Anthem with meaning. At least that would make me feel like they are playing for the USA and all games are important.

  24. Bob Ashpole, October 16, 2019 at 1:50 p.m.

    If I hear USSF say again that there is nothing wrong with their system, I am going to barf.

    They won't fire Berhalter because they won't start preparing for the hex until after its been played.

    USSF management is an oxymoron.

    That was so funny that, if I weren't crying, I would be laughing.

  25. Wooden Ships replied, October 18, 2019 at 3:40 p.m.

    I like it Bob, you're having a little fun while expressing. It is an ongoing tragedy.

  26. Santiago 1314, October 16, 2019 at 1:52 p.m.

    If I said it Once, I said it a Thousand Times... Peter Vermes should be the Coach.!!!

  27. Chris Madden, October 16, 2019 at 2:08 p.m.

    When is the soccer establishment going to realize that by the time a player hits 14 their touch to the ball is carved in stone. Taking a 16 year old with a mediocre touch and sending him to Europe doesn't improve that lack of technical ability. The technical ability is ingrained by puberty. Unless US Soccer figures out how to improve the touch of young players and I mean 5-10 year olds, we will continue to be a third rate soccer nation.It is not the just that the lack of technical skill ruins US attacking but because kids don't see great technical ability from opossing players they growup and can't defend against good technical skill. AND, technical ability is a hell of alot more than learning the Maradona.  Day after day I see young players doing some move they were taught and then shooting against an open goal believing that this is route to soccer stardom. We need a program similar to what the Dutch used to call Soccer in the Streets which were a bunch of 4v4 games with minimal supervision. Heavy emphasis on creative play and technical ability. All the 'great' tactics can never compensate for very poor technical ability. 

  28. Bob Ashpole replied, October 16, 2019 at 6:50 p.m.

    I disagree with this notion. It is possible to improve motor skills at a later age. The best athletes continually work to improve their skills throughout their career. It is just relatively difficult compared to early childhood.

  29. Doug Broadie, October 16, 2019 at 3:20 p.m.

    I agree with what was said in the above posts.  I would also add that until we pay our players as the NFL, NBA, and MLB, we will not be a power in the world as we are not getting the best athletes in our country.  We are not spending the money at the FA because it is too fragmented and top heavy.  Not enough indians being paid enough and too many chiefs being paid way too much.  How come the U-18's have such good players who can handle the ball properly have not made the way to the Nats.  They looked like the had touches made with concrete feet for both passing and receiveing the ball.  Any time you put people into a complex system that Greg has, it takes time and talent to implement it.  We do not have time, nor the players to play this system.  Personally, I would like to see us play a 4-4-2 and just go after them. 

  30. Santiago 1314 replied, October 16, 2019 at 11:55 p.m.

    Agreed on All Points.!!!

  31. R2 Dad replied, October 17, 2019 at 12:37 a.m.

    4-4-2 with the Nats is code for kickball--counterattacking, pump it down the channels kickball. So I'm not in agreement. It gets back to player selection. If you're going to play out from the back, you need players that are good on the ball and outside backs that can 1v1. But no, the most important things first are height and speed. You get more of what you measure, and no one at USSF is interested in testing quickness on the ball, passing accuracy, soccer IQ.

  32. Wooden Ships replied, October 18, 2019 at 3:49 p.m.

    Doug, for the umteenth time this is not about athleticism (are best athletes play other sports). I'm in agreeance in the complexity being ridiculous, especially since there is nothing complex about the game itself. 

  33. Nick Gabris, October 16, 2019 at 4:44 p.m.

    After reading the above posts, I have to disagree with the majority of them. Blaming the players is not where the problem is, the coach is trying to implement his system that you cannot teach in just a few weeks a year that the players get together, his system is pre determied passing in lanes that are pre determined prior to game time for the different  positions. It only confuses the players. GB does not seem to understand this. Ask Messi or any player on the Barcelona team how long it took them to learn a system that GB wants to implement. You need to understand the system GB is wanting to implement, before you start blaming players. If GB does not want to change from his system, then he needs to go.




