NASHVILLE — If each World Cup qualifying marketing campaign is a roller-coaster journey of highs and lows, then the United States males’s soccer staff has not but left the bottom.
The Americans have performed two video games in 4 days to begin the ultimate spherical of their regional qualifying match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and although they anticipated to win each matches, they’ve settled as a substitute for 2 disappointing attracts.
These are early days, nonetheless. There are 12 video games to go. And two factors are higher than none.
Tras las segunda fecha de #WCQ, @miseleccionmx sigue en la cima con paso perfecto, y @fepafut se colocó en el segundo puesto. pic.twitter.com/a8EuFXL9Cw
— Concacaf (@Concacaf) September 6, 2021
But there was a stressed want throughout the staff and its fan base for an assured begin to this qualifying cycle given the catastrophe of the final one, when the staff didn’t qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. This group, which incorporates younger skills employed by among the world’s greatest membership groups, had hoped to start the therapeutic course of.
Instead, there are extra questions in regards to the staff’s competence, extra anxieties about historical past repeating itself, extra desperation to win the subsequent sport, which arrives Wednesday evening in Honduras.
“There’s ups and downs and bumps in the road, and we just have to keep responding when we’re called on,” stated Gregg Berhalter, the U.S. coach. “We can do two things. We can feel bad for ourselves or we can continue on with a positive attitude and try to get a positive result in Honduras.”
Tajon Buchanan, left, and Canada have as many factors (two) as John Brooks and the United States do after two video games.Credit…Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
The stage was set in some ways for a restorative efficiency on Sunday evening at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. The grass was lush. The residence crowd was genteel. The novice gamers’ nerves have been supposedly settled.
In different phrases, not one of the excuses Berhalter had tossed round over the weekend to assist clarify his staff’s underwhelming Zero-Zero tie final Thursday in El Salvador — in regards to the knobbly subject of play, the hostile environment, the variety of staff members enjoying their first qualifying sport — have been relevant because the Americans registered one other dissatisfying draw, 1-1, in their second sport towards Canada.
The staff’s failure to fulfill the second left it looking for solutions.
The Americans seemed ungainly passing the ball. They took the scenic route when shortcuts have been wanted, lumbering across the perimeter of the Canadians’ dense defensive shell. It was a well-recognized set of issues: copious possession, scant manufacturing. The United States saved the ball for 71 p.c of the sport, however Canada’s sit-back-and-counterattack sport plan labored simply high-quality, and the end result appeared truthful.
“We needed much faster ball movement,” Berhalter stated. “Everyone could see from the outside, we took way too long on the ball.”
He added, “We have to figure out ways to break down a compact defense because I’m sure there’s going to be other teams that come to the United States and do the same thing.”
Christian Pulisic, the Americans’ captain and greatest participant, who returned to the lineup after lacking the El Salvador sport whereas he recovered from a constructive coronavirus take a look at final month, was important, too — even when it was unclear whether or not he was focusing on the teaching workers, his teammates, himself, or some mixture of the three.
“I think we need new ideas at times,” he stated. “Today I think we didn’t test them enough, whether it was not being direct enough, or not — I’m not sure. But it just felt like we couldn’t break them down. We just need some new solutions. Obviously it wasn’t good enough.”
Pulisic went on to counsel, as nicely, that the staff may have performed itself in a different way after taking the lead early in the second half, making some changes, maybe adopting a extra defensive mind-set.
“I think it’s important in games like this, tough games, to just grind it out and win these games 1-0 at times,” he stated.
Such pragmatism requires some savvy, and it’s unclear how a lot this staff possesses. The squad is populated by intriguing kids, lots of them technically expert in ways in which subvert longstanding stereotypes about American soccer gamers, lots of them enjoying for high-profile golf equipment in Europe. Trophies in two tournaments this summer time — the Gold Cup and the Nations League — stoked pleasure about what the group may do.
But this month the group’s youth, and acknowledged naïveté, have seemed like a legal responsibility.
“It’s a team sport,” midfielder Tyler Adams stated when requested in regards to the gamers’ robust pedigrees. “It doesn’t matter where we come from. If we don’t go out and do the things we’re good at, we’re just a group of names on a piece of paper.”
It has not helped issues that this staff has been depleted by a mixture of unhealthy luck and indiscretion.
Before Sunday’s sport, the staff introduced that Gio Reyna, considered one of its greatest attackers, could be out indefinitely with a hamstring damage and that Zach Steffen, Berhalter’s first-choice goalkeeper, would depart the squad, too, after testing positing for the coronavirus.
Sergiño Dest left the sport with an ankle damage in the primary half. Alphonso Davies, proper, departed along with his personal ache in the second.Credit…Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports, by way of Reuters
The staff additionally introduced earlier than kickoff on Sunday that the star midfielder Weston McKennie would miss the sport in Nashville after violating the staff’s coronavirus coverage.
“I am sorry for my actions,” he wrote in an Instagram publish. “I will be cheering hard for the boys tonight and hope to be back with the team soon.”
For McKennie, who examined constructive for the virus final October, the indiscretion (which the staff declined to element) hinted at a worrying sample of conduct. In April, McKennie was suspended by his membership staff, Juventus, after he hosted a celebration at his residence in Turin that violated an area curfew and wanted to be damaged up by police.
Berhalter late Sunday evening declined to say whether or not McKennie could be out there for Wednesday’s sport in Honduras.
These bouts of misfortune and private slip-ups are exhausting to digest when every sport carries a lot weight. There is barely a lot time to get issues proper, solely so many setbacks a staff can stand up to.
“The way we’ve been framing it to the guys is that every game is a final,” Berhalter stated. “Fourteen finals, that’s how we have to approach it. So the urgency is always going to be there until we’re mathematically secure with qualifying.”
The Americans final month unveiled a advertising slogan — “Only forward.” — that mirrored a want to place their latest failures behind them. But Pulisic on Sunday couldn’t assist dwelling on the previous, noting that in the final cycle the staff had misplaced its opening two matches. Those poor outcomes precipitated the firing of Coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
By that customary, the Americans are in higher form now. By every other measure, they’re falling worryingly wanting expectations.