The US men's national team restored some order in Concacaf, destroying Canada by a 4-1 scoreline on Friday night in Orlando. They scored early, they scored often, and were only really threatened once. It was a one-sided outing.
Let's dive in:
1. Gregg Berhalter can change his team's shape
Canada didn't dominate the US central midfield last month based on talent – they were at a pretty clear talent deficit, as a matter of fact. They dominated it because they played hard and organized, and with real desperation. But also ... they beat the US at that spot because they had four central midfielders and the US had two. It was frustrating to watch from a US perspective, because it seemed like Berhalter just would not change.
He changed in this game, and did it in a simple, straightforward way: He added a third central midfielder when the US were sitting in the mid-block. It wasn't a pure 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 or a 4-2-3-1 from the US, but it was something close to that pretty frequently. Sebastian Lletget more often than not dropped deep to help out Jackson Yueill and Weston McKennie, and that made a very simple – yet very clear – difference. The US took advantage of it by being way, way more direct:
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#USMNT had 37% possession vs Canada, its lowest in a win since 2016 Copa América vs Paraguay.— Paul Carr (@PaulCarr) November 16, 2019
Expected goals tonight...
U.S.: 1.97 xG on 12 shots
Canada: 0.99 xG on 11 shots
Since Canada couldn't own the midfield and didn't dominate 50-50 balls, they couldn't get out in transition. Since they couldn't get out in transition, they had to build via possession. Since they had to build via possession, they had to take more risks with the positioning of their fullbacks.
2. Gregg Berhalter can change his team's approach
I can't remember the last time the US scored a transition goal.
Anyway, look at where the Canadian fullbacks are, and then look at where the US wingers go to work.
Canada sold out to do two things tonight: Get possession (why???? I have no idea) and take away Berhalter's System™. So Berhalter had his team use that aggression against the visitors and just annihilated them when they won the ball.
3. Talent makes a difference
Youngsters Sergino Dest and Jackson Yueill were both impressive in their first one of these games. This wasn't a qualifier, but it sure as hell wasn't a friendly, and both guys were brave and clever. Dest looks like what he is – a guy getting minutes for a Champions League team – and Yueill showed that the toughness and defensive chops he displayed with San Jose in 2019 aren't just a club thing.
Lletget put in another very-good-to-excellent shift as an attacking central midfielder, and Jordan Morris continues to look like he's reached a new comfort level as a winger. He was relentless and often quite good. And most importantly, John Brooks looked like a $20 million center back, which, if you'll recall, is what he is.
Only one of those guys (Morris) played against Canada last month. The US got a talent infusion for this game, and talent makes a difference.
For what it's worth, there are seven US players who have either been sold for more than $10 million or are rated at $10 million+ on Transfermarkt: Brooks, McKennie, Christian Pulisic, Tim Weah, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Tyler Adams.
They played this game without five of them. Talent makes a difference, and there is more on the way.