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USMNT: 3 Answers from November friendlies

by Bart Keeler

It had been 285 days between matches for the United States men’s national team. During that down time, however, USMNT fans were treated to watching young Americans succeed in top-flight European leagues. Not being able to see these promising youngsters play for the Red, White and Blue was frustrating, to say the least.

Thankfully, head coach Gregg Berhalter blessed us with a (mostly) European-based squad for two friendlies in November 2020. But, while we were rejoicing the players selected, there were still questions facing Berhalter and his staff that were unable to be answered during what should have been a critical 2020 calendar.

Here are three questions that the November 2020 window answered for the USMNT.

1. Could Antonee Robinson lock down the starting leftback position?

No. In fact, Sergino Dest performed better in that position, albeit against a weaker Panama side than the Wales team Robinson faced. Robinson, who plays consistently for Fulham in the Premier League, has looked worrisome in his two starts for Berhalter so far.

In his appearances for the current manager, Robinson has often found himself out of position and put a strain on the centerbacks to cover runners he forgot about. A lot of that is both his natural desire to go forward as well as Berhalter wanting his fullbacks to join the attack but he’s been a defensive liability at times. Maybe he needs more time to grow into the system, but he’s clearly second on the depth chart behind Dest.

2. What is the best midfield trio?

Adams, McKennie, Musah is clearly the answer but there are two major caveats to this revelation.

First, does Yunus Musah choose to play for the U.S. going forward? He can play for England or the Yanks and these friendlies did not tie him to the U.S. If he does, this puzzle is complete. If he doesn’t, Berhalter may need to find a less ideal option at one of the advanced center midfield position.

Second, will Berhalter want to keep Adams at the holding midfielder position or choose a “better” passer like he’s tried with Michael Bradley, Will Trapp and Jackson Yueill? Berhalter has often chosen philosophy over practicality, and this is a position where he will need to compromise his ideals for reality. That said, Tyler Adams showed no lack of passing skills this window, including a cutting pass through to Weston McKennie to set up the third goal against Panama.

3. Is Gio Reyna the “Future” of the USMNT?

The answer is probably yes. He could have cemented a spot in the starting XI heading into 2021 but he didn’t do enough to prove he’s ready to step into that role immediately. I think people expected Reyna to burst into the team like Pulisic did in 2016 and Reyna didn’t do that.

Unlike when Pulisic debuted for the national team at 17, Reyna is trying to unseat legitimately talented and high-performing players at his preferred positions. That said, he’s a player who should appear in every gameday roster and definitely showed himself as a guy who we should see for a long time to come. So, he is probably the future of the team, but he still needs to develop.

(photo credit: US Soccer)

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