Christian Pulisic (left) was a welcome addition to the USMNT team. (George Walker IV/USA TODAY)
By Michael Lewis
Yes, those were boos you heard from the fans in Nashville, Tenn. after the final whistle of the USA’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw Sunday night.
It was the first time the team had heard it in quite a while and it was well deserved with an underachieving performance against Canada, which extracted a road point.
Before the Concacaf Octagonal, I figured that five points from the three games would be a solid result. I figured the USMNT would pick up points on the road via draws in El Salvador and Honduras and win its home game against Canada (I also felt six points, or two wins would have been great and running the table for three points would have been over the moon). But as we have learned over the decades, little goes as planned in World Cup qualifying.
Now, the Americans find themselves in a must-win situation entering Wednesday night’s game in Honduras just to “break even.” And that game won’t be easy.
It is too early to push the panic button because the Octagonal is a 14-game season, but I have already pushed the “very concerned button.” Dropping points at home is a no-no, especially against a team such as Canada. Yes, the Canadians are improved and were a formidable foe Sunday, but they are not at the same class as Costa Rica or Mexico. Home matches against those opponents are about a month away.
Yes, Gregg Berhalter has his work cut out for him and the team in the short and long haul.
The Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup triumphs seem like years ago as the team hardly has measured up in its first two qualifiers.
The U.S. men’s national team might boast players from Barcelona, Chelsea and Juventus, among other top European teams, but resumes don’t win games or qualifying matches, good teamwork and grit does, especially in Concacaf.
Those two factors were sorely lacking Sunday night. For the second consecutive game, the USMNT’s passing wasn’t good or fast enough, as was the finishing, or the lack of it. Christian Pulisic was a welcome and needed addition to the team, but it would have been nice if the USA had the aggressiveness of Weston McKennie.
As for McKennie breaking team rules, he made a major blunder. He let himself down, he let his team down. Heck, he let his country down. As I write this, Berhalter wasn’t certain if he would play in Honduras Wednesday night.
Yes, I know he is “only” 23-years-old, and we all make mistakes when we are young. But he plays for one of the best Italian teams, Juventus. He has got to man up and act like a professional player and think of the ramifications of his actions. Besides, you don’t want to run up a rap sheet of doing stupid things because sooner or later it could catch up to you and your career.
Right now, the USMNT is suffering because of that.