Two friendly games and a handful of training sessions aren't a lot of time for head coach Gregg Berhalter to get a lot of answers about the state of the national team, but they'll have to do in 2020 for all the reasons we know.
Berhalter got to see up close -- and in some cases meet for the first time -- 10 uncapped players called into the November camp, nine of whom played. The 0-0 tie with Wales and 6-2 win over Panama underlined the potential of Berhalter's team and also its limitations.
There's still about 10 months to go before the start of the Octagonal, Concacaf's new World Cup qualifying tournament, and here are five key questions that need to be answered.
1. What position for Sergino Dest? At 20, Dest is already a lock in the U.S. lineup and a key the U.S. attack. He looked more comfortable at right back, where he started against Wales, than at left back, his position in the win over Wales.
What is making Dest the likely left back, though, is that if it's a matter of playing him opposite Reggie Cannon or Antonee Robinson, the choice is an easy one. Cannon at right back remains a much better option than Robinson at left back.
The important thing is that Dest is in the lineup, not where he plays. He started for the USA at right back at the U-17 and U-20 World Cups but made his first appearances for the senior national team, Ajax and Barcelona on the left side.
2. Who'll be the second center back alongside John Brooks? The Wolfsburg defender was the lone holdover from the 2014 World Cup team in the November squad. He was 21 when he came off the bench and scored the winning goal in the opening win over Ghana in Brazil and six years later is clearly the best U.S. central defender. But what about the other starter in the middle of the backline?
Starting for Belgium's Anderlecht under Vincent Kompany, one of the best defenders of his generation, Matt Miazga might be in his best situation since his move to Chelsea but he still looked very shaky in the Panama game. Chris Richards is the best young defender in the national team program but he only got 10 minutes against the Canaleros. How Richards progresses this season at Bayern Munich -- indeed, how much playing time he gets -- will one of the situations Berhalter will be looking at closely over the next six months.
3. Will Yunus Musah commit to USA? Few American fans ever heard of Musah a couple of months ago, but he's at 17 already a lock in midfield -- if he commits to the USA. There's no guarantee that Musah will pick the USA over England, whose youth teams he has captained, or Ghana and or Italy, but he has the tools to be the best No. 8 ever in the U.S. program.
Against Wales and Panama, Berhalter used Weston McKennie and Musah as a twin central pairing in front of Tyler Adams. McKennie was everywhere on the field against Wales and Panama and clearly an inspirational player on a young team needing leadership, but Musah, four years younger, has a better upside and is a better option in midfield if Berhalter finds a No. 10 he trusts.
4. What role for Gio Reyna? One of those options as an advanced midfielder is Reyna, who turned 18 less than a week ago. He has played as a central playmaker at Borussia Dortmund but also as a winger in the BVB attack with Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho.
The USA had no one like Haaland or Sancho in the lineup against Wales or Panama, so Reyna's game suffered. He was one of three starters in the front six who earned their first caps against Wales and the average age of the front six against Panama was only 19.5.
It will take time for Reyna to fit into the U.S. attack, but Berhalter views his role like he views Christian Pulisic's role. "We want to put him in position, and put Christian in a position to affect the game, and have output.” Berhalter said that before the Wales game and nothing will have changed his view after the two games.
5. Who will play center forward? The outlook at no position -- at least in terms of potential -- has changed as much over the last four months than at center forward.
For the last two years, the three options -- really the only serious ones -- were Jozy Altidore, Gyasi Zardes and Josh Sargent. But Ayo Akinola and Daryl Dike have been revelations in MLS and Jeremy Ebobisse continues to defy the critics with another strong season for Portland.
Sargent would have started against Wales and Panama, but Bremen wouldn't release him due to local quarantine restrictions. That opened the door for a pair of 20-year-olds, both playing second division soccer, Nicholas Gioacchini at Caen in France and Sebastian Soto at Telstar in the Netherlands. All Gioacchini and Soto did against Panama was score two goals apiece, the former in his first start, the latter in his first cap.
"It was really important for both of them," Berhalter said after the win. "When we talked last week about the depth chart of the center-forward position being limited, we said any chance you get, you need to take. And these guys did a good job tonight."
Photo by GEPA/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire