EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The midfield trio of Wil Trapp, Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie represent a bright future for the U.S. men’s national team and form the nucleus of the youth movement following a failed 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
It was a mixed bag for the threesome in Friday night’s 2-0 loss to Brazil at MetLife Stadium, but USMNT interim coach Dave Sarachan said that is expected from a 25-year-old, a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old playing against some of the best players in the world.
“They did like young players would do. I thought they had hit-and-miss moments,” Sarachan said of Adams and McKennie specifically. “I still think there were moments in the game, certainly in the first half, we conceded too much possession, specially for those two guys.
“But at the same time, I thought as the game went on — I moved Tyler a little bit wider in the second half — but they had moments where I thought it was pretty good. So it was a little bit up and down. That’s OK.”
Sarachan also thought Trapp’s performance was mostly positive.
“I gave him a pretty good grade tonight, but again I was a little critical of all three of the central midfielders in moments where I think they could have done a little better in terms of switching point of attack and connecting,” Sarachan said. “More pluses than minuses, but room for some improvement.”
McKennie said the message from Sarachan before the game was to be confident, come with the swagger young players possess and to “express ourselves on the field.” He wanted diagonal passes played forward, not backward, and for the trio to “be confident and take the risk.”
That wasn’t the case early when they ceded possession and played on the back foot. Sarachan said early nerves and missed assignments resulted in an early Roberto Firmino goal.
But they worked through their first-half mistakes and played better as the game went on.
“Some of the players, myself included, we had a couple bad touches, a couple bad passes,” McKennie said. “The best way to react to that is not to hide and come back and just want the ball even more, get a couple passes down and under your belt and that way you build your confidence from there on out. I think that showed. We kept more possession in the second half I think and a little bit toward the end of the first half.”
Trapp was victimized on a controversial penalty decision that Neymar converted just before halftime, but he also had arguably the best scoring chance for the USMNT, forcing Alisson to dive to his right to parry away a low shot on target for a corner kick in the second half.
What did Trapp think of the trio’s performance?
“Decent. We have some moments in the game where we can press higher and try to win the ball a little higher and we did that in the second half, using Tyler’s strength, using Weston’s strength and putting ourselves on the front foot helps us in a lot of ways,” Trapp said. “Giving the ball away at times for all of us was an issue, but that’s something we can address and get better at.”