USA-Jamaica: USMNT seeks answers to ongoing offensive problems at home

The USA's record-setting run in the summer -- 10 straight wins in competitive matches, 15 straight wins against Concacaf foes -- belied the trouble it often had breaking down opponents.

One of the two wins in the Concacaf Nations League and five of the six wins in the Gold Cup were by scores of 1-0. All five wins in the knockout stage came on goals very late in regulation or overtime. Creating chances late in games when play began to open up wasn't a problem. A concerted approach that put the visiting team in trouble for the first hour was.

The troubles the USA has had scoring came to a head in the September window of World Cup 2022 qualifying. Five points from three wins weren't a bad haul, but the USA was saved when it blew Honduras out in the second half of their match in San Pedro Sula with four goals for a 4-1 comeback win.

There are two ways to look at what happened in the second half on Sept. 8. The Catrachos collapsed on their own. Or the USA set them up for the fall.

Asked on Wednesday afternoon about how different it is to prepare to play a team in the first game of the window or a team that might be exhausted in the third game, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter wanted to clarify how he viewed what happened in Honduras:

"I think part of the exhaustion was just us wearing them down and I don't think it's just a product of them being tired. It was part of the strategy to absorb a little. We knew they're going to spend a lot of energy on counterattacks. So we knew that would have a cumulative effect on them."

However you look at it, the USA could have driven a tank through the Honduran backline in the last hour of their match. Antonee Robinson could play another 15 years and might never again look like he was Roberto Carlos at left back.

The game that was the most concerning was the 1-1 tie against Canada, which presented the template of how to stymie the USA on its own turf with nine defenders sitting in a low, compact block and tempting the USA to break them down.

"There’s three ways to break down an opponent," Berhalter said when the roster for the October window was announced. "You can go around them, you can go through them or you can go behind them. And more often than not in this game, we were trying to go around them, around the sides, and the ball circulation was way too slow. They could just shift and prevent that. What we needed to do was either go behind them … or go between them."

Berhalter said the problems also existed in the opening 0-0 tie at El Salvador, where the USA took a tentative approach:

"There's moments in the El Salvador game we get the ball and there's a ton of space behind the back and we want to pass it to an open player so he can dribble instead of playing behind the line so now that now the opponents in a ton of trouble. We didn't do that well enough."

How will things be different in October, especially with the two best attacking players, Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, and best passing defender, John Brooks, sidelined with injuries?

Winger Paul Arriola, who is back in the team after being sidelined in September with a hamstring injury, said Berhalter has always emphasized getting the wingers get in behind.

"For us," Arriola said, "it’s extremely important to find our attacking midfielders in pockets, to be able to turn and look forward and then be able to play wingers in behind.”

Miles Robinson, who played every minute in September, looked at the issue of verticality a little differently from his position as center back.

"The training sessions have focused in on trying to play more through the opponent rather than around them," he said on Wednesday, "and I think with the few sessions we've had, we've done a good job in that, and also it's just about defensively trying to keep them pinned in their defensive half."

Two players who have been doing well in Europe in recent weeks have been Brenden Aaronson at Red Bull Salzburg and Tim Weah, who returned to action at French champion Lille after missing the September window with a thigh injury.

"They both faced off in the Champions League game last week," Berhalter said, "and it is great to see them playing against each other, and they are both been having good seasons."

Neither has been playing regularly as a starting winger, though.

Aaronson is playing in the diamond of a 4-4-2 behind a frontline that features 19-year-old Karim Adeyemi, the sensation of the Champions League's first two matchdays. Weah has been sensational in his last two Ligue 1 games, the first as a starter in the two-man attack, the second as a late sub at left wing.

The national team remains a work in progress. The approach has evolved from emphasizing a possession game to moving to a more direct style. The common thread is that the USA lacks the players comfortable enough to combine fluidly in attack and an individual who can create chances for others.

In the Honduras game, Ricardo Pepi, the hero with a role in all four goals, showed an ability to create all kinds of problems with his ability to cause turnovers. Players like Aaronson and Weah, in particular the latter, love to create havoc in the opponent's third.

"We're hoping that they can make a similar impact with us," said Berhalter about Aaronson and Weah, "especially with their verticality with their speed and with their ability to press."

12 comments about "USA-Jamaica: USMNT seeks answers to ongoing offensive problems at home".
  1. Santiago 1314, October 7, 2021 at 12:36 a.m.

    Humm.??? Only 3 ways.??? ... What about ABOVE Them.!?!?!?... Put the Ball UP in The Air for Our BIG Powerful Center Forwards to Head the Ball In or we Score OFF the 2nd Ball.... Trying to play Direct on the ground against a 2 Line; #9 Bus, means LOTS of Turn-Overs, In the Mid Field, Leading to Counter-Attacks. Oh, I forgot, GGG DIDN'T BRING ANY OF OUR BIG CENTER FORWARDS...(Dike, Pefok, Hadji Wright)...So, He has Sunk us already...
    Ohhh, And this Statement of Coaches Double Speak makes NO Sense.!!!  

