The USMNT has struggled for success historically, but results have been steadily improving in recent years. The squad is looking better than ever, and the development of the MLS and proper coaching is partly to thank for that. Going into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, there was a lot of optimism over what the US team could achieve. While they had a difficult group, it was one they were expected to qualify from.
After earning a draws against England and Wales and beating Iran, they qualified to the next stage, facing the Netherlands. Unfortunately, the Netherlands were just too good, cutting the team open at will on the counter. Although the USA got one back late on, it wasn’t enough, and the match finished 3-1 to the Netherlands, sending the team home.
The next World Cup will be a huge occasion, with the tournament being hosted by the US and Canada. This makes the next four years vital in sorting out any weaknesses in the team and ensuring that the successes at Qatar 2022 can be built on. You can find the latest soccer odds at Betway, including the USMNT games.
Improving Set Pieces
For teams that struggle to create chances from open play, set pieces are incredibly important. This becomes even more of a factor when playing much stronger sides, which the USMNT will need to do if it hopes to advance in the tournament. In the match against the Netherlands, the US created very little, but set pieces could have been an equalizer.
Pulisic generally struggled to send quality crossed into the box in both dead ball and open-play situations. However, with players like McKennie and Zimmerman, the team has more than enough dominant aerial forces to cause problems for their opponents if the delivery is right. In tournaments, set pieces are particularly important, and weaker teams have been able to use them to great success against stronger sides.
In terms of aerial duel success per game during the previous calendar year, McKennie ranks in the 72nd percentile among midfielders in the top five leagues in Europe. The identical metric for MLS center backs over the past year places Zimmerman in the 84th percentile, according to FBref. Due to this, it makes sense to focus on improving the quality of set pieces and crossing delivery in order to make the most of their ariel presence.
Working Together Defensively
The defense was one of the strongest areas of the USMNT going into the tournament, and this showed in their group-stage games. They did well to limit the chances of Wales in their opening game, although they should have done better to not concede the penalty. Their game against England, meanwhile, was undoubtedly their best performance of the tournament.
The team worked incredibly well as a cohesive defensive unit against England, frustrating some of the world’s best players and shutting down any attacks. Despite being one of the favorites to win the competition, team USA made England look ordinary thanks to constant pressing and a strong defensive shape.
However, this was lost during the round of the last 16, with a lot of the sound defensive work seemingly going out of the window against the Dutch. It took the Netherlands just ten minutes to score the opener, and they had doubled their lead before halftime. Meanwhile, all of the constant pressing seemed to be disjointed and disorganized. The final goal was the worst to concede, with Dumfries being left alone to run into the box completely unmarked. This is definitely an area that needs to be improved for the future.