A young U.S. men’s national team took a first-half lead through Bobby Wood but then got a needed wakeup call, giving up two second-half goals and dropping Saturday’s friendly against the Republic of Ireland 2-1 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Here are five quick takeaways from the match.
It’s the first loss for the U.S. since, uh, you remember …
Yeah, yeah, “results in friendlies don’t matter.” Heck, there’s a case to be made that the outcomes of these post-World Cup qualifying failure exhibitions mean less than any national team games in the modern (post-1990) era. But while Monday’s 3-0 stroll over a hapless Bolivian team didn’t provide many answers (even though it did get six Americans their first cap), this game served to bring the kids back down to earth. They almost eked out a tie, too. A stalemate on European soil would have been nothing to sneeze at. But then Alan Judge scored at the death, and the home side claimed the victory.
Another loss had to happen eventually. That it took six games since that soul-crushing, Russia 2018 dream-killing defeat in Trinidad for the U.S. to take another L is a credit to interim coach Dave Sarachan, who now has three wins, two draws and one loss since Bruce Arena resigned in October. That he’s done it almost exclusively with a cast of brand new international players makes it even more impressive.
But let’s be clear about this: These kids still have an awful long way to go. Outside of a few flashes of potential, Saturday’s tilt against a very average Irish team proved that resoundingly. The hope is that the experience serves them well.
… And another Irish nightmare for Bill Hamid
The last time Hamid visited the Emerald Isle, in the national team’s final match of 2014, he surrendered four goals in a 4-1 rout. He never forgot it. How could he? For two months straight he re-watched the video of that game over and over, 50-plus times in all. But even though the former D.C. United backstop only picked the ball out of his net twice on Saturday, he’ll still likely lose sleep over his performance and the obvious signs of the rust he’s accumulated on the bench at Midtjylland, the Danish club he joined earlier this year.
After a mix-up with Matt Miazga late in the first half nearly cost the U.S., Hamid’s failure to corral a cross eventually allowed the ball to fall to Graham Burke, who equalized from the doorstep in the 57th minute. A flailing Hamid was beaten again just after the hour mark but a phantom offside call kept the match level. There was nothing he could have done on Judge’s stoppage time winner.
Hamid is better than he showed in this match. He’s finally healthy for the first time in forever. He also turns 28 later this year, and the onetime heir apparent to Tim Howard is in serious danger of falling well behind the younger Zach Steffen and Alex Bono on the USMNT’s depth chart if he can’t find consistent playing time with his club —or any club — next season.
Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Wil Trapp showed well enough
One of the main questions leading into the game was how this young central midfield trio would perform in their first match together. Adams, McKennie and Trapp didn’t disappoint. Adams showed well on both sides of the ball, narrowly missing on a first-half screamer from distance that teammate Rubio Rubin deflected off target, then picking up a questionable second-half yellow card on a strong tackle. The Bundesliga-based McKennie had another quietly efficient outing after controlling the Bolivians with ease. And Trapp was tidy on the ball and precise with his corner kicks and crosses, one of which Miazga headed down to Wood to give the U.S. the lead right on the stroke of halftime.
Speaking of Trapp, it’s interesting that Sarachan elected to give the Columbus Crew skipper the U.S. armband even though the more experienced Wood and World Cup veteran DeAndre Yedlin were also in the lineup. It’s not the first time Trapp has led out his country; he had the honor twice earlier this year, in January’s scoreless tie against Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the 1-0 win over Paraguay in March. But few veterans participated in those contests. It says a lot that Trapp, in his first career match on European soil, got the nod even with Wood and Yedlin there. Clearly Sarachan is a fan of Trapp’s leadership qualities, which are well known in MLS circles. Will the next U.S. coach feel the same way? One has to wonder how central a figure Trapp might become should former USMNT defender Gregg Berhalter, Trapp’s boss with the Columbus Crew, get the job.
The Americans better be better against France
Because if they’re not, it could get ugly when the U.S. and Les Bleus tangle in Lyon next Saturday. France, which beat this same Ireland side 2-0 on May 28 in a match that wasn’t nearly as close as the scoreline indicates, has a murderers’ row of talent available in the form of global icons Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, N’Golo Kante, Raphael Varane and others. U.S. center backs Cameron Carter-Vickers and Miazga will have to be far better after struggling mightily at times against Ireland. It’s possible that Tim Parker (who made his international debut off the bench in Dublin) or Erik Palmer-Brown (who started against Bolivia) comes in for Carter-Vickers. Whoever plays in the middle will almost certainly have a new keeper behind them in Steffen. They’ll all have their work cut out for them.
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