USA v Honduras, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What we learned

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Stars and Stripes FC 09 September, 2021 - 04:12pm 49 views

Did Usmnt qualify for World Cup?

Honduras vs. USMNT result: Ricardo Pepi leads U.S. to first 2022 World Cup qualifying victory. Teenage forward sensation Ricardo Pepi scored the game-winning goal on his debut as the U.S. men's national team got its first World Cup qualifying win 4-1 on the road in Honduras. Sporting NewsHonduras vs. USMNT result: Ricardo Pepi leads U.S. to first 2022 World Cup qualifying victory

USMNT's September window: From boos in Nashville to oles in San Pedro Sula

Soccer America 09 September, 2021 - 07:20pm

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ANTONEE ROBINSON WITH THE EQUALIZER  pic.twitter.com/QFqvbby7iP

He could see his players growing as the 10-day window progressed.

Yes,, Pepi was the hot hand based on his goal scoring for Dallas.  The rest of the starting lineup against Honduras was questionable, at best.  GB recovered with the best possible second half substitutions.

Clearly, GB has been reading the Comments section at SA! (:-)

This game quickly changed from one of the most difficult games to watch to one of the most enjoyable games to watch. It was a complete Jekyll and Hyde transformation. After the horrible first half, it was greatly encouraging to see the second half performance. Kudos to Pepi to step up at this point in his career to make this kind of impact.

Ari, you know what I really Enjoyed.???... The Referee... He Let them Play, But he was on Top of Everything... Really Good on the NO Calls for Flopping... He didn't even give 1 Yellow Card... Cant Remember a CONcacaCrApF game where that occurred.!!!

I agree Santiago. The referee projected confidence and he was consistent. He was probably the best referee that I saw in all of the Concacaf qualifying games that I watched in the last 9 days.

Hopefully GB has now realized he can't wait until he's 45 minutes from being axed to take some risks. The Sands thing didn't work, but Robinson/Aaronson subs did. The only bad news is for Josh Sargent, who is no longer the new hope. And Weston, who may not be as indespensible as he thought.

Where was Sargent? Did he play? Where is DD?

Very impressive win. The score is a bit flattering, since the Honduras was caught pressing and essentially collapsed in the last 10 or 15 minutes. No doubt they were tired and discouraged, as happens to a lot of teams when they lose a lead. 

Impressive for the US for a number of reasons; first, I credit GB for trying a lot of new players, playing people in different positions, and trying a new formation.  Things hadn't worked well, and we were missing a lot of key players (Reyna, McKinnie). Adams is a great player and has a skill set that would allow him to play outside back, giving McKenzie, Bello and Sands the opportunity to play under such intense conditions tells players he has confidence in them.  But new things don't always work, and credit GB for being willing to change (and he made some good moves; I'm sure taking Brooks off, who is usually one of the key players, was not easy, but clearly the right move).  GB also learned (I think) from his mistake in Nashville, when he waited too long to make changes.  

Of course, the players deserve most of the credit; when Pulisic was injured, after just orchestrating our comeback, it would have been very easy for our players to just think the world was conspiring against them and just try to avoid a loss.  But instead, they picked up the pace and salvaged the opening window.  Well done.

The worst first half of professional soccer I've seen...been watching since the 80s.  

Berhalter gives wake-up call, US eases pressure with win

Yahoo News 09 September, 2021 - 11:32am

Others headed in the morning to Miami and connecting flights for Major League Soccer.

They could travel with some degree of ease. Given a wake-up call by coach Gregg Berhalter, they responded in a way few U.S. teams have.

Panicking fans were soothed — at least until qualifying resumes next month. The Americans won a World Cup qualifier for just the second time in 41 matches they trailed at halftime. Instead of lagging behind the field with just two points, the Americans have five following a 4-1 win over Honduras. They are tied with Canada for second place, two points behind Mexico.

Not quite the nine they had hoped for, but well above the awful start of the previous cycle, when the U.S. opened with losses to Mexico and Costa Rica and never recovered.

Those memories clung like a bender to jittery supporters, unwilling to forgive and unable to forget, not after opening draws against El Salvador and Canada.

