Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT ‘B’ team beat Costa Rica, proving depth isn’t an issue
Following an emotionally and physically demanding victory over Mexico in the first CONCACAF Nations League final on Sunday, the job was not completely done for the United States Men’s National Team. A final test against Costa Rica was looming to complete the programming exercise designed to mimic the compact World Cup qualifying windows the team will see this fall.
Using a heavily toured starting lineup, as expected, the USMNT again put on an encouraging performance for what’s to come, outscoring Costa Rica, 4-0, in front of a packed crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, in the Utah.
Only center-backs Mark McKenzie and Tim Ream were leftovers from sidekick coach Gregg Berhalter against Mexico, and while Costa Rica also didn’t field their strongest team, the talent gap between the teams was huge. These dynamics bode well for the United States heading into qualifying, as with qualifying windows of three games, each CONCACAF country will be forced to descend lower in their depth chart than in previous cycles.
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“What I realized is that it will take a squad to get there,” Berhalter said of the World Cup qualifying. “It’s not going to take 11 starters, we need the whole group. And we showed it today and throughout the three games. Everyone except [third-string goalkeeper] David Ochoa has arrived on the pitch and that’s what will be needed for World Cup qualifying. «
Orlando City striker Daryl Dike, who spent the spring on loan at Barnsley in the English league, pleaded for continued inclusion in the squad, scoring his first international goal and demonstrating a unique physical presence within the national team. He started between wingers Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah, who both had brilliant moments with the ball, to create a dynamic three-front that would disturb any backline in the region.
A well-timed run by Dike to get behind Costa Rica’s defense gave him a 1-on-1 opportunity with the keeper and he calmly inserted it into the lower right corner to give the States a 2-0 lead. United in the 42nd minute.
Dike was not on the Nations League roster, indicating he was behind Josh Sargent and Jordan Siebatcheu on the depths chart. Berhalter called his omission a difficult decision to make, but walked away satisfied with both the way the rotation went over the past week and Dike’s performance against Costa Rica.
“The physical side was there, the movement behind the baseline was there,” Berhalter said. “The only thing I would like to highlight is potentially the movement in the penalty area – really attacking crosses and going up crosses. But Daryl is a young player and he has a ton of room to grow and we’re going to be here and help him get there. «
Aaronson’s rise from an outstanding performance at the MLS is Back Tournament last summer has been one of the most positive developments in American football over the past year. After helping guide the Philadelphia Union to the Fan Shield in Major League Soccer and securing a transfer to FC Salzburg, he became the obvious replacement for Christian Pulisic on the left wing. The 20-year-old scored the first goal – burying a point-blank attempt after a shot from Dike was blocked in the eighth minute – and is expected to play a key role in qualifying.
“I’ve learned a lot over the past 11 months,” said Aaronson. “I learned a lot from the coaching I had and just playing the professional game. It’s only my second year of professional gaming now. So it was two crazy years. «
Defensive midfielder Tyler Adams wore the captain’s armband for the first time in his national team career as he returned to the starting lineup. While Costa Rica lacked intensity from the opening minutes, Adams’ presence at the base of the midfielder – both in possession and out of possession – showed an obvious improvement over any player other than Berhalter used in this role during his tenure. Adams was quick and decisive with the ball, worked to move the ball forward and was, as usual, a pressing counter terrorist and providing cover for the back line.
Adams’ skills aligned well with midfielder Yunus Musah, who hasn’t seen a Nations League minute but has always been one of America’s best players since he first donned. times an American uniform in November. Berhalter said Musah did not arrive in the best condition to compete in the Nations League after a long period of minimal playing time for Valencia to finish the season.
“It’s not easy to just throw a guy when you have a game plan and when you are trying to win,” Berhalter said. “Having said that, we still believe in his talent. I think he showed his talent tonight, his revolutionary dribbling and his composure on the ball. He’s going to be a fantastic player. «
For most of the players who have been to all four games in the past 11 days, their next national team appearance will come in qualifying in the fall. However, others will have the chance to make their case at the Gold Cup starting next month.