  34. Sam Bellin replied, October 16, 2019 at 5:05 p.m.

    GB stinks and should be replaced tomorrow, that is certainly true.  But all of our players, and that most definitley includes Pulisic, lack the technical ability and soccer instincts to get out of tight pressure and maintain the ball either via dribble or pass.  That is evident every game and until we learn it, understand it, and develop it we are doomed to be third-rate.  The midfielders on that Curacao team that are absolute nobodies in reputation and salary were all 10 times better at controlling the ball than all of our big-name players put together.  Great soccer players have quick feet and quick brains but Americans at every level of the sport think its essentially tackle football without the helmets.  That's why we're such a joke. 

  35. Bob Ashpole replied, October 16, 2019 at 7 p.m.

    Barca does not use "predetermined passing lanes". No successful coach of a senior team would use "predetermined passing lanes". There is a name for coaches that do: "losers". I think you are confusing zones with pasing lanes.

    I am not arguing that Berhalter doesn't use predetermined passing lanes". I am saying that it is not a viable way to plan tactics. If he does, it certainly would explain the bad performances and why Berhalter never makes any tactical adjustments during a match, even when the opposing coach adjusts his game plan drastically after seeing how the US is playing. 

    Many players see the game as points on the field representing players and the ball. What is more important to success is seeing the spaces on the field.

  36. Kevin Leahy, October 16, 2019 at 5:02 p.m.

    Peter Vermes team finished @ or near the bottom this year and even his championship team was ugly to watch. We missed the boat with Tata going to Mexico. Would love to have Hugo Perez and believe Tab deserves a shot. Berhalter will never get a national team to play the way he wants. Too many personnel changes and too little time to train. His criticism of his players level of fight is an indiment of him. Not sure what went on at half time but, I know what should have happened.

  37. Santiago 1314 replied, October 16, 2019 at 11:16 p.m.

    Kevin; Might be that Peter's Run at KC is coming to an End... 8 years is a Long time Coaching in One place... But, I would Love to see Peter Coaching USA, with Tab and Hugo as Assistants... Fits everybody's Personalities and Strengths better... And I would settle for More Ugly and More Winning, isn't that what The National Team is about.???... Winning the World Cup.!!! 

  38. Bob Ashpole, October 16, 2019 at 7:12 p.m.

    I truly hope Berhalter is not a proponent of "predetermined passing lanes" and pattern passing drills. If that is his view of the game, he needs to be let go at once.

    The problem with pattern passing drills and "predetermined passing lanes" is that in a match, opponents are not cooperative shadows.

  39. James Madison, October 16, 2019 at 7:24 p.m.

    In my world, you build from the back, and the US back was sadly lacking.  Yedlin and Lovitz were wastes, and Ream beongs on the outside.  Why not Lima from the get go?  And even Cannon would have been better than Yedlin.  Bradley gets trashed, because, while he still is the best and most creative passer on the team, he is not quick and agile enough for the extra level of defensive responsibility that fell on him. Roldan?  Arriola for Pulisic?  Berhalter must be kidding. Faith in Zardes lis like belief in magic. Were Sargent and McKennie pouting over their assigned respnsibilities?  Reasonable, given that ther strengths did not match their roles, but not professional.  Professional players, at least if they truly are players, adapt.  Overall, ugh!

  40. frank schoon, October 18, 2019 at 4:04 p.m.

    Wishing Everyone a Good's been a tough week....

    You might enjoy this video by a former Ajax player, Rafael vander Vaart celebrating his retirement in the locker room.  I wonder if any USMNT players are capable of doing this....ENJOY

    Alle spelers gaan stuk om Rafael van der Vaart | Voetbal |

  41. frank schoon, October 18, 2019 at 4:12 p.m.

    Just Google it...

    Alle spelers gaan stuk om Rafael van der Vaart | Voetbal |

  42. frank schoon replied, October 18, 2019 at 4:26 p.m.

    Notice , Frank de Boer is one of the players ...

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