Time, Location: Thursday, June 3, 6:30 p.m. CDT • Mile High Stadium, Denver
Watch party: TailGate Music Row with AO Nashville
Weather: 82ºF, 1% chance of rain, 24% humidity,7 MPH NNE wind
Watch: Paramount Plus (national) • Unimás/TUDN (nacional)
The FIFA rankings: USA 20 , Honduras 67
Competition: Nations League Semifinal (winner advances to play Costa Rica/Mexico winner Sunday, losers participate in third-place game)
This is not a team strong enough for the Americans to have any excuse to not win (as was the case for the U-23s – weakened squad or not – as well).
13 of the called players are in the Honduran domestic league, seven of them teammates of former Nashville SC player Brayan Beckeles (who has not been called) at CD Olimpia, three from Motagua, two from España, and one from Marathón. There are three guys – all of them forwards – playing in major European leagues: 28-year old Anthony Lozano of Cádiz in Spain, and two 25-year olds from Portugal’s Boavista: former Houston Dynamo player Alberth Elís and Jorge Benguché (who is on loan from Olimpia).
Speaking of the Dynamo, Houston is the home of two of the three MLS players – defender Maynor Figueroa, the Catracho captain, and midfielder Boniek García (who plays CB for the Dynamo). The other, midfielder Bryan Acosta, plays for FC Dallas. According to ASA‘s Goals Added, García was a very good winger in 2013, and as he’s moved backward and centrally in the formation as he ages (he’s 37 now), his performances have gotten progressively worse. Acosta has been about a replacement-level defensive midfielder in his three years, while Figueroa – at 38 – is having an average CB year after a long, successful career both there and fullback earlier during his time in MLS.
For what it’s worth, Elís was a top-level winger during his entire time in MLS, and had eight goals and seven assists to lead Boavista in each category in Portugal this season (where he played with a guy he may very well match up against tonight: USMNT right back Reggie Cannon).
Aside from the European contingent, this is an old team. They’re also experienced as a unit. We saw with the U-23 match that the chemistry you can gain from building a team of a bunch of domestic guys used to playing with each other is a bit formidable. If it’s as problematic for the USMNT as it was for the Olympic qualifying team, there are much deeper problems.
It’s time for the US Men’s National Team to start morphing into its final form. This is as close to a first-choice squad as we’ve seen… since the US failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup back in Couva, Trinidad?
In the time since, there’s been resting top talents, pushing youth through, and some experimentation. The lone exception under Gregg Berhalter may be the 2018 Gold Cup, but even then, John Brooks was unavailable at CB (and you may argue that the generational transition led to some personnel selections that were for reasons other than “best-available” at times, though that’s less significant a factor to me).
So it is time. It is time to see Zack Steffen playing behind John Brooks and a suitable CB partner. For Sergiño Dest to line up on one flank complemented by [best available player not found] at the other fullback position. For Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Christian Pulisic to see the field together. For Gio Reyna to see his breakout, for Yunus Musah to find a role – whichever it may be – in a first-choice lineup for the USMNT. (Uh, for Jackson Yueill to prove the haterz wrong? Paragraph’s fallin’ apart quickly here).
The only hole I see aside from the non-Dest fullback is striker, where I’m on the record as being a Josh Sargent doubter (but hopeful-for-future-er). I expect to see him in the starting lineup either way. If the light switch flips in this one, hell yeah. If it doesn’t, I would imagine the USMNT zeitgeist comes around a bit toward my position on him that talent and size are adding up to less than the sum of the parts, and it’s worth giving others the chance to be the No. 1 guy up top.
Nonetheless, when the least impressive clubs on the US roster are a couple domestic sides and …Portugal’s Boavista, which you may note is perhaps the most impressive represented by a Honduran player, the expectations are naturally going to be high.
It’s revenge o’clock. This USMNT is strong in the specific ways that the USYNT was not (to fatal fault) in March: the goalkeeper has tons of experience at the senior level, including for literally the biggest club in the world right now (Man City, shockingly, is a little more well-known and successful than Real Monarchs SLC, where David Ochoa had attained the vast majority of his minutes before being a full-time MLS guy for RSL this year). The attacking players are capable of both breaking in-behind the opposition and of breaking them down with combinations and dribbles.
If Christian Pulisic can’t succeed where, say, Yueill, Jonathan Lewis, and Hassani Dotson failed, so help us.
United States wins 301, and advances to play Mexico in the final.