Berhalter’s reaction had been “to sort of laugh.”

“Listen, I think even if we would have lost the game, we wouldn’t have been out of qualifying. There would still be 11 games to play,” he said. “It’s the mentality that we’re just jumping all over reactions. And I think part of it, it was our fault for setting it up, what we wanted to do, being that open about it. But that is the expectations of the group.”

A record 12 Americans are on Champions League clubs.

But 16 players made their World Cup qualifying debuts in the past week, their first taste of qualifiers on bumpy fields in humidity with horns blaring and supporters screaming.

Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, defender Sergiño Dest and midfielder Gio Reyna got hurt, Steffen tested positive for COVID-19 and midfielder Weston McKennie was sent home for violating team protocols.

“Maybe we thought it was going to be easier than it was going down to El Salvador, Honduras,” Tyler Adams said. “These are tough games, man. You see how hostile the crowds are, but the energy is amazing, the atmosphere is amazing. It’s only going to make us better for the future.”

Berhalter played in 14 qualifiers from 2001-05. He tried to prepare a group accustomed to success.

“We did a lot of talking before the camp, before the first game, about it being a nine-point week and that it was really important. And I think that’s great to have high expectations. Everyone want to win games, right?” he said. “But the other side of it is it’s just talk, right, and then you have to go out and do it, and it’s very difficult to do.

“And I think that we needed to give these guys that experience. They needed to see what these games are like because they’re completely different games. Both the El Salvador and the Honduras game is — they are wars. You have teams and countries that are desperate to get wins, to get in the World Cup, and it’s a different animal than we were used to."

Brayan Moya’s 27th-minute goal on a header past Matt Turner ratcheted the already high pressure. Berhalter’s 3-5-2 formation, with Adams on wide right and James Sands in central midfield, was getting dominated.

Antonee Robinson, Breden Aaronson and Sebastian Lletget entered to start the second half as the U.S. switched to a 4-3-3. All three subs scored along with Ricardo Pepi, who had a goal and two assists in his debut.

“At halftime, the message was, ‘Guys, we’re going to get back in this game,’” Berhalter said. “'We need to compete because there’s urgency on every single dual that they go in and we need to match or exceed that.'”

As star Christian Pulisic hobbled off in the 62nd, worry returned.

“When Christian goes down, it’s always like, mmm, you take like a deep breath because he’s our best player,“ Aaronson said.

Pepi put the U.S. ahead in the 75th with a header from a cross by DeAndre Yedlin, who had just entered. Fans threw bottles at the Honduran players and chanted for coach Fabián Coito to be fired.

Americans soon looked ahead to next month, when they host Jamaica and Costa Rica around a trip to Panama.

“I think it’s really important that we did that, just to show everyone that at times it’s going to be a hard qualifying process, but we’re ready for the challenges that’ll come ahead,” Robinson said. “We can respond to anything.”

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Pepi's stunning U.S. debut in crucial win eases pressure on Berhalter

ESPN 09 September, 2021 - 05:30am

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Patience was beginning to wear thin. Coming off two disappointing draws to open its FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, the United States men's national team went into half-time trailing 1-0 to Honduras in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday night. It was a disjointed, uninspired performance that called into question head coach Gregg Berhalter's tactical acumen and the players' collective desire. Had the result held, Berhalter's job status -- fair or not -- would have been up for debate.

After the team missed out on the last World Cup, the panic button for the American soccer community at large is kept within arm's reach. Things were so out of sorts that Berhalter made three half-time substitutions and changed the formation. Perhaps cleaning up a mess of his own doing, the changes worked brilliantly and the U.S. roared back to win 4-1.

All three half-time additions -- Brenden Aaronson, Sebastian Lletget and Antonee Robinson -- scored goals, but the win will be best remembered for the incredible debut performance from 18-year-old striker Ricardo Pepi. Just two weeks after committing to play for the United States over Mexico, Pepi scored the winning goal and was involved in all three others. Considering the stakes, it was one of the greatest performances the United States has received from a player in their debut. And he did so as the second-youngest player ever to appear for the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier, behind only Christian Pulisic.