    "It was part of the strategy to absorb a little. We knew they're going to spend a lot of energy on counterattacks."

    How do you get THEM to Spend Energy on Counterattacks,???... if they had the Ball Possession and were attacking us the whole 1st Half.??? We were the ones Counter Attacking NOT them!?!?!?
    7 Points or FIRED I say.!!! No Double-Speak there.!!!

  2. Perry McIntyre, October 7, 2021 at 6:07 a.m.

    Basic journalism dictates 'when and wehre' in lede -what time is match? where is is it to be played? and for compete info, where can it be viewed. All this should be in first paragraph, or at least early in article..... Otherwise, thanks for good preview info.

  3. Santiago 1314 replied, October 7, 2021 at 6:23 a.m.

    Perry, "Social Media" is about the Clicks... That's why the: Soccer on TV link, is the , #1 site Visited here. Thats 2 clicks instead of 1... Good Business, if you ask me.

  4. frank schoon, October 7, 2021 at 9:11 a.m.

    The way I see that we don't score goals is 2 reasons, to keep it simple, structural and tactical.
    Structural is that this country doesn't produce great scorers, quick ball handlers/dribblers in small spaces .The American players that go to Europe are basically ,workers, defenders types not creative individualists. You would think that 'maybe' ,I mean, 'maybe' the closest we could come to having an attacking that fits more the model of an American player is Haaland from Dortmunt. He is not good in small spaces , he's not good with receiving the ball with his back to the goal, but he can run, he has size, he's strong, is more effective receiving the ball on the run facing the goal. 

    See , I have not mentioned quick tricky, savvy ballhandling ability because he doesn't have that and that is because he comes from a country, Norway, that produces players who are stiffs in soccer like we produce players. Norway, has no creative soccer nor players, nor great minds or coaches of soccer ,their style of soccer is similar to ours, BLAH!!! NOW, you would figure that after 50years of soccer in the states, having millions participating in soccer, you think ,just even by LAW OF AVERAGE, we should have produced a Haaland,  probably the simplest form of attacker, by now.   

    And just food for thought, we in the States are a much more diverse country, unlike Norway, we have a hotbed of hispanics ,we have many foreigners, including retired pro players, and to boot we have a MUCH bigger population, more people to draw talent from than Norway, a very homogenious country. BUT WE STILL CAN'T PRODUCE EVEN A HAALAND....GO FIGURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is a partial answer why we don't score goals because we don't produce good attackers. The American public got to see someone who could score goals a couple of seasons ago, ZLATAN, who was the oldest player in the MLS....Someone should call him for he left his 'walker' in the locker room before left to Italy.....
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  5. beautiful game replied, October 14, 2021 at 6:56 p.m.

    F.S. good points.

  6. frank schoon, October 7, 2021 at 10:02 a.m.

    Tactically, we need to look at our wing play. GB, according to Arriola wants wingers come behind defenders. Lets look at it. Just about every team today plays with flank attackers, wingers, that cut  inside with the ball. I don't get it but I realize coaches copy other coaches ,because most of them are as dumb as bag of rocks... As Johan Cruyff ,when he coached Ajax ,once told me in private as we were driving to his mom's place, saying, " these coaches don't know anything"[regardless if their licensed]. I think these coaches upon taking coaching courses are secretly micro-chipped in order to follow like sheep the latest trends.

    Why, doesn't a coach ask himself why do I have my wingers cut inside? Is it because, I see everyone else doing it or I did this because I have such good game insights. Whatever happened to the old saying I play a system that fits the players. I guess ,everybody has the same players for they all do the same thing. 

    The Cruyff's philosophy is to do the opposite what everybody else does. If  teams don't play with wingers, lets say, like when 4-4-2 was 'trendy', then play with wingers, because the opponent's ,specifically, the backs are not used to defending against wingers, GET IT!!! That means these backs' weak points in defense against wing play. This breaks the back's routine play and movements. See where I'm getting at.....

    When wingers cut inside with the ball , they move into traffic, it is more congested. This calls for more quick footwork, quick change of direction, and most importantly, give and go's, which is the most difficult especially in tight spaces to execute. All these we are LOUSY at!!!!!!!
    Furthermore, as the wing cuts inside, the forwards tend to have their backs more often facing the goal, and that is another aspect American players are weak at.  Furthermore when a wing cuts inside, it is easier for the immediate defender to see the RUN OF PLAY, for it is always in front of him.    
    Lets look at the finer details. Wing play has gotten so predictable by always going inside.  Instead  go outside and penetrate down to the endline the opposing backs who have been so used to defending wing play going inside find themselves in a new uneasy role, which is the footwork, the timing and pacing, and the view of the field , is all changed.

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  7. frank schoon, October 7, 2021 at 10:33 a.m.

    By wings going down the flank, and is allowed to cut inside as well, can confuse the back because he isn't sure of the defensive stand he needs to take. His defense role is no longer routine like it once was. I mentioned the back has a total defensive field view when the wing cuts inside, even when the wing chooses to cross the ball like a Messi,  crossing the ball with his left to the right side. Likewise the opponent's right back can see the ball and his man at the same time due to  the counterclockwise spin of the ball.

    HERE IS THE SECRET. Whenever you pass the ball to an attacker , you try to pass it to him in manner that forces the defender to have to choose to either, look at the ball or look at his man, but he can't do both. This is why it is much better for a rightfooted winger to play on the right side and vice versa, for a cross with his rightfoot, instead of a Messi with his left, creates a counterclockwise spin which forces the opponent's right back to have to look at the ball or his man but can't do both...

    Furthermore, it is much easier to make a pass from the centerlane to the flank going to the wing running into an open space on the flank instead of the wing running inside where there is congestion. Also here is the finer detail, the pass going to a breaking wing going to the endline let us say FORCES the back to either look at the ball coming or originating from the center lane or his man, BUT HE CAN'T DO BOTH...BINGO!!!@Q!!Q!

    Furthermore a wing going down towards the endline with the ball FORCES the defenders EN MASS to run back towards the goalie and thus leaving so much open space  between the attackers in the penalty area. How often do you see a goal scored with 3 or 4 defenders covering nobody with a lot of space between them and their attackers.

    Guys, I watched City vs Liverpool last week, I saw for the first time a centerback run with the ball straight up midfield .... It reminded so much of the Beckenbauer libero, creating numerical advantage moving up to midfield. HOW REFRESHING. I hope it is a start of something. Currently, the way the centerbacks play has killed the game with two stiffs as centerbacks who can't do anything except give square passes or long balls...;

  8. frank schoon replied, October 7, 2021 at 10:38 a.m.

    I meant Messi's clockwise spin of the ball

  9. Ben Myers replied, October 7, 2021 at 2:55 p.m.

    On the other hand (or foot), world class players like Salah, Mahrez and Grealish, plus Ribery and Robben before them, have shown the value of a player playing on the side of the field opposite his strong foot. The approach of a left-footed player coming in from the right or vice versa sets up a shot with a perfect angle and hip rotation to generate a lot of power on the shot.  For a contemporary example, see the recap of the recent Man City v Leipzig goalfest.  Starting at about 8 minutes of the video, one can see Jack Grealish settle a ball on the left side of the field, dribble inside with the ball using his right foot to shield defenders, then execute a well-placed shot using fine technique.  The highlights of this game show the buildup and finish from several angles.

  10. frank schoon replied, October 7, 2021 at 3:09 p.m.

    Ben , I understand, I didn't say you shouldn't do it. The point I'm making is to increase the option of attack. This way the defender doesn't know  which way you're going but currently it's usually going inside, that the problem.
    Both Ribbery and Robben grew up playing on the proper side. Robben learned to bend the ball with his left , later on. But how many other players can you associate what Robben does as a specialty. 

    Grealish to me is a disappointment. Watching him play against Liverpool tells he shouldn't play there. He is way to slow and predictable. Most of the time ,he either began dribbling inside and end up passing it off backwards or square...He is not flexible enough to play, nor is quickfooted...He's build like a tank, but not for wing play . I find his shots ,the mere execution way to slow.. 

    I will try to find the city-leipzig game. The goalfest is great,but one game where it works....the other not....

  11. frank schoon replied, October 7, 2021 at 5:14 p.m.

    Ben, you describe cutting inside your body sets up for the perfect hip rotation for the shot, but that is all, what else besides the shot in which the opponents defense will set themselves up for the possible shot. It is too preditable. Everyone sees it coming. But compare it to being on the other, that are a lot more options. One ,you force the opponents defenders run back if you break down towards  the endline thus giving the attackers more space in front of goal. Two ,a rightfooted rightwing likewise shields the ball once he beats  the defender on his left side. Three, he can beat him one on one and go inside for the shot or pass . He's ability of crossing the ball that bends away from the goalie to the oncoming attackers to head or shoot inward. Three, the wing has also the option to cut inside and can you imagine if he could shoot with his left as well. As far as I'm concerned a rightfooted rightwing has so many more attacking options then he were on the opposite side....

  12. frank schoon replied, October 7, 2021 at 5:38 p.m.

    Ben ,I watch Grealish's goal. It was a nice shot a little less than 10yards out from the goal and there was no one he had to shield for there was no one  to stop him from shooting....

    But like I stated , he is  slow especially after cutting to shoot ,he lacks acceleration and besides, He runs at one pace, he doensn't accelerate....

    He needs to work on shooting quicker, his leg movement needs to be sped up....

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