"Gregg told me I was going to start on the plane on the way here," Pepi said. "It was very special, I was prepared for the moment and I took advantage of it."

Pepi was so impactful that it's hard to make a convincing case for anyone but him to be the starting No. 9 when the team reconvenes in October. Especially in the wake of another disappointing performance from Josh Sargent, who was ineffective playing on the right wing before being replaced by Aaronson.

Sargent's struggles were also at least partially due to his playing out of position, but no one on the field seemed comfortable in the 3-4-3 they came out in. Berhalter indicated the plan had always been to go with a five-man backline against Honduras, and had Giovanni Reyna, Sergino Dest and Weston McKennie been available, maybe it would have been effective. Without them, it was ugly.

The formation saw George Bello (left) and Tyler Adams (right) as wing-backs, Kellyn Acosta paired with James Sands in central midfield, Pulisic and Sargent on the wings and Pepi up top. It was the youngest starting XI the United States had ever fielded in a World Cup qualifier. Rotations were slow, and the lack of training this group had done together, in this style, was apparent early on. Sands was good in the Gold Cup playing as a center-back in a back three, but he was completely overwhelmed against Honduras as part of a two-man central midfield. His struggles were made more glaring by the fact that Adams, the team's best performer in the first two matches, was shifted out of central midfield and couldn't impact the game as much at right-back and wing-back.

"He basically played there all year last year for Red Bull as a wing-back," Berhalter said of Adams. "So he's very familiar with that position."

Berhalter said the original plan was to keep Adams centrally, but an injury to Dest and a lack of match fitness for DeAndre Yedlin caused the plan to change. The U.S. opened the second half in its usual 4-3-3, and three minutes in, Robinson, who entered for Bello, got in the box and leveled the score with his non-dominant right foot. The instant impact he provided came after a strong showing against Canada and likely firmed up his place as the starting left-back.

Shortly after Yedlin was subbed on to finish out the game, his cross found Pepi's head and the U.S. had the lead in the 75th minute. Aaronson sealed the game 11 minutes later, before Lletget added another, cleaning up a rebound from a shot from Pepi in injury time.

Pulisic was lively for most the game, but he came off with what is believed to be a minor ankle injury in the 62nd minute. Berhalter said they would learn more about the severity after Pulisic returns to Chelsea and is examined there.

When the World Cup qualifying roster was announced two weeks ago, the level of optimism about the team's potential was at a level rarely seen before -- and for good reason. In the summer, the United States beat rival Mexico in a pair of finals, using mostly two different squads. The hybrid roster Berhalter called in for the start of qualifying included 10 players on teams in this year's UEFA Champions League and was littered with players on teams expected to compete for domestic silverware across Europe. Those good vibes were mostly short-lived.

Pulisic's inclusion on the roster came despite a recent positive test for COVID-19, and he was ruled out for the first game against El Salvador. Attacker Timothy Weah, who helped Lille to the Ligue 1 title in France last year, picked up an injury and remained with his club. Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, the backup at Manchester City, had to deal with back spasms, and then he, too, tested positive for COVID-19 and was unavailable. The setbacks continued once the games began, as Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) injured his hamstring in the draw against El Salvador and Dest (Barcelona) suffered a minor ankle injury against Canada.

All of that was overshadowed by midfielder McKennie's multiple violations of the team's COVID-19 protocols while in Nashville that got him suspended for the match against Canada and sent back early to Juventus. Berhalter made it clear McKennie would be welcomed back into the team, but wasn't explicit about whether that would be in the October window.

If this first set of three games is ultimately defined as a success, it will be because it served as a wake-up call and a lesson in CONCACAF, especially for the 16 players who made their qualifying debuts. With five points, the USMNT are tied with Canada and Panama for second place in the group, with Mexico atop, two points ahead.

The team will regroup early next month for the next set of three matches: Jamaica in Austin, Texas (Oct. 7), at Panama (Oct. 10) and Costa Rica in Columbus, Ohio (Oct. 13).

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